Monday, April 6, 2009

Cigarette packets

When I was a small boy, I got one empty cigarette packet from somewhere. While playing with it, I made a small article with that packet. In no time it became my hobby to try & make different shapes and articles from cigarette packets. The problem was to procure empty packets. No body smoked in our family. My father was very strict about that. None of our relatives or family friends smoked from whom I could get the packets. It was frustrating.

We were staying on the ground floor of our building. One Gandhi family was residing on the first floor. Our family was not on talking terms with the members of Gandhi family, except Gandhi uncle himself. The entrance and passage for both ground and first floor was common. That created problems between the two families. There were frequent arguments and frictions. But Gandhi uncle was a nice man. He visited our house at least once in a week. He usually occupied our swing and discussed economics, politics, share market etc. with my father over a shared cup of tea or coffee, which his family members did not like. This lead to frequent arguments in their family, but Gandhi uncle continued his visits to my father, sometimes fleetingly.

Now Gandhi uncle was a chain smoker. He used to smoke three packets a day. But my elder brother warned me not to bother Gandhi uncle as it would lead to further arguments in their family.

In our drawing room, we had four windows facing the street outside. One day I found one empty cigarette packet lying on the drawing room floor below the fourth window. It so happened that Gandhi uncle somehow came to know about my problem and silently found a solution. The sight of the first three windows was accessible from the first floor. The fourth window was diagonal. One could not observe the happenings of the fourth window from the first floor.

While going to office, Gandhi uncle used to empty his cigarettes in an old packet and used to throw in the fresh one from the fourth window. He used to repeat the performance while returning from office in the evening. Nobody said anything about it to anyone but everybody knew who was helping me. This continued for quite a few months till I grew out of that hobby and lost interest in it.

My father and Gandhi uncle are no more. I am myself sixty four now. But I will never forget his kindness even at the risk of displeasing his own family. I wonder if anyone will be so simple and thoughtful today. These small gestures make life worth living. AMEN.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Musings-Aggarwal's woes

Ours is a residential society of five wings consisting about a hundred flats. Most of the occupants are Gujaratis and Marwaris followed by a few Punjabis, Bengalis and South Indians. Among these, one Marwari family- Aggarwals-was staying in their ownership flat. Now they have left. When we shifted to this flat about five years back, I came to know most of the occupants in our wing within a week, amongst them Aggarwals. Soon I noticed that people were avoiding Mr. Aggarwal. As far as possible, every one politely excused himself when Aggarwal talked to them. A few elderly persons used to sit in the society compound in the evening but as soon as Aggarawl approached, they slowly dispersed.

In time I too got acquainted with him. Aggarwal was a rough talking person, almost to the extent of being rude. He had small, round cunning eyes, but also there was some kind of sadness in his eyes which few could detect. He was generally angry and displeased with every one and everything –watchman was not doing his job properly, milkman was mixing water in the milk, liftman was not holding door open for him, secretary was not listening to his complaints etc. etc.

When he started getting acquainted with me, I instantly realized that he was measuring me up, if I was a good listener. Though I did not like his abusive manner, there was something in his attitude which suggested that he had seen the worst side of life and was badly wounded, at least socially. So I listened. Slowly it came out that his children ( two sons and two daughters ) had thrown him out of his own house and business. That he had built the business and this house, that his sons were not trustworthy, so much so that they had managed to make his own married daughters to go against him. When he asked his sons to get out of his house and business, they went to court. They proved in the court it was a very small business and a single story house when they joined business, that they worked hard to make the business flourish and they had also helped in building two more stories to the then existing one storey. His daughters also gave evidence against him. The court verdict was that either Aggarwal compensate his children against business and house and takeover both or take compensation from children against the same and get out. Aggarwal got out after taking compensation from his sons. I don’t know if his sons were guilty or not but I felt sorry for the old man, until one evening when I entered our compound, I saw Aggarwal sitting on a bench. He started talking to me. I had some pastries for my grandson for which he was waiting. I wanted to go home immediately but Aggarwal was talking non-stop I could not be rude enough to intercept his talk and say I wanted to go. Just then, I saw my son hurriedly going out, almost on double. Still I called him And requested: “Please do me a favour. Go up and give this packet to your son and then go wherever you are going.”

Though in a hurry, my son took the packet and vanished.

Aggarwal was mighty displeased with me. He told me sternly that the boy was my son and bound to obey me. I should have just ordered him to hold everything and do my bidding first. He said people like me were spoiling their children and this generation. No amount of explaining that I knew my son would do my bidding, whether I ask politely or rudely, then why should I be unnecessarily rude to him, cut any ice with him.

Now I knew why he was out of his house and his business.