Three Stories From Bhopal

Story one: On the right track

Railway station’s are awesome. They are 24×7 entertainment channels for all. You find all sorts of people in here…serious people,not so serious people, funny people, serious people acting funny and so on and so forth.
Anup and me fell in a category of people who were not so serious but were trying to look serious. Every night after our dinner, we used to go for a bike trip round the city. On an old diesel bullet, we used to thunder around talking about everything across the globe. We used to reach the railway station at around 9:30 at the night, on reaching the station, we’d walk upto our trusted bench on Platform number 1 and take our positions, to watch life pass by leisurely.
Its an unsaid rule somewhere, that at the station you have to look busy and harried. The funniest part would be to see relatives of passengers accidentally leave on trains instead of the real passengers. The relatives would be the do-gooders who would mount the train to check if the seat was okay and all and by the time the real passenger could get on the train ,it would have already left with the poor relative still checking the seat and tying up the luggage. Then there would be the problem of people trying to carry anything and everything in the train.
It is at the platform that the slum dwelling kids usually move around carrying huge bags double their size. They try to collect plastic, old bags, magazines, papers etc. One fine evening, staring at the life all around, Anup and i noticed one such child collecting plastic bottles. He was not more than 6 years of age. On seeing him we felt sorry and walked upto him.
Anup got hold of him and asked, “Whats your name ??”
“Tukuna” he replied without even bothering to look at us. He was being kept busy by all the collecting that he was upto.
“Do you want to eat ??”
He stopped and looked at us with suspicious eyes…..and then he broke off into a toothy grin.
Anup asked him,” What do you want to eat ???”
“Bhai…there is a cheap place outside the station…with vadas and idli”
“Lets go then”
On reaching the small shop, we asked the vendor to give the little one whatever he asks for. ”Eat all that you want to” I said.
“Really !!!!!!!!”
“Yaa…Go on eat” Anup continued.
“Bhai can i take the food back to my home and eat ???? It is very close by ?? “
On hearing this , the tiny one grabbed on the food and ran back in a small lane close to the shop where we were standing.
As we were about to pay the money, he came back and asked for some more.
“Sure, Take more” Anup said. He grabbed the food again and rushed back into the lane and before a minute , he was out asking for just a little bit more food for the third time. Curious as to what was happening, we looked at the vendor hoping that he could explain it to us. The vendor gave us an all knowing smile and took us to the lane, where the kid had ran off. We were surprised to see four small kids of different sizes and a dog sitting on the stairs of the temple. Tukuna was standing there administering food to the smallest child in the lot. The rest of them were busy having small portions of the food that Tukuna had just carried over.
We turned back to the vendor, who kept smiling as he went on “These are his little brothers and sisters. Every day, he earns just enough money to feed all of them. The dog too is a member of their family and has a share”
The vendor continued “His father was dead long back, and his mother was a daily wage worker who died on the railway tracks a month ago in an accident”
“He does this everyday, going hungry himself at times if he is not able to earn enough in a day” the vendor said.
It was perhaps the first time that Anup and me experienced something of this sort.
Responsibility is not something which you inherit. Its either there or it is not. Parents also are not there to do all our bidding and their responsibility towards us also comes with an expiry date. You cannot go on blaming your environment, parents ,peers for all that you are not doing. That was a wake up call for us. If a six year old can own up the responsibility of his siblings and a dog, we also needed to move out of our comfort zones. Life is only as simple as we make it to be, its always better to wake up before any sort of shock treatment. A lesson worth much more than 20 bucks of idli’s and vada’s.

Story two: The old man and the new leaf

IIFM is one place, which gave me so much. If i think of a life before IIFM and the one after IIFM, i know that i have changed a lot. A great place to be at, great guides plus a unique batch. Every batch at IIFM will always feel that theirs was a great batch, so i am no different. Ours was a great batch and given a chance to repeat those 2 years with the same set of people, i dont think anyone will have any hesitaion in reliving those amazing moments. All the laughs that we shared bring a wry smile to our faces and for all the great meetings and fights we had, we have a hearty laugh about them now.
IIFM had a M.Phil program, which was known as the MRM program. During my first internship, Sunil, Kalpu and me stayed at IIFM cause we were working for the MP tourism board. Life was simple …. movies, meetings, trips, novels and sleep….and this cycle went on and on and on. One fine evening, Sunil and I came down on to the lawn in front of the boys hostel. We saw an old gentleman sitting there staring at passerby’s. We walked upto him and greeted him.
“Uncle, are you accompanying some new student for the MRM program interviews???” we asked.
He looked up gave us a smile and said, ” Yes…as a matter of fact i am. “
“So who is the student, your son or daughter ???”
“Its me. I am accompanying myself for these interviews”
Not sure that we had heard correctly, we quietened down for a minute.
“Surprised !!!!!! ??? I am just 76 years old.” he added with a wink and smile “So a year in here for the program wont hurt me” he kept smiling as he continued ” I was a shepherd till the age of 11, so i lost 11 precious years of my life shepherding cows and buffaloes. I am trying to make up for all those years i missed out on”
“Ohhh…Okk…Do you have any children ??” we curious Tom’s persisted.
“Yes, I have a son, who is happily married and lives in Mumbai along with his wife. In fact can you please do me a favour.. I am giving you his number , can you please tell him that i have reached Bhopal safely ???”
After calling up his son and informing him, we got back to the gentleman. He had thick rimmed specs and wore a gandhian hat along with a crumpled kurta and kept on humming songs and looking around leisurely as we talked to him.
“You see ….. more than anything, i am doing this for my beloved late wife. She was the most wonderful inspiration that i could ever have had in my life. She always kept on egging to to follow my dreams. So i worked as a government servant for 35 years and after that, i completed my Masters program and studied law as well. I worked at a disctrict sessions court as a lawyer for 2 years before arthritis caught up on me. But then i decided to complete another masters in sociology and now i am here for the MRM program”
“…… but……????” we were way too short of words.
He smiled kindly at us, “I know getting into this IIFM program is difficult for me, but then again whats the harm in trying. If i do not make it here, i’ll try to get into the Sanskrit Vidyapeeth in Tamil Nadu”
“Its amazing…..”
“See children, when my wife died, i was left around doing nothing at my place for sometime, I kept on listening to my son, his wife and his children. It was great but only to an extent. I wanted to see places and learn things. So i did. I have pursued my dreams the way i always wanted to….. I just don’t want to have any regrets when i die” Then he pointed towards a tree and said ” This tree has many new leaves and as many old ones. I am one of those old leaves. I know my time is up and i will die away sometime soon, but before passing on, i want to be proud of all my years up on the tree……”
Its not just about the old leaf…. the new leaves also need to push and prove their worth soon…..cause one storm later every leaf is on the ground and if i need to be proud of myself, then as the great man said “I need to proud about all my years up there”
Learning to do my work and enjoying it as much as i could was something that the man taught us. I had a habit of getting repulsed by all the new work that was thrust upon me, but the man taught me to to learn and enjoy what i am doing. Life is only too short to learn new things, so why not make best use of it. If he was never to old to learn anything new, then i guess we all are not too old to be stop learning things. So keep learning and enjoying.

Story 3: The ice candy man

Summers at Bhopal can either kill you or they can bring you on the verge of death. The best antidote when you are out is an ice cream and any cool drink. There is a pretty famous top n town ice cream outlet in the New market area of Bhopal.
So one fine summer noon, Sunil n I were here in front of the ice cream parlour, trying to out do each other in the competition we were having (The ice cream eating competition). There are many street vendors, who try to sell you all sorts of stuff, that particular day, there was a poor lame salesman supported by a pair of crutches limping around to people trying to sell them mosquito squatter and nets. As a general attitude that people carry towards salesmen, more so poor salesmen, he too was being brushed and shunted aside by all. Nobody cared about him or his products, but he kept on limping around trying his best.
Then there was a young kid, who too was trying to sell ropes. He was dressed pretty shabbily and kept on trying to sell people ropes near the ice cream counter. He tried to request a couple of men to help him get an ice cream, but the people whom he asked found satisfaction in yelling at him and scaring him off. He kept on gazing wistfully at the ice creams. Sunil n I decided to buy him an ice cream and as we were moving towards him, we saw the poor limping salesman with the squatter and the nets walk upto the kid. The salesman held the child’s hand and took him to the ice cream counter n said,” Have whatever you want to have. I’ll pay”
The look on the faces of the people who had shouted at the kid and brushed aside the salesman was a sight to behold. People were turning pink out of shame. The kid got himself a ice candy for which this man paid. The two of them stood there proudly while the kid finished the ice candy and then walked off amidst applause from the rest of public standing in there.
I guess all of us at any point of our lives are better off than the poor limping salesman or the poor kid. We must be if we are able to read this blog sitting in the comfort of our room or maybe our office. Still we have so much to complain about and crib about. We are way too busy with ourselves to actually spare a thought for others. The poor limping man showed us how to care about another when it matters the most.
Lessons for me…I hope some work for you as well. There are many such stories all around us that we can draw something from. I needed to write these cause i felt like it. Three stories which i think have given me a lot. The least i can do is share them with all…….

(Thanks Shrey for these wonderful stories)

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