Uncommon Man

November 3, 2010 at 9:15 PMNov (Friends, Musings, Slice Of Life, Soliloquy, Theater)

“Sir… Sir,” the voice came from behind and soon a hand fell on my shoulder. A middle aged man whom I could not recognize had called me and put his hand on my shoulder. “Nobody came to collect it,” he said. I was wondering who he was. I searched my bag of memory but could not find any material related to him. Probably he realized that I had not recognized him. “You had given a parcel this noon. Remember? Nobody came to collect it in Mangalore. It is still in the bus,” he explained and continued, “I am going for dinner now. Come near the bus in an hour or so.”

I had to take an important letter to Vidya in Mangalore. But due to personal reasons I could not go to Mangalore. I decided to send the letter in a bus and ask Naveen to collect it. I had handed over the letter to the driver and asked him what his charge for taking the letter was. “Give whatever pleases you,” he said. I took out my valet and found only a hundred rupee note. I walked a couple of step and asked the pan stall owner Yadav ji to give me ten rupees for the time being assuring him that I would return to him after a while. “Leejiye Mahatma ji,” said Yadav ji as he handed over a note of ten rupee to me. (I have never understood why Yadav Ji refers to me as “Mahatma.”) Taking the note from Yadav and had given it to the driver. “Give ten rupees more,” the driver had demanded. And I gave him ten rupees more telling myself, “To just take one envelop he is demanding twenty rupees, how greedy.”

But within a few hours the same driver informing me that the envelop was not received, had invited me to collect the envelop back. I felt ashamed of myself for having been judgmental about this driver, few hours ago. I went near the bus after an hour and the driver handed over the envelop back to me. He took out twenty rupees from his pocket and returned it to me with a smile on his face. It was a genuine smile. An unwaxed one. What was that smile an indicator of? I am sure it was more than just any smile. Was it a smile indicating a satisfaction of having been honest and not having cheated someone? I wonder…

Very recently Shaaz, while chatting online, asked me how Sharma ji was. I said he was doing good. Soon Shaaz asked how the other Sharma ji, the one who sells tea, was. “He too is doing good,” I replied. “Sam Sir I like that chai wallah Sharma ji a lot,” said Shaaz and narrated an incident which made him like the chai wallah Sharma ji so much. Shaaz had gone to Sharma ji to have tea when he was in Delhi. (Sharma ji sells tea near Balco bus stand at Patparganj, New Delhi.) Then, the cost of one tea was four rupees. Having a cup of tea Shaaz took out a five rupee coin from his pocket gave it to Sharma Ji, who gave him a fried item, costing one rupee, in place of one rupee, as he did not have a one rupee coin, at that point of time. Shaaz was in no mood for a fried item. Refusing to take the fried item Shaaz said, “aap rakh lijiye ek rupai.” (You keep the one rupee with you). “Sharma Ji got annoyed when I said that,” Shaaz explained and recollected Sharma Ji saying, “Dekho hum mehanat se kamaatey hai. Muft mein kisi se paisa nahi letey.” (Listen, I work hard to earn. I do not take money from anyone for which I have not toiled) Sharma Ji’s stand could have melted anyone. How a soft hearted Shaaz could not be moved by this!!! Silently he took the fried item and ate it.

When Shaaz narrated this incident to me, I narrated an incident, from my experience, at the National School of Drama. I remember the name of the play being ‘Maharaaj Tartoof’ because that was my first ever visit to NSD. The play had already begun as I was still buying the tickets. Buying the tickets I rushed towards the entrance door of the hall and I was stopped by a security guard with a handlebar moustache. “Ticket dikhaao,” (Show me the ticket) he said, in a rough and tough manner, and checked my ticket and only then he let me in.

Sharpening the light of my eyes in the dark hall I searched for an empty seat. I finally found one and took my seat. Watching the play, which had already begun, I was trying to get into the flow of the play and I hear the door of the hall being opened. “Someone is late than me,” I tell myself and turn towards the door to see the handlebar moustache security guard. He turns on his small torch and is searching from someone. His torchlight skips the one who is searching for and he, in slightly audible voice asks, “Abhi abhi jo aaya who kahaan hai?” (Where is the one who entered the hall just now?) “What is the matter?”, “what went wrong?”, “Will I be asked to vacate the hall for some reason?” a thousand questions surfaced in my mind as I raised my hand to make his realize where I was. He put off his torch and came near me, as the actors on stage were singing some song. The handlebar moustache security person extended his hand and handed over a two ten rupee note to me saying, “Ticket liye per paisa waapas nahi liye.” (You took the ticket but not the money) in his own rough and tough style. The cost of the ticket was rupees 30. I had given fifty rupees, collected the ticket and had not collected twenty rupees from the ticket counter.

I had not taken the ticket from the security guard. The person at the ticket counter must have given the security fellow the money and asked him to return the money to me. The one on the ticket counter could have easily kept the money with himself, like many bus conductors in Delhi have done after saying “Collect the change when you get down.” But the man in the ticket counter did not do so. He returned the money through the security fellow. The security fellow again could have kept the money with himself and not returned it to me, after taking it from the one at the ticket counter.

During the interval I went to the ticket counter to thank the man there but the ticket counter was closed. I moved towards the security guard nearby and thanked him. In his typical rough and tough style he replied, “Aapka paisa lekar hum kya Karen?” (What will I do with your money?)

I went back to the play in a while after having a cup of hot tea. The play was about this fraud religious leader named Tartuff who tries to loot a landlord of his property. Maharaj Tartuff, in the end, is unveiled of his false identity and exposed. That evening if Maharaj Tartuff was the anti-hero, for me, the real hero was the man at the ticket counter and the handlebar moustache security guard.

17 April 2010

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