It was during the summer of 2004, when Ramesh and a few of his colleagues were deputed to Mumbai as a part of an expansion drive. The company accommodated them in a group of furnished flats, well designed for bachelors like him. Ramesh was given flat no. 704 which he shared it with a couple of others on the 7th floor, the top most floor in the building. The summer heat, heats up the terrace and the warms up the top most flats in any apartment and this was the Ramesh’s only complaint.
Ramesh knew almost all of his colleagues by face but he was surprised to see that he had never interacted with a lot of them. It didn’t take much time to cut ice. “Vikram, Pushpa, Sampad, Jameel, Shubho, Joseph, Gaurav and Bhaskar”, Ramesh whispered these names to himself. He was finally able to link each of their faces with their names. Ramesh’s flat soon came to be known as ‘Club 704’ – most of the decent lot(more or less) flocked to his flat during their leisure.
The flat was a melting pot of culture. His friends came from different parts of India and Ramesh could see the cultural differences but he simply could not understand as to how anyone could watch ‘ETC’ channel for 24 hours and still enjoy every minute of it [ETC channel played a few new bollywood songs for as little as 30 seconds to 2 minutes and it would be repeated the whole day for an entire month!!!] and how could anyone have Potatoes and Panneer[Cottage cheese] 3 times a day for the whole month. ‘Laughter Challenge’ – Season 1, was the only TV program which was religiously followed and enjoyed by all the members of ‘Club 704’.
Ramesh felt at home and happy with his life in Mumbai. It reminded him of his life in Hostel as a young school boy. He remembered the days when a few of his friends would throng themselves on someone’s cot and talk endlessly for hours exaggerating everything under the sun – right from ‘I am lucky to be alive’ to ‘how much my parents struggled’ and what not. The scenario was not much different here. One fine evening, when Ramesh reached his apartment, he could see an animated discussion going on. Half the members were smoking but the ashtray was empty, so Ramesh was happy to realize that the discussion had just begun and he did not miss anything. The topic of the evening was “How I missed being a Billionaire!!!
Ramesh wondered as to how this topic came about. It was amazing for him to see that almost everyone had a supposedly true story to explain in-depth on this subject. Pushpa only had to marry her second cousin to become a billionairess, but something stopped her from taking that step! Incidentally true love was more important for her than money. “I have no regrets” she says, signing off her talk. “My mother didn’t take a single penny when she married my father” started Sampad. The rest of his talk was all about ‘how rich his uncles are’ and ‘how many billions would he have had, if his mother had taken her share’. Joseph and Jameel talked about his uncles’s cheating their fathers at the time of sharing the ancestral property. “We are so rich inspite of being cheated, just imagine our wealth if we were give a fair share” sighed Jameel. Joseph was more diplomatic – “My father was not smart enough to extract his share and he deserved what he got” he said, adjusting his glasses. Shubho’s father lost a lot of money and property in a long court battle. “Whatever we have now is just a fraction of what he had a few years ago. I will make sure that we are back to where we were” said Shubho thumping fist on the table. Vikram was itching to say something. When he got his chance, he did not know where to start. He took a magazine, flipped a few pages and showed a picture and said “I initially thought this picture was captured from his maternal uncle’s farm in US. It looks so similar.” Ramesh realized that Vikram is not going to finish any time soon; nevertheless, he was enjoying every bit of it. Vikram gave a running commentary about his uncle’s vast property, palatial house, fleet of cars, the number of credit cards he has and the names of celebrities who had visited or stayed in his uncle’s house. But how did he miss being a billionaire. Ah! Here comes the point. Vikram’s father apparently refused to take any share in his wife’s property which was then offered by his father-in-law. “My father only wanted my mother’s hand in marriage” he said. No prizes for guessing what he said next. “We don’t have any regrets” he continued and ended.
There was a long silence. It was not because they were shocked at these events, but because they were waiting for the next speaker. Each one was looking at one another. Ramesh and Bhaskar looked at each other while trying to hide their smile. They were the two remaining speakers, but neither of them spoke anything. “Apart from watching and enjoying ‘Laughter Challenge’, another thing common to most of the members of Club – 704 is the fact that they all missed becoming billionaires by a whisker” whispered Ramesh to Bhaskar.
In course of time Ramesh and Bhaskar became official money lenders to the other members of Club-704. They were the only ones who had not missed being billionaires! The rest of the gang was ofcourse not billionaires, but Ramesh and Bhaskar realized that they were not even millionaires or thousandaires or hundredaires!!! They did not have any regrets!!!