I am sure there are more times than many when each of us needs to re-establish faith in goodness so that we can wake up the next morning with that one thing that keeps us going - hope. And this, now, is my moment in which I fight an internal turbulence to get hold of that one log of wood that can keep me afloat.
Around me I see people struggling to survive, choosing material over moral, power over prayer, salute over sense, and the worst of them all, result over reason. And I wonder.. where has goodness gone? Or was it even there?
It was. Because I see remnants. And this post is about those few people that mean nothing to me, whose names I don't even know, but whose hearts I could recognize.
The organization I work for was celebrating "Road Safety Week" in the chilly first week of January. They invited an NGO, which was more than willing to help, to create awareness about drunken-driving among employees. A group of seven young girls and boys arrived at our manufacturing location a little before dawn.
I reached office at my usual time of 9:30 am, and the security informed me that this group was here for three "nukkad-natak" (road plays) and that they have been waiting in the empty hall below the canteen. I excitedly went to wish them a good morning. However, I saw that my energy level was more than the energy levels of all the seven of them put together.
My first impression of them was not very good. They looked tired, disheveled and sleepy. I assured them that a cup of tea will work them wonders.
Considering their haggard appearance and lackluster, I decided to arrange two plays instead of three--- one play at 2 PM (between the first and second shift) and the other at 10 PM (between the second and the third shifts) so that way, I would cover all the associates, and also free them of one repeat of the play.
They must have eaten food at our canteen, I am not too sure, because I was too occupied to think about them. (Sometimes, we get so busy with our own lives, that we take everyone else for granted. Even the ones that love and help us.) But by 2pm, they were at the gate, waiting to welcome employees, and give them a message. They had a "dholak" and some other props. I was impressed, I must say, at the energy they gathered in those few hours since I had last seen them. The play was impacting, jolting at some points. They enacted a wailing mother, who lost her son in a bike accident. They showcased a careless friend, who forced his mate into binging on alcohol and then driving. They brought out the ire of a wife who had just caught her drunk husband lying wasted at the end of a street. And so on.
The crowd clapped, and the ones that had stayed till the end moved to their work-areas. I congratulated the group on the close-to-reality but yet dreadfully nightmare-ish play, and informed them that the next repeat is scheduled at 10PM. They waited in the same hall, all day. In the meanwhile, my work was done at 5:30pm, and I returned home, deciding to come back before the next show at night.
That day, I drove with extra care. (It is amazing how subconscious influence works. )
The play at 10pm went off smoothly, again leaving the most of the audience impressed. Some workers were complaining, saying that this was a useless initiative, not at all impacting. (The reality, as we all hate to admit, is that we hate looking at the truth in its bare, harsh and untouched-by-false form.) I thanked the group, and asked them if I could arrange the guest house for them to stay the night, and where their next stop was going to be. They unanimously said they were going to the Vijayawada unit that night itself, and were in a hurry to catch the train at 12PM. I had to persuade them a lot to use the company car. I instructed the driver to drop them at Secunderabad Railway Station, about 15 minutes away. They left with smiling bye's and hope to meet you soon's.
I was feeling happy from inside, there was an easily palpable niceness about them. I was glad I could reduce their burden of 3 shows to 2 shows. And so.. I slept with a peaceful smile on my face.
Te next day, around 4 PM, a worker came to me and appreciated the show. I was sure I hadn't seen him at any of the two plays. I asked him if he had seen their shows before or outside. What he said next almost brought tears to my eyes. After I had left office the previous day, the group, feeling uneasy and dissatisfied that they were not doing the entire job of 3 shows per day, collected those few workers that had missed the show, and enacted the play for them. If you are thinking that the fact that they stretched themselves in spite of their tiredness was the reason that made me emotional, then you are wrong. What brought me to tears was the fact that they did not even mention that to me.
While I was still recovering from the rare selflessness I had seen, I got a call from my counterpart at another unit (in Hyderabad itself). She had called to ask me if I liked the natak, because she , apparently, had never seen something of that sort. Just as I started giving my views, it occurred to me that they had not even been to that plant, then how did she know it was good? I asked her... and what I heard, this time, got me crying. The group had performed at her location on that day. They had lied to me about taking a night train, they had spent an entire night on the railway platform, only so they wouldn't have to take any favor from me.
How heart-breaking goodness can be!
Their goodness made me weep, but, the same goodness gave them strength to travel from city to city, sleep on railway stations, eat road-side food, and sometimes deal with unappreciative audiences.
I don't know if I will ever see them again. But I do know that I will never forget them. In fact, I will remember them every time I see selfishness and evil in the world.
My brother recently asked me, on the day Dravid, his childhood hero, retired, that "Sannidhi you've never taken passionate interest in sports or music or history.. You don't have any hero. "
I told him I do. I have heroes. And my nukkad-natak friends are few of them.
My next few posts are going to help you'll know more about my other heroes.