THE EN­LIGHT­EN­MENT

Awak­en­ing to oth­ers’ prob­lems. Till then I have al­ways seen those young boys as a source of mis­chief and nui­sance. I al­ways main­tained a dis­tance from those en­e­mies of peace. The in­no­cent face, big eyes, fair com­plex­ion, brown hair, some­thing changed at t

Woman's Era - - Contents - Shalini Bhard­waj

When the dawn gives the world the bliss of new light, a new day, Deepak is like an an­gel who has stepped down from the heav­ens, com­ing out of the dark­ness as the first ray of the morn­ing sun.

He flashes a daz­zling smile, feed­ing the pi­geons, spread­ing seeds to­wards a flock of pi­geons as a de­ity is dis­tribut­ing peace and hap­pi­ness to devo­tees who bowed at his feet.

There is not even a minute’s de­lay in their daily rou­tine ever. Even the sun and nu­mer­ous stars in the uni­verse are not as punc­tual as these pi­geons and he is. I wake up at ex­actly this hour ev­ery morn­ing. Per­haps be­cause I don’t want to miss this vi­sion.

I re­turned his imp­ish grin as he walked to­wards me and said, “Good morn­ing, didi”, with an easy fa­mil­iar­ity. Our ac­quain­tance goes back ten years. With­out a miss I have seen his face ev­ery morn­ing. With­out this, I be­lieve my day is not com­plete. “Col­lege?” I asked. “Yes!” He turned to­wards his house but stopped abruptly. “But I can can­cel if you are free to help me fill­ing the loan form. Should I come af­ter an hour?”

I nod­ded. He ran to­wards his house like a bounc­ing deer.

I am do­ing my PHD in His­tory and it is Deepak who helps me write my the­sis. He col­lects books from dif­fer­ent li­braries when I go to of­fice. To­day, he is a help­ing hand for me, alike my limbs, a part of my life but he was only 10 when I moved into this house. Those days I was a stu­dent, a strug­gler, every­thing was new, this city, my mar­riage.

Af­ter a few days of my step­ping into this house, while putting off dried clothes on the ter­race, my sari stuck to me, I was com­pletely hid­den in­side it try­ing to come out of it, I heard that sud­den laugh­ter.

Till then I have al­ways seen those young boys as a source of mis­chief and nui­sance. I al­ways main­tained a dis­tance from those en­e­mies of peace. The in­no­cent face, big eyes, fair com­plex­ion, brown hair, some­thing changed at that in­stant. I

“Now it might,” I an­nounced, as I stood up from the bench. “I am leav­ing. Help your­self now,” I said sar­cas­ti­cally. “But, didi, I have to sub­mit the fee,” He pleaded.

also smiled back. He of­fered me some choco­lates, took some of my clothes from me and fol­lowed me to­wards my room.

That was the be­gin­ning of a won­der­ful re­la­tion­ship. Deepak was liv­ing with his

mausi (aunt) in my neigh­bour­hood. He grew as fast as this metro city. I got set­tled here and got fa­mil­iarised with each as­pect of this city.

One day I over­heard him talk­ing to his mausi while walk­ing on the ter­race. Their con­ver­sa­tion came in­dis­tinctly to me.

“Deepak, are you sure you will win this?” “Ya! Pretty sure!” “But how? The com­pe­ti­tion is too tough, af­ter all, it’s a state-level com­pe­ti­tion.” “So what? I will do it.” “But who will help you?” As they came to the cor­ner of the ter­race and stopped walk­ing, Deepak replied softly,” Didi can. I am sure to get the first prize if she helps.”

My heart soared. As if I had won an award. He is much younger than me yet he is con­vinced that he will win the first prize with my help. He be­lieved in me. That made me de­lighted.

“Do you think she has the time for all this? She is busy with her of­fice work and house­hold chores. Don’t bother her,” said his mausi.

But Deepak did not wait to hear what his mausi was say­ing. He ran in­side to fetch his pen and diary.

He came to me but be­ing true I could not re­ally help him as those days I was ex­tremely busy with my of­fice work. I just gave him some books and mag­a­zines I had on that topic and a lit­tle guid­ance on how to write the speech. He searched the mat­ter, wrote the speech and won the first prize.

Years passed and Deepak had be­come part of my life, get­ting me some­thing from the mar­ket, tak­ing care of me when I am not well, cel­e­brat­ing fes­ti­vals with me when no one else is with me, even amus­ing me with his funny jokes when I felt sad.

What didn’t he do for me? Trust, re­spect, love, care, my likes, dis­likes af­fected him so much, my per­son­al­ity as­sumes a far more at­trac­tive shape in front of my eyes.

In spite of all this there was one thing that ex­as­per­ated me. His 24-hour readi­ness to help oth­ers and go­ing out of the way to do this. I con­sid­ered it im­prac­ti­cal and a waste of time at his age. Go­ing to slums and or­phan­ages to teach chil­dren even dur­ing his own ex­ams – col­lect­ing or beg­ging money from door to door with his friends to help poor hos­pi­tal pa­tients and skip­ping his classes for this, ar­rang­ing food to feed the beg­gars. He knew that my at­ti­tude to­wards this as­pect was dif­fer­ent. It is not that I am an unkind per­son but, ac­cord­ing to me, help­ing each and ev­ery per­son one come across dis­tracts one from achiev­ing a big­ger and more im­por­tant goal and that may not be a per­ma­nent so­lu­tion for oth­ers prob­lem.

Deepak has cleared his class 12th exam and got ad­mis­sion to a very good pro­fes­sional in­sti­tute in Delhi. When he gave me this news I happily be­came the guar­an­tor of the loan he needed for his fees. Then why is he wast­ing time in these small things? “Should we start, didi?” I was star­tled. When did he come? He was ready with pen and loan form. There were spots of oil and

haldi on his white shirt and a folded empty bag in his hands. So that’s why he is so late. In a flash every­thing fell into place.

“Are you com­ing from the tem­ple?” I asked abruptly.

He looked up and smiled weakly at me, low­er­ing his eyes again. I was sud­denly mad.

How did this boy, who agreed with me on every­thing dif­fer with me on this sub­ject?

An hour later, when he was about to leave, I told him, “Be ready to­mor­row. We will reach the bank on time.” N ext morn­ing, he was sit­ting next to me on the bench. We reached half an hour early. The bank was not yet open. We were sur­rounded by a calm and quiet en­vi­ron­ment. Rose and Jas­mine flow­ers were in full bloom and the chirp­ing of the birds were mes­meris­ing. A gar­dener was wa­ter­ing the plants in a small gar­den in front of the bank. Ex­cept him there was no one in sight.

“Then, Deepak, why do you al­ways act as a mes­siah for ev­ery­one?” I taunted.

He an­swered my ques­tion with an­other, “And why don’t you?”

Be­fore I could re­ply, he said, “Don’t tell me be­cause you think it is a waste of time. That’s an old ar­gu­ment. It doesn’t hold any­more. Even the great saints tell do­ing some­thing for oth­ers gives us peace of mind.”

I had al­ways wanted to get him to rea­son out his be­lief but to­day, I de­cided to adopt a dif­fer­ent strat­egy.

“I don’t know, but the thought to help strangers

His 24- hour readi­ness to help oth­ers and go­ing out of the way to do this. I con­sid­ered it im­prac­ti­cal and a waste of time at his age. Go­ing to slums and or­phan­ages to teach chil­dren even dur­ing his own ex­ams.

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