Almost all the protagonists in the articles that i have penned till date are every day common people, people whom we meet in our day to day life, like Asha my neighbourhood aunt or my diffident friend who was scared of almost all the things in the world. These everyday common people have much much more to share, for they are the once who face all kind of hardships in their lives and survive, for people like me to tell their tales. All the tales in my blog are real life stories that i’ve experienced. The story in this particular blog post is alike. And this story has made me eternally happy, i must confess.
The roots of this story dates to about two decades back when we were just boys, not even teenagers i can say, i must have been in my sixth or seventh grade and this guy, the hero of this post was also of my age. Nowadays, people go to different places like hill stations, tourists destinations or even abroad to explore new places during their vacations, but, during those good old days, a vacation would invariably mean that our parents would pack their bags and take us to our native place to join with our extended families there. The reason may have involved economic sense, bridled with a conservative socialists thinking of the 80s. Risk taking and exploring newer destinations was almost unheard of then.
On one such summer vacation, we landed in our native place after a grueling 16 hours travel by State Transport Bus. In our house i found one new face, a boy of my age, i presumed and ignored that he must be a neighborhood boy. Later on, that evening, when my dad inquired, we came to know that the boy was staying with us, he was in fact one of our distant relative, his family was in economic hardship, so to continue his further education, the boy was sent here. Sadly, for no fault of his the boy did just everything here except studying.
It so happened, that the boy, a victim of economic crisis, back at home, had no strong support to look after, he had no option but to stay put at the place where his parents dropped him. So, the family that provided him the shelter did take adverse advantage of this situation, the boy was used as a help in the small country side restaurant which the family ran, he was asked to do all kind of errands when he returned from the work from that restaurant. Even the neighbors took benefit of the plight of that boy and asked him to do petty things like bringing stuff from market etc. The boy was not mature, but, he was not that small either, not to realize his situation, he tried to hid his helplessness in the cover of his smile, all the teases and taunts that he would get would receive only a smile from him. Many a times he succeeded in hiding his pain under the warp of smiles i suppose. But, deep down he seemed to be hurted. His morale was down and his future looked thin like his physique, at that point of time.
My parents and myself too pitied the situation of the boy, but, at the moment we could not offer him anything much more than that cosmetic pity, which i presume now would have only hurted him furthermore.
I met him again the next vacation, he was there still, doing the same stuff, he would work all day long, and would somehow manage to steal some time to study, go to school and come back and work in the restaurant and do all and sundry activities that he was assigned by the family and neighbors. Somehow, he cleared his Tenth grade and even attended the college for two years.
It was in 1995-96, back home in Mumbai i got the news that he was in Mumbai for job hunt. We were now youths, in fact, i had already completed two three years in my office by then. I met him briefly only once during his very short stay in Mumbai, inquired about what he was doing and what he intended to do. I tried to motivate him to do something. He said he was trying to get into the army. I wished him the best and we departed. The boy, with his troubled childhood looked diffident, shyish in the cosmopolitan crowd of Mumbai. I doubted how he could sneak into the Indian Army.
Soon, life took very fast speed and this boy, nearly faded away from my memory, yes the childhood tale of this boy Nana, (as we would call him. Frankly, even today, i don’t know his real name) never faded, but, i was not knowing what he was doing, where he was. Until last week that is.
I went for two weeks to my native place for Ganesha Celebrations which is our main festival in our part of the world. Its our tradition that during this festival we visit our relatives and they do it alike. So, our houses are always full with known and unknown faces.
That day, it was around 01.45 in the afternoon, when i returned to my home, i saw a sturdy young man, cleanly shaved, neatly dressed with shoes and with a confident smile on his face. He had with him his wife and a small girl. I thought, they must be some of our distant relative. But, the guy immediately recognized me and gave his trademark smile. Though, i could not have identified the man his smile reminded me that, yes, he was the same old Nana. I was overwhelmed, I was happy, I settled there with him, inquired about him, yes, he was in Indian Army. He had served the armed forces for 14 long years now and was posted in Kashmir. He was a completely changed guy now, he was strong, he was sturdy and more so, he was a confident man now. He was married, had his own house in Mumbai and at Native place. Looked after his family well. He got married and had a kid. By Indian Standards, yes he was a settled man now.
I could not have hidden the joy on my face that day. No one could have imagined that the small child who it was thought was destined only to do errands would fight all the adversities and back himself up and fight all the odds. Truly, he chose the very correct profession.
Truly Na Na (no no) today was Ha Ha (yes yes).
Ah!! i did not ask his name, and really, it was not required as such.
My Best luck to this man.