By Thiyam Ningol, Dr. Nalini, Africa
George was not very lucky with his domestic servants.
While mzee Simba was with him he never had any problem.
Mzee Simba started working for his parents from the time when his mother got pregnant with her first baby, George.
Simba was the first person to have given him a bath after birth.
Simba was the first to notice George teething.
Simba was the one who got so excited when George took his first, wobbly footsteps.
Simba was the one who escorted George for his first day in the nursery school walking majestically with his school bag on the back.
On his first day in school, when they reached the school gate, George tightened his grip on Simba’s finger. Noticing the fright in George, Simba made George stand facing him and saluted him in army fashion saying from that day onwards he was going to be a learned person and he deserved saluting and he was going to call him “small master.”
Those words worked like a magic. His eyes widened, the facial expression changed from fright to pride. A giggling sound came out and saluted back to Simba and answered “Yes I am”. Since then, they had been saluting each other daily at the nursery school gate till when George became a primary School student and his friends started teasing. He had politely requested Simba not to salute him any more and requested him to call ‘young master” not “small master”.
Simba obeyed his young master.
Simba knew George in every respect. He had a special affection for him, a bond unexplainable. When George was upset about something, he knew how to make him relax; when he was angry, he usually cooled him down. He knew George’s taste.
George was only 19 when his parents and his younger sister died in a fatal motor accident. He had just completed secondary school. He had high hopes of becoming a learned man as Simba would have wanted.
During the mourning days, everybody- friends and relatives were much more concerned about the funeral. George was confused, lost and lonely. Nobody really showed any slightest idea what would happen to George’s future.
It was a moment George would never forget, forever indebted to Simba for the consolation and encouragement Simba provided to him.
During those confusional moments, Simba called George aside, had a brief but valuable talk.
-George, I am sincerely sorry. But please be strong. This is a crucial moment. Do not give anybody the chance to notice your weakness. You are the captain of your ship. Control it properly. As soon as the ceremonial days are over, you have to start acting promptly. I do not have much idea about your father’s business, but I have ideas whom you can trust. We will discuss later.
Simba’s words “you are the captain of your ship” remained lingering in his mind. It helped him to face the realities like a man.
One week after the death of his father, a lawyer came to see George and told him about the will his father left. According to the will, George would be the sole living heir and he was to decide how to run the family business and his personal life. The lawyer left with the promise of seeing him after 3 days.
George turned to Simba for help. Simba provided George the most vital information about the employees. He did not know the professional qualification of those employees but he knew the dedication and faithfulness of each employee.
Very often when those people were coming to see the boss, during that short waiting period, most of them passed their time talking to Simba. Some showed tantrums; some had shown the attitude of tolerating for the job sake; some were ready to sacrifice for the boss; others were indifferent, passing time; while few enjoyed the frustrations and anger caused by the message they rendered to the boss.
Simba was the silent observer.
George took over the charge of running his late father’s business with Simba’s remarks at the back of his mind. He had to forget about his education. The captain steered the ship in the correct direction. It prospered better than ever.
Daily in the Morning, George found the neatly folded cloths to wear for the day. He never objected. His late father trained Simba about the dress code.
When Simba died of old age, then only George realized that he had lost a guardian, companion, adviser and the most loyal, faithful helper.
He hired a young, energetic man to fill Simba’s place. He was also quick to learn but later George found that he was there for his selfish motif. He needed a place where to stay. Less work more enjoyment. George had to hire a middle-aged lady to cook for him.
Soon the young man started ordering the lady to do other works while George was away.
The lady complained. He had explained well to her about her job description. If she continued following the orders of \her fellow servant, it was not his fault. But it was becoming too much. He removed both from work.
He looked for a family man, a matured man, like Simba as he remembered his early childhood. But this too turned out disastrous. Daily an excuse-if not the child, it was the wife who was sick. Sometimes he would come and say “my neighbours have a sick mother in low; there is a funeral in the next village; there is so and so…endless.”
George wanted to start afresh.
He requested his friend to look for a young man from a remote village who did not have any known relative in the city. He would train the person like his father trained Simba.
The day when his friend brought the young man, George nearly screamed with disbelief. But he asked for it. So he didn’t.
Innocent, the young boy had a tee shirt, the colour not identifiable; a pair of shorts, actually a cut short from a trouser; barefooted with cracked heels. Only one thing appealing to George was his innocent face and friendly smile. He thought it would be fair to give him a chance.
George had to start from the scrape with Innocent. He had to forget about going to the club in the evenings. Instead, he spent the evenings of the whole week training Innocent. It proved worth though.
George requested his friend, to allow his wife to give Innocent some training in cooking.
Everyday, before going to work, he dropped Innocent to the friend’s house.
The first time when George took Innocent for a ride to his friend’s house, he found Innocent had wetted his pant. When asked, he was told that he was frightened because of the fast speed of George’s driving. He was furious and ashamed in front of his friend’s wife. But she was very understanding. They both learnt a lesson. The episode never repeated again.
Things were improving slowly with fewer irritable but tolerable moments.
It was a long weekend because of a public holiday. He decided to go to a beach hotel with Innocent. They took along some chicken sandwich and soft drinks.
After a good and long swim, George felt thirsty and tired. He ordered Innocent to go and collect the food package and drinks from the car.
On his way to the car, Innocent saw the waiters moving around with sandwiches in the tray serving other customers. He went to the waiter and told him not to bother to take any sandwich to George because they brought it from home and he was on his way to fetch it. While Innocent was gone, a hotel manager approached George and reminded him of the hotel policy forbidding outside foodstuff. George was just about to deny, when from far he heard Innocent shouting showing the bag of food. Embarrassed, he dived into the sea water again. He saw a waiter talking to Innocent and later Innocent walking away reluctantly.
It was in the club where George was an active, managing member.
There was a get- together party to introduce the new members of the year. George brought Innocent along to get a helping hand. He had never used any type of aerated drinks-the hissing sound made him nervous. He had never tested alcohol before.
On that day, the only juice available without the hissing was the cocktail. He drank the first glass offered, felt tipsy. But he thought it was because of the heat from the charcoal stoves where he was fanning to roast the meat. He decided to cool off for a while with a second glass of the colourful juice. He passed out.
His roaring snore made people disrupted from listening to George’s vote of thanks speech. Quickly he was whisked off to George’s vehicle.
When the party was over, George was the first one to walk off. When he opened his car, the disgusting mixed smell of sweat, vomits and urine made George nauseated. He could not control. He puked there near the car. Friends and attendants rushed offering assistance. He declined and before any further questions, he drove off as quickly as he could.
The only reason George continued keeping him was his innocent behavior and faithfulness. He was loyal and obedient too.
One day George really got mad with a silly mistake Innocent made. He was swearing and cursing to himself.-O God! What mistake I have done to you that you give me such a stupid fellow.
Innocent heard him.
- Sir! Don’t blame yourself. It is not your fault. My mother has done several offerings also begging for my intelligence. But she was not granted.
George walked away from him.
Innocent found George to be a perfect gentleman, a rich and successful businessman. He was kind too. But he could not understand why George was still unmarried. Whenever he got a chance he enquired about it. It irritated George. Several times he had told him to mind his own business. But Innocent considered it to be his duty to remind his master.
George did not realize that soon he would be 40 yrs, crossing the generally accepted marriageable age. He had not thought of settling, to have a family. The domestic servant problems had given him enough headaches. He had dated several girls and ladies but for fun sake only. He did not even remember the names of half of the girls he dated.
One day, George was sitting in a luxurious, international chain cafeteria, sipping his cool beer. Suddenly he heard the amusing, tranquilizing, hearty laughter of children. He turned towards the source of the sound. He saw a lady from profile with 3 kids of different ages wearing school uniform. He thought he recognized the lady. Yes, it was Lillian, his old schoolmate. She seemed grown up and very lady like. She was not extravagantly beautiful. But she had an aura around her; very gentle and very feminine. The way the children behaved with her made her much more adorable. George could not resist. He approached and greeted her, reminded about their school days. Lillian sure remembered him.
-So these lovely kids are your children?
-No, I am still single. I am their teacher. Their parents have gone on a safari, so I am their guardian for a month.
The youngest child showed his shirt with the school Logo to George “School of National Pride” and grinned shyly showing his missing 2 upper front teeth.
George could not even introduce himself fully. He was wearing a flowery, bright Hawaiian shirt with a Bermuda short and a Cowboy hat. Those who knew him well, joked to him for his appearance on that day. He was coming after his club’s fund raising Dart competition. But to a lady of Lillian’s class, it was not impressive attire. George noticed she was hurrying to avoid him.
Politely she excused herself and disappeared with the children.
Such moments usually did not disturb George. But this time he could not ignore the incident. It was not that he was hurt or insulted, but a feeling of incompleteness lingered in his mind. Strangely though, very far he had an imaginary vision of him and Lillian with a bunch of children.
He tried to date other girls as before but he felt uncomfortable.
George needed a break. He thought the best was to go overseas for a short, refreshing trip of one week.
He really had a good time in Greece.
When he came back, Innocent, instead of receiving his master with the usual smile, almost broke down and pleaded George not to leave him alone.
- I was so afraid all alone in the house. I could not sleep at night every day. I only slept during daytime. I do not trust the small wires in the fence can prevent a strong thief.
Enough is enough. He really needed planning for a family, a feminine touch in his life. Before even entering inside the house, he took out his cell phone and dialed his secretary,
-Gloria! Listen carefully. Tomorrow as soon as you reach the office, look in the directory for School of National Pride. Ask for Miss Lillian, a teacher there. Make a lunch appointment with her at her earliest possibility. When she gives you the date, if I have any appointment on that day, cancel all.
He felt good and smiled to himself, hummed a familiar tune.
Innocent saw George’s twinkling eyes. For the first time he understood his master’s signal.
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