Laxman Prasad, 57, a betel shop owner from Jharkhand’s Jamshedpur is a grounded man. He believes in his “karma” (work) and thanks god every morning for not letting pride and success get into his head.
More than six months back, his eldest son, Chandan Prasad, a senior executive with Maruti Udyog, Pune, cracked the Union Public Service Commission examinations with an all India rank of 16.
But the simple illiterate vendor, instead of going overboard about his son’s feat, did not even let his relatives and neighbours know about it until his son returned home after completing the mandatory training last week.
Today, Chandan is an Indian Administrative Service (IAS) officer, undergoing further training at Coimbatore, but life continues as usual for his father, selling paan (betel) to his customers from 9 am to 9 pm from his tin-roofed shop in Shastrinagar neighbourhood of the city.
Family, friends and people in the neighbourhood were surprised when Laxman welcomed his son amidst drum beats and told them that Chandan had become an IAS officer. Celebrations lasted barely a couple of hours and Laxman was back at work.
Asked if he would stop selling paan now that his son was an IAS officer, rubbing lime on betel leaves, Laxman grins and takes a long pause before he answers. “The money to educate and groom Chandan into an IAS officer came from this shop,” he says.
“This shop helped me raise money to build a decent home and meet my elder daughter’s wedding expense. This is my temple and customers are my God. How can I discard them?”
Though his shop does not bear any signboard, it is a popular landmark in the neighbourhood. The popularity is primarily due to his simplicity, honesty and affable behavior, say his customers, most of them regulars more than two decades and vouch for his friendly appeal and keeps coming back.
Harikant Khandelwal, a customer for the last 25 years, says he has not seen such a soft-spoken and humble person in his life. “Even I didn’t get to know that his son has become an IAS officer. There is not even an iota of change in his attitude,” he says.
People keep coming to asking him about how he groomed his son to become an IAS officer, he says, “I have four children, but only Chandan showed promise in studies. I told him not to worry for money and keep working hard.”
Asked for his son’s contact number, Laxman says that since he is illiterate he does not know how to save numbers on his mobile phone.
“It must be with my wife,” he says.
Chandan says he owes his success to his father’s courage and hard work.
“But for him, I would not have been here,” he says.
Asked if his father should stop selling paan, he says, “I respect all his decisions.”