Short Stories >> Bhoori >> We are Humans after all (Insan jo Aayuun)
Written By: Smt.Sundri Uttamchandani
College friends had left one by one, but their arguments could not leave my mind. I was repeating each sentence of their arguments while lying down on my bed. I was surprised when I realized that the whole argument had become a round figure like horizontal lines on the earth. "For what type of humans is life" was the subject of the argument. Each one presented the argument in his own way. One said, "The one who is a wheeler dealer and interested in fun and laughter is the one who is fit for this beautiful world." Another said, "Were Gautama, Gandhi, Christ and Marx not fit to live in this world? Actually only such people are fit to live in the world that imbibe the pain of the world in their hearts and make life more beautiful".
Yet another said, "Those who think about life and who have found the truth of life in struggle, simplicity and sacrifice are fit to live in this world".
On that one laughed and said, "Struggle, simplicity and sacrifice are the symbols of cows and donkeys. Then painters would paint pictures of cows and donkeys instead of carefree bulls".
I answered, "I have seen many pictures of a cow with her calves. There is a cow standing behind Krishna too. But donkey is a different matter..."
There was a knock on the door. The chain of my thoughts broke. I opened the door and saw him standing. He was teased as RODD (STUBBORN) in school. He did not join college with us. He comes often to my house as he is a far off friend. I told him, "Teku, Micky, Shyam and Gopi have just left".
In a careless tone mixed with a bit of hatred he said, "Good that I didn't have to see the faces of these useless fellows".
My father who was reading a newspaper on the armchair laughingly asked him, "What usefulness have you earned Hiranand?" There was more of joking rather than taunting in his tone.
Hiro was embarrassed. Without saying anything he went and sat by the radio. Dada had removed his spectacles and was waiting for his answer. Now that Hiro had started playing the radio he softly said, "He has remained naive" and putting back his spectacles he continued reading the newspaper.
Paari our neighbor walked in. In an irritating tone she said, "Your house is more like a hotel. There is always someone or the other". gesturing towards Hiro in a hateful manner, she asked, "What was the need for him now?" With heavy eyes she asked, "You like him? How do you tolerate him in such old clothes?"
I was anxious that he may have heard this, but saw that he was busy with radio and humming a song. I took a sigh of relief. The neighbor's question kept ringing in my ears - 'Do you like him?' and Hiro was humming the song softly, "There are so many buds that don't speak...That don't open" My neighbor was busy looking at the diamonds shining in her ring. I felt like lifting her and telling her, "Go away you stone hearted woman!" but alas our culture! My mind was burning yet I smiled and said, "Our friends are not dolls that can be liked or disliked. They are just our own. Isn't that much enough? And who knows what can befall on anyone".
"What is this? He has a couple of brothers. Why can't he adjust with them?"
I said, "Dadi, it is okay to adjust but do you know that in this age a child needs love and respect more than money. And that he has never got from his brothers".
"To hell with respect and love. Whether one gets it or not, one should be shrewd and clever to get by. He is from such a good family but look at his character..."
I gestured her to keep quiet but she was not concerned about the respect of such an unemployed person. She simply mocked and said, "Just look at how much my brother-in-law is earning. Even today he has bribed the custom officers and freed a lot of goods". Then looking at my father she said, "Dada would you like to come and see the goods. Maybe you need something for your shop? Dada got up and went along with her.
Hiro was still listening to the radio. After the neighbor left he asked me, "Didi, how do allow me to come home?"
I was shocked. I asked him, "Oh my God! How did you suffer this neighbor's insults? From have you got so much patience?"
He was laughing, "Didi you don't know what all one has to tolerate outside". He came forward and brought a pair of trousers from a newspaper saying, "It requires a few stitches. Can you do it for me?"
"Hira, be a good boy and take a pair of trousers from me today". I told him lovingly like an elder sister. He laughed and shook his head. I don't know what came into his mind that there a shy smile on his face.
As I sat at the sewing machine and began putting patches on his pants, I felt that he wanted to say something to me.
The breeze was blowing very strong, disheveling my hair and the bedsheets.The thread in the needle broke. There was a smell of burnt vegetable from the kitchen. I was irritated and I said, "These daily stitching of yours is quite irritating. Why don't you keep a few trousers?"
"Give me a needle and thread, I shall do it myself".
I thought to myself "You self-respecting guy, do you know how much you anger me by your this self-respect?" But I realized that he is very emotional so I did not say anything to him. I went into the kitchen to put off the fire and when I came back I saw that he had taken the needle and thread and was stitching the pants himself. The breeze was disheveling his dry and oil-free hair making them look like wild children. His eighteen year blooming face had withered away like a tree that never received sufficient water. I was watching his face silently when he broke the thread with his teeth and said, "That is why I don't take favors from anyone".
I was totally defeated not by him but by every such human voice that sits inside everybody and proudly keeps saying "I am right. I am just. I am decent and what not." But what he exactly is I came to know.
He took out two ten rupee notes and handed then to me. I doubted that the rough weather of unemployment had made holes in his character also. The ground below my feet slipped. Hiding my anxiety, in a lighter vein I asked him, "You haven't picked somebody's pocket have you?"
"Let it be. If I had to pick pockets I had my brothers pockets at home isn't it?"
I felt satisfied. He had not committed anything shameful. I was proud of him and my eyes brightened. I said, "Then?"
And the sentence that I was waiting for he said in a simple way, "I have got a permanent job and this is the advance I have taken".
"Is that so?"I touched his shoulder for affirmation.
How sweet was this pride. It looked as the water was now reaching the branches of the dried tree. There was a unique smile on his face. That was the only mere property he possessed but it was a big property. And I feel frightened that this world may snatch away this invaluable property from him. He keeps getting small jobs every month or so. He brings the smile on his face each time. When he loses a job even then the smile is with him excepting that it looks a little more delicious because of the sadness. During the twelve months of unemployment this kid has done so many varied jobs. A clerical job in an office, helping in a cloth store, selling pens on the roads, sometimes assisting T-shirt sellers, serving tea in hotels, ironing in laundries, etc. In other words he had been into every type of enterprise. His nature had grown smooth. Today he has neither pride nor a feeling of lack. He considers others neither as his own nor as strangers.
If the clothes are simple it doesn't matter...it's fine if one eats a two Anna usal-pav, but he will never eat in somebody's house. One day I asked him the reason. He said, "One day I had just had a cup of tea in my aunty's house. On the next day as I entered her house she said, "The tea is over", as if I had gone to her place only to have tea. After that I never eat anything at in anybody's house".
I was listening quietly. He asked laughingly, "Didi people think I'm eccentric but what do you feel?"
"Me? I will call it self-respect..."
"Didi, nobody knows about self-respect. Everyone talks as if I am responsible for not being able to earn a living. I feel strange that my real brothers too talk like that".
I was surprised that this kid had opened up his heart to me today. Continuing his talk he said, "I didn't put less effort to pass my Matric but I was unsuccessful. I had a love for Drawing but who gets education according to his passion?"
I started remembering my school days. He was really good at drawing. Hiro would be the pride of the school during the inspection days. Nobody would bother for him otherwise. He had no mother, no father, and no money at home. That is why he couldn't achieve expertise in drawing. He became a laborer instead of a painter. Somebody within me was mocking at me, "Why only the carefree bull? One can also paint the picture of Kamadhenu in this country".
I said, "Hira, you too become a wheeler dealer, life is not for people like you. It's not going to help being a Kamadhenu. Become a carefree bull."For the sake of saying, I said this but somebody inside was laughing and asking, "You also feel like this?"
Hira said, "Didi I am not alone .There are many like me who are not wheeler dealers. They are simple like Kamadhenu. During my unemployment days I met so many people who would sleep crumpled in the harsh winter but would never take favors from others. They gave their sweat and blood but would never steal. Didi we don't want to kick off others like the carefree bulls. We understand others' pain. We value them-We are human after all..." Hiro took a deep breath and quietened down and arguments of my college friends going in my mind was sorted out!
- Translated by Arun Babani