Subhash, my dear friend
In Mumbai, I was checking the best way to reach my friend Subhash in Goregaon from Bhandup. The traffic is heavy, distances are measured in time and depends in which hour you want to travel. I really did not care how much time it would take to reach my friend because meeting him was of prime importance for me.
Two of my cousins, Aniyan and Babu got into an argument, one said take an Uber taxi it will take an hour and plus when the other said take a bus from the starting point, you can travel comfortably. The argument put forth by the bus recommender was by going by car you will be wasting fuel where as in a bus you will be sharing with many. You should think of the resources. I moved out and let them continue their argument.
Next day, I called an Uber and went to meet Subhash in Goregaon. Subhash and I are Batchmates from NIT Rourkela. He is undergoing treatment for MYD88 Mutation. In simple words, it’s a complex cancer. And cancer is no more a sentence, many have come out dealing successfully with it.
After an excellent lunch made by his spouse, Manju, we sat together and discussed his medical reports in detail. I did not know anything about it and he explained every detail to me, as a doctor to a patient. Some of the progress made is satisfactory, a few readings are falling short
With Manju, a great strength for him
I saw an exemplary man in him accepting every situation and dealing with it, life has no problems, only situations to deal with. His positive attitude will see him through, that’s the impression you get. Life is all about the way you respond to a situation.
Finally around 3 in the afternoon, he suggested my return by bus to Sion circle which was my next destination. He put me in a bus and we parted with a longing to meet again, soon. This bus trip should make my cousins happy, since I accepted their suggestions of mode of travel one way Uber and bus the other way.
Though I have visited Mumbai many times in the 80s and 90s, my geographical knowledge about the place is limited from church gate to Ville parley, whatever I learned from my travel in the local trains. Those days, I used to take what I would call a joy ride in the local trains, during free time, when my relatives thought I am going for an important meeting. Today, I do not have the guts to travel in those trains, though it’s still an exciting sight to see them plying. For me the service, travellers and the Dubbawalas fall in my list of wonders.
A bus ride with a beggar
The bus looked interesting, announcing and displaying the next stop as it moved on. I was prefed that it takes about an hour and half to reach Sion.
The man sitting next to me had a cheap perfume on him. He asked in Marathi, where am I going. I told him Sion. Looks like I had a first time in Mumbai look on my face and he asked
Tu mumbaita navin aesa ( Are you new in Mumbai ?).The word Navin means new in many Indian languages.
I just shook my head, before he could push more Marathi into me, I spoke in hindi that I am as good as new to Mumbai.
“What are you doing ? ” he asked.
I said “nothing”.
I just shook my head and thought that may put him off.
“I am from Mumbai, akka mumbaikar” he said and I smiled and okayed it.
“My whole family is here and do you know what is our profession ?”. He is not interested whether I am interested or not, he is going to talk.
“Bhikhari hai, sir, begging is our job” he continued. Here is some one who is proud of his profession and looking for a chance to talk. I did not want to take this conversation any further and he did not look like he would stop. ” You look healthy enough to work, why should you beg, isn’t it a shame ? “, I asked.
“There is lot of money in begging”
“What is wrong in begging, there is no cheating like in business or any other profession”
“I have two flats in Mumbai”
“How many do you have ?” He was not interested in any answer from me, he continued in the same breath, ” the only people we have to take care is the mafia and the police, they need a share”. “We make enough to pay them”.” You see, they are working and collecting from us, who is better”. I sat disinterested, however attentive because he was trying to make a point, trying to justify his profession. He was trying to tell me, it’s the only honest profession where he is not involved in looting and whatever he gets is an earning, which are voluntary offerings. ” Tell, me which job do not have chori (theft), a minister steals, police steals, businessman steals, neta steals, Sarkari naukar steals”. ” There is lot of hard work for us, we have to dress to look like a beggar, travel and sit for long hours with back pain, medical expenses”.
“We do not pay any tax because I don’t know how to. If I go to them they will also loot me.”
“Adhar card is also there”.
” Mumbai has a big gang of Bhikhari, many rich ones “.
“People throw money at us, all the sinners are trying to escape from their sins by paying the Gods and we beggars”.
“There are kids and women forced into your profession by force, limbs removed what chori free are you talking about”.
“We dont belong to that gang and keep away from them “.
” We are too small to fight that gang, police, politicians and big elephants of society are controlling”.
” If you want to feel good about your profession, go fight the gang and help free the kids and women from the clutches of these demons.”
He got up and said his stop has come, it was Dharavi and guided me, ” yours is next stop, Salaam”.
I got down from the bus, a bit rattled by the encounter, walked to my nephew, Adarsh’s place, where they were practicing a skit in lieu of Priya’s marriage and I had a role in it. Adarsh wanted to know “Uncle, your bathroom in your house in Bangalore is larger than my bedroom here, what s the necessity to travel by bus”. I did not answer him at that time. “I owned a house at the age of 56 and you are in your thirties, your gen being on faster track, you will be a landlord soon. And again, bathroom size has nothing to do with travel in bus or train”
PRIYA, the heroine
Priya is a heroine for me, mainly for the way she handled greedy proposals and showed the guys their place and waited for the right person to come by. And here he is, Hemen Gandhi ( no relation to the famous Gandhi family). Another outstanding feature is the way she conducted her marriage, a court marriage and a small wedding ceremony in presence of few near and dear ones. This is something which I kept talking about from my marriage to my children’s and I failed to implement this mode. Wishing them a happy married life.