Saturday, July 6, 2013

100th post: Kaanton ko murjhaane ka khauff nahin hota

As my blogger account tells me, I have written 99 posts. 100th of anything usually implies history and nostalgia. And one can say that I am in a historical mood nowadays. Visiting ancient cave drawings in Bhopal, staring at Taj Mahal (again) and experiencing the wonderful old Hindi movies like Chalti ka naam Gaadi, Mughal-e-azam, Chupke Chupke and Deewar. Such cinema! Why don’t we make movies like those anymore? So much trash is being produced (ref vigilidiot). 

Today, I am meeting people from a socio-economic class where sacrifice is choosing to do an exciting fellowship paying me 23000 pm (which, by the way, is more than 4 times the average national income). People who are afraid of failure, risk, lack of Bisleri bottles and absence of air-conditioning. Madhubala's quote as Anarkali to Salim - Kaaton ko murjhaane ka khauff nahin hota (Thorns do not have the fear of wilting) - has become the quote of my life. 

This post is a tribute to my nanaji (mother's father). A fond recount of his stories by his (possibly favourite) grandchild. Stories which make me giggle, smile and salute him. I met him recently during my visit home and this was the first time I saw age showing on him. A year ago, he used to go for 3-4 km walks every day, get milk, lift heavy stuff and do more than what 20 year olds like me do nowadays. I don’t think I have ever seen tiredness on his face or heard a complaint from his lips. However, when I saw him this time, he had lost weight and got tired easily. He is a shadow of the man he was until recent times.

Born in a poor baniya family, my nanaji’s father had a kirana store (shop which sold ghee). These origins were apparent when he was diagnosed with artery blockage.
The doctor said - "aapke khun me ghee kaafi lagta hai." (You seem to have a lot of Ghee in your blood.)
To which my nanaji nonchalantly replied – "Arey! Humaare bapuji ki to ghee ki dukaan thi. Jab man kiya, kanaster me se 1-2 phunki (1-2 handfuls) to aise hi munh me daal lete the." (My father had a ghee store. Whenever we felt, we used to gobble 1-2 handfuls of it.)

When he finished his 12th standard, his father announced – "ab kal se dukan pe aana shuru karo." (Start coming to the shop from tomorrow.
Nanaji wanted to study more. But he knew his father would not allow because he couldn't afford his fees. Most readers (and the writer) of this blog will probably never understand the emotions of a 17 year old boy who wanted to study more but could not afford to. He went to his mother and expressed his desire. His mother patted his head and said – "Chal. Tere nanaji ke paas chalte hain. Wo tujhe padayenge." (Let's go to your grandpa. He'll educate you.)

So nanaji’s nanaji was the one who paid for his college fees. Nanaji wanted to study engineering. However, in order to borrow minimum amount from his nanaji, he settled for a diploma from Roorkee University (now IIT Roorkee). In a way, he is the first IIT-ian in the family, long before yours truly got lucky and made it through.

Piran Kaliyar in Roorkee, Uttarakhand
There’s a Piran kaliyar ka mela (fair) held annually in Roorkee. Nanaji fondly recollects running away with his friends from the hostel in the middle of the night on their bicycles to attend the mela.
Phir kehte hain – "Mele me to hume kya hi karna tha, hum to wahan ladkiyan dekhne jaate the."
Then he says - "There was nothing in the fair for us. We just went to see the girls."
(Yup! It’s in the genes)

After his diploma, he was employed by the UP irrigation department as an overseer. This was a stagnant position. To make the engineering cadre, he did a course (AMIE) and made it as a junior engineer. He was transferred to UP hydel division. In those days when electricity was a luxury and irrigation plans for the country were being made, nanaji created and executed those plans in reality. Take him to small towns in UP and he’ll point out – "ye water tank banaya tha, ye power plant banaya tha, yahan road banayi thi, ye canal and bridge banaya tha." Towns owe their current electricity, water and transport to his tenure. He’ll talk about the days when he used to measure canals for miles on his bicycle in the hot sun. Sounds simple but it's hard work in the hot sun.

I have seen many of my friends complain about 13 lakhs and that all of it vanishes. They don’t have to support their parents, educate siblings and get their sisters married off. In his family, nanaji was the only earning member. He educated all his brothers. He got all his 4 sisters married off. Not to mention his 2 sons and my mother. Everything very happily. He took a lot of pleasure in it. And now after doing all that, he asks me – "beta tujhe paise to nahin chaiye? Mujhse 1 lakh gift le le." (Don't you want money? Take 1 lakh gift from me.)
Iron-man anyone? And just in case someone is wondering, this is honest earning. He used to get transferred from the department almost every year because of his honesty.

The best story about him that I learnt recently - he has been to jail! Post-independence and not for a crime.
In 1980s or 1990s, a certain section of UP engineers organized a strike asking for pay raise and some policy changes in their board membership. All of them were put in jail for 12-13 days. Sounded tough. I imagined it being a hard experience.
Apparently, it was a party inside. All Class-I government officers sitting in jail. Jailor coming and chatting with them every evening. Huge amounts of food, kilos of fruits and dry fruits coming from families into the jail. People were fatter when they got released. Nanaji and his friends ate whatever they needed and distributed the rest to the regular inmates. These jailed engineers wanted better drainage and western toilets.  Nanaji was the only civil engineer in the whole gang. Nanaji spoke to the jailor and said - "Hum banwa denge." (We'll get it made.)
The jailor was delighted and the jail was upgraded during their stay.  Nanaji supervised the construction and voila – jail now had modern toilets. Imagine the inmates' happiness – they had clean toilets and cells and were now getting fruits and dry fruits. Nanaji talks about getting massages every day from the inmates and various people, government and otherwise, coming and congratulating him. I can imagine him lying and getting massages royally while people chatted with him. Finally, all their demands were met and they were released with much fanfare and customary garlands.

I always believe that life should be an interesting tale. I have high standards to live up to.

1 comment:

A Rustle said...

You should see how my face lit up reading this.
Crack max sir!