It was a hot and humid summer’s evening in Kolkata.
Back in 1995 me being only 7 years old my desires were limited. After visiting a relative’s place, on our way back home we stopped at a newly opened restaurant. Since it was a pure veg outlet it was swamped with Marwari’s and Gujrati’s.
“Papa why are people carrying their own plates?” I inquired pulling my dad’s hand.
“This is a self-service outlet son. No waiters here” replied dad looking for a place for us.
“So people place orders and take their food themselves” added my mother.
“Wow, they must be saving a lot of money this way” I replied impressed by the business module.
The restaurant was also running a lucky draw contest whereby anyone whose billing amount was greater than Rs. 500/- was eligible to participate in the contest.
My father placed the order and asked me to join the line where people were standing to take a chance at their luck. My mother joined along saying, “Go son go”.
“See son, there is the list of prizes from one to ten. Remember you will WIN the FIRST prize”
“No I don’t want a gold coin. I want the third prize; I am going to win a bicycle”
Both my parents laughed at my innocence.
Anyway, there were approximately 7 to 8 people, mostly uncles and aunts ahead of me and a person in black suit was helping them with the lucky draw.
I was discreetly praying god to help me win the third prize because I was sure my parents wouldn’t buy me one. The most heard excuse was – “We live on the second floor in a building. There is no place to keep a bicycle dear”.
As my turn came, the nice person in the suit cheered for me and placed a chair. I stepped on it carefully while my dad held my hand and mom whispered best wishes to get the first prize.
It was a big card-board box covered in birthday wrapping paper with a hole big enough even for a fat man to put his arm through. The gentleman asked me nicely to not see inside the box and made sure that only my arm goes inside the box. I was abiding all rules with a single thought in mind – ‘God please give me three’.
Inside the box I swiped my hand around like a broom and tried to pick up the small circular papers which had numbers printed on them. I picked up one and threw it away thinking ‘Oh this doesn’t feel like a three’.
The gentleman asked me to hurry as the ten second limit was approaching. So I picked out the next one which touched my finger. I slowly pulled it out of the box still praying to god. As my arm was completely out of the box and I showed the number to my parents, the gentleman picked me up in his arms and shouted in joy, “He is the first one today to win the gold coin. Everyone clap for the young chap”
My parents happiness knew no bounds as people around congratulated them praising my luck and everyone cheered.
Among the approximately 200 people present in the restaurant, I was the only one disappointed for bringing out ‘1’.
As the gentleman put me down back on the floor while congratulating me and my parents again, I said to my father, “But I wanted three!”
“It’s better than three beta. You will understand it in the future. Happy Birthday my champion”
Gold coin is still there but a bicycle never found its way to my home.
Back then Iron had more value for me than Gold.