Continued from Passion Room (One)…
Four months ago I had landed in this dusty, crowded little town of Rajasthan. I had chosen the coaching institute online. Admission formalities were completed via e-mail and electronic money transfer. The institute had promised me assistance in finding accommodation.
Coaching is the biggest business in this town. The citizenry have taken to converting their homes into a cluster of one room sets suitable for single, double or triple occupancy. A dingy room with an attached/ shared washroom, some cheap basic furniture and careless, poor quality food is all it took to be in business. Some households make over seventy thousand to one lac a month in this way. The town is flourishing like a green bay tree! Who would have thought education could be so lucrative?
Two days after reaching the city, my routine was set. I left my cramped, gloomy room with attached bath at a run at six in the morning- perpetually late! When I returned at one o’clock, my room would be a fetid, moist oven. I would swallow a bland, tasteless lunch provided by a reluctant landlady and leave again for the institute. By the time I returned at six in the evening, my head would be swimming. A quick cuppa and I’d be at my study table to attack my home assignments… often past midnight. A few hours of restless sleep- then back to the grind.
After a week I began to feel as if I was born into this routine and had never known another. Now, four months later, I felt as if I would die in this routine too. The thought dismayed me and set my teeth on edge.
Four months of back-breaking and soul-draining preparation had decimated me. When my spirits flagged, I reminded myself of the prize. The prize was a campus selection by a multinational at a package of nothing less than Rs One Crore p.a. I had read too many such success stories in the newspapers.
The last success story of young India I had read, had lodged itself in my head permanently. The fresh IIT graduate was picked up by one of the largest multinational engineering giants in the country at a whopping annual CTC of Rs 1.45 crore! I was only asking for one crore! In between lectures, I would dream of the way my life would change once I got hold of the prize.
I wasn’t too clear about the salary breakup, but I imagined my take home to be a minimum of five lacs per month. FIVE LACS! Stars would pop in front of my eyes and I would be delirious. Even after many years of experience, people didn’t make five lacs a year! I would earn five lacs a MONTH! At the age of twenty three! Could life be any better?
I was more than willing to settle for a bit less, if I couldn’t get a full crore. I repeated a saying in Hindi that my father was fond of. He always said, “Bade bartan ki to khurchan hi kaafi hoti hai (Even the scrapings from a large dish are enough)!” Even two or three lacs seemed fantastic to me. My dreams were colorful indeed!
I rubbed the remaining sleep out of my eyes and shook my head to shake the last of the war dream out of my head. Blearily I looked at my mobile. It was just after five in the morning. Feeling wide awake, I trudged to the washroom barefoot. Thank God this awful room had an attached bathroom. I couldn’t bear the thought of sharing my throne with a bunch of strangers.
I pushed open the door of the bathroom with my foot and stepped in, automatically switching on the lights and reaching for my toothbrush and toothpaste. The lights came on but my toothbrush and toothpaste weren’t there. Nor was the basin, or the throne!
In fact, this wasn’t my bathroom at all!
In shocked confusion, I looked around the room. The room was easily three times the chicken pen I lived in. It was empty but for a table and two chairs standing in the right corner. Blinking in confusion, I stepped back into my room in haste and stubbed my toes on the leg of my study table. The pain was very real.
I looked around my little room; it was as it had always been. Study table on the left, entrance door on the right, bed in front. A bunch of clothes were thrown in one corner of the room- my cache wardrobe I called it. The door behind me was the only other door in the room. It was exactly where it had been for four months. And it was supposed to lead into the bathroom, only it didn’t.
Stepping back into the not a bathroom, I saw that there was another door in it on the opposite wall, bang opposite the one I was standing in. Flinging it open and stepping beyond, I found my bathroom! Here it was, exactly as it was last night! My toothbrush and toothpaste stood in a glass tumbler on the basin. The throne was where it was supposed to be. The sooty, rusty fittings were as ugly as they were last night.
Where had the extra room sprung up from? And WHY?!
Icy fingers of dread tightened around my heart.
To be continued…