“Five Hundred”

David Das
I met Moinul upon returning to college after my Autumn Breaks or Pujo Vacations as people of Kolkata would like to say it as he opened the gates for me with his evergreen smile, a smile which was to haunt me for the rest of my life.

He was the new watchman of the PG, a man in his late twenties who was fairly young to be a watchmen, averagely short height and with dark a bronze complexion. Everytime he would see me, he would pass out a smile revealing his Bettle Nut stained teeth, a common chewable from Dhaka, Bangladesh, the place where he belonged. He was a comparatively friendly watchmen, opening the gates for me beyond permissable time to help me sneak out for a midnight snack. I didnt know much of him except his name but there was a strong bond of synergy between us which was surprising limited to only simple greetings and smiles.

However one evening upon returning from college, I noticed something amiss. He was in his regualr spot, around thrity paces from the main gate of the building where I would see him smoking his Beedi, but today he stood there hanging his head low. He did not even notice my arrival, unlike other days where he would hesitantly try to hide his smoke, as if I was his father or someone elder who caught him smoking. As I put my hand on his shoulder he quickly wiped his tears and turned around

"They deducted 500 rs from my salary because I dozed off a bit last night" he said to me, in a weak feeble voice, his eyes still red

"That's it? Its okay you take it from me tommorow" I said as he looked at me shocked, more in antonishment of receiving help than over anything else and passed out his smile, the evergreen smile of Moinul. For some people, a 500 rupees might be a negligible amount in their daily life but for someone like Moinul who used to earn 1500 a month it was a huge fortune.

Next day I prepared myself to go to college, but today I had an extra sum of 500 rs in my pocket for a very specific purpose. As I reached the Receiption below, I reached for my pocket and took out the note but there was a new face at the desk.

"Where is Moinul Bhai?" I asked in a mixture of fear and shock.

"Oh the old guy, he was thrown out of his job today, he left early in the morning. Im the new guy as his replacement. Do you need something sahib" he said and passed out a new smile.