It is amazing how life keeps changing. It is amazing how there are so many things in store, yet we don’t know anything in advance. It is like you just see the next step but you don’t know where the staircase leads to or how long would it turn out to be. During this journey, when you feel at some point in time, that there is no one listening but you want yourself desperately to be heard, to share out your feelings, be rest assured there is someone who is hearing you. And answering to every question of yours. Listening to your heart!
It was a Saturday. Wrong day of the week to wake up early and be on your way to office. Many people grudge about it. I too did. On the way, I parked my Pulsar in front of the local betel shop near Truptee for a pack of Gold Flake Kings. Brushing past the crowd of people, I made my way to the panwala. The faces near the shop were all familiar, thanks to the habit of mine. As I watched the circles of white smoke circle up in the air after the first puff, I overheard Raghunath.
Raghunath, a chain smoker in his late sixties always had a lot of stories and his stories always had a lesson. Frail body, bald, shriveled skin, white moustache with a Wills Flake between his shaky index and middle fingers, Raghunath smoked in a hurry always. He took in large puffs of smoke in one go and wanted to feel all the smoke everywhere in his respiratory system.
“I was reading in class 6th. At home there always was a shortage and scarcity of food. In 2 days we could not afford even one meal of rice. 5 kids, 2 parents, in all 7 hungry mouths. One day, I was getting ready for school. There was nothing to eat at home. My mother had some wheat flour collected. She put some hot water and salt over it, mixed it and served to me and my brothers and sisters. I was so hungry that ai just tried to drink up all of it. But I could not bear it. I vomited as soon as the hot porridge touched the first taste buds of my tongue. I could not eat any longer. I just could not stop crying. My mother hugged me tight, her eyes wet. She wiped my tears with her saree and barely could utter, unsure. “Go to School. When you are back, I will have lots of rice cooked for you.” As I opened my eyes to look behind my mother, I saw my brothers and sisters hungrily eating the food which I left off. And fighting amongst themselves. I could not bear the sight and I fled from the place. On the way to school, I was praying to God – Would this ever be over? That day in the school prayer hall, I just cried and prayed. In the lunch break, when other students rushed out to play and eat, I just was crying and was alone in the class room. Just then the peon came over and said that the headmaster was calling me. I trembled.
I entered the room and the headmaster was sitting in the room surrounded by around 12 teachers. He started- What have you eaten in the day? “Wheat flour porridge” I said and waited to hear everyone laugh. Surprisingly, no one did. They all were looking at me in sympathetic eyes. My headmaster pulled me closer to him. Hugged me and said. “Here are 231 rupees Raghu. Because of your excellent performance in Class 5 exam, you are being given a scholarship of 231 rupees.” He put the money in my pocket and made me sign a form. I was so happy. I had not seen a one rupee coin ever and I was given 231 rupees in one go! I felt so happy. I ran home, breathless.
When I reached home, I saw my mother in her torn saree, with hands on her forehead. My father had not yet reached home with the food. I gave all the money to my mother. We then bought rice with the money, and even after eating, we could re-sell and get going. After that, somehow, we managed and never ever had to go hand to mouth again. So from that day till date, I believe in God the most. And I believe that when all doors close and you feel that no one is listening, there is someone who listens.
My cigarette had ended since long. I was just waiting for the story to finish. Raghunath had had a tough life. Now he owned 5 apartment buildings in Mumbai, had 2 chains of retail business and his sons are doing good in life. The wrinkles on the old mans hands and forehead actually told many such stories of his struggle in his lifetime.
I started my bike and left the place. It etched my mind that when called with a pure heart, God does listen. Suddenly, Mumbai is teaching so many things to me.
10 more days to go!