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Post Retirement– Rodriguez way

Post Retirement– Rodriguez way.

 

After I read Ratan Datta’s piece on retimerement and its aftereffects, I mentioned it to my old friend and former colleague Rodriguez and enquired how the post retirement life was treating him. He, in his characteristic delightful manner, told me how he and life were treating each other. Before I go on to what he said I must tell you about my friend Rodriguez.

Willy Rodriguez was a jolly good Goan who imbibed all the enviable virtues of its delightfully relaxed way of life. Earlier in our lives, we worked in a Bombay based company that has since been taken over by a predator corporate company, as it usually happens in today’s dog-eat- dog business world. Rodriguez was a great sport and made life bearable in that dreary sweatshop called office; Yet, his PARs screeched and groaned like an old T-Model Ford and did not carry him further in his career. Outside of office, we were good friends though we were dissimilar in almost everyway.

Rodriguez had a way of “small-talking” with girls’; god’s gift as a swap for success in life, he said. Everyone affectionately called him Willy. The young and not- so- young lasses in the office scrambled through their work, dodged the mean, snarling watchdog, the boss, just for a snippet of friendly advice and “small talk” with Willy. He was the unpaid resident councilor of woe struck girls. Even the girls from neighboring offices stole time or sweet-talked their bosses for a short “time-off”; and hurriedly emptied their woes and heartaches into Willy’ s attentive ears, doleful eyes and gratefully grabbed his words of comfort and cheer; and hurriedly vanished back to their little desks.

For the young men, most of whom came from small towns and never in their “respectable “rustic life had heard a “bad-word” uttered so nonchalantly, Rodriguez was a wonder and a delight. They eagerly hung on his words and stories and repeated them elsewhere for the amazement and delight of their friends. Rodriguez was a treasure house of ribald stories, of cheating wives, their two timing sisters, lecherous bar-sharks poaching on not so-sober lonely hearts and of local Casanovas with their refined traps and tricks. He had a story to suit every taste and every occasion. He had a fair collection of ribald limericks, as a back up.

 
Rodriguez had a way of telling his stories. He narrated his stories in an even tone, never judged or ridiculed his characters; always had affection for them especially for the “victim”. He had a few little tricks up his sleeve, too. In office, as his devote little crowd of admirers leaned across his desk, greedily gulped his stories and just when the story was reaching a crunch and the bubble was about to burst, Rodriguez would suddenly remember an urgent call he had to make or pretend a “bulav” from his mean mouthed boss; and ruefully request his crestfallen listeners to meet him in the evening at his usual table in the Bascos, for rest of the story. They promptly did just that.
 
Rodriguez derived rascally devilish delight in teasing the “pristine puritan” type women whose holier- than – thou attitude always amused him. He would be over-polite and respectful to them; lull them falling into their familiar ways of criticizing mutual friends and when they were in full flow he would , all the while seeming to agree with them, innocently say a most horribly un-sayable thing , obviously in their support , and with a poker face watch them squirm in discomfort.
 
The value of Rodriguez’s presence in our miserable lives enhanced at times of our dire need. One could always depend on Rodriguez at times of sickness, death in the family, funeral or when one unwittingly got into a little trouble with the local police. To those hapless ones newly transferred to Bombay looking lost and bewildered he was the guiding angel. He would help them in securing ration card, gas connection, school admissions etc. Willy Rodriguez seemed to know almost everyone in Bombay. He helped willingly.
 
***
 
After his retirement, Willy Rodriguez is now settled in a town in Goa. He rues the loss of quality life of old Goa .Willy longs for fenny and fun filled late evenings of reckless delight on lonely beaches in company of his mates singing their heart out to the sinking sun.
 

Globalization has not spared the retired or even the semi retarded. It haunts you even in your home. One of the perils of retirement is being homebound during the day. You are a sitting duck for telemarketers and credit card vendors who tempt you and torment you with unsolicited offers.

Willy was hurt; he was robbed of his life and privacy. He wondered how the details of his chores and constipated bowl movements (or lack of it) were known to the agents of multinationals sitting in Bombay or elsewhere. He suspected an across the border conspiracy and “foreign hand”. They seemed not only to know when you are home, but also when you are eating, taking your bath or just sitting down to relax with a cold one and worst of all when you are locked in a grunting fight with an unyielding piece of your own miserly intestine.

Willy gave a serious thought and came up with a game plan. According to Willy, with his methods and with a little bit of play-acting and creativity, any healthy minded retired person would look forward to calls from credit card and marketing agents.

 
The following is how Willy turned torment into amusement and “time-pass”, as he said.
 

This is Willy’s manual for dealing unsolicited marketing:

Usually all such callers ask, “How are you today?” in their effort to cement a close and lasting bond.

Tell them. “Thank you for asking,” you spout. “My arthritis is killing me, I have gout in my left ear, and my eyelashes are sore. Did I tell you about my appendectomy last month? I think it’s growing back.”

Tell them about your just deceased pet, whom you loved more than life itself. Don’t omit details, especially every eulogy, word for word, at Dido’s elaborate funeral.

 
Do not sound bored or tedious. Sing into their ears. Evoke the human goodness in them.
 

If they survives this deluge, engage them in a little sweet talk. Enquire about their work, sympathize and say it must be very difficult for to market in these days of “cut throat competition” etc. “How long have you been with the company? Is your work driving you up the wall? How much money do you make?” and innocently ask ”How has your boss been treating you? Is he OK with you? Does he trouble you in any manner.. You know what I am saying” .You get the idea.

You talk about business for a while; suddenly as if inspired, you want to help . Then in a soothing friendly tone redirect them to some of your more affluent friends who, you tell them ”surely will help your sales and that should be useful to you.” After they thank you, ask them to take down some names. Then, depending on wherethey hail from, suggest long winding names or names hard to spell; such as Magdalena Aubrey Menlo Santos Almeida, Agostinha Rafael Maximiano Rasquinha, Tirukkovillur Vaidyalingeshwaran Iyer and Arunachala Kadambavana Sundari Prasunnamba Kanyaka.

 

When they are out of breath repeating those unpronounceable names , help them lovingly by spelling it forthem, “Let’s see,” you say with deliberate lethargy, “that’s B as in bad ass, A as in avoirdupois, R as in wretched, and B as in bye-bye.” As you mumble your way through the long winding torment, he/she is gasping for breath and sanity, is desperately seeking an exit like a trapped mouse and dying to say the famous last words “How do you rate this interview on one to ten?” Have sympathy for the hard working people . Give nine out of ten.

 

Note:
Not all of this may work on a single caller. This however is the general pattern. You can spread this out in bits and pieces on a number of callers, depending on the situation.
 
Here a few more ploys next time when marketing or credit card company agent comes calling: (Note: some of these might work only with Willy)
 
* When the caller gives her name, pretend that she is a long-lost friend. “Betty! It can’t be! How have you been since we served time together at that wretched company in Bombay? Are you still working there? Pity,,,, how is Mario, your boy friend..Do you still see him?” Don’t allow interruptions. Be relentless. “Oh, Betty you always were the kidder. But tell me, what ever became of that no-good lousy husband who tried to runaway with your sister?”
 
* A variation of the above method: Pretend the caller is your long lost friend and she is playing a prank on you. Insist that it’s all a big joke, and you’re not falling for it. “Come on, Marge, I know this is you. So cut it out. Hey, I’ve been meaning to ask, ‘How’s that guy who cost you last year your Skoda?'”
 
* Immediately, tell the caller that you are delighted that he called; you were about to call him; Thank God he did; is he telepathic? Pamper him. Invite him to come down. Tell him in your lovable drone that you are incarcerated at home wearing an ankle bracelet, and cajole him to bring over a bottle of fenny and some fried fish.
 
*Tell the caller that you’re busy right now, but if she’ll give you her mobile phone number, you’ll call her back.
 
a) When she gives her number, sweet- talk her at inconvenient hours laced with some business talk. Show more interest on business side, initially. It may work or it may not work but in any case, it is a “good time-pass”.
 
b) When the marketing agent explains that she can’t do that, respond with, “I suppose you don’t want anyone bothering you at home,” When she agrees, give her both barrels!
 
****************

A telemarketer called today

and when I answered with “Hello,”

she asked, “Is Mr. or Mrs. Murray in?”

I said, “Well, I can only be one or the other.”
She hung up…gotta love it!
 
 
I can almost tell by the bell
It’s someone who’s trying to sell.
“How are you?” they begin,
And then begins my sin
Of wishing they would go to hell.
 
***
A marketing Agent was instructed by her Boss to pursue a customer and was given a phone number. She earnestly began calling. Each time she called, another phone on the desk would ring. When she answered, no one was there. This continued throughout the morning. When later asked if she reached the customer, she explained what was happening and demonstrated for her Boss. He noticed that the phone number she was calling WAS THEIR OWN PHONE NUMBER! She had spent an entire morning calling herself
******

 Please read

for continuation
 
 
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Posted by on August 31, 2012 in Story

 

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Dorabjee- a response

 

Dorabjee- a response

 

Thank all of you.

I am overwhelmed by the response to  Dorabjee. After I finished writing the story, I thought it made a rather sad reading. I had no heart to inflict it on the Sulekha readers. I sought advice from a friend who read it and asked me to post it after taking care of spelling errors. I was told that readers on Sulekha have a sturdy heart and would surely survive this teary onslaught.

Dorabjee relates to late 70s and early 80s when, as I said earlier too, there was a village at the heart of Bombay and that village had a heart. The relations at work were generally cordial. Your mates greeted and wished you well, not as an idiom of courtesy; they meant what they said.

I have never witnessed such spontaneous collective goodwill elsewhere as among the lower income immigrant groups of Bombay. Most were fleeing from the unbearable sizzling cauldron of poverty and humiliation tormenting them in their small towns and villages; and were thrown into the squalor, dirt and wretchedness of the big city, the like of which they had never seen . They were ordinary people who lived dreary lives huddled in nondescript hellholes called Chawls and eked out living doing low paying odd jobs; yet shined as angles when neighbors were in trouble. They realized the needed of each other if they had to survive the encircling wretchedness that was climbing on them. They clung to each other for fear of loneliness, for help and comfort and for fear of big bad wolf. Whenever tragedy struck by way of accident, debilitating sickness or death; or at times of dire need during pregnancy or childbirth; like little ants, together they carried burdens much heavier than themselves. They survived not by standing valiantly against the Goliath but by bending low like grass in a storm. Yet, even if they could not erase the scourge of poverty, they carried it about them with dignity which was neither less nor different from the dignity of any other human being.

The greatest difficulty they faced was isolation; turning their homes into ghettos. Poverty, they realized, wasn’t only a lack of financial resources; it was isolation from the kind of people that could help them.

****

Dorabjee is based on the life and tragedy of a person I knew. I have written that into a story in my words. Nadira’s condition and Dorabjee’s care during the first year of her illness are based on what I learnt from the family. I lost contact with the family after the first year until about the end of the third year. I had half a mind to fill in the clinical details of disease condition in its later stages by consulting a doctor or by checking on the net. . I did not pursue that idea since I thought it would mar the flow of the narration and would not add a value.

Some one questioned why Nadira had to be shifted to a Home since Alzheimer’s was not contagious. No, it was not because of that. The reason was that Dorabjee’s health was failing. Yasmin was unable to take care of her parents, unresponsive and unmanageable. She was on the wrong side of thirty and her personal life was in tatters, as I mentioned. The Parsi Colony was itself slipping into a virtual old age home. Not many young persons were left in the colony. [Those few young persons were not getting married. This is a serious problem in Parsi community, even today.] Dorabjee would not let go Nadira and he was not in great shape, either. There was no other way to take care of both. They had to be shifted to a Home.

Some one remarked that Nadira benefited greatly by Doarabjee by her side. I am not sure of that. Nadira resided in a little bubble world of her own, (perhaps) watched life pass by, disinterestedly. She was beyond pain or pleasure. What Dorabjee did was out of love for his companion, without knowing why and without complexities of pride of giving. He did not know any other way.

Nadira held on to Dorabjee when it was easier to let go. She held on even when she had gone far away.

There were a few comments confusing suffering with love. I think it is mainly because we have run into situations confusing symbols with reality; confusing money with wealth, menu with the dinner and greed with need. It is not the whistle that runs the train ; but it is the steam.

In my What Love is.. I wrote, “Love, happiness and well-being are spoken in one breath as if they are inseparable. Many times, I think, they are not even related. A lot of that does not necessarily feel good. Had I thought that love was about only feeling good, I would have missed many things in life.”

I was not suggesting that love always brings with it pain and suffering. No, pain is something that happens; suffering is what you bring on yourself. Love is something that can’t be destroyed by suffering, the only thing that rescues you from this cauldron of painand insanity is love; hold on to that love defying the horrors of life. Love is an attitude. It is about life. It is about living.  None of the things you do makes sense if love, actual care for persons, is not present.

                                     

Pain throws your heart to the ground
Love turns the whole thing around,
Fear is a friend who’s misunderstood
But I know the heart of life is good.
(Anon)
 
I thank all for reading and taking trouble to post comments
 

Regards

 

 

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Melody Queen

R-Sharma

Ehsaas

Bijaya Ghosh

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Shamoli Sarkar

Ratan Datta

swayamprava

Suresh Wadhwani

Aditi Ray

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One Percent

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drpriya005

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vijaya

swarajya

Mistress Desari

pradeep24s

animagi

charuavi

kvraghu

 

 
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Posted by on August 31, 2012 in Story

 

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My earlier years in Bombay- Dorabjee

My earlier years in Bombay- Dorabjee

 

I recounted some incidents of my earlier years in Bombay, now Mumbai, in my post Helped by known and Unknown- friends.

 

The following relates to the later half of that period.

What you are about to read is a love story; not the kind where the starry-eyed boy and girl sing and dance around trees. It is about the relationship, in the evening of their life, of two people who lived a rich and fruitful life. It is about tenderness, care, pain and love.

When I first met Dorabjee, he was nearing his retirement. He was much elder to me ; and more experienced at work; yet,  he treated me, his boss, with regard and due propriety. He impressed me with his assured and unruffled way of doing things. I came to rely on his judgment of persons. We became a sort of friends. The reason I say that is, even outside the work relationship, he treated me as his senior. I was a bit uncomfortable, in the beginning; but,  later, I learned to accept it, because he was at ease with that mode of communication with me. We did develop mutual regard. It was through Dorabjee I gained some familiarity with the Gathas (the book of Zarathustra); and , I later discovered the close relationship between the Gathas and the Rig Veda.

(Please see my post Rig Veda and Gathas -revisited)

Dorabjee lived in the Parsi colony tucked inside the Dadar area,  with his wife Nadira and daughter Yasmin who worked in Bank Of India near Flora Fountain ; and, at 30 was unmarried, as is the case with many Parsi girls. Dorabjee appeared contented and well settled in life and was looking forward to a happy retired, busy life doing what he loved to do most. Social service and gardening topped his list of post retirement agenda.

One evening, after work, while we were having our customary tea at the Parsi Dairy Farm, I noticed that Dorabjee looked rather pensive. I asked him what the matter was. After some persuasion, he opened up.

“Nadira “, he said “has not been talking to me for sometime. She behaves as if I am just not there. She ignores me .When I try to talk to her, she looks out of the window. Yesterday her sister in Poona called me up to say Nadira complained I had not been treating her well, these days. Her sister wryly remarked  she could not believe that ; and, asked  with a chuckle , if there was a “problem” (kya chakkar chala rahe ho). I was so embarrassed I could hardly say anything. When I tried to question Nadira  why she lied to her sister, she got furious and shouted at me. I had never seen her like that anytime in all our 33 years of married life. Nadira is not herself. I just do not know what to say or how to say”.

As I listened, I sympathized with the good-old-honest Dorabjee. He was truly distressed. On impulse, I suggested he could think of taking Nadira to Lonavala for the weekend; that might do her some good. He brightened up a bit.

When I met him next, about a week later, I casually asked, “How was the trip to Lonavala?” . “The trip to Lonavala and return was good,” he morosely said, ” Lonavala was as usual”. He explained, while driving to Lonavala she looked exited and happy as a child; she looked out of the window at the hills, clapped and shouted at the passing animals. She surely was delighted. Dorabjee said, he thanked all the gods in the heavens for giving him back his Nadira. But , once at Lonavala , she withdrew into a shell; stared blankly into space without slightest interest in her surroundings and in Dorabjee who by now was at the end of his wits. He returned to Bombay the next day cutting short his stay. Back in the car on the way to Bombay, Nadira looked relaxed and pleased.

I was away from Bombay and India for about six weeks or a little more. By afternoon, Dorabjee came into my cabin and asked, “Sir, can you spare sometime this evening? Want to talk”. That was rather unusual. Later in the evening, we went to a restaurant (not the ever-busy Parsi Dairy Farm). Dorabjee had lost weight, looked distraught. He was a pale shadow of the Dorabjee I knew.

He started abruptly,”I am loosing Nadira. I do not know what is happening. She is not the same any more. She was always well groomed, alert and friendly with everyone in the colony. She was popular and funny too. She was known for sending funny cards to everyone, even to people who barely knew her . She was fond of giving strange gifts to our visitors. She would gift toilet paper, sanitary napkins, stamps, can of coffee, tea, and matchbox, whatever.  And once , to a fat old woman , she gifted a tin of snuff. Many thought her slightly eccentric , but always loving.” Dorabjee swallowed a gulp of beer. I could see he was thirsting to talk, talk more. “She used to take care of everything. We all depended on her.”

Dorabjee paused

“Now she looks so untidy;  keeps scratching her head; does not change her clothes, and does not take a wash. She just does not care for anything. She is restless; keeps searching for something or the other all the time. If you ask her what she was searching, she gets angry. She forgets things. She does not remember phone numbers or even the names of her friends in the colony. She misplaces keys and her glasses. She asks the same questions again and again. She lets out our dog into the colony. I shout at her not to do that; but, she keeps doing  it again. She feeds the dog several times a day. He is getting too fat. I am scared when she is in the kitchen. She does not close the pump stove properly. I am afraid the stove will burst someday. Yesterday , she kept the newspaper on the stove instead of the teapot. I have now appointed a cook. That is not of much help, either. She just does not care to listen to the cook. I cannot watch her every minute. I am worried about her safety. She is getting too dangerous. I am afraid even to sleep at night. We used to be such a close family. Now she does not care for me. I have lost her…”

I realized something was seriously wrong here. I asked, “Did you show her to a doctor…. a psychologist?”.” That was what I wanted to ask you Sir. I have taken an appointment with the doctor this Saturday. I do not know what the doctor might say. I have no courage to be alone. Will you please come with me to the hospital, Sahib?” He was pleading. I thought this was the least I could do; and , agreed to go with him to the hospital.

The next Saturday, I went along with Dorabjee and Nadira, who looked rather thin and weak, to the KEM Hospital. The doctors who examined Nadira said she was suffering from depression; but, her general and elemental neurological parameters seemed normal. They suspected it to be a case of dementia; prescribed some medicines; and, asked us to take the patient to a specialist after about a fortnight. That left us no wiser than before.

After about three weeks, the Specialists who examined Nadira said her brain cells were being destroyed; and, she was an unusual case of Alzheimer Type disease. Usually it attacks people above 65 years of age ; but, unfortunately, Nadira was a victim before she reached 60. We were told that she was entering the middle stage of Alzheimer’s. The cure was not definite. They scolded us , roundly, for not bringing her in time.

Dorabjee was devastated; withered in pain like a dumb animal. We had not even heard of such a killer disease. When I tried to note it down in my note-pad, I could not spell it. We just did not know what hit Nadira. We were clueless.

Dorabjee decided to resign the job to take care of Nadira. I prevailed on him to take about three months of sick leave, initially ;and, to watch for improvement.

What followed thereafter was a saga of care, tenderness, sacrifice and love.

Dorabjee took care of Nadira as if she were a little girl. He brushed her teeth; did her toilet; bathed her; tied her hair into a knot; fed her by spoon; administered her medicines religiously; sang songs; and, rocked her to sleep. He was not a singer of any sort. He had a gruff voice. He sang all day. He sang songs he heard in his childhood; the Gujarati theater songs; the songs he heard on the streets; the film songs ; and, he sang aloud the passages from the Gathas. He read the morning Gujarati newspaper aloud like a song. He told her stories, jokes. He sang to her again and again, “you are my child. You are my little girl, my darling, my sweet pie”.

He got a wheel chair;  and, wheeled her around in the colony. Sometimes, he  drove her in his faithful Ford Prefect. She did not seem to enjoy the drive as she did on the way to Lonavala. Each evening he put her in the wheel chair placed on the balcony. She would stare vacantly , not noticing her friends’ wave to her as they took their constitutional rounds. She seemed to be bored with life.

Nadira loved crotchet, earlier. Dorabjee brought knitting needles and ball of yarn. He tried knitting a few stitches and patiently egged Nadira to knit a few stitches. She messed up the yarn. Dorabjee sang rhymes and cajoled her to put a few stitches. It was not working well. He did not give up.

He played games with her; the games that little girls of about five play. He brought her picture books meant for kindergarten children , showed her the pictures , sang rhymes . She would soon loose interest , tear up  the book to pieces and throw the pieces up in air over her head.

As she could not turn thin sheets of paper, Dorabjee  got her thick cardboard sheets with pictures pasted on them ;  the crayon; wooden toys; and, simple puzzles. Nothing seemed to work. He then got her thick cards, which she could hold, with colorful pictures pasted on them . She would spend hours just sitting there , moving the cards around and playing her own kind of game.

The disease took Nadira by deceit and treachery. She was unaware and unprepared. It was like the wicked witch that tricked Snow White into eating a poisoned apple. She didn’t die; but, went into deep sleep. It took a prince kissing her to wake her up. Alas, Dorabjee was no prince. This was no fairy tale either

Alzheimer robbed Nadira of her life, her ability to share, her thoughts, and her speech.

She who loved the beauty of words and nuances of communication was cruelly silenced. She was no longer a person, not even a child. She was fading now. She was not even a shadow of the woman once she was. Each day she looked different. Dorabjee desperately fought to hold on to the memory of Nadira. “I do not want her to be like this. I want her how she was before. Maybe God will find a cure,” he said to himself aloud; shouted at her to wake her up. He was scared that she was disappearing. He knew in his heart that she was no longer with him. Yet, he did not want to accept that and give up on her.

One Saturday afternoon, I visited Dorabjee just to check how he was managing Nadira ; and, whether he needed any help. He was very happy to see me. I was aghast Dorabjee resembled his sick ward. He had lost weight; the stare in his eyes had a glassy look just as in Nadira’s eyes. He was talking loud almost shouting his words.   “Sir, can you see , she is better now? Sahib, Sahib , Look at her eyes. She knows me. She is smiling. She is happy in her little world, I can tell. I know she loves me very much. She looks a little thin;  but,  is still lovely and wonderful. If she eats a little more, she will surely be better.”

I did not see any of that. My mind was elsewhere. How do I tell this man that her brain is dieing every minute, cell by cell. She  no longer is with him. She is not his Nadira anymore. What could be worse than helplessly watching a loved one slip into abyss, inch by inch? This is clearly an ongoing horror. Why has life been so merciless? It is a blessing that Nadira is not aware of Dorabjee’s torment, sitting in that bubble world called Alzheimer.

I wanted to tell him, if there is a lesson in this cruel perversion of fate, it is this: love is something that can’t be destroyed by suffering, the only thing that rescues you from this cauldron of pain and insanity is love; hold on to that love defying this horrible disease.

Dorabjee was in no condition to resume work. We arranged for his early retirement with full benefits. The weeks sank into months; the months stretched to years. It was now three years since Nadira was taken to KEM Hospital. Feeding had become very difficult. She had shrunk to a little girl’s size. All communication with her had vanished. There were no more games, toys or pictures. There were no songs either. He had stopped talking. He made signs to her. Kept looking into her eyes, as that was the only one thing that had not changed these three years; that perpetual stare. He hoped some day her eyes would light up, smile and know he belonged to her. He told himself :  she knows I am with her ; but, she can’t say that; poor girl.

Dorabjee had fallen silent. His heath was failing. He was no longer the person he  once was. Yet, he would not let anyone else nurse Nadira. Yasmin and the maid now ran the household. The friends in the colony advised, argued, cajoled, stormed and threatened Dorabjee to send Nadira to a Home . He would not listen; he would not talk nor make a sound. He like a scared animal mutely hugged Nadira, fearing someone might snatch her away. He would not let her go.

It was now nearly four years since the monster disease felled Nadira. One afternoon Yasmin came into my office. She looked desperate. It was impossible for her to take care of her parents, both unresponsive – each in his/her own way. Her parents were not there for her any more. Her own life was in tatters. She wanted me to talk to her father to let her mother into a hospital. She hoped he would listen to me. I told her that might not be the best answer. We should arrange proper care for both. That evening we talked to the Panthaki (priest at the fire temple) and the Parsi council ; and,  arranged to admit Dorabjee and Nadira into a Parsi Home for the aged. The Home ,for some reason,  refused to put both in the same room. Nadira was sent to the female ward while Dorabjee stayed in the Men’s accommodations.

That didn’t deter Dorabjee. He spent his entire day,  from morning until nightfall , by the side of Nadira, holding her hands, caressing her brows, stroking her head, massaging her limbs, searching into her eyes with a hope to catch a glimmer of a smile break through the glassy stare. She did not eat, she did not drink, she did not make a sound; and, she did nothing except breathe heavily. He made no sound, either. He sat by her side faithfully, lovingly and silently day after day for more than two months . The hospital staff came to accept him as a part of the furniture.

One late evening in December, as the city was busy welcoming the Christmas Eve, Yasmin called me to say that her mother was sinking. The doctors at the hospital told me that she had been sinking for the past one week ; and, wondered why she would not let herself go. Dorabjee , as ever  , was at her side ,  keeping his vigil.

At about two in the night, finally, Nadira let herself go. She slept like a baby; her sweetest sleep in long years. Strangely, after her death , Nadira’s face had regained the soft , mellow beauty that once adorned her. She looked relaxed and peaceful. We were sad and relieved ; she found her peace.

We left Dorabjee alone with Nadira. As we stepped into the corridor, a heart wrenching horribly painful shriek pierced the still of the winter night. Dorabjee had broken his years of silence. He was singing. He sang all the forgotten songs. He told her stories and little silly jokes. He sang. He sang his heart out all night like a thorn bird until his heart bled.

*****

In my beloved’s absence
Life hangs upon me, and becomes a burden;
I am ten times undone, while hope, and fear,
And grief, and rage and love rise up at once,
And with variety of pain burn me to embers.

– Anon

 

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26 Comments

Posted by on August 31, 2012 in Story

 

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Helped by known and Unknown- friends

 

Over the years, I received help from many people ; known and unknown to me. Even those known were not my mates. Those unknown have remained unknown. Yet, I prefer to call both as, friends. Those who helped were neither heroes; nor were they looking for glory. The help they rendered was not the kind that is flashed  across the TV screens as ‘Breaking News’. They did not exactly jump into suburban railway trench to pull somebody out from in front of a moving train; nor did they jump into an inferno to save a kid; nor did they beat up a dozen goons to rescue a damsel in distress. What they did was more on the level of common decency than heroism. Each one of them was just a selfless stand-up person in a time of need. It was not the size of their good deed; it was not how small or big it was; but, it was their kindness that mattered.

Bombs do not bust every day; deluge does not inundate the city every day; but , every minute every day somewhere someone needs help. It is not often you see people help each other. That , sadly,  says something about the society we live in. Therefore, when  an ordinary person living a  dreary life takes a step  and helps another ordinary person in need, it stands out as an idiom of  kindness.

In the early sixties, most of us went to Bombay  driven not merely by the need to earn a living , but also  by the impatience to escape from the confines of claustrophobic small towns; and to move on to a broader arena that provided scope and opportunities to discover and to realize our potential or dreams. There was an urge to achieve; burning desire to become something in life; or to find a meaning for your existence.  That was a forerunner to the migration of today’s youth to the West. I realize it may sometimes be important where you are placed; that certainly is not as important as who you are and what you aspire to become.

All of us were without resources of any sort. Only a few among us were blessed with some talent. The rest were run of the mill, untrained and unskilled; yet, each nurtured a dream to come good. We were strangers in a big city enclosed in an unfriendly neighborhood.

The big cities like New York and Bombay share certain characteristics. A large section of its population comes from other towns and countries. Every other person there, is virtually a stranger, busily pursuing his own short listed agenda.  The shroud of anonymity the city throws on its clueless strangers is often a perverted blessing. It lets you the freedom to degenerate; to be rid of shame; and throw away the yardstick of decency that until then caned you into submission. You live as you can afford to or as you are allowed to; and not as expected of you by the standards set by your elders.  The lonely freedom the city lets you wander into is like being lost in vacant space without purpose. It is a burden that weighs on your shoulders that cry out for a hug. Being alone in a crowd, to stray away into these forests drear / Alone, without a peer (John Keats), is a pain. It is one of those phases in life when you crave for love, hoping desperately it would rescue you from loneliness and shame.

As you find your feet, you discover the city has a heart, hidden in its  folds. As Didier said, “Every city has at its heart a village; and that village has a heart.” You will never understand the city unless you understand the village in it. You come across that face of the city in strange ways , like suddenly coming upon a dazzling smile or a pair of bewitching eyes set in a scarred face.

***

*

Four of us shared a nondescript chawl in Girgoan, central Bombay. Two of us had minimum wage jobs in Dalal Street area. By about the third week of the month we would usually be broke, besides being behind on rent and the utilities.

On one rainy evening in the last week of June, when the lower areas of Bombay were inundated by storm waters and  backlash from high tides at the Worli sea, we were trying to figure out, rather loudly, ways to find the next meal. A Bihari who recently moved into the adjoining room overheard us; introduced himself and wanted to help. We went through a range of emotions. We were skeptic, embarrassed, ashamed, and slightly irritated; and did not know how to respond. He insisted ; and took me to a near by kirana (grocery) store owned by his gaon _wala (village mate);  and got us, on credit , a week’s grocery, on his guarantee. We had a hot and a full meal after a long time, thanks to Bihari babu.

It may now look only a small gesture but it really meant a lot to me. The credit arrangement helped us get past a very rough patch. I send my thanks to Bihari wherever he might be.

**

Monsoon months of June-July do strange things to Bombay and its people. It is the worst season to commute but it sometimes brings the best out of its people, even from its scum.

On one late evening when heavy down pour and high tides in the Worli Sea coincided, I was stranded in Lower Parel, a low laying area, flooded more than knee high deep. I took shelter near a modest apartment building. Even at 9 in the night the rains did not subside ; and, the street continued to be choked. There was no way I could reach anywhere in that rain, deluge and darkness. I later heard that tracks in Parel station were submerged ; and, the train services  were stranded.  

The Durwan (security guard) of the building came up to me and said that Dastur Sahib was calling me in. I did not know any Dastur. I hesitated a while ; but followed the guard as he kept insisting. Dastur Sahib turned out to be a Parsi gentleman of middle age; a perfect stranger. He handed me a towel, inquired about me; and, instructed his cook to serve me only vegetarian food. He asked me to stay for the night. I gratefully accepted all that he offered.

I often think of Mr. Dastur and wonder whether I would have trusted a stranger; invited him home, at the dark hour of the night; and, offered  food and shelter, as he did.

I heard of similar stories of help and generosity, during the recent deluge in Bombay. Some women formed groups in order to serve food to the stranded commuters. Only a city (however messy be it) with a large heart is capable of such acts.

***

Once, while traveling from New Delhi to Bombay by train I lost my brief case (square, hard and black box called, at that time, as James Bond box) at Bombay Central. I do not know how I lost it. Whoever took it, must have been a very smooth operator. After I realized the box was gone, I wandered for a while on the railway platform aimlessly, bemused and sheepish; and , finally gave it up as lost. There was some money in the box; but more importantly, it contained some office papers and other documents of value related to  discussions I had with the officials in  the Ministries at New Delhi .

On way to my apartment in Prabhadevi, I talked to my self “Ok. Old boy, tomorrow is your last day at the office. Start looking for another job. Take heart and have your last good sleep”. After reaching the apartment, I did exactly that; I ate well and slept well, convinced I was beyond help.

Next day I set out to office in a suicidal mood. On the way near the main gate, facing Siddhi_Vinayaka, the Durwan – Waghmare, greeted me and as he usually does, started some small talk. Then I mentioned to him about my bag and how it was lost etc. He asked me what I proposed to do now. I said, I cannot think of doing anything and if the office asks me to quit I will do just that and go home; period.

He seemed pensive and thoughtful for while; and said ‘ you could go to the office late today; but, now come with me right now’. He took me by my arm and led me to a taxi. We reached a small suburban railway station on the outskirts of Bombay along the Harbor line.

The station looked almost deserted at that time. He hailed someone and asked for Karim Lala. After a few minutes, Mr. Karim Lala materialized, followed by a couple of his sidekicks. My friend , Waghmare explained the details of the case and the predicament of his Sahib.

The result of the esteemed conversation was that after a while, I was staring , in disbelief,   at my sad looking black box which I had given up as lost and grieved that I would never again see in my life.

I was politely instructed that I should not expect to find any money in the box ; and should be thankful for getting back the box with all papers intact. I checked the box; the papers were all there. We both thanked Mr. Lala profusely which he accepted royally.

On the way back, I offered some substantial money to Waghmare , as reward and as a sign of my gratitude. He said all payments are to be made to his Boss;  and,  he would not dare risk displeasing the Boss, a hard task master. We drove back to Prabhadevi and reached our apartment. 

Waghmare ,  took me to his Boss who resided just opposite to the main entrance  to our apartment building , across the street . Then, Waghmare instructed me to drop the money , I intended to give him, in to the Hundi of Sri Siddhivinayaka.  We both profusely thanked his Boss Lord Siddhivinayaka, in reverence and humility. That was how Waghmare and his Boss saved me and  my job.

                                                    siddhivinayaka

The claim that love pervades this world may not sound real; not because it isn’t true but because we haven’t learned to pay much attention to countless moments of love, kindness, and care that surround us each day

 

lotus offering

 

      There are two ways to live your life.
      One is as though nothing is a miracle.
      The other is to live as though
      Everything is a miracle.

      -Albert Einstein
 
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Posted by on August 31, 2012 in Story

 

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Good friends are like stars…

 

For those who have forgotten that they have had this before

 He was tired and aching and on his way home from a long day at work, so he almost didn’t see the old lady stranded on the side of the road, but even in the dim light of day he could see she needed help.  Therefore, he pulled up in front of her Mercedes and got out.  His old Pontiac was still sputtering as he approached her.   

Even with the smile on his face, she was worried. No one had stopped to help for the last hour or so. Was he going to hurt her? He did not look safe; he looked poor and hungry.

He could see that she was frightened, standing out there in the cold. He knew how she felt. It was chill. It was that chill which only fears can put in you.

He said, “I’m here to help you, ma’am. Why don’t you wait in the car where it’s warm? By the way, my name is Bryan Anderson.”

Well, all she had was a flat tire, but for an old lady, that was bad enough. Bryan crawled under the car looking for a place to put the jack, skinning his knuckles a time or two. Soon he was able to change the tire.

As he was tightening up the lug nuts, she rolled down the window and began to talk to him. She told him that she was from St. Louis and was only just passing through. She couldn’t thank him enough for coming to her aid.
 
Bryan just smiled as he closed her trunk. The lady asked how much she owed him. Any amount would have been all right with her. She already imagined all the awful things that could have happened had he not stopped. Bryan never thought twice about being paid. This was not a job to him. This was helping someone in need, and God knows there were plenty, who had given him a hand in the past. He had lived his whole life that way, and it never occurred to him to act any other way.
 
He told her that if she really wanted to pay him back, the next time she saw someone who needed help, she could give that person the assistance they needed, and Bryan added, “Pass it on.”
 
He waited until she started her car and drove off. It had been a cold and depressing day, but he felt good as he headed for home, disappearing into the twilight.

A few miles down the road the lady saw a small cafe. She went in to grab a bite to eat, and take the chill off before she made the last leg of her trip home. It was a dingy looking restaurant. Outside were two old gas pumps. The whole scene was unfamiliar to her. The waitress came over and brought a clean towel to wipe her wet hair. She had a sweet smile, one that even being on her feet for the whole day couldn’t erase. The lady noticed the waitress was nearly eight months pregnant, but she never let the strain and aches change her attitude. The old lady wondered how someone who had so little could be so giving to a stranger. Then she remembered Bryan ..

After the lady finished her meal, she paid with a hundred dollar bill. The waitress quickly went to get change for her hundred dollar bill, but the old lady had slipped right out the door. She was gone by the time the waitress came back. The waitress wondered where the lady could be. Then she noticed something written on the napkin.

There were tears in her eyes when she read what the lady wrote: “This isn’t a tip, it’s a gift.  You don’t owe me anything. Somebody once helped me out and if you feel you want to pay me back, don’t let this chain of love end with you, pass it on.”
 
Under the napkin were four more $100 bills.
 
Well, there were tables to clear, sugar bowls to fill, and people to serve, but the waitress made it to closing time.  

That night when she got home from work and climbed into bed, she was thinking about the money and what the lady had written. How could the lady have known how much she and her husband needed it?  With the baby due next month, it was going to be hard….

She knew how worried her husband was, and as he lay sleeping next to her, she gave him a gentle kiss and whispered soft and low, “Everything’s going to be all right. I love you, Bryan Anderson.”

There is an old saying “What goes around comes around.” 

Good friends are like stars…You do not always see them, but you know they are always there.

Today I sent you this story and I am asking you to pass it on; not necessarily the same story. It could be your story or any story that conveys the message. Let this light keep shining. 

Please read

 

 
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Posted by on August 31, 2012 in Story

 

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