Short Story 2018 Longlist, Promila Jakhar

Something and Everything 

She is numb and sitting in the park on an uneasy desk in a humid afternoon. The academic institution’s building was some steps away. Interactions in classroom though diverse asserted some of the ideas and values which she had struggled since childhood. She remembers during ceremony in a wedding she wasn’t given the same ‘Shagun’ as her brothers because she was a girl but in other ceremonies she received more. The Shagun money was defining and situating roles and status. Though Shagun meant token, money made it sometimes more sometimes less in value. She opened her purse and grabbed a crushed ten rupee note to get a small cup of tea before the next lecture. She never understood the concept of pocket money and the necessity to carry money always. The hatred towards money has grown intense since childhood because its absence and presence both ruined relationships around her.

The terrific bell rang. Another class was over and Professor Ray was coming out of the same academic institution building, the one she has to go inside after this break. He walks gently observing everyone around him as if blessing everyone in his presence. At times he speaks other times he doesn’t. Others are walking and rushing too but they are more of numbers for her and less of feelings. Professor Ray was the one who understood and may be judged too but he was kind, very kind in this unkind world.

A master in masking her numbness though caught at times, she greeted him anyway. We need answers and we desperately look for them. They exchanged pleasantries and she soon bumped him with her question, “Is money important?”

Professor Ray replies, “Very important”.

She was unhappy without realising that money only everyday gets here. May be she realized and reframed the question, “Is it everything?”

Professor is a very patient man and always answers.

He paused and said, “It is not everything but it is something.”

They were silent and he was gazing in her eyes to make sure that what he is saying is conveyed accurately.

She said yes but the agitation was still there. It isn’t hard for him to guess what was going in the students mind.

He said, “My mother mentioned once that in ‘Arth’ means meaning, someone well thought about it while using the same word for money.”

To clarify her confusion she asked, “In arthashashtra?”

Professor nodded and said, “Where else?”

Though something struck in her mind but she still blurted, “I hate money!”

Professor simply said, “You are stupid if you hate it!” He saw the hurt word ‘stupid’ inflicted on the student.

He exclaimed, “Why hate it? It gives you power. Money enables a lot of things.”

The student retaliated, “But not everything.”

Professor agreed, “Earn, Earn enough, but it won’t ensure everything. It is superpower, but there is a supra power.”

A classmate of hers is fast pacing for the class. She had been observing them for a long both surprised and insecure about the longer than usual conversation. People in academics fear bonding of other students with teachers and took proud of their own.

“I hate it! It ruins everything! I am glad I am not like the people who like money more than anything on this earth!” said the student.

“But you are the same” asserted the professor.

Baffled she asked, “How?”

Professor gets a bit irritated and asserts, “You are dismissing it with the same intensity the way they are accepting it.”

He realizes that the student is getting scared, so he tones down his voice a bit. He places his right hand on her hand to bless her and utters, “Money is money, nothing more nothing less. It enables, it disables. It does something not everything. But some things in life are important. You owe it but don’t let it owe you. Now go to class you are already five minutes late, Juhi!”

She said, “Thank You Sir!” and both moved from that spot.

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