ArttrA-2

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The old man woke up with a start. He looked around groggily and squinted as his eyes settled on the cloudy sky above. A droplet of rain landed on his forehead. He brushed it off and sat up. The little puppy that had been sleeping beside him on the stone bench sat up too. The inclement weather had driven most of the people back home and apart from a few stray dogs, a couple of cab drivers and some pedestrians, the lane was largely empty. He ran a hand through his unkempt hair, rose, stumbled and then steadying himself, began to walk towards the little tea shop at the end of the lane. The puppy followed him. It knew that a treat was in store.

He sat on the little stool outside the tea stall while the puppy settled at his feet.

“Will pay tomorrow,” he grunted as the young boy, who worked at the stall handed him a cup of black tea and two biscuits.

The boy nodded and held out a biscuit to the puppy.

“Here, take these too,” the old man dropped the two biscuits on the ground, much to the delight of the puppy.

He sipped his tea noisily and stared into the distance. He wasn’t sure what had woken him up. It wasn’t the drizzle of rain. It was something else. Perhaps it was a dream. Hazy images of faces came flooding into his mind. Had he really seen those faces in his dream? He shook his head restlessly. Perhaps he needed to go back.After all, they were his own people.

“How long” he asked  himself, “just how long can you go on, avoiding  them? But what about the bloody bitch Hema and that rascal Baxter? Faithful?  Au.. shit !” he uttered aloud and spat out on the floor in disgust.

The young boy slapped his forehead and said to no one in particular, “Now Anna will go on and on about how he was cheated by his own wife and his employer. What an idiot?” One of the bystanders, a garage mechanic didn’t like that. He immediately retorted, “Eh Tilloo boy, don’t call him an idiot. He is our Dhoddu Anna. Ve~ry intelligent. You know, other day” the mechanic turned to others, “he was standing beside me. I was repairing a SUV. He observed me for a while.. Then snatching the tools and pushing me aside, did some quick fit-tight nut & bolt work, and phew! The car engine cranked into action. When I offered money he just smiled and said that he had earned it a lot in his heydays.” Then the mechanic turned to the boy and told him in a threatening tone, “Listen Tilloo boy, never charge Dhoddu Anna for anything. Whatever he drinks and eats here,  put it into my account. And also for this puppy. Right?” The boy nodded. The old man (Dhoddu Anna) continued muttering, recalling the dream faces. The faces from the dream .. yes, they were of Harmas and Della.

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Harmas, had repeatedly told him, “Don’t go back to India, Yetu.  With the wealth of knowledge we earned from the research and our track record of productive results, we can even think of a JV”. But Yatin was so worked up against the Far-Star management and the people of Milford (Michigan) that a break from all this was necessary.

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25 years back, Yatin had come to USA for higher studies. After completing post graduation in automobile engineering Yatin and his classmate Harmas were selected by the University for a research program. It was sponsored by Far-Star, a company manufacturing car engines. Far-Star was a major supplier to car manufacturing companies of world repute.

The aim of the Research was to increase fuel efficiency of their diesel engine while maintaining the EPA emission norms.Harmas and Yatin were quite happy to do such a research work. Della, their assistant, was looking after the lab facilities, maintaining records and liaison between Research Lab and Production Heads.

When Competition is fierce it sometimes gives birth to malpractices. One morning Yatin and Harmas were called in the office of Divisional head of production. A meeting was being held to discuss the new emission norms set by the Environmental Protection Authority (EPA).

The PRO made an elaborate presentation and highlighted Company’s obligations and left the meeting.”So, how’s your work going on” the VP asked to Harmas and Yatin.  “Quite progressing sir.” Harmas answered and looked at Yatin. Yatin took the cue and added, “Yes Sir. We have designed 3 prototypes. The Diesel one is a switch over type – CNG-Die .. ”   “Hold it, hold it” the VP cut in  “I am aware of your progress. Good. But, today we have an urgent problem. Baxter will explain it to you.”

What Baxter, the Divisional head, explained to them was a jolt. It was an unusual assignment, sort of secret mission, involving high-tech gimmicks. “Budget is not a problem. Besides, a set of models of THOSE cars will be available for your experiments.”  Then Baxter showed them the name of the Company manufacturing THOSE cars and handed over a file containing details of THOSE models, technical data, and the emission control gadgets installed. All the while, the VP didn’t speak but was staring intently at them.

Baxter continued,  “We want all recording made in hard copy only. You can use software only for projections and fast processing. Once the whole data, tested and duly verified, is ready you will make hard copies and put it in this file. And after that,  Most Important, you shall delete all the relevant data from your computers and destroy other paperwork. Della will help you. Right Della?” Della nodded. “Let’s get started then” Baxter concluded. The trio left Baxter’s Office and entered the Lab.

For a while nobody spoke. Then Yatin exploded “Hey guys, what’s up ?. I don’t know much about American management style. But something is wrong somewhere.” Della looked at Harmas. “Take it as a challenge man.” Harmas countered, “Just see, with such a budget and facilities how much knowledge and experience we will accumulate.  Della, you too will benefit.” Della said “I’m ready. In fact I would love to help you in the field work.” “Well then, let’s start” said Yatin.

Yatin designed a field test module. Harmas arranged for preliminary emission tests of each model under lab condition. Della ensured that they get all the apparatus and equipments and arranged for their visits, in disguise, to the manufacturing plant of THOSE cars. The emission test on road of each model in stationary condition was simple as compared to ‘ON ROAD CAR IN MOVING CONDITION’.

Finally, after 7 weeks of intensive trials and tests the file was put on the table of Baxter. He and the VP went through the file. The trio was congratulated for successful completion of the assignment. A special purse was given to each of the three. And the trio resumed back to their Research work.

Two months passed and there was a breaking news. The whole Media was bubbling up with excerpts of their reports, claims and counterclaims. What the trio learnt was bewildering. Their trials and test reports disclosed that THOSE CARs emission was much above the stipulated norms. But the device fitted in the cars was programmed in such a way that emissions in a stationary check up would always appear well below the norms. This exposure forced THAT manufacturer to call back Those Cars from the customers. Millions of dollars were transferred to settle lawsuits, damage claims and what not.

“Well, that means some money is on our way” quizzed Della. “I doubt” replied Harmas. “Why” Yatin questioned. “Job done, money paid, thanks and good-bye; that’s the policy here. Moreover, now there’s a slump in car industry. So hope for the best and prepare for the worst” replied Harmas.
And so it happened. Next Friday the three along with five others were called in Baxter’s Office and were given letters. “Due to STRATEGIC TRANSFORMATION your services are no longer required, with immediate effect”.. the letter said. Every Friday hundreds of such letters were being given along with two months pay cheques, followed by Thank you and Good-bye parties. Company also gave Yatin a one-way ticket to India.

“Now what” asked Harmas. “I’m going to my aunt’s place in Houston” Della declared. “So irritating. I won’t stay here anymore. I’m going back to India.” Yatin said. They could see that he was badly hurt.

“You Indians, why are you so emotional. It was a contract and it’s over. Take it easy, Yetu. You are allowed to overstay for two more months. So, don’t go.” Harmas told him in a soothing tone.

But Yatin left USA and arrived at his native place in Karnataka state. He had money and wanted to rest before starting a new life. His parents insisted that he should get married and he obliged. Hema was beautiful and had an attractive figure. The honeymoon period passed happily. Then Yatin noticed that Hema was a demanding woman. She wanted Yatin to move around her, cajoling and caressing. She was interested only in sex, food and shopping. Her tastes were bland. Her non-stop, nonsense talking irritated him. Unknowingly he started comparing her with Della.

His ignorance provoked Hema to do such things that Yatin had to attend to her pronto. That wasn’t his nature. Arguments led to quarrels which even their parents couldn’t resolve. Yatin’s  drinking increased. Sitting on his chest Hema would demand sex. Midway, Yatin would collapse and start snoring.

Yatin lost his looks and health. At 45 Yatin looked like 60, haggard and crumpled. Hema found another sex companion and they continued enjoying at Yatin’s cost. That caused Yatin to leave everything and go into exile.
Udipi, a small town in Karnataka state, was a tourists’ attraction. Yatin landed there with the hope that he would pass rest of his life in the company of his school mate Rebello. But he was informed that Rebello had moved to Bangaluru. Drunk and exhausted Yatin collapsed near a roadside garage. When people around laid him on the stone bench he was blubbering incoherently in English and Kannada language. They started looking after him in turns. For them he was American Dhoddu Anna. When sober, ready to help and guide. “Very knowledgeable” they would tell each other.
That day Yatin (Dhoddu Anna) reminded himself that this has to end. But how? Why not try at the garage. Good idea. He patted the puppy affectionately saying “Rouse Banjo. Today onwards no alcohol. But I promise a square meal to you and to me every day.”

The garage idea turned out to be a grand success. The garage owners’ income was doubled in one month. Yatin invested his dollar savings. The garage manifold services increased income in multiples of lakhs.

Today, when you pass on the Udipi-Murudeshwar road, you cannot miss the impressive structure with the board YETU ANNA’S CAR BOUTIQUE. The puppy Banjo, now a full grown, tall and strong dog, moves adroitly in the background.

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Writer’s Note:

1.Part of the story about American car manufacturing industry is a reflection of the real happenings. Rest of the story is pure imagination.

2. Dhoddu Anna means respected eldest brother.

3. Grog (groggily) relates to any Alcoholic drink mixed with water. Word derived from ‘Old Grog’ a nickname given to English admiral Edward Vernon (1757) responsible for diluting the sailors’ rum.

4. Thanks to the prompt writer. I hope this meets her/his expectations.

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