Air Conditioned Prison
by Harish Kapadia
Our family was traditionally cloth merchants with a shop in the largest cloth market in Asia. For the past 55 years, three generations, including myself, had spent life time in these profitable environs. In late 1990s the traditional shop, where we sat cross-legged on a gaddi, was renovated into a modern air-conditioned shop. With this the shop was ready for the next generation, my sons, so I thought.
The elder son, Sonam joined banking and was doing well in his field. So my eyes were on Nawang, who was expected to run the business for next decades. He started attending the shop and would take interest in the trade, just as I had started almost 30 years ago. I had trekked and climbed extensively in the Himalaya along with the business, which was ably looked after by my uncle and father when I was absent. Moreover in our family all had good education and had developed other strong interests in sports, reading and arts- all sometimes taking up time away from business.
Nawang was no exception. He was a great cricket follower, especially of our Mumbai team, and had watched many matches with me. He had accompanied me to mountains, including to the Siachen Glacier. Thus a variety of interests were ingrained in him by the time he started attending the business.
Many days I will come at the shop later in the afternoon, hoping that Nawang was attending to the customers. Soon I realised that whenever I saw him, there was some boredom, sometimes sadness in his eyes. It was evident that his heart was not in business. We discussed this and I used to tell him that â€˜Look this is an air-conditioned comfortable showroom. We have goodwill and traditional name. All you have to do is to take it forward based on this. You can spend your life comfortably here, earning well in this cool shop.â€™
As always, in his calm tone, Nawang said, â€œThis is an air-conditioned jail for me! I would love to be in any other field, in adventure, exciting life and something where I can dedicate myself to a causeâ€. After all he is my son, I argued with myself, and like me he has taste for Nature and adventure. So it is fruitless trying to persuade him to stick here. He must go to his liberation, as much as he desires. Nawang chose to join the army ! Rest, as they say, is history or destiny.
I started winding up business no sooner Nawang was selected to join the Officers Training Academy and by the time Nawang was commissioned in the army business was closed and the shop was sold. I too devoted my future life to trekking, writing and lecturing â€“ my own liberation thanks to Nawang.
Still many old business associates ask me, whether it was a right decision to sell my business and allow Nawang out of the â€˜air-conditionedâ€™ shop and to go to a life of risk. You cannot stop a person, or put him in any confinement, who wants to fly.
After all his aim was to fly to heaven.