Just before entering the class, Ravi opened his medicine box and gulped down two pills to ease the back pain and head ache. Irregular and exceptionally long working hours had taken a toll on his health over the years resulting in frequent bouts of back pain and head ache.
Ravi was an Investment Banker by profession and had completed six years in this field last month. The career had so far been very demanding but exceptionally rewarding at the same time as well. Within five years, he was a proud owner of an S-class Mercedes and 4-BHK sea facing flat at Nariman Point in South Mumbai. In Mumbai, if you told someone that you were living at Nariman Point it was considered a status symbol.
Today he was here at the most prestigious management school in India on direct invitation from its director to deliver a lecture on “Career in Investment Banking”. Adjusting his tie, Ravi entered the class full of students waiting anxiously for some career guidance. For the next two hours, Ravi spoke at length and answered all questions that students threw at him. By the end of lecture, one thing was clear to him. Almost all the students wanted to pursue this career just for the sheer money and glamour of it. But he couldn't blame them; the same reasons had been his motivation when he was in their place. The luxury of business class travel all around the world, comfort of staying in five-star hotels, having Gold cuff links and most importantly the thrill of interacting and meeting with Chairman's and CEOs of large corporations had been simply too good to resist for him at that time. Coming back to reality, Ravi gave a small closing speech to finish the lecture and gave his email id and mobile number for anyone who wanted any further help in pursuing a career in Investment Banking.
As he was packing his stuff, Ravi heard one student say to another, “ I am telling you Investment Banking is the place to be if you want to make money and that too real quick. Did you notice the cuff links on this investment banker guy's shirt? They were probably pure gold cuff links. Those two cuff links would be worth much more than both our outfits combined. I saw him coming out of a Mercedes too in the morning and too think he must be in his Mid-30s. No other career will be able to give that kind of money and luxury when you reach his age”. Ravi smiled and thought “Be careful what you wish for kid, Grass always looks greener on the other side”.
As Ravi stepped outside the gates of the campus, he signaled for his driver to come and pick him up from he was standing. Sunil, his regular driver was unwell today and had sent in a replacement to cover his absence. Ravi made a mental note to ask for the new guys name and mobile number on the way to office.
Once inside the car, he thought of catching up on some sleep since he had flown in from Paris quite late in the night and got up early to arrive for the lecture in time. But first he had to call his parents with whom he hadn‟t been able to talk for past six weeks. They had called three to four times all this while and each time he was in some meeting or the other. He dialed his dad's mobile number and spoke to both his parents for a couple of minutes. Like everyone else, they complained of his lack of phone calls and visits to them. They were worried about his health and told him to take easy. He made a false promise to them he would. This had been the routine for every call that he had with parents in last one and a half-year. Once he hung up, he closed his eyes for a quick nap.
Just as he was about to doze off, his cell phone rang. Annoyingly he picked up the phone and looked at the screen to see who was disturbing him. His ex-wife Avni was calling.
He picked up the call and said “Hello Avni, How are you doing?”
Avni replied, “I am doing fine Ravi, how are you? “
“I am doing well. How's my little champ doing?” Ravi asked
“Raj is doing great. He had sports day in his school today. He won two medals. You had promised him you would attend. Even your best friend Vicky was there to cheer for his son and he also was complaining that he hadn‟t spoken to you in last one month” Said Avni.
"Oh! Shit. I completely forgot about the promise I made to my son to attend Sports Day at his school" thought Ravi. Thinking of no possible excuse to give, Ravi could only say,” I am so sorry Avni. I completely forgot about this. I was very much looking forward to come and cheer our little boy. But then this sudden trip to Paris and lecture came up and I completely forgot about it. Please tell Raj, Papa is very proud of him and extremely sorry for missing out on his big day. Also tell him that I will make up to him by taking you both out to a 5-star dinner this Saturday”.
Calmly, Avni replied, “This is not the first time this has happened Ravi. Last year, you forgot his birthday and your excuse for that you were in London attending a very important client meeting. Was it that hard for you take 5 minutes out of your time to call your son and wish him Happy Birthday? I have so many more such instances that I can think of but that's not really the reason behind my call. I just wanted to tell you that our son really looks up to you. As it is our divorce was difficult for him and if you keep on ignoring him like that, a day will come when you will crave for his attention and he will walk right by you without even bothering to look up”.
Ravi felt a deep sense of sorrow and could only manage” I am very sorry Avni. I swear I will make it up to you both of you. I will make sure it doesn‟t happen again”
“I can only hope that you keep your promise this time Ravi. Otherwise you are going to lose your son. Good day Ravi!” Saying this Avni disconnected the call.
Ravi sighed and kept the phone down. Things were never this bad between Ravi and Avni. They had met each other at the first day of their MBA course and hit it off from there. It was kind of love at first sight for both of them. They studied together, did all their project and assignments jointly and in the free time explored Mumbai and its nearby places. It came as no surprise to any of their fellow batch mates when in middle of second year both of them announced that they were getting married.
Ravi passed out with a job offer from a top investment bank and Avni secured a job with a private bank. Things went smoothly for Ravi in the first year as most of it was spent on trainings and learning stuff from the experienced. Avni gave birth to their son in the second year and that was when the trouble started. Having gained enough experience in the first year, the investment bankers higher up in the chain started giving him more work. They also started involving him in meetings with top management from the clients which required lots of abroad travel. While Ravi travelled and attended meetings, Avni sat at home attending to their kid. Even when he was not travelling, Ravi spent most of his time in office doing work. At first, Avni did not say anything to Ravi as she thought that the job was such that it required him to work long hours and travel a lot. But her patience started to wear thin as their son turned a year old. She confronted him on this issue and Ravi dodged it by assuring her that things will get better soon. This went on for almost two years when Avni finally had enough. She decided that it was best that they divorce and remains friends. They decided that she will keep the custody of their child while he can come and visit them anytime. Ravi tried one last time to reconcile but Avni had made up her mind. He reluctantly gave in and finalized the divorce. Over the years, Avni had many a times indicated to him about getting back together provided he give up his job and look for something less stressing and demanding.
A sudden bump at the pothole brought Ravi back to reality and he looked around outside the window to notice that his office was not far away. Another 15-20 minutes and he would be back to world of balance sheets, profit and loss statements and cash flows. Sleep was far from his eyes after conversation with Avni. He decided to pass time by chatting with this new driver.
”What's your name?” asked Ravi
“My name is Satish, Sir” replied the Driver
“What do you do for living Satish?” Ravi asked
“I drive a taxi, sir” was Satish‟s reply
“So, how come you are not driving a taxi today?” was Ravi‟s next question
“Sir, Sunil called me last night and told me that he will not be able to report for duty today. He asked me if I could substitute on his behalf for a day. He also promised to give me Rs. 600 for the day. Even after I pay Rs. 150 to my boss, I will still make Rs. 450 which is more than I make on an average day. Plus the charm of driving a big Air conditioned car instead of a taxi was simply too good to resist.” Said Satish
“Why do you pay Rs.150 to your boss?” asked Ravi
“Sir, the taxi I drive is not mine. I am a hired driver for the taxi which is owned by my boss. We have an agreement with him where in we pay him Rs.150 daily and keep the rest of the earnings to ourselves. We are responsible for filling the CNG tank as well. Even on bad days when we end up making very little money, we are supposed to pay our boss.” Replied Satish
“So, on an average, if you make Rs. 300 per day, your monthly income comes out be approximately Rs. 9,000. Is that sufficient enough money for you and your family? How many members are there in your family?” was Ravi's next question
“Sir, I have a wife and two sons. My wife is a housewife. One is six year old and other is nine year old. Both of my children go to a local municipal school. As far as your other question goes, if you ask me, the money is never sufficient enough. The rent for my chawl is Rs.2500 and most of the remaining money is utilized on other regular monthly expenditures. We barely manage to save Rs. 500 per month. But I am happy with my life. I leave my home at 8'o clock in the morning and come back at 7 in the evening after 11 hours of shift. My kids are receiving decent education and my wife is there at home to take care of them. I have high hopes from my kids. I want them to get a good education and have a good career.” Was Satish's answer
“Don't you think if you had more money, you would be able to provide better education to your kids than the one you are currently providing?” asked Ravi
“Sir, the answer to your question is in your question itself. The issue is that I don't have more money. So I try to be content with what I have. In today‟s world, there is no definition of more money. If I had more money then I will be able to send my kids to a good private school. Then one day will come when I will come across someone who has sent their child abroad to receive even better education. Then again I would wish for more money to send my children abroad for even better education. Grass always looks greener on the other side. Right now I earn 9000 rupees in a month. I am home by 7-7.30 in the evening. I spend an hour with my kids going over what they learnt in the school that day and helping with their homework. In our home, we can only afford one fan at the moment. We have that installed in our children's room so that they get a good sleep. Me and my wife are used to sleeping without a fan anyways. But it is important to us that our kids receive our full support to the best of our abilities. I can drive my taxi for 14-15 hours instead of 11 hours and earn a little extra money. But I choose not to because I like to spend some time with my wife and help out kids with their homework. Family is more important to me than money.” Satish said
Ravi, kind of taken aback by reply from Satish refrained from asking further questions. But the words of Satish kept on provoking a thought in his mind. Here was a driver who was barely making ends meet but was content with his life and strived to provide the best support that he could offer to his family. While on the other hand was his own example, who despite having all the money in the world was completely disconnected from his family. He son only lived 20 kms away from his house and still he went months without seeing him. Suddenly Ravi felt himself to be very poor compared to the driver.
Somewhere during his thoughts, Ravi noticed that he had arrived in his office building. His driver stopped the car in front of the lobby. Clutching his briefcase Ravi got out of the car and went straight towards the lift. He was so engrossed in his thoughts that he did not notice the security guard saluting him. Once at his desk, Ravi tried focusing on work but his thoughts kept going back to the conversation with driver and Avni. The thought of losing his son brought a small tear to his eye. Surely, his child deserved better treatment from his father. He could imagine Satish helping his kids with their homework and saying Good Night to them when they went to sleep. Suddenly, Ravi realized what he needed to do in order to get his family back. He pondered over his decision for a minute and then made up his mind. He opened his mailbox and began to type an e-mail to Manoj, his boss “Dear Manoj, It is with extreme difficulty that I inform you that I have decided to resign from my current position……."