Manohar Ghanshyam Pandey or Manu Pandey is the only one who has been to college in his village. Most of the folks have been to the secondary school of the village but Manu had the privilege of visiting his cousin who worked in a college canteen in Kanpur. Manu Pandey’s village is 300 miles from the nearest city. It has a secondary school where most of the students study up to Class 7th and then drop out either due of lack of interest or teacher. The few who dare to study further leave the village and rarely come back. So for the sake of technicality Manu Pandey till date is the only one in the village of Balupur who has been to a college and returned.
There was one more specialty of Manu Pandey in his village – He is the proud owner of a smart phone. There are others like the Sarpanch who have mobile phones but Manu Pandey is the only one who has a touch screen smart phone. It was gifted to him by the same cousin from Kanpur who in turn had got it from a friendly student. The phone had some typical features which were beyond the understanding and use of Manu Pandey but during his weeklong stay at Kanpur he mastered the use of the phone camera and learnt the art of clicking SELFIES.
Manu Pandey at the age of nineteen is tall and blessed with good looks. The phone camera does full justice to his looks and Manu spends half of the day clicking his selfies. He is not idle as it may seem. He works for the Sarpanch and his job is to guard the granary at night. It is not much work for Manu as in a village where even the stray dogs are well known to everyone there is a rare chance of robbery. Moreover the granary is rarely stocked. Manu is employed as a guard only because of the Sarpanch’s ego. But he is happy as he has the day for himself and can roam around the village with his friends.
Like almost every other nineteen year old it is customary for Manu’s father to scold him. Ghanshyam Pandey starts his day by shouting out to his wife, “Has your son returned from work? Or has he run away with his useless friends without even showing his face at home?”
Manu Pandey’s mother Kalavati, never replies to her husband and he never even expects her to. It is just a father’s routine grumble about his young son. Though Manu never understood why his father is always so grumpy with him but truth is even Ghanshyam does not know why?
Whatever Manu earns he dutifully hands it over to his mother, except for the money he gets as a tip from the Sarpanch for arm twisting people who do not fall in line with the Panchayat’s orders. He uses this bonus for himself rather for his phone. Manu travels every month nearly 120 kilometers to recharge his prepaid sim-card but the clever Manu manages his travel expenses through the Sarpanch and the local shopkeeper both of whom have mobile phones and are more than happy to let Manu travel every month for getting their phone cards recharged.
Every night at the granary, Manu browses through his selfies, admires himself and deletes all other pictures that his friends clicked during the day. He wipes his phone with a soft muslin cloth; puts it inside a small bag his mother had stitched for safekeeping. He carefully keeps the phone underneath his pillow lies down with one hand consciously on the long wooden staff given to him by the Sarpanch. Manu did not sleep on the job but he definitely dreams with his eyes open.
One day as dawn was breaking and Manu was ready to go home, he saw his little brother Banku running towards the granary. “Aye Monkey, what are you doing here? Don’t you have school today?” asked Manu as he yawned. “Big Brother, guess who arrived by the early morning bus?”
“Who on earth is here? I hope it is not Narayan Kaka, Banku. I do not want to lose on my afternoon sleep.” said Manu with a yawn.
“No no … big brother … it is not Narayan Kaka. It is cousin Santosh from Kanpur. He just arrived by the early morning bus.” said the little Banku jumping around his brother.
“What and where he is now?” asked Manu. “He is with Father. I think Father is annoyed with him for giving you that phone.” said Banku as he picked up his elder brother’s phone. “Aye Monkey, give it to me. It is not a toy.” growled Manu. Banku sulked but handed the phone over to his brother. Manu clicked a picture of the sulking Banku. He ruffled his little brother’s hair and promised, “I will get you a phone once you pass out of school.” Banku’s face immediately lit up. The brothers walked back home.
As they reached the doorstep, Manu heard his Father’s voice.
“The phone will spoil his life. And the recharge also costs money.” Ghanshyam was complaining.
Manu smiled and shouted out with open arms, “Cousin Santosh, What a pleasant surprise!”
Santosh got up and the cousins hugged. Ghanshyam picked his shovel and moved out for work. No one noticed. Manu washed and the three brothers sat for hot breakfast Manu’s mother had prepared. Manu & Santosh then rested for a while as one was tired due to his job and the other due to journey. When they woke up it was almost afternoon. “Lunch is ready.” said Kalavati. “Banku has gone to deliver lunch to Manu’s Father. He will be back in a while. You two eat, I will prepare hot chapattis.”
Manu & Santosh sat for lunch. “So it seems Ghanshyam Kaka is not so happy with your phone.” commented Santosh. Manu smiled and replied, “You know how father is. He thinks it is compulsory to scold boys or they will never fall in line.”
Both cousins laughed. Manu asked Santosh, “How long will you be staying here, Brother?”
“I am in no hurry. The college is closed for summers and so the canteen will remain closed for a while.” replied Santosh.
“Great!” exclaimed Manu, “then you come with me today. I am going to the nearby village to recharge phones. There is a cinema hall also; we can watch a movie there.”
“I also want to watch a movie. I will also come along with you.” cried Banku as he entered the house.
“No way” exclaimed Kalavati. “Your Father will never allow.”
“It’s alright Mother.” Manu intervened. “We will be back on time.”
Banku jumped around like a monkey. “I am going to see a movie … I am going to see a movie.”
All three of them set of for the trip. Due to the recently started tempo service, it was a shorter though bumpy ride to the other village. Banku was super excited and with every bump he would laugh out loud. Soon they reached the other village. Manu & Santosh first walked into the shop for mobile recharge. The shopkeeper by now knew Manu well. Manu got the Sarpanch’s and the provision store owner’s card recharged. Just as he was about to pay for his, Santosh asked the shopkeeper, “Do you add the internet package also to this recharge?”
Manu, Banku & the Shopkeeper all three looked at Santosh. “Internet … what is that?” asked confused Manu. Banku for once acted as the wise one and answered, “It is used for running computers brother, I learnt about it in the new book at school. Our teacher says we can even connect with people in Delhi and America through it.”[i]
Santosh smiled, “I don’t know about these big bookish things but Rajat Bhaiya, remember the one who gave us this phone, said we can even share our photographs through internet on our phone.”
“Oh … you mean the Net Package.” said the shopkeeper. “Yes I do have that option but I don’t know if it will work in your village Manohar. Moreover it will cost you extra”
“Ok let’s try. This time I will pay and if it works in Balupur, I will teach you whatever I have learnt from Rajat Bhaiya” said Santosh. “Please charge for the Net Package also, the one with minimum cost.”
The shopkeeper did as asked. All three of them went for the movie. Manu allowed Banku to click a Selfie near the actress’s photo. “Should we marry you off to her, Banku?” Santosh teased. But Banku was in high spirits. He was not bothered by his elder brothers teasing. He just wanted to enjoy every minute of his outing.
The movie was a block buster. And especially for Banku; the dance numbers and action scenes made the day. Manu even treated him with an ice cream. Soon it was time to return home. It was an hour past sundown, when they reached the village. Banku was asleep. Manu carried him home.
Ghanshyam Pandey was waiting for his sons & nephew by the doorstep. He was about to scold Banku but kept quiet on seeing him fast asleep on Manu’s shoulder … smiling.
After a week or so, Santosh returned to Kanpur.
The net package worked. And Manu tried all that Santosh taught him. In a week’s time Manu was able to use the applications and share pictures & videos with Santosh and some other people he had met during his visit to Kanpur including Rajat Bhaiya – the student who had given the phone to Santosh. He even recorded Banku’s videos and shared them. Sometimes Banku sang & danced on the movie songs, sometimes he enacted the hero & sometimes the villain. But still Manu’s favorite use of the phone was clicking his Selfies.
One morning Manu got a call from Santosh, “Manu, this is me Santosh.”
“Yes Brother Santosh, I know I have your picture saved. But why are you calling so early in the morning?” asked Manu, a little worried.
“I have some news for you. Now listen carefully, Rajat Bhaiya will call you tomorrow morning. Don’t miss his call. It is very urgent.” Santosh replied.
“Why, what happened?” asked Manu now really concerned.
Santosh sensing his worries said, “Oh don’t be worried, brother. It is good news. You know Rajat Bhai shifted to Mumbai and is working for some film company. He showed your pictures & videos to some English film maker. He liked the village setting and wants to make a film in your village.”
“What are you saying Brother? This must be a joke.” said a surprised Manu.
“No, it is not. And there is more to it. First tell me, what is Banku’s proper name?”
“Banku’s name is Banku Pandey only. Father forgot to keep his proper name so we wrote the same in the school records.” Manu answered. “But please tell me what has Banku got to do with this?”
“Well you see, the film maker liked Banku in the video and wants to cast him in his film.” said Santosh
“What are you saying?” said Manu shocked.
“For the time being don’t tell this to anyone. By tomorrow, think of a good name for Banku, that impresses the English man. Talk to Rajat Bhaiya tomorrow and then give me a call.” said Santosh and disconnected.
Manu kept holding the phone to his ears. He was still shocked over the conversation with Santosh. He took control of himself and walked back home. As he reached the doorstep, he heard his father’s regular grumble, ““Has your son returned from work? Or has he run away with his useless friends without even showing his face at home?”
“I’m here Father & I want to speak with you.” said Manu standing at the doorstep.
Ghanshyam, who in many years had never heard a reply to his morning grumble, was taken aback. Manu asked his mother for breakfast and he sat in the kitchen with his parents. He told them about the phone call from Santosh.
“Oh you foolish boy, that scoundrel Santosh must be joking. You are wasting my time for this silly joke.” growled Ghansyam, secretly happy that he could scold for some reason. But Manu continued seriously, “No, it is not a joke. I called Rajat Bhaiya on my way back home. He confirmed and said he will call me with details tomorrow.”
Ghanshyam went quiet. But Kalavati let out a wail. Both Manu & Ghanshyam looked at her with surprise. “I will not send my baby away…” she cried. “Mother!” exclaimed Manu a little annoyed.
“Shut up, you foolish woman!” shouted Ghanshyam, “Didn’t you hear, what he said? The film waala will come to our village.” Kalavati immediately wiped her tears. She served Manu with another chapatti.
Manu continued, “Cousin Santosh, said we should name Banku properly, something that the English film maker will like. So for now we have to finalize a name for Banku. And make sure you people don’t tell anyone about this till it is finalized. Not even Banku.”
But Banku overheard everything. He jumped inside the kitchen. “I will act in a movie … I will act in a movie.” he danced.
“Aye Monkey, you don’t say a word to anybody till I confirm. O.K.” said Manu firmly. Banku grinned.
“Boy, you will not speak a word outside till your brother permits you. I will punish you otherwise.” Ghanshyam said aloud. Banku hid behind Manu. He knew better than making his father cross.
Ghanshyam looked at Kalavati and said, “Don’t send him to school today. I know he will blabber it to some friend or other.” Banku was about to protest, but the idea of missing school seemed lucrative. He sat quietly next to Manu and ate breakfast as the elders discussed about Santosh’s phone call.
Finally it was decided; they should consider this opportunity if it actually comes there way as Santosh suggested and by evening all three will come back with a name for Banku.
Banku was a little upset since nobody asked him for an opinion on naming himself but he kept his mouth shut. The adults went back to their daily routine. Banku just hung around his mother, daydreaming about his film career. “The day seems longer today.” the boy thought. He clung to Manu as soon as he saw his brother wake up. “Have you thought of a name for me, Brother?” he asked. “Yes, I think Monkey Pandey will be quite suitable.” teased Manu. Banku frowned. Manu ruffled his little brother’s hair and walked away.
That evening before dinner, the family sat together to decide upon Banku’s new name.
They all came up with names but all were rejected due to some reason or other. Then Ghanshyam said, “All these names are traditional. I think we should keep a name which is more modern. That should make the film maker happy.” Everyone agreed.
Banku garnered some courage and asked, “Can I suggest a name for myself?” and immediately hid behind Manu ready to be scolded by his Father. Instead, Manu said, “Go ahead Banku.”
Banku waited for a minute thinking his Father will object, and then blurted his idea, “What about naming me after the current superstar?” Ghanshyam stared at Banku in annoyance, but Manu and Kalavati laughed. It was time for dinner and they were still to reach a decision. After dinner Manu left for his duty at the granary. Like every night he sat and was clicking a selfie when an idea flashed in his head. He ran to his friend’s house nearby and called out. “Mukesh, come out fast.”
Just as Mukesh stepped out of the door, Manu Pandey threw his staff towards Mukesh and shouted, “Stay on guard at the granary; I will come back in a while.” Mukesh caught the staff barely saving his head and went off towards the granary.
Manu ran back home and called out his father & mother, “I have come up with an English name for Banku. And I know it is the latest craze”
“What name? Quick tell us” said Ghanshyam.
“SELPHIE … SELPHIE!” Manu exclaimed
“What … What does it mean?” Ghanshyam asked
“I don’t know exactly but I think it means ‘Smile’.” said Manu
“In Kanpur when I roamed around the college, the boys and girls would say Selphie and then click their photo. Since the college boys & girls were using this word I am sure this is some latest word.” he continued.
Ghanshyam looked at Manu and then looked at his wife as he said, “What can we do? We don’t know any other good English word. We can’t even ask anyone else till this whole thing is confirmed. Manu is the only one in the village who has been to a college and returned. So I think we should confirm this name.”
Kalavati caressed the sleeping Banku’s head, smiled and said, “SELPHIE PANDEY”
The movie is on the verge of completion. Now all you good people surely watch the movie starring our very own SELPHIE PANDEY…
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