Writers' Retreat

Babu’s First Job- A Short Story

Chapter 1: Babu in the Market

It was a regular day in the market of Shivaji Nagar (a place in Bangalore) and it was crowded as usual. There were shoppers, window shoppers, hawkers, beggars, and even common thieves who had blended into the flock of people. The view was almost similar to a bazaar from the Arabian Nights. I say almost because there was one young boy, probably a teenager, who was walking on those streets as though he didn’t belong there.

He was the odd one out, dressed in western formal attire with shoes polished, shirts tucked in and hair neatly combed. He stopped at the doors of a pawn shop that said “Bansuri Bankers and Jewelers” I suppose that was the place he wanted to go.

The owner of the shop looked at him and said “Oh you made it, good. Come on in.” The owner turns to his son, “He is the Babu I told you about, his father has abandoned him, and he needs a job to take care of his mother and younger sister.”  The boy lifts his head up and says, “but Sir, my name is not Babu, it is…” before the boy could complete, the owner stops him, “tsk tsk tsk, it doesn’t matter, we call all our servants as Babu. Your mother told me that you dropped out of college. You should not let your education go to your head when you work here. We may not be as educated as you are, but we mean business”

Babu in the Market

The boy simply nodded his head in agreement and the owner started again, “Don’t wear such fancy clothes, you will not be working on a desk here. Besides, you don’t want your best clothes to get dirty. And Babu!!, you have to be here 10:00 am sharp, your lunch is at 12:00pm and you can leave at 10:00pm, but before you leave collect 100 rupees as your daily wage. I am not responsible if you forget it.”

From there on, the boy was officially called Babu in the pawn shop and in the market.

Chapter 2: The Pawn Shop

The pawn shop was quite small, may be 20 feet (length) X 15 feet (width). There were three chairs on one side for the owners and the staff, and a long wooden box on the other side for visitors to sit down. The seating was separated by long display counters that showcased the jewelry.  The owner and his elder son controlled the shop and then there was Loki to help them. Loki started as a Babu himself and clawed his way up to be a salesman, he was now referred by his original name. The shop had a hierarchy for Babus. The lowest was Babu-L1 (the newbie), Babu- L2 (almost ready to be called by his original name) and Babu-L3 (no longer called a Babu but is still a Babu).

The Pawn Shop

The perks of reaching Babu-L3 like Loki was that you get to sit on the third chair inside the sales counter, and you could boss over the L1 and L2 Babus. The business at the shop was buying, selling, and pawning gold.

Chapter 3: The First Day of Work

Babu reached his new work on time. Loki was already there, and he was pulling up the shutters. “Oye Babu! Get inside and sweep the floor and mop it clean, I will go get a paan”, Loki said. Babu did as he was told. He got the store clean in no time. The owner’s son arrived, and he saw Babu cleaning the glass. “Good morning Babu, I am Prathik. So, you are a college dropout huh? Why aren’t you studying” said the son. Babu replied “Brother Prathik I cannot afford college this year, maybe next year I will save enough money and go back.” Prathik was impressed with Babu’s confidence and said “Ah, good. What were you studying?”. “Engineering” replied Babu. “I love physics and I love teaching it, that’s why I took engineering” said Babu even before Prathik could reply.

Cleaning tools

Later that afternoon, Loki took Babu around the market and introduced him to other businesses that depended on the pawn-shop, like the jewelry polishers, tea shop, gold testing centre and other pawn shops. Babu had to remember them all and they had to remember Babu. It was important so that they know he could be trusted.

Chapter 4: Hard Earned Money

Every night at 10:00, Babu would eagerly wait to receive his daily wage, a 100 rupee note. His hard‑earned money. He would take it home to his mother who would then give him a list of items to buy. He would go get groceries from the same market and his mother would cook food for the night, along with breakfast and lunch for the next day. Her mother was proud of her young man, but she was also sad as she could not help him. She tried going to work, but she couldn’t find a job.

Hard Earned Money

Babu’s family lived in a rented house. They did owe a lot in rent, but the landlord was happy to let them stay, because people believed the house was haunted. A teenager had committed suicide in that house, and everyone was scared to even go near it. Everyone except Babu and his family. The landlord thought if Babu’s family stayed long enough, everybody would forget about the suicide.

Chapter 5: A Fully realized Babu

While most educated teenagers would crib over a mediocre job, Babu was somehow motivated to continue his work. A semester passed by and he worked with utmost determination. He played the role of a transporter for the shop. He would carry gold (loads of it) to either get it polished or tested or to other shops nearby. For his sake, Babu ought to be careful because he worked in a marketplace where the footfall was in thousands. If he lost anything valuable it was coming out of his daily salary. When he was not busy risking his tiny paycheck, Babu would serve tea to the visitors and keep the shop clean.

Even when the owner and Loki would treated him badly, he would not mind it, as Babu was happy to have a job. He would do anything his bosses assigned to him. From cleaning the sewage water inside the shop to help shift their houses, he did them all. He would at times drop Prathik’s children to school. He was very tolerant, but it took 3 strikes to make him lose his calm.

Chapter 6: Strike 1- The Gold Thief

 A common practice amongst the pawn shops was to weigh the gold before they send it to another shop, either for display or for sale. One evening on the job, Babu was transporting an expensive necklace from a neighboring shop to his shop. He ensured it was weighed and took it to his owner, but the item went unsold and had to be returned.

 The necklace was weighed again at its source, but this time it was the owner of the shop. He complained that it was weighing less and accused Babu of stealing a piece of gold. But Babu mentioned it weighed the same when he took it from them. The man started yelling at him, “You uneducated fool, you don’t know numbers, how would you know what the weight was?”  Babu in a calm voice replied, “I am sorry sir, but I am not uneducated I am still a student and I will be an engineer someday. As far as the gold is concerned you can check it with your staff as they have a record of what they handed over to me.”  

The Gold Thief

It turned out the necklace was repaired that very afternoon because a customer complained it was too heavy, and the man was unaware of it, until that very moment. The man felt ashamed, but continued yelling at Babu, “Don’t be so smart. You are just a servant. I will personally ask your boss not to send you to my shop again.”  And so, he did. Babu’s owner apologized to the man and told him he will send Loki hereafter. “Babu!!, you can’t spoil my reputation with other shop owners, I told you not to let your education go to your head” said the owner. Babu was grumpy but didn’t show any reactions, he simply agreed.

Chapter 7: Strike 2- Wait for Your Money

Just when Babu was about to forget the incident, he was faced with another problem. The owner started intentionally delaying his daily wage, making him wait a few more hours after 10:00 pm. One day he waited until midnight to get paid, but the owner did not pay it, saying he had no change. Babu could not get the groceries his mom needed. His family had to stay hungry until the next night.

Chapter 8: The Last Strike

 The following day Prathik’s wife told Babu to drop her son at the tuition and she told him that his son knew the address. He picked up the boy from their home and went to drop him. But the little boy had no idea how to get there. He made Babu run around in circles. Confused, Babu called Prathik’s wife from a payphone and asked her for the address. She started yelling at him, “Where are you roaming with my son? Come back home this instant. I will slap your face when you get here.”

Babu lost it!! He dropped the boy home and went straight to the shop. “I quit, you can keep your 100 rupees with you, and I will not be coming to work from tomorrow.” He stormed away from the shop and the market.

Chapter 9: The Opportunity

Feeling sad and clueless of how he would support his family, Babu walked back home. He was almost in tears and felt alone in the world. He was crossing a park on his way home and suddenly he saw a poster, it said “Tuition Teachers Wanted. Experienced, Freshers, and College Students can apply!!”

Babu saw an opportunity. It was an opportunity to do what he loved the most, and most importantly it was an opportunity to not be Babu anymore.

The Opportunity

He attended the interview and he nailed it!! He made a decent income from being a teacher and worked his way back to college. Soon he had a small class of his own where he taught math and physics to many youngsters like him. Sometimes he also taught students for free.

My dear friends this has been a story of a young college boy and his first job. The moral is to be patient and face every challenge life throws at you. Sometimes we can be too patient and get comfortable to our surroundings. If Babu had done that he would still be Babu. So, explore new things, learn something every day and upskill yourself. Know that no job is too small.

As for our ex-Babu, his problems didn’t end there like a fairy tale. His father came back to him only to leave him again, but this time he left for good as his heart failed him. Yet our ex-Babu continues to face every challenge life throws at him. His sister and himself are taking good care of their mother and they moved out of that haunted house. Legend has it that he writes articles and stories such as these. He is now a man with hopes for a better future.

See you with another story. I wish you Good Luck and God Bless You!!

Bharat V

I may not know everything. But if you give me time and the purpose, I can learn anything.

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  1. combination of both humor and wisdom …… Keep up the good work and really loved the writing style….👍👍👍👍👍👍

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