Subrata Sen was getting ready for office. He had taken his daily bath; had shaved; got dressed and was now having his brunch which included rice, pulses and fries. The basic price of necessities in life had so risen that it became difficult for him to make both ends meet. He lived with his wife and only daughter in a one room rented apartment in Tollygunge. His meagre income as a lower division clerk in a governmental organization was insufficient to even fulfill the smallest of desires of his family. He remembered the time when he had taken his wife and daughter out for shopping during the festive seasons. Mamata, his wife had stared wistfully at a beautiful silk sari that was displayed on the showcase of a shop. He had noticed her expression but avoided asking her anything. And when he thought about his daughter he despised himself and his fate. All her friends had Barbie dolls but he didn’t possess the means to buy her such an expensive gift. The only wish that he kept of his wife was to admit Shreya to an English medium school. Shreya had often complained that her friends distributed toys, chocolates and other things on their birthdays but she felt embarrassed to only share toffees in her class.
He walked out of his house to reach the bus stop. The buses were overcrowded and to get a foothold on them was one risky task. He sighed and tried to think of ways to come out of this life full of drudgery. With this hope in mind he purchased lottery tickets. And this he continued every month. If he happened to win one his life would completely change.
And on one fateful day his dreams came true. He won a bumper draw of 50 lac rupees. Surprised, he couldn’t believe his luck and verified the ticket number with the one published in the newspaper repeatedly. “Mamata, please come here. I can’t believe what I see,” he cried out elated.
“What has happened?” she asked clueless.
“I have won a lottery. Please recheck the number for me,” he said ecstatically.
She was overwhelmed and could hardly contain her excitement.
“Yes the number is B12658934,”she said shakily after checking it with that of the newspaper.
“Our lives have changed Mamata. Our lives have changed”, he repeated overcome as he held her hand tightly.
Next morning the first thing he did was to hire a taxi to the office of the Directorate of lotteries. But when he reached his destination he found the office closed. He looked at his watch. It was 8.30 a.m. The office was due to open at ten o’clock. He loitered around the streets waiting for it to open. Although the office hours were from ten o’clock nobody reached before ten thirty. When the security opened the gate he ran to him and showed him the ticket. The security looked at him amused and told him to wait for the ‘babus’ to arrive.
As soon as the first employee arrived he approached him, showed him his lottery ticket and said animatedly,
“I have won a lottery. Please check my number and help me acquire the prize money.”
“Please wait for the concerned person to come, “said the man indifferently.
The man in question came after half an hour. From him he learnt that he had to write a letter addressing the Director of Lotteries for disbursing the lottery money. And he had to wait at least fifteen days for it to arrive. He felt a bit disheartened and left the office. This time before looking out for a taxi he checked his purse. There wasn’t enough money left for him to hire a taxi. Despondently he took a bus back home.
Reaching home he sat down to write a letter requesting his boss to grant him fifteen days leave. And then he wrote an application to the lottery office appealing them to pay him his lottery money as soon as possible.
The next fifteen days he waited eagerly for the cheque to arrive. He visited the local post office every day to find out whether any letter addressed to him had come but to no avail. Undeterred he again turned up at the lottery office and came to know that his application couldn’t be processed due to the fact that he hadn’t enclosed the lottery ticket with his letter. He was dejected. How could he commit such a lapse he thought? Anyway he came back home; immediately took out the ticket from the closet and sat down to write another application enclosing the ticket with it.
This time he went to the office to hand over the envelope with the application to the concerned clerk with the request to expedite processing of his case. The clerk assured him that it would be done within ten days. He had nothing more to do now than to wait. Other than his family nobody knew he had won a lottery.
He thought of ways to utilize the prize money. He had already learnt from the clerk that about 40% of the prize money would be deducted on account of various taxes and charges. After calculating the amount he would actually receive in hand, he summoned his wife and said,
“Let us estimate as to how we may spend the money.”
“First of all, we must have a flat of our own, “insisted she.
“Okay, then I need to hire the services of a broker to find us an ideal two roomed apartment.”
The next thing that came to his mind was to buy a small car. It would relieve his daughter of traveling in over-crowded buses.
“We can afford a red Santro, can’t we?” implored Mamata.
“Yes we can but we need to keep aside some money for Shreya’s education and marriage too”, he replied thoughtfully.
That night he suddenly woke up from sleep and nudged Mamata awake. “What’s the matter?” she asked startled.
“Mamata I have calculated and figured out that it would be better to buy a Maruti 800 instead of a Santro which would be beyond the limits of our budget”, he conjectured.
“Hmmm now go back to sleep”, she replied.
After a week he received the prize money. He was so overjoyed that the first thing he did was to go and buy a costly silk sari for Mamata and a Barbie doll set for Shreya.
Within two months he managed to buy his own flat and car. He didn’t know how to drive so he kept a driver. His standard of living had risen perceptively and his attitude changed. Now he went to office in his new car and everyone was curious to know about his sudden change in living. They asked him what lay behind his change. No longer able to hide the truth, he told them he had won a lottery.
“What and you didn’t tell us so long?” said a surprised colleague.
“We all demand a grand party”, claimed another.
“Yes “, they cried altogether.
So one Saturday evening Subrata treated them at a good restaurant.
Back home relatives who never visited them before came calling. He could no longer entertain them with a cup of tea and biscuits. Even some of them ventured to ask for money. His expenditure rose as days went by and with it his tension and blood pressure. The steep rise in the price of petrol increased the maintenance cost of his car which ultimately compelled him to cut down his weekend long drives with his family. In fact maintaining the car became difficult gradually and he thought of selling it.
He no longer was his earlier self. He got irritated frequently on the smallest of matters and quarreled with Mamata and rebuked Shreya. One day a relative came and asked for a loan of a few thousand of rupees for the marriage of his daughter. Subrata knew it would never be repaid.
“Sorry but I don’t have that much money to lend you”, he flatly refused. The relative got annoyed and left his home enraged.
Nobody in the house was at peace anymore. With the rise in the standard of living certain requirements also grew which hadn’t before. One night he told Mamata he was happier and at peace when they lived in the one room rented apartment.
“I now long to go back to those days “, he said ruefully. She nodded.