Within a year Kannan was able to manage on his own and was making good business. Ahmed Khan proudly presented his find to his boss – Diwakar Seth.
“You are from Kerala too. Have you been to school?” asked the Seth.
“Yes, he has and he even speaks and writes English” said Ahmed.
“Let the boy talk” ordered the Seth.
“Yes, I have been to school but I could not complete my studies as I was taken to reform school. However, I managed to learn things on my own from the reform school library” said Kannan.
“Well, good to hear that. I think Ahmed, the boy will be more helpful to me if he works here in the restaurant. I am sure he knows some arithmetic; he can assist my accountant and get trained under him. We need someone who can handle the accounts properly” said the Seth.
“Why do you need me, if you already have an accountant?” asked Kannan.
“No one questions the Seth” warned Ahmed Khan.
“No, it’s alright. If he is going to work here, he needs to know the facts. You see, my accountant has been misappropriating some funds, so I am going to relieve him soon. So you make a good job of learning quickly and don’t let the accountant know of my plans with him. Of course, you will be on probation for a while and if I feel you are not fit for the job you will be sent back to work under Ahmed Khan” said the Seth.
Kannan knew he had to be careful for he knew what the phrase “to relieve someone” meant in Bombay. He had not stopped thinking about it even as he lay on his cot later that evening, staring at the sky. Ali and Kannan slept on the terrace of a dinghy two storey apartment in the bazaar. Next to the building was a brothel and sometimes the girls would whistle from their rooms to catch the attention of the youngsters. Ali had already succumbed to their temptations quite a few times and wanted Kannan to accompany him to the brothel on most occasions. Kannan had flatly refused each time and once was even thrown into a fit of temper after which Ali dared not to ask ever again.
“You are lucky” said Ali to Kannan.
“Why is that?” asked Kannan.
“You have been here only a few months and you have already had your unofficial promotion. You are safer of doing legitimate work in the restaurant” explained Ali. It was true, as with all the other businesses the Seth ran, there was the risk of being caught by the police or coming under the attack of rival gangs.
“Yes, but there is also the risk of being thrown out if I don’t get into the Seth’s good books, even being relieved” argued Kannan.
He felt sorry for the accountant who was going to be thrown out ( in fact for ever) any day now, and turned to tell his feelings to Ali but noticing that one of the brothel girls had already got his attention, he turned away and went to sleep.
I don’t want to ever have to do anything with women, let alone brothel girls, thought Kannan before he fell into deep slumber.