Christmas Fiction Friendship

Chinnappa was considering himself as a lucky fellow. He somehow escaped the gang of hired men meant to join the rally and shout slogans and lend their support to the ongoing farmers’ strike. The strike initially was a big draw and drew attention of all alike. People really sympathised the ‘food-giver’ the other name of farmer. But when political parties interfered them with their vested interests it took a different turn --- an ugly turn. The agitation had neither farmer’s agenda nor political agenda. Certain unethical divisive elements also surged and usurped the platform. The police had a tough time to bring the mob under control.

Chinnappa was lucky. He limited his participation to the first day and then he withdrew himself. He had come all the way from his small town in Kadappa to this big city Pune in search of better ventures. He was himself a farmer and when they were on call for a strike, he willingly and wholeheartedly supported them. But instead of joining them in the capacity of a farmer, he joined hands as a political party worker, which later got precipitated.

His main issue was still hanging. A job if not a lucrative one, at least to sustain him with dignity was his urgent need. Even though he readily agreed to be a partner with his friend Munisamy in a self-employment plan, he still needed to strengthen himself with some more activities till his partnership venture picked up. He went back to Kittappa, an old friend from his village. The same man who assured him to get some work at his construction site. Kittappa took him to his boss who simply said that job could be offered only on leave vacancies. There was no roster for calling additional hands to fill the gap of absentees. Neither there was any agency to handle such issues. So, the only alternative was, jobless men hang around the mason on a daily basis and look for opportunities. Because Kittappa was aware of such happenings, he assured his friend Chinnappa that he too could be employed.

Chinnappa went back to Kittappa to find out if any leave vacancy existed and he could be absorbed. Mason said the day’s work schedule and the required labourers for the work were already chalked out and there was nothing that could be meted out to him. Better luck tomorrow. At the same time, he said,

“There is very good chance for next week as year-end festival is fast approaching and a few migrant labourers are sure to go on leave. Christmas is not like Diwali when all of us want to be with our family. But those labourers who are coming here for work from nearby towns and villages will surely go on short trips. Around new-year time we ourselves shut down everything and you will again find yourself left out. So be prepared for that also.”

Kittappa then told mason, “This my friend Chinnappa is a very good drummer in our native place. His band ‘Dol-Tasha’ is equally popular during the Ganesha Festival. People come from nearby villages also to watch the drum beating. It is a big draw. We call it ‘mela’. In our good old days, we used to get ‘Laavani dancers’ also. Because of widespread poverty, these cultural activities are dwindling. I wonder if our children will ever get to see such colourful shows“.

Mason looked at Chinnappa with an appreciative look. “Oh! very nice. Good. You are multitalented. Let me see if I can get you into Christmas Carols or Christmas parties. But many of them insist that the participants should be Christians only. So, I can’t promise you. But let me try.”

Chinnappa instantly refused. “Sir, I cannot pretend to be somebody. Just recently I joined a rally where I was neither farmer nor a political party worker. But I will do that mistake again. When I am not a Christian, I shall not pretend to be one, just for the sake of being a drummer. I shall be what I am. No doubt that I enjoy drum-beating and I will love to perform. Even if I am not being paid, it does not matter. I will perform. Please make it clear to them also.”

Mason was again struck with an appreciation. ‘Honesty is good, but not always. Call yourself Chinnappa Jacob and carry on. Who is going to find out?” Chinnappa did not agree. “Whether anybody finds out or not, Ganapathy Bappa knows all. Then how can I play for Him at Ganesh festivals? I will remain what I am. I am very clear about that.” “Then it is doubtful. But let me ask and find out. Here again it is a case of leave vacancy. All parties have their own troupes and normally don’t prefer outsiders. If only if there arises any shortage of artists, you get a chance.” So saying, he called a few people from his contacts.

The problem with all performing artists was that when they approached others for chances, they got ignored and often paid lowly. On the contrary, if they were contacted by organizers for delivering a performance, the artists could bargain and hold their prestigious positions with dignity. Chinnappa did not carry any great hopes nor did he dismiss it totally.  

Mason lost interest when two of his contacts bluntly refused. Dol-Tasha had nothing to do with Christmas Parties. Most of troupes had their own artists. Even if one or two of them happened to be absent, the troupe would carry on with existing available crew members. The third one did not assure but neither did he say no. ‘Ok. Let us see’ type. Mason almost gave up. Then he suddenly remembered his own colony-man who was into innovative initiatives. This worked.

“Oh. Yes. Send him. It will be a novel idea to try this method this year. Our colony people are already accustomed to local band bajaa. Last year they enjoyed film music. We played all-time favourite Bollywood film numbers. This year we plan to have an all-night show night-long event. He should come prepared for that. Before engaging him, I have to get his performance approved by our team-leader. If everything goes well, then he can be there with us for the event. Send him right now. All depends on his performance.”

Mason smiled. “Chinnappa, you are lucky. Go and see him. Show all your prowess and prove yourself.” Kittappa also congradulated him.

Chinnappa was not all that happy. He did not have his drums here in this town. He had come to Pune in search of job, not for playing drums. How could he perform without instrument? All hopes turned into despair. But Kittappa did not let him down. “Let me see if our colony Ganesh Mandal can spare their dol-drums.  Since you are a total stranger here, I have my apprehensions. Let us see.”

Chinnappa took the address from Mason. Later at the end of the day, Kittappa met his local headman in his colony and asked for help. He was a staunch caste-conscience man. He did not approve someone singing for other communities. Much less to talk of lending instruments to guys not known to him. He was showering advices on how a person needed to be proud of one own caste and community, particularly when people of other castes never encouraged artists from other communities.

Kittappa tried another mandal of another locality, where he was residing earlier. Here too, it was same story but not that staunch or strong. He repeatedly requested and finally convinced him, but on one condition that first he should perform for his colony and one more condition was that whatever remuneration received, half of it belonged to the band owner. That was the charges for taking the drums on hire.

Now Chinnappa was happy. He got a feeling that he was slowly marching towards success. He strongly upheld the fact if at all he achieved anything, it was all due to the concerted efforts of his friends, partners and well-wishers. He might be poor of money wealth or riches. But not poor on the count of well-wishers. Kittappa, Mason, Munisamy and other partners …. List would be long.

He prayed to his favourite God Ganpathy Bappa for showering good-luck and always leading him on right path.

He prayed. This time it was not for him or his family alone. His prayers gracefully included all his well-wishers.

It will be so hereafter also.    

December 25, 2020 15:09

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