This is a story several years old.
My dad who was a flourishing brick-maker was hit by what I now understand is a recession of those years… a sustaining lack of demand for bricks over an agonizing period of time. Bricks were stacked everywhere and despite severe price cuts there were few or virtually zero buyers. Construction had ceased. My dad tried his best to keep things going but with unsold stocks, it became near impossible to meet banker deadlines for repayments. On expected lines, the bankers retaliated in swift and forceful measure: in the beginning they curtailed and then withdrew bank credit limits.
Unable to make both ends meet, my dad borrowed heavily from friends and neighbors for large and small sums. Repayment deadlines were instantly transformed to default deadlines and obtaining fresh loans became near impossible. There was even voluntary rationing of all household demands. Meat and fish disappeared from the dinner table. I was experiencing the “frugal living and high (but bitter) thinking” phase not too quite stoically. As events unfolded rather painfully and day to day life became so difficult, I started losing faith. My parents would get up early morn and pray and to myself, by now an agnostic, I felt that prayer was a waste of time. I was unemployed and bitter at a world that did not seem to care ; the job search efforts were to me waves on boulders. I felt guilty that I was not fending for myself. As an aftermath of a rapid series of setbacks, I decided that faith was unwarranted.
One morning, from the blue, I got a call for an interview. The organization that called me for an interview was a thousand miles away. The cheapest mode of transport was by train. The train fare had to be paid … and my dad was neck deep in debt. I , on my own, tapped several probable doors, but we, as a family, seemed to have lost creditworthiness. The day before the interview, I saw my dad pray longer and I laughed to myself sarcastically; this was another futile attempt by a penurious man to ingratiate himself to an insensate Being, I reasoned.
I even confided my lack of belief to my mother.
Now, from my memory:
I have four hours to the train time and there is no sight of money. I resign myself to being unable to travel. My unusually reticent dad now asks me to pack to travel. I go inside and grumble to my mother “Why is he asking me to pack. we do not have the money even to buy a one way ticket”. My mother says fatalistically that God would help. “We are a happy family because we listen to each other”. “God will take care”, she says. I grumble that she has read Charles Dickens a bit too much!
Reluctantly I pack, so that I do not appear to be a disobedient son.
Three hours to the train. the cranky gate opens in un-lubricated pain. In walks a tall, middle aged stranger. He seeks to meet my dad “I have come to consult you on my proposed construction of my house next year”, he begins. My dad listens patiently. Standing by the door side, I frown. I am impatient as it is now two hours and half to the train.
“I have plans to construct a house next year and I have heard that you sell bricks. I want bricks for my house. They told me your factory is shut and you live here”. I am worried about the train in the next two hours and he is bothered about bricks now for next year!
My dad softly tells him: “Sure. Come in next year”. “Yes , yes, I shall,” he responds. ” But there is one condition, you will give me next year at today’s prices.” My dad smiles, unsure what to say. The stranger then says ” I shall pay half the value now as advance”. My dad gives him a price. The stranger, strangely, does not haggle. “Part I have cash and part in check.” My dad looks to where I am standing and nods unhesitatingly. As my writes the receipt, my mother says the stranger is God.
My dad asks the stranger if he could drop me off at the station. He wishes me luck as he leaves me off. As I wait for the train, I wonder if I should continue to be an agnostic. Will I get the job?