SHOOTS OF SPRING
It was a cold January morning and the sun had barely risen. Samit had just stopped to fuel up his car at the petrol station.
‘Son should I clean your car?’ an old man knocked on the window of Samit’s car.
‘No, Uncle, not now. I am in a bit of a hurry.’ in an attempt to say an indirect NO, Samit told the old man.
‘It will just take 10 minutes please, I have not had even a morsel of food since morning, give me a few rupees in exchange for my service, that’s it.’
‘Uncle I shall give you some money. You can eat something.’ Seeing the state of the elderly gentleman Samit was touched.
While saying this Samit took out his wallet, but that man refused to accept the money saying, ‘I don’t accept alms.’ His impeccable English and his firm tone forced Samit to pay attention to him.
‘Uncle, please I am not giving you alms, I respect you as an elder. You are probably the age of my father. I did not mean to insult you. As you have not eaten anything since morning, I want you to accept this money.’
‘No, no you may please go. I shall wait here for someone else who would need my services’ saying this the man started walking away from Samit’s car.
The chaste English from a dirty-looking man and an honest attitude overwhelmed Samit.
He sure was not an ordinary man Samit started thinking and he parked his car and started walking towards the old man, ‘Uncle can I please talk to you for two minutes?’
‘Yes please,’ the man said to Samit.
‘Where do you stay?’ Samit asked him.
‘This petrol pump is my house. I stay here. Isn’t it an expensive place?’ the old man winked at him. Samit was stumped at the attitude of this man.
‘I am sure must be having a house to stay.’
‘House? Yes, I had one, but now I don’t have it’, the old man replied.
‘Sorry I did not understand,’ Samit said.
‘To raise my children and give them good education I sold off my house and started staying in a rental home. I used to work as an assistant manager at the Palms Hotel near the beach. I have spent every single rupee which I had including my provident fund on their upbringing and education. I feel that good education is what will take you forward in life. Now that they have got good education and have made there place in the society I feel I have done my bit.’ Samit could see the spark in the old man’s eyes as he narrated his story.
‘Uncle! May I ask where are your children now?’ Samit was curious to know.
‘One stays in Russia and the other, here in this city.’
‘Wow, that’s great’, Samit exclaimed, ‘But sorry why don’t you stay with them?’ Samit’s curiosity was climbing northwards.
‘Son. I think their houses do not have a place for me. Probably I am poor and do not fit into their mould’. The old man was sorrowful while narrating this.
‘The one who stays in Russia is a petroleum engineer and the other one is a very successful surgeon’, Samit’s ears and brain were not ready to believe what this man was saying.
‘That is really heartening and I am sure they both must be earning quite well, Isn’t it?’
‘Yes. The Doctor practices in this city itself and by the grace of God he has won many international medals for his revolutionary techniques in pioneering surgeries. He has a very big house and a few cars too’ narrating this the old man’s eyes could not hold the tears.
‘If I may please know the name of the Doctor?’ Samit asked sternly.
‘You must be joking. How can I name my son? Will his reputation not be tarnished?’
‘What about your other son?’.
‘Oh, he’s the chief engineer with a very large petroleum company. He owns a house in this city too and most of the time it is locked because his family stays in Russia with him’.
‘Unbelievable’, Samit muttered to himself. He could not understand that how a father can be so protective towards his unworthy and uncaring children?
‘Uncle, sorry to say, but why don’t you move the court and demand maintenance for yourself from your sons? After all, you have given your everything to give them this kind of life.’ Samit advised the old man.
On hearing this the man smiled sweetly. ‘Son, whatever I have spent on them was out of my free will and my love for them. Even if I move the court and get something, will it be worth it? Taking back what I have given them, will that make me a good parent? Will my lord allow this? These courts and laws are our creations. I trust my Lord and his laws.’ The words of wisdom and utter faith hit Samit like a thunderbolt.
‘Uncle I still insist you should get something from them,’ said Samit.
‘See son, I am still capable of earning bread for myself. My Lord has bestowed me with that much energy. And by moving the court will I get the love and respect from my children? the old man said.
Listening to the wise words of the elderly man, Samit was at a loss of words and his throat lumped.
‘Now that I have stood here for so long, Can you please clean the dust off my car?’
The man had a wide grin on his face and he pulled out a clean cloth from a bag that he had on his shoulder. He started to clear the film of dust from the surface of the car.
‘Can I in any way clean the dust from the life of this man?’ Samit started to think.
‘A poor and capable father who has showered his entire life and everything on his kids has such an uncrushable spirit and self-respect. Of what material these people are made of? Do these kids deserve such a father? Life is so strange and funny.’ Samit’s mind was not able to push away these thoughts.
Somehow brushing aside these confusions, Samit made an offer to that man, ‘Uncle I own a used car showroom, if you wish you can take care of the cars there.’ On hearing these words the old man’s hands stopped cleaning the dust and he looked up and smiled.
‘Son, you are so kind, but I don’t need a favour.’
‘No Uncle, even in my showroom you will have to earn your bread. Trust me’ Samit grabbed the man’s hands and reassured him.
Getting such warmth from a stranger the old man’s face lit up and his eyes were soaked in tears and he nodded in agreement.
On his way back Samit just could not forgive the children though he had never met or seen them. Samit could see the fresh spring leaves sprouting in the man’s life after a harsh winter.
One more lesson learned and one more aspect of the game called LIFE.