I saw, I learnt

“Beta! papa hain?” ( Child, is your father home?)

There was an old man, about a century old, at our main gate . He looked sickly and for a six year old child maybe, scary too. His skin was dark and it seemed as if his face would disappear any moment inside the folds of his wrinkles. My gaze dropped because I was scared to meet his gaze. Maybe, I was also scared of exposing my repulsion on my face. I nodded without looking at him. I nodded till I knew that I had communicated that father was home and then without daring to look up to him I ran inside to my father. He was sitting with my mother in our courtyard with his cup of tea in one hand and a pen in another. He was speaking something about the various angles in the triangle. I could understand because I had heard him often enough. I sat on the floor beside him staring at his face and leaned towards him hugging his legs. Once he had finished explaining my brother I told him about the visitor. He  glanced at me top to bottom of my face questioningly as he kept the cup on the table and stood to leave. On his way to the main gate he put on his shirt.

He was a tall man with really long legs and no matter how much I tried I could never keep up with his pace. I hid behind his dhoti when he opened the main gate for the visitor. The old man was wearing torn slippers and his foot was cracked from all angles. I kept my eyes lowered thinking daddy would not entertain him for too long. There was no reason to. But instead, he invited him in and offered him to sit in our drawing room before he could start his talking. It is then that I decide to look at him on his face. I though I should and I could because now he was in my territory and I was with my father. He couldn’t harm me. I was too safe for his sick intentions. He seemed too reluctant to sit on the chair. He went to sit on the floor at the entrance. I liked the distance he maintained from me and my dad. But quite surprisingly, daddy walked to him and held him by the arm and made him sit beside him. He sat shrunken on the sofa as if trying to accommodate himself in the least possible area. Papa asked me to go and fetch some tea and snacks for the guest.

My eyes darted out at the word “guest.” The old man who was visibly so poor looked so misplaced in that room. How could he be our guest. What kind of possible acquaintance could he be? He definitely can’t be our relative. He can’t be a friend of course because then he wouldn’t have insisted on sitting on the floor. He took out some papers and his passbook and then I understood that he was a customer at daddy’s bank. He told daddy that he wanted to know something that I didn’t understand properly about something called fixed deposit. I had heard about fixed deposit from my father but I didn’t understand it fully. My father started explaining him. I rushed to mom to ask her to prepare tea for our guest and then went back to daddy. The old man was in tears now and he was sobbing profusely and cursing his son. My dad was touching his shoulder and I couldn’t help but think about the dirt on his clothes. Dad was trying to console him and it seemed to have an affect on him. Maa brought tea to the room and left. The old man was again very reluctant to take the tea cup. I saw his hands shivering as he clutched it. He sipped his tea slowly and daddy filled his form till then. When the old man rose to take leave he held my father’s hand between his and I saw tears had started trickling down his cheeks again. I felt pity for the old man but my father supported him by his shoulder. He felt more than just pity, I guess. The old man couldn’t stop thanking my father as he left.
When daddy came back after leaving him it was my turn to give him a puzzled look. He obviously noticed it on my face but started getting ready for the bank. So I decided to ask him.
“Daddy, who was that old man?”
“Beta, he is one of the customers at the bank.”
“He was so old and so poor daddy. Is he a good customer? Does he even have the money?”
“These days people save whatever they can. He doesn’t have too much money or even enough. He is a poor man, very poor.”.
“Daddy, shouldn’t he come to see you in the bank?”
“Yes, he should. But, in the bank we don’t have so much time to explain things properly. And he is also very old”
“But daddy you are not obliged to see him outside bank. Are you? You don’t even have to be so kind. He was so poor and filthy. He could have harmed you.”
“Why would he harm me, beta?”
I did not know exactly why I thought he could harm us. So, I blabbered the first thing that came to my mind. “He is poor and he is ugly and he isn’t pleasant looking. The villains are always bad looking na Daddy? And they could have terrible diseases also.”
“Who told you that?”
“They show it on the TV always, papa”
“Yes they show it on TV but not all poor people are bad. And not everything that they show is true. Did that old man harm us? No. He was the most harmless person you would ever meet. Do not judge a person by his status and appearance. That’s a very convenient way. Be good to atleast those who are good to you.”
Once I began noticing the people who came to meet daddy, I noticed most of them were poor, many uneducated. My father was a banker and he helped people in whatever manner he could.  In those days banks, like other government institutions, were not a very customer-friendly place, especially the government banks. There used to be long queues in front of every counter and the bankers did their jobs without the luxury of computers. A giant sized fan would rotate over the head of the officials and the perspiring customers would be usually seen irritated.
But, I have seen people walk past that main gate with a happier face. I have seen people greeting my father whenever he walked out of the house. He knew so many people and everybody seemed to respect and love him. Even the most poorest one. Papa was good to those people too who could not give anything in return except a smile and some blessings, probably. Daddy never thought he was doing anything great. He always told us that he was only doing his duty. We knew he was doing some extra form of duty.  He used to help people outside the bank premises too, explaining them policies and rules.
A few days after that visit by the old man, I started carrying tea for our guests so that I had a reason to stick around. I started feeling more than pity for them. I felt sad. They had so many problems.  But sometime they used to play with me and ask several questions about my school, my studies and friends. Papa told me that they asked about me when I wasn’t around.
They weren’t bad people I realized. They were only poor and sometime for no fault of theirs. They were the best people, the most innocent and harmless people I have ever met. When they were sad and cried they were like children. And when they suddenly broke out laughing or smiling on my stupid questions and jokes, I would feel so happy myself.

Before this, my world was divided into two parts- rich and poor. The rich were always good-looking, refined, desirable and cultured while the poor were villainous, vile, ugly, harmful and potential criminals. I learnt my lesson from my dad and it was a lesson he practiced all his life. Poor depraved people needed more care and love because they were little less lucky unlike their rich counterparts. But, they were grateful people who were capable of  feeling gratitude and never hesitated to show it.

I am sharing what ‘I Saw and I Learnt‘ at BlogAdda.com in association with DoRight.in


About jyoti

with her trailing gaze the shy maverick clings on and through the supple foreplay of her aesthetic sense and a beatific smile insatiates the mellifluous melange!! View all posts by jyoti

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