There may arise moments, certain situations that we may encounter, which would change the course of our lives. An anecdote that would eternally be etched in one’s memory.
Journeying on the Great Indian Railway is an experience of a different genre. One gets to see swarms of souls from different walks of life, cultures, religion, caste and creed.
One such event has been grafted in my memory forever.
A Big, Fat, Midsummer Indian Wedding. One from our brotherhood decided to get hitched in a town far away from home. We decided to travel by rail, to make the journey more entertaining. Late in the evening, as the train hustled through towns and villages, we all gather around the door, heroic efforts of hanging onto a moving train are showcased, satirical comments passed, overall an emphatic feeling of togetherness.
I was standing by the door, when he passed by me. I didn’t pay attention at 1st. Assuming it was a random monger onboard the train.
He sat by the opposite door, setting aside the toys he intended to sell, which he carried in a bag slung across his shoulder.
A closer look made me realise he had a stick for support, and further revealed, he wasn’t blessed with the sense of sight.
A feeling of remorse scampered within me as I saw him sit all by himself on the floor of the train. I walked unto him, sat right beside his bag of toys and asked enquired whether had his supper.
His voice embedded an enthusiasm within, something I can relate to a budding film star or an eccentric entrepreneur. He replied – “No Sir, not yet, its just 8.30 pm” I checked my watch at that instant. Bulls eye. The analog clock seemed to have willfully accepted his command. It was sharp 8.30.
I asked him if he would accept a meal box from me.
With a blissful smile he replied “sure sir I would be glad”. I quickly go to my seat and grab my dinner box and offer it to him.
Happiness and Gratitude seeped out of the gentleman’s smile. The sense of joy that a little child would get when offered a big bar of chocolate, all for him. The little joys that matter in someone’s life. That is what he portrayed. I sat beside him on the floor. Train moving at battle speed, the wind blowing hard on our faces.
I make conversation with him. He was Venkateshan, a toy seller, living with his mother, wife and 2 children.
This was his only means of livelihood. Selling small toys on trains that ran between his hometown and the nearby stations.
The melancholy in his voice just amazed me. A blind man, yes completely blind, was so happy and content. He never sounded depressed, or cursed the Gods’ for the wrath that came upon him.
I asked him how he would return home, as we had already passed his hometown 90 minutes earlier. He nonchalantly replied, “Sir, I shall get off at Kuppam (the next station) and then I will get the 11.30 bus to Bangarpet and would take the 1.15 am bus from Bangarpet to home. I shall reach home by 2.10 am”.
Amazed and stunned were the only words i could use to describe myself at that very moment. With my eyes closed, I wouldn’t be able to cross the street that I have been living in for 25 years. This man travels across towns in the middle of the night.
He had his sumptuous meal and thanked me for it. I suddenly felt i didn’t need a meal anymore. I was so amazed by the serene nature of this man, his flamboyant persona and the sheer happiness in his voice.
The train screeched into the station. A dark passage is all that was there of the platform. 5 feet ahead resembled the beginning of a black hole. Yet he walked out towards the platform, like a commander leading his troops through unknown terrain. His face had a glow, that light up the passage way, I walked right beside him. As we reached the exit, he turned towards me, thanking me for his meal and bid adieu. He walked into a dark alley; he said this was the street leading to the bus station. I stood there until his diminishing shadow was no longer visible.
Walking back to the train, I thought to myself.
We all worry all through our lives for the most frivolous of reasons. My car is not spacious enough, my shoes are not branded, my salary does not allow me to live a luxurious life , the one I loved doesn’t love me back, I need to live abroad for a more “healthier and civilised” lifestyle etc. etc.
On the other hand, were people like Venkateshan, struggling to make both ends meet. He has never seen his daughter’s face. He does not know if the toys he sells are blue , orange or yellow. Lives in perpetual darkness, yet is cheerful and thankful for the life he leads.
An adage I heard a while ago struck my mind precisely at that moment.
I cried because I had no shoes until I saw a man with no feet.
Life is full of Blessings. We are just too blind to see them.