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Raju Becomes A Businessman

Vivek's car was out of this world. Sleek. Red. Shiny. It jumped to a start and veered this way and that as Vivek operated it with its remote control. If anything came in its
way, the car neatly reversed and went round the obstacle. The lights came on. The horn honked. It was the loveliest car that Raju had ever seen.

"Can I do that just once?" pleaded Raju enviously, as Vivek pressed the remote and the car zoomed forward.
"Four tattoos for five minutes," replied Vivek, not taking his eyes off his car, nor his finger off the remote. Raju was confused. The car siren came on: "See-Me-See-Me-SeeMe", it teased him.
"What?" asked Raju.
"Four tattoos for five minutes," repeated Vivek. "Look," he explained, on seeing Raju's perplexed expression, "why should you get to play for free? Get me four tattoos and you can play for five minutes. For ten minutes eight tattoos.
Four tatoos for every five minutes..."
"OK! OK! I got it," said Raju, irritated. "But I have only two tattoos."
Raju walked off in a huff. Fancy Vivek charging you to play with his car! But that was Vivek Gupta for you— absolutely loaded with the latest toys and very selfish about sharing them.
Raju sighed. How he wished he had a car like Vivek's. However, it was out of question. His parents would never buy him such an expensive toy. If only he had the money! Wait a minute! Why could he not do the same? Why could he not also start charging for lending out his books and comics? Raju was so excited by his idea that he could hardly eat his lunch.
"What is up, Raju? You seem preoccupied!" observed his father.
"I am going into business," announced Raju grandly.
His father burst out laughing. "And what business might that be?"
"Toy and book lending," replied Raju, annoyed by his father's reaction. "Vivek does it, so why can't I? Only, he asks for tattoos and I am going to charge money. Real money. And soon I will have enough to buy a car like Vivek's," declared Raju, thumping the table decisively. His parents exchanged amused glances.
By evening, Raju had a placard that said:
BOOKS :       Re. 1.00      One week COMICS:        Re. 0.50      Two days
              TOYS       :       Re. 0.50          Half an hour
"Suppose someone loses your book?" chirped Minnie, his younger sister.
Raju hesitated. He had not thought of that.
"Or breaks your toy?" persisted Minnie, seeing that she had made a point.
"They will have to replace it," decided Raju. After all, that was the rule at the lending library.
Raju's closest friend, Suresh, was his first client. "Hey! Raju," he said, "may I borrow your new Phantom comic?"
"Sure," said Raju stretching out his palm and pointing to the placard. Suresh read the rates.
"You mean I have to pay to borrow your comic?" asked Suresh incredulously.
"Yes," replied Raju, "down payment, please!"
Suresh dug out fifty paise from his pocket, took the comic and stomped off, clearly offended.
News of Raju's business spread fast. By the end of the week he had earned six rupees. 'If only I had thought of this earlier,' thought Raju, 'imagine how much money
I could have earned by now."
"Coming to play," called Sunil.
"No, you cariy on," replied Raju. "Evening is when everybody comes to exchange books and toys. If I come to play, my business will suffer."
By next week, the business fever had caught on. Everyone was into toy and book lending. Raju's profits slumped.
"You look worried, Raju," noted his mother, "what is the matter?"
"Business worries?" his father teased gently.
Raju nodded. "No one is coming to borrow my things. There are so many chaps lending now, and they have already finished reading all my stuff."
"Ah! The market is saturated! And your stock is old! You will have to bring in new things if you want customers back!" advised his father.
"Bring new books...? How do I pay...?" Raju looked at his father helplessly. "Dad, will you buy me...?"
His father shook his head before Raju could finish, "No, my boy, I run my business, you run yours."
So it was that Raju ended up spending half of what he had earned to buy a few new comics. Half the money was gone! How would he ever buy the car at this rate? To add to his worries, his dog tore to shreds a comic Raju had borrowed from Asif. And Asif reminded him, when Raju tried to wriggle out of replacing the torn comic. So there went another fifteen rupees.
Soon the business expanded to the park. It was their weekly cricket match. Block A versus Block B. "Each of you has to pay Re. 1 if you want to use my stumps and bat," announced Sunil. Everyone was taken aback.
"Hey! Come on, Sunil!" they protested.
"Get your own gear then," said Sunil firmly.
"Be a sport," cajoled Girish.
"Why?" challenged Sunil, adjusting his spectacles on his nose.
"I had to pay 0.25 paise to play with your gun. Why should
I let you all use my gear for free?"
"Be a sport, I say!" growled Girish menacingly.

Sunil was adamant. Soon there was a fight and both boys were rolling on the field. Sunil broke his spectacles and Girish got a black eye. Sunil did not come to the park next day.
"Father has confiscated his cricket kit," his sister Anu informed them. "Girish's father complained to him about the fight. Now Sunil is grounded for a week and the cricket kit has been taken away."
"What a bore!" groaned the boys.
"Who cares?" shrugged Girish. "I am fed up of cricket anyway. We will play football," he said dribbling his football, "World Cup Soccer!" Girish punctuated his words with each bounce of the ball.
"Great idea, Girish!" responded Raju, enthusiastically.
"Re. 1 per head per hour!" drawled Girish.
"Oh, no! Girish! Not you too!" protested Asif.




"Why not?" demanded Girish. "All of you charge when you lend your toys. Imagine, I would lose Re. 1x10, ten rupees per day, seventy rupees a week, two hundred and eighty rupees a month...if I let you chaps play for free."
"Oh, all right!" exclaimed Raju, throwing a coin at Girish in annoyance. Girish caught it nimbly, whistling nonchalantly as he collected money from everyone.
The game started. The boys of Block A were bigger and soon scored a goal. Soon after, Block B had a chance on a penalty.
"Stop! Time up!" yelled Girish (he was part of Block A), waving his watch in the air.
"But we have a penalty kick..." objected Asif.
"Sorry, one rupee more for the next hour," Girish held his outstretched palm.
"Forget it!" said Raju in disgust. "Greedy pig! You deserve another black eye!"
"Whom are you calling a pig?" hissed Girish, rolling up his sleeves threateningly. "Wasn't this whole thing
your idea?"
There was silence for a moment and then Asif said, "Yes, Raju, you are the one who came out with this crazy scheme. We used to have such fun before everyone decided to start charging for their toys and books!"
"You have become just like Vivek Gupta!" accused Suresh, still sore about having to pay for reading his best friend's comics.
Sensing trouble, Raju beat a hasty retreat. That night, he thought long and hard. It was true! In trying to get himself a car like Vivek's, he had become like Vivek. And along with him, the whole gang had stopped sharing toys.
He took out his money-box and cbunted. There were eighteen rupees. Too little to buy the car he had set his
heart on, but enough to buy the guys a treat. He thought of Vivek's car. Suddenly, it did not seem important anymore. He wanted to play with his friends the way they used to. Since they all became businessmen, they had done nothing but fight.
Next evening saw Raju come into the park carrying a giant packet of chips. "Here, friends, have some," he offered it around.
"How much are you charging per chip?" asked Girish sarcastically.
Raju shook his head. "I have wound up my business.
It is not much fun. Besides, I figured, I liked Vivek Gupta's car, but not enough to become like him!"
For the next five minutes, the boys digested Raju's announcement along with the chips.
Then Girish threw his ball up into the air. "Come on, let us play!" he yelled.

"No fee?" enquired Raju, who was quite broke now, warily. "Yes, no fee at all for friendship!" shouted Girish happily

Tithi Tavora

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