Sunday, February 13, 2011

The Evening



He was once an officer with the State Transport Department and speaks reasonably good English. He lives in the Vridh Ashram of the Gurudwara Rara Sahib near Ludhiana. His world is limited to a bed and a window. He is very possessive about his corner but he has never seen this world of his. When we wanted to move his bed to clean beneath it, clean the window, and to dust his surroundings, he insisted that he had been keeping 'his' area clean. But my girls wanted to clean the entire dorm which was badly stinking of urine, vomit and faecal matter.
The girls took half a day to clean the dorm, shake and make the beds, scrape the floor of all the dead skin and other matter that seemed to have been there forever. When this man came back, he was upset that we had moved his bed. I apologised and offered to set his bedding right. He strictly refused to allow me to touch his bed.
He said, I will make my bed myself and would see what all is missing. (The girls had only put someone else's quilt on his bed which he apparently didnt like.)

She is from Calcutta. Her name was Kamla and now she has been renamed Mukhtiar Kaur....what all has changed for her?? Has a few sons and daughters - all 'happily married'. I met her first when I visited them one day prior to Diwali last year. I think I have a special connection with Bengalis. I locate them or they locate me...somehow. But this was the most unlikely place I would find one. Her bed is in the middle of the big
dorm that houses women inmates of the ashram. The moment she saw me today, she extended her hand in recognition and we exchanged a hug. Then she was all smiles. A small frame, shining eyes - half her words incomprehensible. (I have not learnt Bangla. Mental note- I should learn. I am sure I was a Bengali in my last birth and would be one in my next too. Mahesh, please make the necessary recommendations for yourself to dear God...the story of seven births you see.). Mukhtiar Kaur didn't want me to go away. She likes her current place of residence. I wanted to go meet other women also. So she let me go. My girls sang with some old women, gossiped with others and laughed with many. What would Kamla sing? Perhaps only I would be able to bond with her Bengali songs.

These are the son-in-law and the little grandson of this cheerful person. The moment we set his bed right, he invites them in. He hands over his share of biscuits and fruit to the kid. The tall old man rushes to the langar hall to bring kheer for his guests. Guests? The little man seemed to be on an outing. I teased him about gobbling up
his Nanu's biscuits. And I wanted to tell him to do exactly this to his parents when their turn came. He would, even without my training, I am sure he would. There is a saying in Punjabi, I dont know how you translate it into English, "The knots you tie with your hands will have to be opened with the help of your teeth." Will this young man in the middle and his wife one day have these beds as their worlds?

Will he, too, one day pose with a painful smile for some teacher from a college?

18 comments:

Phoenixritu said...

Long time Mampi. Good to see you back blogging

maheshinder_singh said...

Oh Mampi, it touched every nook and corner of my mind,body and soul. I wish every son, daughter reads this. Your parting lines say the whole story.I will try to circulate this story in every possible way. These visits of yours will bring out the noble soul in you and may help to shake some sleeping souls. Well done Mampi, I feel proud to be with you.

Anonymous said...

maybe its because we dont have to pay anything to get a set of parents....

Oreen said...

very touching. may god bless you and your teachers. thing is, keep going, if you can.

and having suffered the death of both my parents, i can say that you don't realize what you lost before you actually lose it.

sukumbho said...

Plain, simple but powerful sketches through masterly penned lines. This is a curse of the society.

You have made the right note in this comeback blog piece.

amit said...

very touching piece of heart-felt writing. i am a son and a father. so your story about these old, abandoned yet proud people shook something hidden deep in me. may God bless u for this.

dr.rajindarjit@gmail.com said...

A touching note!
Your visit to the people housed as inmates of a 'Home' meant for homeless, indeed rewarded you as a fruitful day. A very sound mode of teaching you have practiced to teach ethical values among the younger generation. Keep it up! It will go a long way in the history of this college.
May God be with you!
Dhindsa

Manish Raj said...

It's lovely Mampi...thanks for everything..

Pradeep said...

Hi Manpreet,
Don't know if you remember me, a regular visitor to ur blog... And you were too a regular visitor of my blog... Then, Facebook and Twitter came and robbed my blog time. But now I am trying to revisit and revive my old blog-a-holic days... :)... Hoping to keep coming back here... Good to see you still around. :) -- PRADEEP

arti said...

welcome back mampi..der aaye durust aaye..
hmm...makes me want to murder a few people n simultaneously hug a few people..

Mithe said...

Really Moving Mampi...Your words are stark, realistic and surreal...

Manasa said...

Welcome back. First post of the year. Looks like you were very very busy since you're visiting them.

Touching one .esp the last sentence.

Jagjit said...

Hey, appreciate your going to the gurudwara, spending time with these people and doing sewa. You inspire.

Sukanya said...

Thank you for sharing these stories, they are both poignant and inspiring. I admire the way you speak through your actions and there is much to be learnt.

dipali said...

You know, even though it is a sad place to visit, there are some people who actually have no one to care for them, and live a life of greater dignity in an ashram than as an unwanted person in some relative's home. That said, we need to ensure that every member of society has a decent place to live and food to eat, and people to interact with. It's a pity that the place was so dirty and ill cared for.
I'm sure it was a really moving experience for your students.

Pinku said...

Lovely post and am sure an experience to remember and cherish for your girls as well.

Lovely to see you writing again.

kiran grewal sekhon said...

this post of yourz touched my heart and soul. i'l never let 'ME' live with guilt of such kind!!!its promise to myself!!!

Balvinder Singh said...

Manpreet, i came across this post through twitter today when i was just scanning through your tweets. After reading through the blogpost, when i read the comments, i found out that someone had called it a first post of the year. I was delighted to have come here in time. But no, hold it. Your scornful look is justified because, it was only when i paid attention to the year, i found out that i was late by exacltly one year in reading this marvelous piece of writing. Blame it on Facebook as someone has already done so. Well written and well jerked all those young men and women who may like to see their future abodes.