Post Retirement– Rodriguez way, came after the heart-wrenching story of Dorabjee appeared. Rodriguez story was meant as a change, as a lighthearted account of the pligh t of retired persons homebound during day and at the mercy of unsolicited tele-vendors and door-to door sellers. I admit it was a bit overdone in certain parts and did not exactly turnout the way I loved to see. I was slightly surprised to find it showcased. But, I have learnt to accept things as they come my way, without reserve.
I wish to say a few words about Willy, not because he needs anyone to defend him, but to correct the impression, one may have gained, of his being a provider of rib- ticklers and teller of dirty stories; and nothing else. He did have his pains and aches but preferred not to wear his heart on his sleeve.
Willy Rodriguez endured more than a fair share of pain, sorrow and grief in his life. His initial years in Bombay, to say the least, were wretched. Uneducated, untended, friendless and poor, he learnt to survive at the lowest stratum of the heartless big city. He eked out a minimum living working odd jobs; yet, doggedly pursued his ambition to get educated. He realized, education was the only thing that could save him from degenerating into a guttersnipe. He managed to pass SSC attending evening classes. He later attended evening college for a few months and gave it up.
Even after he secured a job that fetched Rs.150 a month (a decent start in the 60s), he retained links with the Basti (slum dwellings) and was a sort of an all-purpose social worker. He was even a quack doctor, treating slum kids and women of minor illnesses. He learnt to treat injuries and fix bones of those hurt in gang wars but would not go to hospitals for fear of police. It was when he was becoming rather handy for the gangs and police began to suspect his links with gangs, Willy distanced himself quietly from that part of his life. In the meantime, he acquired familiarity with people in all strata of Bombay’s different worlds. He used that to help whoever came seeking help.
The wife of Boppanna Shetty; a new migrant , alone in Bombay, was taken away by the Municipality to the Isolation Hospital as she was afflicted with small pox and the Hospital staff would not allow even Shetty, her husband, to meet the patient; as a precaution against spreading the contagious disease. Shetty was crying and howling at the Hospital gate. Rodriguez used his network, stayed alone with the luckless woman for three days until her death and later cremated her on behalf of her husband who was not permitted contact with the corpse.
Willy married rather late; a girl from his slum days. It was not all sweet- milk and honey – type of married life. She became a serious drug addict, a wayside victim of the Hippy invasion. When he realized she was beyond redemption he kept her going by injecting, until she died a year later.
After her death, alcohol became the refuge and ruin of Willy. How his old slum-mates cared for him and rescued him from disaster is another story. He later, regulated himself fairly well by restricting to evening bouts at the Boscos in the Colaba area. Weekend was another matter!
Willy lived alone. He was a lonely man though ever surrounded by his devote group of listners.The ribaldry, jokes etc., I think, was a sort of patchwork disguise. In his stories, he never judged or ridiculed his characters and had affection for the victims, as I mentioned. The women in office and elsewhere, for some reason, trusted him with their private anxieties and griefs; and sought his advice. He always had a word of comfort and cheer. He deposited all that was entrusted to him in his beer-belly, as he said; and never let another soul get wisp of that.
He did help those who came to him .He hated being called a good man or a kind man. Anyone thanking him more than they should, annoyed him very much. He would awkwardly freeze, turn away and ask them to leave. That acquired him the reputation of being a grumpy fellow who did not know how to accept a compliment.
I did not elaborate on Willy’s life-events, as they would not fit into the narration. It focused more on post retirement woes than on his life story. The run-up to the telemarketing repartee was an outline of how he appeared to the outside world.
After his retirement, Willy lived in Goa, alone, as you might have noticed. The invasion of his privacy, his panic and on going battle with constipation; were real. I cannot think of Willy being rude to women or hurting them in any manner. All his life, women trusted him and confided in him and he treated them fairly.
Most of the readers agreed that credit card and other marketing agents are a pain, particularly for those living alone in their old age. Many said they enjoyed reading the Rodriguez way. Some even remarked a few of Rodriguez’s methods were similar to their own.
Two or three remarked they deal with unsolicited calls quite effectively but not as elaborately as Willy did. “Who has time?” they queried. That is understandable. Willy was a retired person living alone and not everyone can be a Willy.
A few have suggested some new methods! A couple of the readers found a Willy in their office too.
The repartee with the sales persons was bit made-up and bit blown up. The working women may not take kindly to the wit and sarcasm. I understand that. If someone saw a slant against women, I am sorry, that was not intended. It was just banter. I respect working women for their hard work, commitment and fortitude. I since mended that portion, a bit.
The following four long winding, unpronounceable names cited in the story are real.
Magdalena Aubrey Menlo Santos Almeida,
Agostinha Rafael Maximiano Rasquinha,
Tirukkovillur Vaidyalingeshwaran Iyer and
Arunachala Kadambavana Sundari Prasunnamba Kanyaka.
The last name ending with Kanyaka meaning: the blessed virgin who is beautiful and carries with her the radiance of sunshine, the fragrance of garden flowers, and the presence of God; is only the first name of a girl from a village in Andhra Pradesh. You still have to add to that plethora of verbiage, her village name, her father’s name and her family name. I would be surprised if that does not make it the longest Indian name.
Even if someone is on a first name basis with the girl, it is still a marathon. My sympathies are with the boy.
As regards the jokes on Alzheimer‘s, it may look rather misplaced to those new to my pages. Not many read my blogs and those few who follow what I write, place that in the context of Dorabjee and might not find it offensive. Yet, I have since taken out the jokes.
I thank all for reading and taking the trouble to post comments.
Please keep talking.