13.8.11 | Post by Anshul Gautam
I woke up. It was actually 8 in the morning. I was still half asleep, when I bugged out my eyes, to ascertain that it was still 5 showing on my mobile. My flimsy opened eyes alarmed that I went late again. Attempting to hurry, I came out from bed tardily, looked for my specs, and searched for slippers. It appeared very much painful to crawl out from my bed when the weather was so much sleep-friendly. It was mild raining, clouds everywhere, no sun in the sky. With lament mood set, I had to rush outside my hostel room to get prepared for today’s classes. I was just there, near the wash basin, to brush my teeth, where there are hanging electric wires from leaking water purifier. Thinking about to purchase an electric tooth brush this time, I came near balcony to spit out the loads in my mouth, forgetting about what wash basins are meant for. I was just about for it, but then I found there somebody downstairs, an old man.
There was an old man, with tattered clothing and a large plastic bag on his back.
He was collecting garbage and junks that were certainly thrown there from engineering students like me. I started to watch him closely. He was picking up each object with care, assuring if they were junks for him too. From tattered packets of chips to shattered boxes of cigarettes, he cared for picking up everything and discovering them slowly. I was lost in sighting him drenched with attention for his work. Pepsodent loads started to leak from the corner of my lips. And before I could recollect them back, a droplet fell on the busy man below. For the first time he looked above towards me, and I looked him straight into his eyes, surprisingly. In that pitiful situation for me, I couldn’t even ask for pardon from the busy old man, for my act of spitting on him literally. But he smiled. He smiled to show his spoilt teeth, enslaved by tobacco in between. He smiled again, as if to assure me that he didn’t mind. Back to work, he picked up few pens this time. Checked them if they were working. Then there were tooth brushes, dirty socks and an empty cold drink bottle. Whatever he found useful, he collected them in his pockets. I exclaimed. How his pockets could not contain holes, when the rest part of his pant were nothing but a Local Area Network of holes. Having finished with my mouth work, I went downstairs where he was working. I wanted to say sorry for what just happened. I said: “ota bhul kore hoe gechilo, khoma kore diyo”. He smiled. He put off his large garbage bag and replied: “are babu, kono bepar na, erokom to hotei thake majhe majhe” and again got busy in collecting items. He meant that it was ok; nothing to feel sorry about. I watched him some more and then resumed the conversation; this time I told him sorry on behalf of entire students residing in that hostel who threw junks like that in open land. I asked for pardon, for showing this type of irresponsibility by us, even when we know all the setbacks for such acts. He smiled and his words followed: “etai to amar kaj, tomader diyei to amar ghar chole.” He told me in Bengali that there was no need for me to be sorry. He told that he earns because of us; because of what we do. With a sort of pause, he resumed conversing with me. He said that he was very happy. I asked if there was something special. He explained. He had got three working pens today for his granddaughter. She goes to school. She uses pencil right now at her kindergarten level, but soon may need pens in her first standard. He could serve her instantly when she would ask him for pens. And so he was very happy. “O amar pran” he added. He also managed to get a toothbrush. He would give that to her wife who washes dishes and clothes for people living in Bidhan Nagar Residency. She uses stems of trees instead of a brush. She knows how to brush with a toothbrush, but still prefers stems of Guava or Neem tree; may be so because she doesn’t want to spend her earned money for a toothbrush. But now as he had one, he would give that to his wife and then she would surely start using it like I do, he referred me. “ebong seo amar pran”, he accepted. He meant that she is his darling too. I smiled, and following me, he smiled too, showing me his tobacco bitten teeth again. “Couldn’t you find anything for yourself” I queried. He showed me a pair of socks, and thanked god that this time he found socks in pair, for both legs. He would use them in winter.
It was getting late for me. I had to go to college. And I was still there at hostel grounds. I bid him bye and anticipated to meet soon. I was about to climb the staircase when he called me back – “Dada!!!”
I looked back for him. He asked me what date it was. It was 9th of August. He told that our hostel warden had told him to do come on Independence Day for Jalebis and Samosa. He will be coming with her granddaughter too, and so he asked me to meet her. He babbled : “She is very bright. She wishes to be an engineer, but I tell her to be a good human first, like you are Dada. Do meet her once”. I replied in affirmative. J
While sitting in class, attending boring lectures, I recalled that I didn’t ask his name, not even name of his granddaughter. Though he managed to get a toothbrush today, but would he be able to get a toothpaste as well? I prayed to Lord to bless him with an empty tube of toothpaste too, from which he could squeeze out the amount he would need. I prayed to Lord to help me earn so high, so that I could gift innumerable new toothpaste tubes to such neediest. J
Author : ANSHUL GAUTAM
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