You guys don't know Manjeet. He's the head waiter at Aura, The Claridges. He might even be Manager -- am not sure, known him for a while, not sure how the promotions have gone. Often, because he knows a good chunk of out "gol-chakar" circle (oh the irony)... we end up having a great conversations. Sometimes its about who hasn't paid the bill in a few weeks. Others, its about whats happening with the world. Now, Manjeet is the proud father of two -- savvy, because he sees a very rich crowd come in and out of his 'office' -- and everyone wants to be his best friend. "Manjeet, a few extra shots...", "Manjeet, get us in... oh TEN of us".. It's a process. But as his kids approach school going age, he's less interested in talking about social deviants, and more about what school they can go to.
In Delhi, as you all know, its tough. He's figured Sanskriti (a government officials school for the most part) is his first choice. Some others follow. I've told him to take a look at Shivniketan (or Mrs Gauba's School -- great legacy, Rajiv Gandhi went there, but now it's expanded beyond nursery). It's tough for Manjeet, he doesn't quite know it yet, because he hasn't done the drill, but schools don't come cheap. But he's from Himachal, he tells us proudly, and even on his 80,000 salary (a wife and two kids) he finds time to give an occasional 500 rupess and the odd blanket to the 80 year old mochi in his neighborhood.
I asked Manjeet if he knew what was happening with the government right now. A little amused, he asked me if I was pro-Congress. He had been listening to a friend and I talking at the bar all evening about big business, how much they were worth, and how some of the richest people in town (I don't mean rich.. I mean richEST) were the simplest. He figured we were pro-government. In this case, I was. I said, yes, Manjeet, I don't want his government to fall. Not over the nuclear deal.
Manjeet told me how the Congress was pathetic. Vajpayee, he said, was the best PM we've had. And, if you think about it, the partition of the country -- fault of the Congress. Terrorism -- their fault. Today? Look at inflation.. sugar.. rice... that's my concern. I tried to tell Manjeet that inflation happens with every party at the helm. Sure, there are policies, but gas, its a worldwide phenomenon. Not limited to the Congress. Right now, have you heard of the nuclear deal? Of the Left?
He shrugged. He'd never heard of the Left. This man who works on Aurangzeb Road. A road here, a gol-chakar there, and he'd be at Congress headquaters, at BJP headquaters, at CPM headquaters, hell, at Parliament if he wanted to! But he did have family in the army.
A jawan is paid, what, 10,000? 8,000? Some, when they come home, after saving and saving, come home with 60,000. Is that anything? What have they done? I'm from Himachal, he said. My people joint the army for honor. What did Indira Gandhi do? I don't know if this is a fact but, he said, she once said that the army would only be paid for 26 days in the month. So the General at the time told her, fine, but the other 4 days, if there is a problem, don't expect us to be there. "Uski phat gayee", he told me, giggling.
He hadn't even heard about the protest on India Gate, when ex-officers tried to ask the government for better pay. It was ten minutes from where he works, about fifteen from where he stays (somewhere behind Lodhi Colony).
It made me wonder. His faith might be misplaced, but where exactly should it be placed? This is not rhetorical. Give me an answer.