The Only American from our Village
This short story, written in English, describes what happens when Dr Khanna, an Indian scientist who has settled in America, returns to India for a visit. The court paper sold by the ashtamp farosh who tells the story of what happened to Dr Khanna's father is special stamped paper on which certain legal documents are required to be written.
Dr Khanna was easily the most outstanding immigrant physicist at the University of Wisconsin. Personally, he considered himself to be the finest of all physicists, immigrant or native. He was also among the dozen or so best-dressed men on the campus. When he was forty Dr Khanna, his wife Joanne, and their two sons decided to visit India, the country that Dr Khanna had left fifteen years earlier and where his fame had preceded him. The four week trip was a success by all accounts. He was received by an official of the Council of Scientific Research. He addressed a conference on Interplanetary radiation and inaugurated three well-attended seminars. He met the President and the Prime Minister. He was offered many jobs each of which he politely declined. His wife and children were worshipped by his relatives whom they had never met before and for whom they had brought Gillette razors, pop records, and a mass of one-dollar neck-ties. The records and the neck-ties were unusable because the relatives had neither record-players nor suits but the razors were greatly prized, especially by the women who saved them for their teenaged sons. The last of the four weeks Mrs Khanna and the children went off on a sightseeing tour. Dr Khanna delivered his final talk at a college in his former home-town. The talk went well. He was introduced to the audience in glorious terms and the boys stayed quiet which was not natural for them. He was thanked profusely and, it seemed, endlessly by the lecturer in Physics. Some of the audience stopped by on their way out and hid their humble farewell with folded hands. At the end of them all an old man came shuffling along and insisted on shaking Dr Khanna's hands. 'I am the ashtamp farosh of the town,' the old man said, staring up at Dr Kanna, His eyes were heavy with cataract. The grease on his jacket shone in the yellow light. Dr Khanna looked on, puzzled. The Principal was embarrassed. ‘Mr Radhey Mohan’, he explained, 'sells court paper in front of the District Courts.' 'Yes,' the old man repeated. 'I am the ashtamp farosh of the town. I knew your father. I am very happy to see you. I came here only to see you bccause I am only an ashtamp farosh and do not understand such matters. Nor do my sons because they are not even matriculates. I have not been out of this town. I live in the village which was also your father's village and is, therefore your village. Ha! Ha! I can take you there if you like.' 'I had been to our village when I was a boy,' said Dr Khanna hastily. He was glad he could say that because some trick of the old man, a slant of the lips, a glint in the eye, the accent, which had also been his father's, had made him uncomfortable. 'I have been to our village several times,' he repeated. 'I know. When you came with your father, you always came to my house because your father and I were very close to each other, like brothers, and I was not then the ashtamp farosh because I had property and I did not have to be an ashtamp farosh and I lived in style. Of course, all this does not interest you. I know that.' There was a pause. The Principal who had been trying to put an end to this unexpected encounter edged Dr Khanna towards the door. The ashtamp farosh put his hand on Dr Khanna's shoulder and began again. Darkness gathered on the grounds outside. 'He was a good student, the best. I sat at the same desk, so I know. I carved my name on my side of the desk, Your father did not want to spoil the wood so I carved his name on his side. Before he died we went and looked...
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