So, you’ll ask me how I came here, and how long has it been, and what did I do for a living before I came here. I’ll not hesitate to answer though. You can call me Mr. Naidu, as my full name would get slightly difficult for you to remember. So, I used to work as an engineer in a rice mill, at Khariar Road, Orissa and I’ve spent most of my life there. I’m not much educated and have done schooling till the eighth standard. I couldn’t study further as we had schooling available only till the eighth standard in my village. My father also worked in the rice mill, and since we had a financial stringency, I had started working when I was only in school. My youth was spent working in the mill and earning for my siblings. I have five younger siblings, and the responsibility of getting them settled and married, was on my shoulders after I lost my father. I had already lost my mother at a very young age, and now I was left all alone. I slipped off my marriageable age soon, and so couldn’t ever get married. I spent my days alone, went to work in the mill, came back home to rest and went off to work the very next day. Life was simple and sorted for me.
One fine day, I was going for lunch at a hotel nearby, and while returning, I saw some drunken boys speeding their bikes, coming from behind. As they reached closer, they tried not to hit me and pass safely, but one of them still lost his balance and hit me so hard that I fell in a canal nearby. They left me in that condition and fled away in their bikes. I remained there, screaming. No passerby listened to me. I kept on shouting for help for a very long time. Some people recognized me by my voice and stopped for help. When they dropped me home, I was not in my senses, and when I regained my senses, I knew my legs got disjoint, completely. I had heard the sound of my bones breaking when I have had that accident. So, now I was alone and miserable too. I couldn’t walk on my own, and I was left as a burden for anyone who knew me. I was about 78 years of age back then, and I’m 81 now. I decided to leave the place and asked my neighbours to drop me off at the railway station. From there, I asked some people to get me on the train to Raipur and I got off at the Raipur station.
I started living at Raipur station since then and somehow managed to drag myself to a bench to settle there. I knew I would have to struggle for everything in this condition because I had no food, no clothes, and no money, but I never begged. Some people themselves came to me and got me blanket and food, and on Sundays, I dragged myself to the nearby temple and had my lunch at the Sunday banquet. But the problem for food still existed for all other days. Somebody suggested me to go to the Power House Station for food, and there I asked someone to bring me food, and soon the hotel people recognized me well and started bringing food for me very often. I went back to Raipur station every evening, because the station-master knew me well, and had allowed me to sleep on a bench at night and get freshened up in the waiting hall. That was quite enough for me. Everywhere else, I was treated like a piece of trash, and I wasn’t ready to lose my self-respect, by allowing people to yell at me, because for a man, under any circumstances, his self-respect must be guarded. My self-respect comes first, however poor I may get. With time, I was able to drag myself to move when needed to and so I managed to hold the train and got on it for Bhilai Power House Station every morning and came back to Raipur station, the same way in the evening. This was life for me now.
One day, the Head-Nun of this old-age-home saw me at the Raipur station. She came to me and asked all about me. I told her everything, and she insisted me to come along with her to the ashram’s address that she mentioned. She even assured me that I’d have no problems there, and I could be treated there too. She came again, the very next day, with a van to pick me from there. It’s not that I didn’t tell her that I was just doing fine there, and there was no need for all of this, but she’d silence me saying that if I had no problems there, I had no comfort too. And she couldn’t make more sense. So I came here, to a new place I like to call home now.
When I reached this ashram, I had a long unshaven beard, and my clothes were all dirty. These people literally burnt everything I had, starting from the log that I used for dragging myself to places, my blankets, and my clothes. They shaved my beard and made me bathe. It’s a rule here that they don’t keep old things you bring with yourself. They gave me fresh clothes to wear, and a wheelchair to sit on.
Now I met this boy Deepak. He’s been taking care of me since then. It’s been two years now, and he never gets tired of this. I still remember well, how he used to take me everywhere on the wheelchair, and sit with me under this tree till sunset. He took care of my food and medicine too, and served me day in and out, without getting tired. If I’m able to walk today, it’s mostly because of him. Medicines can extend your life, and suppress your pain, but you only get over the pain when you have someone who wants it for you as badly as you do, or maybe more. And he wanted me to be able to walk again, though I had no hopes. I’m telling you, in today’s world, you won’t find a son serving his parents with such devotion, as he does. And it’s not that he does it only for me. Deepak is a synonym of service and devotion for me. He serves everyone and takes care of everyone who needs him here. One day, he just decided that I shouldn’t be in the wheelchair anymore. He wanted me to start walking back again on my feet. But I wondered how. He went to the nun and told her that if I kept sitting on the wheelchair, I would never be able to walk, and she agreed on this. She brought me a walker and a crutch to choose from and asked me to try whichever felt comfortable. I tried both and though I couldn’t balance myself at first, I was then able to walk with the help of both of them, and so I decided that I’d take that crutch. I’ve started walking now, but after that accident, I had never imagined myself walking. So, it’s a big deal for a person of my age, who has gone through so much in life.
Now that I’m able to walk, I’ve handed over my wheelchair to another paralysed old man who’s been admitted here recently. Deepak takes care of him too. And when I look at Deepak, I still wonder what goes on his head. Although, he has a story of his own like most people have here. He tells me all about his story, and I get into tears when I see him sobbing about it until now. When he was a kid, all his neighbours told him that his mother didn’t want to give birth to him. She even used to take medications to kill her child in the womb. She had tried everything possible, to ensure that her child was not born. But Deepak had to come to this earth, so he did. God brought him into this world for a purpose. He was born a cripple, suffering from epilepsy and has always had difficulty in speaking clearly. Medications distorted his body, but couldn’t dim the light he was born with. And he’s so innocent that he has no idea what he does for people. He, whose mother left him to die in a stable when he was just a newborn, this boy has given a new life to some old men like me. He was brought up by a Muslim woman who saw him in that condition and took care of him like his own mother. But now that she’s no more, this boy is left with no family. He’s around 30 years of age, I guess. Well, he doesn’t know his age himself. All he says is that some of his neighbours brought him here because he had no one he could call his family. This place looks like his family now.
When I look back at my journey, I see struggles, I see pain, and I see loneliness. At some point, everyone feels the need for a family to go back to. But I’m still glad, because now I have a son, and I call him Deepak. And he gives me a reason to feel proud of him every day, because of the human being he grows into, every day. He himself is unable to walk properly, he can’t even speak and see very clearly, his epilepsy attacks don’t leave him alone for long, but he fights all of this like a warrior. He is in a constant battle with his past. The past he’s only heard of. And the deepest thought that engulfs him every moment is, his own mother, his own blood tried to take his life and ended up taking all his reasons to smile. But Deepak has himself become the love that he never received.
Behind all his scars, you can right now look at him feeding the paralysed man, and all you would ever want to do when you look at him is bless him with all the happiness that one could ever get. Doesn’t every father wish his son does something that makes him this proud? I’m 81, and I’m living every 50-year-old father’s dream now.
I guess it’s never too late if you wish to restart life from scratch, and it doesn’t matter how many times. Life will always give you another chance, and if it doesn’t, you create one for yourself or for those who need you more than yourself.
Bhavna Dubey | Editor-in-Chief, Telloway
Himanshu Verma | Official Photographer, Telloway