A few steps ahead of civil lines crossroad, in front of the hardware shop, a small place was occupied by a bed roll, a bowl, a small bag with personal belongings and ofcourse by ‘baba’.
That was the way he was addressed.
Unlike other old beggers, he was respected by all, because of his tagline, “Mujhe kuch kaam do, mujhe bheek nahi chahiye(Give me some work, I don’t want to beg)”.
Unable to walk, eyes nearly eaten by cataract, trembling hands, zero orientation but that tremendous willpower to work, not to beg, made this old man, the road side hero.
Manoj, while going to office, regularly used to meet him. “What is your name? Where is your family?” were the frequently asked questions and his staple reply use to be,”Iss buddhe ke piche koi rone wala nahi hai aur naam me kya rakha hai, kuch bhi bulao, buss mujhe koi kaam de do….”.
(There is no one to cry for this old man and what’s there in the name, call me by any name, just give me some work…)
A few steps away from his place, there was an old Bhel puri hawker, one of his well wishers but even was helpless before fate.
The whole night it had rained. Morning, the hawker rushed to see baba, he saw the wet old man, shivering with cold, sitting with his hands together and praying God for some work.
Suddenly an idea strikes the hawker. He said,” Baba, I have got a work for you, can you make small newspaper packets for me? I can’t pay you much but I will pay 10 paisa for each packet.” The rains had stopped, but suddenly it started raining from the eyes of baba. “That means I won’t be a begger anymore, I will earn money and eat. God thank you for sending your incarnation in form of this person!!!”, Baba went on crying.
By that time, Manoj also reached there and was very happy to hear the hawker’s idea.
The hawker quickly brought some old newspaper, gum bottle and a scissor. They shifted him to a dry place, Manoj gave him the poha that his mother had send for baba to eat and then with trembling hand baba caught hold of the scissor. Arthritis had already killed his hands, it was so difficult to have that grip. Slowly he started cutting the paper, his face shined with happiness, he started singing.
All passerby were happy for him. But after struggling for hours, he couldn’t make even a single proper packet. Night came and made him more blind but he went on cutting. The stars blinked but baba was trying to keep his nearly blind eyes open.
Next morning he started again with a fresh attitude. All passerby used to say,”Chod do baba, nahi hoga, aaram karo”. (Leave it baba, you can’t do it, take rest).
Baba without replying, used to go on trying. After 2 days he was successful in making three paper packets and another 3 days later, his packet count rose to 10. The hawker gave him a rupee and baba was the happiest man in the world. By his inspiration that locality was now free of beggers.
But Manoj was worried, after 5 days of hard work, baba was able to earn only a single rupee. He told the hawker to pay him 50 paise for each packet and said that he would pay the balance amount to the hawker. It was a mutual secret.
This time baba took 3 days to make 10 packets and with a 5 rupee note in his hand, he ignored his bleeding hand, his severe backache, blessed the hawker, thanked God and said,” Ab mai bhikhari nahi hu, ab mai Bhagwan ko muh dikhane ke layek ho gaya hu”. (Now I am not a begger, I can go and face God now).
Next morning, Manoj came and saw him smiling and holding the scissor, ready to start his work. He called out,”Baba, how are you?” He didn’t reply but went on smiling.He touched him, he felt low.
OMG baba is no more. Manoj started screaming in despair, baba is no more, baba is no more.
All started gathering there with their wet eyes. Manoj wailed loudly, see baba you said no one is there to cry for you, see we all are crying for you.
Manoj did all the final rituals. What a peaceful look, what a smiling face, can a dead man carry this look for so long, wondered Manoj.
They put a board at the place where he sat, WORK IS WORSHIP.
A penniless, old, fragile man entered everyone’s heart through his wings of determination.