Tale of Two Men in the Gulf
Sep 28, 2014

During the early 1970s the income was less and naturally commodities were cheaper than what they are now. I was working in the Gulf at this time and the salary was relatively lower yet by Indian standards it was at least five fold higher than what you got for the same job in India. I was able to save quite a portion of my monthly salary. A plot  in and around Mangalore worth Rs.50 thousand then, after forty years now it is at least worth 2 or 3 crores if not more! Money had relatively much greater value then?
            

Under such circumstances one day, when in Muscat I happened to run into Peter when I was whiling away around the town of Muscat. I had known him in Mangalore.  I was surprised to see him there and he began to narrate his plan for the future. He said, “Jimmy, I have just come here the other day and I am not going to stay a day longer after I save Rs. one lakh!” He added  “I will earn this money in two years.”  A reasonably large sum then but certainly not to throw away the kind of job he had in hand, so soon.  There would be a line of over thousand people clamoring for it should he resign.
            
Those were the days in the early seventies when we were given 33 days leave for home visit every six months and wives were not allowed to Muscat due to lack of  accommodation. I advised Peter not to be hasty and think over the matter.  My words apparently had no bearing upon Peter and he was bent upon resigning the moment he reached his target of one lac, a huge amount of money then but not any longer.
 
I told Peter “You have such an excellent job in such a reputed firm and the job is such, that is fetching you good income (bangarache shith!!) and you better think twice before you make up your mind.” But Peter would have none of it and said, “I will use my one lac to buy a coffee estate pledging it to the bank and take a loan and gradually settle the loan from the income of the coffee estate. Once the loan is settled, I will be a planter on my own right!”
            
“Is it robusta or arabica, I mean the plantation you are going to buy Pete?” I crooned with a tinge of sarcasm in it. He did not catch my joke and he said, he would buy whichever he would find suitable later on. Of course, I had my own reservations about the feasibility of such an adventure. One needs that gusto for such a venture which I am afraid our Peter lacked.  
            
I advised him further  “As your children are still very small, you may as well put in another five or six years and then you leave and be with your wife and children and let them grow under your guidance and mind your plantation too.” My advice apparently did not go down well with Peter.
            
At this time there was another young gentleman named Michael in my company who was popularly known as Minga, and whereas I joined the company in 1973, Minga had already completed five years and had saved a reasonable amount of money after spilling some of it on his favourite Scotch! Minga was such a workaholic that he would never miss any opportunity of hopping on to overtime work that used to fetch us a good amount of money. It looked as if Minga would carry on forever in the company by the way he took interest in his work.
            
The only blemish with Minga was that he had a weakness  for Scotch and Rothman cigarettes, otherwise Minga was a gem of a boy though a devil under the influence of Scotch and Cigarette.  Minga was an excellent worker that any establishment would be proud to employ. He was my good friend too though quite the other way around when under the influence of Scotch?
             
Years trickled on and by now Peter, had earned well over a lac of rupees but there was not even a whimper about his plan of coffee plantation.
             
Michael on the other hand went on working and he was a bachelor. Once when Michael was on leave of 33 days, we all got an invitation for his wedding from his home town, Falnir, Mangalore. He must have been around 33 then. We all were very happy for Michael and gave him a great party on his return after marriage sans his wife.
             
After Michael’s return I could discern an imperceptible change in his demeanor. He became more sedate, took extra liking to Scotch, more cigarettes, no taking part in week-end card games. Thankfully his devotion to work remained unhampered.  
            
Gradually I came to know that Michael was the only issue to his parents, his bride was a teacher in a well-known convent school back in Mangalore, and that his parents were quite advanced in age.
            
One evening Michael invited me for a drink and we both began to talk and then he unfolded all his woes. He told me of his plans for the future. He said he has plans to resign and return as he wants to live with his young wife, there was no other option of bringing her to the Gulf, he has his own house being the only issue to his parents, and he would be getting a job as a bursar in the same school where his wife has been working. Besides this, his aged parents now need him more than ever with all sorts of old-age ailments.
            
Parents provided him the house and a small plot in the heart of the city, some savings of their own in the bank, there was a working wife, and above all a job ready for him in the waiting, I said, go ahead and take the job and be with your wife and parents, no problems  at all.

He told me that he is not going to keep much of his savings in the bank, as most of it would be invested in the property as the land was very cheap then by the present standards. He invested most of his money in an upscale area and bought land measuring well over 120 cents in 1978 for 1 lakh 30 thousand.
            
When in class 5th I still remember my school teacher Mr. Somaya Master in Bellore telling the class, in his usual inimitable way, “Hana Kandare Hena Bai Biduthade”. The words have etched in my mind not to be erased.
            
As Peter began to work harder and earn more and more, he never bought the coffee plantation. He went on and on adding more and more money into his bank account and his wife by now was able to make occasional visits to the Gulf but sons were devoid of any parental guidance, grew up like wild weeds and were a total disaster in studies. Often his wife would confide in me how very helpless she was alone minding the house, the children, and the outdoor work with children refusing to extend any helping hand.
 
Neither of the parents could give any advice to the children as to how to go about in their academics. Clever as they were the boys went on according to their free will and ended up poorly gaining just a degree in B.Com without a professional qualification.
            
On the other hand, after his marriage, Michael got two issues, a boy and a girl, they grew up under parents’ supervision and the son turned out to be a software engineer and the daughter, after excelling in studies, got married and settled in Dubai. The son got into a multinational in Bangalore.
            
By now I too decided to leave the company and returned to India.  I had lost touch with both my old friends for a long time.
 
Peter, who had nursed the desire of being a planter but never returned to India despite several of my reminders that his children needed his guidance as they grow up now that they are at the cross-roads of their lives in the higher classes at the College. He simply refused to listen and finally retired and returned being old now.
            
Having settled far from Mangalore once my anxiety took the better of me and I decided to visit my home town after the lapse of a long time and naturally I got the inclination to pay a visit to Peter and Michael along with my wife.
            
I decided to visit Peter first. As I was approaching his house, I spotted Peter in the courtyard struggling to push a wheel chair with his wife in it and he looked a mere shadow of his former self. He began to pour out all his woes to me. He said he is now a heart patient, his wife had a paralytic attack, sons are running a small business and most of his saving is gradually dwindling to meet all the medical expenses and also help his two married sons to run their houses as they were barely able to make ends meet as the business is poor.  
            
I made it very clear to Peter, that if only he had listened to my advice and returned to India and bought that estate and guided his sons, he would have saved his health, that of his wife and above all his sons would not have been in the lurch as they are now.
            
Thereon I went to Falnir to visit my old friend Michael. He looked as fit as a fiddle. He said he had just returned from his usual game of lawn tennis at the club. He had sold most of the land that he bought from his savings and had kept a small piece of 20 cents for himself for future use. The property that he bought for about a lac and thirty thousand forty years earlier is now sold for over three crores of rupees making him an instant multimillionaire.
            
Michael is now a rich and contented man, for he wisely put his money in property, took care of his aged parents who provided him with a house and some savings, he remained with his wife and above all he brought up his children giving the right direction whereas Peter neither bought the coffee plantation, nor guided the children when they needed him the most, his wife was a wretch, he was busy with his work and bank balance that ultimately led to his downfall.