Khem Singh


According to my son Arvind, I wasn’t a ‘cool’ dad. I was a teetotaller and a non-smoker, to start listing my vices. I wasn’t tech-savvy enough to hold a Facebook account. The list is unending, but let me rest the case to proceed.

“Will you be able to find a job for Khem Singh?” Arvind asked one evening.

My chest shrunk in agony as I did not know who Khem Singh was, and this ignorance was going to put me down in my son’s eyes.

“Rahul’s dad got a transfer to London; they don’t need Khem Singh’s services anymore. We don’t have a car, so the question of hiring him doesn’t arise for us. Can you find someone in your office who needs a driver?” I was relieved that the puzzle got solved.

Only this morning, my boss Mr. Malhotra had asked me if I knew some good driver.

A chance had dropped on my lap to please both my boss and my son.

“Send him tomorrow to my office. I will see to it that he gets a job.” My chest swelled with pride.

A fragile man, tall enough to effortlessly touch a basketball ring, walked into my cabin the following morning.

“Sir, I am Khem Singh.” He bowed.

“My boss Mr. Malhotra wants a driver.” My words brought an instant smile on his face.

“Please go to Mr. Malhotra’s cabin, and he will talk to you,” I said.

In ten minutes, Khem Singh was back in my cabin.

“Mr. Malhotra says he first wants to ascertain my veracity as a driver. He called me today evening at about 5 o’clock to drive him back home.” He drew a deep breath.

“It looks like he has summoned a couple of other drivers too.” Khem Singh’s sunken eyes almost glistened with unshed tears.

“Sir, I desperately need a job. My elder son is in 12th standard and wants to pursue engineering. Like me, he will not be a driver,” Khem Singh vehemently shook his head.

“Don’t worry, Mr. Malhotra will appoint you.” My voice failed to conceal the uncertainty.

“Somehow, please coax Mr. Malhotra to give me the job. I shall give you whatever amount I can.” His words shocked me. The poor man thought bribing me might fetch him the job.

How could I tell him that I was only trying to please my boss and keep the promise made to my son?

The phone rang, breaking my chain of thoughts.

“Sorry, I don’t think I would like to hire the man you sent. I have found someone younger.” Mr. Malhotra hung the receiver.

My heart twisted inside my chest. Here was a man who desperately needed a job but age was not on his side.

“Come home from the first of the following month. I need a driver,” I said.

The smile on his face pushed the thoughts of a constrained budget into a quilt of my mind.

I had kept my promise made to my son.

Sudha Viswanath

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