Venketswar Rao, popularly known as Venkat, was an interesting personality. He drove the car of the Collector, District Magistrate for Koraput in Odisha. A tall healthy man looked smart in his white uniform. Many collectors came and went. Venkat served under all of them as a loyal, punctual and a well-mannered driver. His good behaviour ensured that he was never transferred. He lived happily with his family in the government quarter allotted to him in the compound of the Collector’s bungalow.
When I was ten years old, my father was transferred there as the Collector. During my father’s tenure, people said Venkat got much time for his himself. The previous ones utilized him from dawn to midnight. Poor Venkat who was passionate about plants, fishing and rearing ducks, had no time in hand for his hobbies. As my father was a teetotaler, he never went to the club. Never played cards till midnight, and he avoided parties. The regular duty of Venkat was from nine ‘o clock in the morning to six in the evening. So plenty of leisure time for the driver. Venkat admired my father for this. He used to say “The new saheb is a saint in the garb of an official”.
Father had the habit of going on morning walks. During his walk, he used to cross a wooden bridge over a small stream. He often found Venkat doing some gardening near the old bridge.
One year passed by in the new place. I turned eleven and wiser. One evening, on father’s return from his office, I ran to the portico to welcome him. Venkat went inside to keep the files. He came back from the room and stood near us. Papa asked, “Venkat why are you still standing here? Go home.”
“Sir I want to say something”, fumbled Venkat.”
“Come on say it,” ordered my father.
“Sir please come to the wooden bridge alone at midnight.
“What?? At midnight? Alone, to the bridge? Are you out of your mind? What For?” – my father raised his tone.
Venkat didn’t budge, with due humility he said, “Sir please, it’s a request. I will show you something. Please, sir, don’t decline”. Saying this he fell to Papa’s feet. “Ok, ok, get up. I will go. But you come before midnight to wake me up.”
What was Venkat going to show papa? I went to sleep wondering what it was.
Early the next morning, the moment I woke up, I ran to papa to inquire about the bridge incident. He was engrossed in the morning newspaper. He put the newspaper aside on the table and said,”Venkat showed me a Brahmakamala flower. He had raised the plant and he knew it would bloom only that night. That’s why he requested me to see it. Venkat thinks it would bring good luck for me because it is a rare thing to happen. These plants are generally found in the Himalayan region and are somewhat of a rarity in this part of the country.
“What? He showed you a flower!!!”, l told with anger.”I thought he would show you a dead body, a man murdered on the bridge and you will call the police.”
“Youuuu spoilsport VENKAT!”, I muttered inside, in my childhood haughtiness… “I will see you”.