A STEP BY STEP GUIDE
(ALL PREVIOUS EPISODES ARE JUST BELOW THE LATEST EPISODE AS YOU SCROLL DOWN)
My neighbor Mohan Das, watching the grand business plan of Jignesh taking shape, unobtrusively from outside our window, tiptoed into my room the moment Jignesh left. Seeing him without his hearing aid, he was sure to raise the decibels in my apartment to alarming levels.
“Oho, so good to see your nephew visit you. Great sansakar. My son doesn’t visit me, even on my birthday anymore. He just forwards a birthday message that has a label “forwarded many times”. Mohan Das, took his glasses off and stared at my face. I owed him an explanation for Jigu’s visit. He was keen to share my agony or to partake what he thought to be a pleasure.
Realising the futility of explaining to him in a raised voice I just made a hand gesture of ‘all well’. But, like Mahatma Gandhi, his namesake, this Mohan Das was made of sterner stuff. He sat down on the chair and waited for a proper answer.
In walked his wife, Sutopa – his life companion, and handed him an old-fashioned, ill-fitting hearing aid. His hearing back on track, albeit partially, he leaned forward,
“Now then?”- the relentless query on his face nearly impaled me.
It was impossible to put him off. I was left with no choice but to yell to endeavor to explain to him about what transpired between my nephew and me.
“Good business sense”, as he carefully shoved the dentures into his mouth, from the little box that his wife had brought. Was he planning to have his meals here with me? Kaki showed signs of nervousness.
“Look, your room is too small to accommodate many students. Why don’t you have your classes at my house- much bigger you know? No, no, don’t worry I won’t charge you any rent. Good time-pass you know?”
“Arey, but this is not a normal class, Mohan jee. It is Online….Online” the high decibel response betrayed my exasperation. I really hoped Jignesh would find some way to make money out of such abysmal lack of awareness about Online courses.
Thankfully, seeing Kaki making the dining table ready for our lunch his wife led him back to their big apartment.
Post lunch, I was getting ready for my afternoon siesta when someone rang the bell. That someone was Mohan Das’ maid.
Before I could ask anything, she blurted out,” Tamaro phone – Dada ne gher” (Someone on the line for you at Dada’s place)
“What on earth?” I checked my mobile phone – it was dead. In the business discussion with Jignesh the battery had run down completely. “must be something very important”
Mohan Das was up from his siesta and, with his hearing aid firmly in place, ready to eavesdrop on my imminent tele conversation on his old landline phone. His faithful wife was at hand to fill in where his hearing aid might play truant.
“Kaka?”, Jigu’s loud voice on the phone almost threatened to tear up the hearing aid of Mohan Das. He readjusted his hearing-aid for better reception should the caller lower his voice. Sutopa made a gesture to take it easy.
“Your mobile phone seems unreachable. But some fantastic news!”
“Oh, what is it, my genius?”, I yawned involuntarily.
“Before you came on the line, I happened to talk to Dada“, but that can hardly be called fantastic, my son” my pun on ‘hardly’ went unnoticed.
“Oho, you don’t understand. Dada has offered to let us use his house for our online launch”
“But it is going to be Online, why do you need a bigger place?”
“Look, Motakaka. It is purely a marketing gimmick. The online students will see an official looking studio – much better than your – I mean our- living room that looks like a ransacked little room in disarray.”
“I get it. But you will have to compensate Dada handsomely for the use of his spacious living room,” I cupped my hands and added, “he is an avaricious old man, you know”
Mohan Das’ ears pricked up on hearing his name. Hopefully he didn’t hear the last phrase.
“That is what I call fantastic! He is not going to charge anything – mark my words- nothing at all!”
“You mean he is not going to charge you? – I mean us, at all?”
Mohan Das nodded in affirmation. If he wanted, he could hear me from a mile. May he live long.
“Hard of hearing – I mean hard to believe”,
“Kaka, that is what I keep reminding you. Here I was, unable to contact you and I had to share some news with you and luckily Dadajee came on line and everything is now set. See? Recognize the opportunities that came your way and grab them.”
Mohan Das gave a dazzling smile as Sutopa got up to make some tea.
“So, when do you want to start our Online course?”
“As soon as you make the initial down payment towards fees -yours and Kaki’s”
I was at my wit’s end.
“Don’t forget to keep your mobile phone charged, Kaka – 24 x 7. Once people see you taking lessons from me, a lot of them would like to confirm with you that it was you, who had indeed joined my Online course”
Sutopa, came back with tea. “Ajee sunte ho? Aap koi achchha muhurt kyo nahi nikalte, shubh shuruaat ke liye?”, her knowledge of English was commendable – she could make out everything that transpired between Jigu and me.
“Get me my panchang. I will do it right away after tea. Rajesh saahab please have your tea.”
The tea was sugarless, she had forgotten I was non-diabetic. Anyway, I followed Kaki back to my humble ransacked living room, wondering about the mystery of Mohan Das’ generosity.
“Listen, I do not want to learn from you”, Kaki replaced Mohan Das in the exercise to irritate me
“You don’t have to learn. No one is going to quiz you. You can just sit with us and listen. Besides, Jigu is going to be teaching, not me”
My siesta time was over today. Jigu’s excitement had swept it aside.
“Kem Chho, Motakaka?” (How are you, Grand Uncle?) -Jignesh, my overbearing nephew appeared at the window, as I was running my fingers over the keys of the harmonium gathering dust in the Covid -19 times.
“Oh, Jignesh beta, come in. The door is never locked for obedient boys like you.
“Got a mask, Bachcha, put it on please” my paternal instincts took over
Carefully, putting on his mask, he removed his shoes outside, entered the room and valiantly tried to touch my feet, almost falling over the ageing harmonium.
A strong smell of deo overpowered my senses as he managed to touch my feet. His hair understandably had grown longer and the freshly oiled moustache was visible on his unshaven face.
“No, no, Jignesh, don’t embarrass me.”
“Motakaka, I don’t see Kaki. Where is she?” the tone of Jignesh was laced with sublime mystery today. His formal visits to his Uncle were infrequent.
“Oh, she has gone for her second dose of Vaccination today”, I put an end to his formal search for his Kaki and motioned him to take his seat in the vacant chair across.
Instead, he sat down on the floor, carefully tucking his long kurta around his lap, “But what about your second shot? You are not looking after your health, Motakaka”, the concerned nephew dropped a perfectly normal question. May his tribe increase!
“Relax, Jigu, I had my second dose of vaccine last week. It was her turn, today” ,
I ignored the confused expression on his face to avoid any corollaries like” You should have gone along with her, poor Kaki’
With no Kaki around, he quietly walked up to the kitchen and helped himself to a glass of water.
“So, Kaka, I am here for a favour from you”, Jignesh as good as threw a grenade at me, fueling my curiosity about the purpose of his sudden visit. Jignesh was no doubt my favourite nephew –in fact he was the only one but that alone did not qualify him to receive favours from me.
I went through the motions of putting the cover back on the re-commissioned harmonium, “You, … want a favour … from me?”
“Exactly”, but please do not put the harmonium back in the box, please”, he implored.
Displaying an unheard, unseen sense of humility, he came around behind me and pressed my shoulders lovingly to get me to re-open the instrument and play.
‘But…”, I looked at him incredulously
“I must learn to play the harmonium from you”, this time it sounded like a napalm bomb falling all over my body in millions of pieces.
“What? You, the Aurang…..?”
“it is like this, Motakaka”, I just finished an online crash course on business Start-up”, Jignesh straightened his tall frame and sat up, “Yes, that is true. I have a plan” The last loaded sentence reminded me of Martin Luther King proclaiming “I have a dream”.
Amused at this Eureka moment of my beloved nephew I got up from my crossed leg Yoga like posture, and patted his back, “That is so wonderful, Jignesh. Your Dad will be over the moon”
Jignesh’s voice suddenly acquired the tone of a seasoned old wise man, “In these pandemic times, you know, everyone in the neighbourhood is looking to learn something new – “Online”. So, I applied my newly acquired business ideas and said, ‘why not me?”
Our near and dear ones look more lovable when they utter such noble words.
“So, you want to learn Harmonium from me, right? But you can always come personally and learn. I can’t teach it Online-phonline to you or anyone else”, finally my nephew has seen something of value in my pursuits of music, I allowed a sense of pride seeping in.
“Don’t laugh it off, Kaka. It is much deeper than that. Of course, I will come personally but what comes next will floor you”
“Jignesh, the suspense is killing me. Shall we have some tea first? I will be in a much better position to understand and appreciate your ‘deep’ business idea” that floors an ageing grand uncle
Jigu smiled, “The tea can wait till Kaki returns – hope she has no side effects. But let me reveal to you the grand plan”.
By now it was impossible to rein in Jignesh; it was so exasperating, really wished his Kaki returned soon.
He launched his business plan,
“Here goes, I know you are not only a great musician but even a great teacher. Right? There is a zinger of opportunity in cashing on the craze to learn harmonium online….” Jignesh started in the right earnest but I had to cut him off, lest he should involve me financially in his crazy endeavour. There was no way I would ever give online lessons to a bunch of students, not even free.
Jignesh shook his head vigorously, “I know what you are thinking. It is not like that, Kaka….. You -stressing the word ‘you’- don’t have to teach Online”
“Then who will?”, the whole discussion was going nowhere other than the ‘whodunnit’ flashing in my mind.
His adrenaline was on an overdrive, he got up and started pacing the small room,
“Aha! I will take a crash course in harmonium from you just for two weeks. I am sure you can teach me the basics of music in the first week and then seven major ragas in the second week. Then you are free.
Dhen te ren!!!….then I will start teaching Harmonium Online”
“But, you? Don’t even know the elementary, basics of music, leave aside the skills to master harmonium!”, I really thought a cup of tea would sober him down and I could talk him out of this crazy idea.
The much-awaited return of Kaki signaled a wave of anticipation. She trudged in and, and disappeared in the kitchen, giving a pale smile to Jigensh. Sure hope she is all right.
“But I have full confidence in your ability to train me in two weeks, Kaka….. You know Kaka, you are always the same, worrying so much about any new project endlessly that you never get started. Come on, make hay while it shines, make use of your ability in these pandemic times.”
Kaki watching us discussing some esoteric subject from the kitchen made a sign of a cup and saucer to ask if we would care for tea. I responded positively to her with a thumbs up sign.
“But crazy boy, you can’t. It is not that easy. Musicians spend their entire life-time learning music and then mastering an instrument to play one raga takes a hell of a lot of labour and patience”, my attempts to dissuade him were not making any dent into his shell of misplaced enthusiasm.
“I know, Kaka, but this is different. One doesn’t have to be a master of anything to reach Online. Idle people getting bored in the pandemic times will latch on to anything Online so that their days are filled up. Besides, the pride of moving with time in joining any Online course will shine through in their late evening discussions with their relatives and friends. What they actually learn in one hour is not important. But to be able to proudly declare that they are spending a few thousand rupees a week to learn something Online will give their status a boost.” Jignesh spoke all this in one breath. This was no less path-breaking then Martin Luther King’s speech.
Like an angel, Kaki slowly made her way towards us with two cups of tea in a tray and handed the tray to me, “What do you want to eat for lunch? I am so tired. It is Monday, so can you order some South Indian items from ‘Swiggy’? Jignesh too loves South Indian? don’t you Jigu”. Kaki at least watched the latest advertisements for sure.
I had no heart to upset Kaki but stalling the catastrophe in the making with the Online plan was my primary objective.
Jignesh, the obedient nephew, and his kaka downed the tea in a jiffy. Would better sense prevail now?
My voice had now become more mature to reflect my age, “Look Beta, I would be too happy to give it a try; teaching my beloved nephew. It does look like a wave of abiding passion in music has gripped you. But you don’t even have a harmonium at home, you need to practice like crazy for that kind of result. Besides, how are you going to get YOUR students. How much are you going to charge…..?”
“Good, now you are coming around, Kaka. I have learned enough about the business of Online Course of ‘Online Start-up’, the smile on his face was radiant now, “I have already thought about all that”
Shiv Shiv, I was falling in the trap of underestimating my own nephew.
“How?” – my simple question, trying hard to curb my instincts to launch into a long narrative.
Jignesh inched a bit closer to me, pushing up his mask that had slipped below his nose, to disclose the details, “You are not practicing on your Harmonium these days anyway. So I will stay here for two weeks – ‘Guru Shishya Parampara’ – wow! I will reimburse your fees and the cost of meals that Kaki will cook, from the future revenue generated out of the Online course. One just needs to apply his mind, you know, Motakaka”
In one paragraph he utterly laid before me, my failed attempts to cash in on my musical prowess all my life. Probably, I could never think like a businessman. Alas, my nephew should have been born much ahead of me, I guess.
“And you will need a harmonium at YOUR home to teach students Online; you need to start getting students who are willing to shell out that kind of money to learn from a novice like you”, my nervousness was now rising alarmingly.
Jignesh shot a pitiful look at me that said, ‘very hard to teach business to old men’,
“I have taken care of that, Kaka. The first student to register will be you and Kaki. You can pay me discounted fees- no problem. We will start the classes from this very house. Big businesses start from the garages, remember? Legions of enthusiastic learners will fall over each other once they come to know that a well-known musician like you is learning from me. I have created a spreadsheet that explains how the business will take off with minimum or no investment. I have no problems sending that spreadsheet to you. After just one lesson that you and Kaki would be privileged to take from me, right here, I reckon I will get at least 20 enquires out of which 15 will register right away. From the advance that they pay I will buy a new harmonium, repay whatever you and kaki have paid me as advance and presto… the Online classes will be on. Just imagine the excitement, the frenzy that it will create in my neighbourhood, your neighbourhood and slowly in the entire town.”
It was a stunningly simple business plan. The day won’t be far when Jignesh, my own nephew will be invited to be a guest professor or a visiting professor at the Harvard Business School.
For the present, the Harvard Business School was my humble abode and the privileged students were Kaki and me.
Unwittingly, not just me but Kaki too would get involved in this start-up!
Let us see how the events will unfold….