Howdy folks.! Not sure if you missed the reading, I sure missed the writing though. And after a fabulous month-long vacation, I’m back to what I’m told is, the grind.
The office complex I work at has an elderly (67 year old) watchman who also oversees the parking lot at the back of the complex. Now the outskirts of Pune, as some of you may be aware, is not the best place to drive/ride. You have vehicles of all sizes coming from all possible directions. It’s the law of the jungle on the road, and its free for all.
You could be driving to work on a cold morning, your head still waking up, when you see a pair of headlights blinking at you. Your eyes re-focus and now they see a huge truck right behind those lights, and it’s headed for you. It takes a while to register, and by the time you swerve to avoid him and he whizzes past, you wonder if there was a truck actually driving on the wrong side of the road, or you just imagined it.
Anyway, so one afternoon, when I was driving back into that parking lot (which has 2 parallel rows of parking), it so happened that while there was ample parking in the row at the back, smart locals had left little or no place for you to reach there, by filling up the row of lots in the front. Talk about brainless people. And by that afternoon, I had already had my share of whizzes, and near hits (I still wonder why people still call them ‘near misses’. Not like you wanted them to hit anyway).
So when I saw the hard to access parking, it took my patience right over the hill. I parked, and went looking for the watchman in charge. And there was Mr. Albert John Anderson. He’s a 67 year old watchman with more than half his teeth missing. He was sitting calmly on a stool in a roofed parking lot, chatting with 2 drivers. I walked upto him and proceeded to give him a small dose on how he should have told people to leave empty spaces for cars to get into and out of the back row. He, in turn, proceeded to calmly explain to me that people in the area are, well, what they are, and how much could a 67 year old fellow request them. He said it was pointless reasoning with most people here. We then saw a group of 3 men entering the parking lot. Mr. Anderson asked me to observe how they sped out of the relatively tight parking lot, with little or no concern for people are cars around. So, the 2 drivers, Mr. Anderson and I turned to watch the 3 men get into the car, and zip out, literally like Mr. Anderson had said they would. We all burst out laughing. From that day on, Mr. Anderson has the biggest smile on his face whenever he’d see me pull into the parking. I take his advice on where and how to park. He even asks me to pull up into a roofed lot in case one is available.
Today, being a Sunday, and a working day for me, I drove into the parking lot and found myself a nice sheltered spot in the surprisingly deserted lot. I was hoping that the continuous rain had washed off most of the mud and dirt on my car, that made it look like a serious 2 colour paint job. I nodded a hello to Mr. Anderson and proceeded up the stairs to work. Later today, when I got down to head for a quick lunch, I noticed that the car appeared to be spotless clean. I wondered how the rain could have possibly done that. Right about then Mr. Anderson walks up to me and says that he had washed my car. I thanked him a few times, which he brushed off with his big smile. I then proceeded to lunch. When I got back, I walked up to Mr. Anderson who was still on his little seat, and I thanked him again and gave him some money, which he gratefully accepted. We then spoke for a bit, and he told me that he was brought up at an orphanage, and that he now has 3 children who are doing well for themselves. I also found out that his monthly salary was a paltry Rs.XXXX/-, of which he spent Rs.300 on his bus pass. Now, that salary, is quite low a sum, with a large number of people earning that amount in 1-2 days, But yet, he appears so much at peace. Which is surprising, considering that monthly salary is low enough to give people many a sleepless night.
With all the money we make in today’s growing economy, the tens of thousands or more; all the luxuries we live in, and our never-ending desire for more; I am yet to find someone who can smile so contently and genuinely, as Mr. Anderson can. And if you think about it, don’t you think he must be the richest of us all.
Time for the rest of us to re-focus our priorities, and our lives. To live with what we have, live for good times, live for people, live for the moment.!