Uththaman hadn’t expected to be found out this soon. He had been staying with Viswanathan for a long time now. He had come here planning to continue his studies. Viswanathan was the editor and owner of a small time newspaper and a really knowledgeable man and more than anything a good family friend.
Uththaman thought that he should have told him long ago.
“So, that is where you have been disappearing every now and then,” said Viswanathan.
“I am sorry I didn’t tell you. But I thought it was all right.”
“Now, who says it is not all right? It is fine with me. There aren’t many big temples around where you can stay for a night. So, you are saying that you have visited all of them, right?”
“Yes, I don’t think I have missed any temple. Now, I plan to visit the farther ones.”
“What do you get from this?”
Uththaman thought what a stupid question! But the man seemed to be in earnest like someone asking what a certain shop sold.
“They say that your wishes will be granted.” He uttered the first answer that came to his mind. He knew there were better reasons than that for his innate obsession with temples.
“O, that it interesting. So, which of your wishes were granted so far?”
“I don’t know.”
“What do you mean you don’t know?”
“I mean a lot of good things have happened in my life recently. I don’t know whether they were coincidences or gods showering their blessings on me.”
Uththaman looked up at a lizard hugging on to the roof and eyeing both of them. There were many of them hanging on to the roof and dirtying the chairs and tables with their droppings.
“Good things are happening in your life because you have been kind enough to help me, this old man, who couldn’t manage all by himself,” said Viswanathan and chuckled. Uththaman also joined him. It was true. In return for the financial and academic help he got from this old friend of his father’s, he too helped as much as he could in cooking and cleaning.
“You have shown me something, young man. I have been thinking of going somewhere for a week or something and now I can try these places. You just give me the details.”
“But you said you don’t have any substitute to mind your business.”
“I didn’t. But now there is a way to do it. See, most of the work is done through some very good earnest employees in the office. That is good enough. Even you can mind my editorial work for a week or even forever.”
“I am not old enough to command all those people there.”
“O, that is easy. Now, even I don’t go to my office every day. I don’t have to. Everything is in autopilot, kind of. All you have to do is read the copies and send them back. They at the office will do the rest. In fact, I have made the final decision. You should stay here for a week while I will go visit those places. I trust you and I know that you are capable of doing it. Don’t run away for a week. Use your judgement and your linguistic skills.”
Uththaman knew that once Viswanathan made up his mind, that was it. No further change.
That was how Uththaman got tied up in that house, round the clock, acting as Viswanathan, the chief editor and owner of a newspaper.
On the very first day, he read through the illegible copies he got, approved them and sent them back. He had delayed the work too long and he was scared that the people at the office might ring up Viswanathan’s landline and he would have to answer not only the phone but a lot of questions too. He was sacred of that.
But delay was not an issue and the paper came out on time the next day. Uththaman was much relieved.
The next day, after sending the copies back, as he was browsing the net he recalled that there had been a factual error in one of the copies. He regretted being so careless. He knew that they would not have started printing. So he promptly sent a message to the press asking them to make the correction. Their reply was strange. The copy didn’t have that mistake. Probably, someone at the office had gone through it and made the corrections. Thank God!
The next day a bill was sent to him. A fairly heavy amount had to be paid to someone for some work done. Uththaman didn’t know how to handle that. He sent a message to the office asking them to delay the payments. The mail was sent from Viswanathan’s gmail id, so there wasn’t a problem.
However, the next day he got a message on the same mail address, a thank you note from the worker for prompt payment. So, the accountant at the office had done some arrangement. Not a good thing but there was no reason to worry about it. Viswanathan was right. He had some good people at the office.
Everyday some problem came up like meetings, payments, visits, errors in the copies and the like. Uththaman somehow managed to do it right without a hitch at all. He prayed to gods every day in the morning and evening and vowed penances at the temples for the mistakes he committed. He also vowed offering at the temples when things were right.
A week went just like that and Viswanathan promptly came back. He congratulated Uththaman for his good work and told him he had heard from the office that things were fine.
Viswanathan never talked about his visit to the temples and Uththaman found it very strange. May be the old man would have gone somewhere else. Who knows and what does it matter!
Uththaman liked what he had done for a week and decided to join a short diploma course in journalism. Viswanathan encouraged him to do so.
Three months later, Uththaman casually mentioned his one week experience as his own boss to a classmate. He listened to the whole story and said he himself had the same experience. His own boss had left the office to him and went away for some time. Miraculously he didn’t mess up anything and no one even suspected. It was like the boss had not gone away at all. They compared notes and found that both of them had the exactly the same experience.
It made them wonder.