Happy Man (Short Story)

I am going to die in one hour. But this one hour is my most important hour as I attempt to reverse two biggest mistakes of my life: I fought with the man I ought to have supported; and supported the man I ought to have fought with.

There is only one last hurdle I need to cross: My grandson. Ah, here he comes. With his white suit, he looks more like 25 than 19! 

“Hi Gramps. You wanted to talk to me?” he says, pulls the heavy chair on the other side of my large wooden table, and sits down to face me.

“Yes,” I say and put my laptop in the stand-by mode.

“Your retirement party yesterday was very grand, Gramps. It was the most lavish party I have been to. Are you enjoying your retired life?” he asks, rather innocently. 

I wonder if his father wanted him to ask this. Anyway, I dismiss the question and come directly to the point. “I called you to get your opinion on my will, which I am preparing now.”

“What’s the hurry Gramps?” he asks.

“Just a precaution. At my age, it’s better to be prepared,” I say.

“So what have you decided?” he asks.

“I have converted all my property to cash. I want to give 40% of my wealth to you,” I say.

He considers it for a moment and asks, “And you will give the remaining 60% to my father?”

“No. Your father has enough already. I am planning to donate the remaining 60% to Health India, and NGO founded and run by my childhood friend,” I say.

“Health India?” he is startled. “The NGO that has been creating many problems for our company all these months – do you want to give so much money to them?”

Not bad. Even though he is still in college, he knows what’s happening in the company too. I nod in affirmation.

He smiles, perhaps not knowing how to react.

I open my laptop, press the power button, log in to my bank account, and complete the saved transaction. I look at him and say, “Thanks. I have transferred the amount to the NGO just now.”

“You’ve done what?’ he says and looks at me with utter disbelief. “But you said you were only preparing the will.”

“This is the Internet age. Things ought to be faster now,” I say.

“Did . . . did you talk to father about this?” he asks.

I don’t answer.

“How can you just throw away 60% of your wealth just like that? Don’t we mean anything to you?” he says. His disbelief slowly turns into anger. “Would . . . would you have done the same had Mishti been alive?”

Mishti, his younger sister, my grand daughter.

“If Mishti had been alive, she would have got 100% of my wealth. She was the only person who had imbibed our family values,” I saw and look at the portrait of my Grandfather, who set up the company initially, hung above the door.

Right from my Grandfather’s times, our company has been manufacturing generic drugs for common ailments. My son introduced a new anti-depression drug after licensing the formula from a US-based multi-national company, much against my wishes. This drug was not only untested, but it was facing multiple lawsuits in US due to the unwanted side effects, that ranged from allergies to even death.

“Do you think Mishti died due to depression?” I ask him. His eyes widen with curiosity as he leans forward. “No, she died due to the side effects caused by the the anti-depressant drug administered to her, incidentally manufactured by our company.”

His lips split open and he was watching me intensely.

“After Mishti died, I tried to terminate the licensing and stop its production. But your father was adamant, and convinced the board members to continue with it. They sided with him and forced me to retire. I was thrown away from my company,” I say.

“But why did he want to continue with the drug? Why did the board members support him?” he asks.

“He got a verbal assurance from the company in US that they will “look into the issue”. The board members and shareholders did not want to part with the 300% increase in the company revenue, primarily due to the sales of this drug,” I say.

“If the revenue increased by 300%, it maybe worth continuing with the drug?” he asks.

It is my turn to get startled. “In many cases, the drug shows positive results initially. But in a few cases, it is lethal. The issue is, we are yet to determine when it is fine and when it is lethal,” I say.

“But why are you giving the money to Health India? They are fighting against our company – aren’t they?,” he says.

“They are fighting against this particular drug, not the entire company,” I say. He turns his head sidewards in disapproval.

I want to tell him how the NGO, with the help of a few passionate volunteers, did a brilliant Online campaign against this drug, how they almost made us stop the production long before Mishti died, how I used my connections at high places and money power to stop them and circumvent legal processes, how they continued fighting valiantly with only a little money, but I am not sure how appreciative my grandson will be . . .

“Maybe you can call the bank manager and see if we can reverse the transaction,” he says, his tone is urgent.

I am right. There is not much to talk with him anymore. “I have already informed the bank manager not to reverse this transaction. It’s over,” I say in a firm voice.

He stands up, turns back and walks out of the room briskly. He will probably call his father and inform him about the happenings. It will take sometime for his father to come home, though.

That’ll give me just the time I need to complete one more important work. I open my bank account web-page, transfer the remaining 40% of my wealth to Health India.

By doing that, I ensure Health India gets the money to continue their activities, expand, and create a greater impact. By sending me out, my son already ensured he lost most of the connections at high places.

I hope the NGO will do what I wasn’t able to – stop the production and distribution of this dangerous drug that’ll definitely kill many more people, if continued. I don’t want many more Mishtis’ across India do die. They can and will stop it, I know.

Now I don’t have any regrets in life.

Now I am a happy man.

I pull out the top drawer of the table, take the pistol, place it on my head, and pull the trigger.

Destination Infinity

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17 thoughts on “Happy Man (Short Story)

  1. The story and the narration is very good, Rajesh! But why should he shoot himself? Or that is also a way to punish his son?

    You are very good in writing short stories. Waiting for more!

    1. He is the type of a person who thinks there is no life beyond running a company. I know it doesn’t reflect in the story and hence the motivation to die is not strong enough, but I wanted to keep this short!

      Destination Infinity

  2. The pace of the story was fast and i waited with baited breath to reach its end.
    Nice one DI.
    But i would say it would have been more powerful if you had just left at how gramps took out a pistol out of the drawer and ending it like that,instead of saying he shot himself.
    But that doesn’t take away the charm of the story.
    Good one,seemed like a true story actually!

    1. In the original version, I left out the entire pistol shooting thing. But I got a feedback that it wasn’t clear how he dies. So I included that last line afterwards 🙂

      Destination Infinity

  3. The end shows that he is dead when the company was killed…
    Narrative is brilliant…

    Nice one.. Also thought provoking…

    Made me wonder if similar thought process went behind Nobel prize…

  4. Rajesh: Logically the old shooting himself is not right because the old man is a seasoned business man with ethics not a weak hearted emotional fool. so committing suicide does not go with his character.
    Rather he would gear up to openly/secretly join hands with the NGO.
    also that way he contributes to the cause he took up. just giving money to NGO is half work done. I think you need to change the end of the story to make it strong.

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