Rohinton Mistry, A Fine Balance, 1995
Maneck, a fourteen-year-old Indian boy, comes back home from his boarding school for the holidays to see his parents who are shopkeepers in a mountain village.
That year, for the first time, his parents were going to leave him on his own for two days while they attended a wedding. Instead of closing down the place and sending him to a neighbour's house, Mr Kohlah decided, as a special treat, to let him run the shop alone.
"Just do things the way we do when I'm here," he said. "Everything will go smoothly. Don't forget to count the soft-drink crates taken by the driver. And phone for tomorrow's milk − very, very important. If there's a problem, call Grewal Uncle. I've told him to check on you later on." Mr. and Mrs. Kohlah went around the shop one more time with Maneck, reminding and pointing, then departed.
The day passed like any other. There were flurries of activity followed by periods of calm during which he wiped the glass cases, dusted the shelves, cleaned the counter. The regulars inquired about his parents' absence, and praised his ability. "Look at the boy, keeping the barracks shipshape. Deserves a medal."
"Farokh and Aban could retire tomorrow if they wanted to," said Brigadier Grewal. "Nothing to worry about, with Field Marshal Maneck in charge of General Store." Everyone present laughed heartily at that.
Late in the evening, quiet descended upon the square as daylight began to fade. Maneck went to switch on the porch lamp, feeling proud of his day's work. It was almost time to close the store. All that remained was to empty the till, count the money, and enter the amount in the book. From the porch he saw the shop's interior, and paused. That big glass case in the centre, with soaps and talcum powders − it would look much nicer in the front. And the old newspaper table near the entrance, scarred and wobbly − wouldn't be better off pushed to the side?
The idea pursued Maneck and seized his imagination while he warmed his food. The more he thought about it, the more it seemed like a smart rearrangement of the display. He could easily manage it alone, tonight. What a surprise for Mummy and Daddy when they came back.
After eating his dinner, he returned to the darkened shop, switched on the light, and dragged the old table out of the way. The glass case was more difficult, heavy and cumbersome. He emptied the merchandise and pushed it slowly to its new, prominent spot. Then he replaced the cans and cartons, but not in their boring old stacks − he arranged them in interesting pyramids and spirals. Perfect, he thought, standing back to admire the effect, and went to bed.
The next evening, Mr. Kohlah walked in and saw the alterations. Without pausing the greet Maneck or ask how things were, he told him to shut the door, hang out the Closed sign.
"But there's still one hour left," said Maneck, hungry for his father's praise.
"I know, Shut it anyway." Then his father ordered him to put everything back the way it was. His voice was barren of emotion.
Maneck would have preferred it if his father had scolded or slapped him, or punished him in any manner he wanted. But this contempt, this refusal to even talk about it, was horrid. The enthusiasm drained from his face, leaving behind a puzzled anguish, and he felt on the verge of tears.
His mother was moved to intervene. "But Farokh, don't you think it looks nice, what Maneck done?"
"The looks are irrelevant. What instructions did we give when we trusted him with the shop for two days? This is how he repays the trust. It's a question of discipline and following orders, not of looking nice."
Norwich father and son's business goes from strength to strength
Kate Scotter, Wednesday, July 30, 2014
When Nick Applin was a schoolboy, he had dreamt of working with his dad Chic Applin, who was well known in Norwich for his involvement in the city's entertainment scene where he worked as a band leader, booking agent and musician.
That dream never had the chance to materialise when Mr Applin's father died suddenly when he was just 15 years old.
Now, 35 years down the line, Mr Applin has forged a business partnership with his own son Max.
The father and son team founded Applin and Co, a bespoke marketing form, last spring. Within the first 15 months, they have seen their business grow from a two-man operation to a team of five full-time employees, and the company has won a lucrative Webby award, considered to be the Oscars of the digital arts and sciences industry, for a project they worked on in Philadelphia in America.
Mr Applin and his son Max now hope to expand the business further while keeping true to their Norwich roots.
The married father-of-two from Thorpe1, who was responsible for developing the 15 Chicago Rock Cafe brand for Luminar leisure and used to run the Rivergarden pub, said: "When you're entrepreneurial and working hard all the while to make it work, some of that does rub off on you kids."
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