Fast doesn’t always mean good quality.
Friendly and talkative may mean business not actual warmth.
Good jobs take time and effort.
Never judge a person without knowing the facts.
Here is a story that illustrates the above.
In the 70’s, Ramnath was a tailor in the dockyard area where the poor dock workers lived. It had been some years that he had set shop there. A lot of people flocked to him. He use to deliver very fast and that was one reason why people went to him. We all have this habit of proscratinating for months to stich a shirt or a skirt but once we buy the fabric, we want the tailor to deliver in a day or two.
Jaikanth was another tailor in the same locality, their shops being a 100 metres away. Most of the time Jaikanth would get those orders which Ramnath could not accommodate or those small maintenance jobs. Jaikanth did take quite some time in fact at least a week to fulfil a single order. He was very methodical and systematic. On the 5th day he would call for a trial and after having satisfied himself and the small requests from his clients, the delivery on the 8th day was always confirmed.
Ramnath on the other hand talked a lot and kept his customers engaged. Sometimes he wouldn’t have started on your work until you went to him. He would make you sit for an hour, take up your work and make amends so that you would get it the next day. His was a LIFO policy. Some liked his talking about day to day politics of the state or about happenings in the locality. He would even go to the extent of prescribing allopathic medicines. Like as if you told him about your allergic wheezing he would ask to buy a particular inhaler. If it was dust allergy he would suggest the client to go and take allergy tablets. In fact he became so popular with such remedies that people would visit him for such consultancy. Some of them got relief from what he advised and so he became the medical consultant who was ready with tailored remedies.
Jaikanth spoke little and was always engrossed in work. Some of his neighbors observed that he appeared to have worked as an attender with a homeopathic doctor for quite some years before he switched to the stitching line though they were not sure about this. Whenever someone appeared sick, he did make inquiries and gave some potions to the poor who visited him with their small maintenance work. So whether it was a common fever or a sore throat or a stomach upset, his remedies also worked. Slow and steadily his patients too grew.
There was one doctor in the locality who charged for every visit which the poor could ill afford. So unless it was serious, they either went to Ramnath for fast relief or Jaikanth if they knew him. Slowly these two were the talk of the locality and people often wondered what would have happened if these two were not there to help them with their ailments.
Slowly they started to compare one with the other. Ramnath was good at heart but he had a sycophantic fan following. His such patients always rooted that he was the better of the two in fact better than the doctor who practiced. In fact the medical shops also lent their support to Ramnath since he used to prescribe more than one tonic or an ointment or tablet as time passed.
As rumors and unspoken words were bartered by the unscrupulous fans Ramnath started to hate and avoid Jaikanth who being an introvert was ignorant of all that was happening. One day it so happened that Ramnath was down with food poisoning and it being a Sunday the medical shop in the locality was closed. The doctor too was out of station and therefore Ramnath’s wife had to rush to Jaikanth who was resting at home. He gave a patient hearing to what she had to tell and then gave her a medicine and did not take the money she offered saying I am not a doctor. She was however accompanied by some of the fans who heard what Jaikanth had said.
The medicine worked wonders and Ramnath was cured soon. He didn’t like her praising the tailor or his medicine. He however kept quiet. Day by day slowly envy took form in his mind. After that incident Jai was well known and Ramnath was snubbed. There was another incident because of which Ramnath thought that Jai was eating into his territory. He and Jai had bagged an order of 100 shirts each from a garments exporter. While Jaikanth got further orders, Ramnath’s batch got rejected as he didn’t think of putting the collar button, the same way he did for his customers.
It was then he spoke to Sam the local sub inspector about Jaikanth the tailor who doubled as a quack. After some stealth inquiries it was clear to Sam that Jai was a practising doctor and it was left for him to check his credentials. But Sam also failed in his duty to confront the tailor upfront and question him. He was so convinced about the fake doctor bundled up in the tailor that he took further steps that would lead to the imminent arrest.
The Dday dawned and unknown to Jaikanth a force of officials drove down with police escort accompanied by a small crowd that had a mix of followers of both tailors. Though some were surprised that the tailor was fooling them all this time a few others who were convinced in the goodness of Jaikanth prayed for his wellbeing.
Jaikanth look a bit tired when the battery of officials fired a volley of questions at him to which he had tailored answers. Ramnath, who with his chums and standing behind the questioning officials was now getting impatient. He wanted Jaikant to be arrested instead of wasting more time. The officials went walking with Jaikanth to his nearby house followed by the inquisitive crowd. He showed his qualifications and his registration which was convincing enough for the officials to leave him in peace.
When the law enforcement agency officers got into their vehicles without taking him it slowly trickled as enlightenment to the poor folk that the soft spoken tailor who also treated them was indeed a doctor. There was no doubt that the trap set for him only proved to benefit Jaikanth many fold. It was a matter of time to see the poor and ill flocking to the new avatar of the disguised doctor in a tailor’s clothes.
For those who have already read Reach to the Poor, Pravin and Raju are familiar characters now.
It so happened that during one of their recent visits to the town, to augment supplies to their shops, both had the feeling that it was time they visited a hair cutting salon.
They always lodged themselves at the Hazari lodge which was slightly away from the hustle and bustle of the city. It was a Sunday morning and after a quick breakfast at a nearby dhaba, they walked in search of a salon. A few minutes into their walk they saw a ruffian at a distance arguing with a wayside hawker woman. It appeared that he was threatening her to part with some amount of money as weekly hafta to shore up his fortunes. The misfortunate woman with no one to seek help, it being a Sunday morning with most of the shops being closed, parted with her earnings.
The money collected, the ruffian parted soon from the place. Our silent observers at a distance, walked upto her, heard her out. They took some time to console her, helped her with some money saying they would teach a lesson soon, to the so called terror whenever an opportunity presented itself.
On their look out for a salon, they came upon a few other hapless hawkers who too had to bear the brunt of the so called Gajya the illegal tax collector.
A poor man was pulling his cart of ice slabs at a distance. They hurried upto him to make inquiries. Despite the heat and a sweating brow, he was kind to stop and help them with directions and also offered water laced with few pieces of ice if they wanted. As was their nature, they politely declined the warm offer of cold water and hurried to the salon.
The road to the salon was a bit bad and they had to take care not to fall into the many inviting potholes. As they reached the shop they could see one hair dresser and two persons waiting on one of the two worn out benches. They seated themselves on the other one and picked up a conversation as was their wont.
The hair dresser also lent his ears and the topic turned to Gajya. Most of the shopkeeperd feared him, said Jayanti Lal who was finishing his creative work on one of his customers and at the same time eager to be friendly with the visitors he asked Raju as to what they did. Pravin with a laugh said, “I burden those who come to me and he sees to it that they don’t die” . Hearing this Raju also laughed in big tones.
This is a poor locality, Sir and we do not have that much earnings to share with anyone said Jayanti Lal with a confused look. Offlate Gajya has been asking for more which we cannot give and that gives rise to skirmishes with him. I don’t mind giving him a free hair cut and a shave if he demands and he paused, maybe that offer I can give to you too. One of the bench customers, Javed looked with fear about himself and in a whisper told Pravin… He carries a knife with him, they say. Oh no, talk of the devil and here he comes….
Gajya’s frame came into view to all eyes who looked his way. With a Pepsi bottle in hand, he was idling his way to the salon. At the same time through another lane, came a ice cart pulled by an old man. One of the cart’s wheels got stuck in one of the pot holes and he asked for Gajya to help him out not knowing who he was. All eyes were riveted on Gajya as to how he would react. The irritated ruffian slapped the man and continued walking towards the salon.
Javed bhai whose turn was next whispered.. Now it is his turn, we will have to wait till he gets his hair cut and beard shaved. We, the timid always have to wait.
Raju’s blood was boiling. He would strike this bully as soon as he was within striking distance come what may. Pravin sensed Raju’s mind and decided to teach a lesson in their own way. Touching Raju he said a word which only Raju could understand. “Big boy”. Many a childhood scenes of skirmishes flashed in Raju’s mind. He smiled briefly. It was time to act.
Raju got up and stood near the dressing chair. The current customer had got down. Javed bhai afraid of annoying Raju whimpered, ” but it was my turn”.. Raju looked at him with a fearful avatar and said “Did You say something” . As if taking up the cue Pravin rose from the bench remarked, “Yes it was Javed bhai’s turn. How can you..” . Raju just laughed.
Helllooo, blared out Gajya. “Everyone will have to wait because it is my turn”. Pravin not even showing that he had seen or heard Gajya rushed to Raju and chided Raju for breaking the queue. Raju told Pravin to keep himself outside of this and tried to get himself seated. To the onlookers, it seemed Raju and Pravin were strangers or not friendly to each other.
Gajya was finding it a bit difficult to make his presence felt. Today it seemed these persons were deaf and blind at least these two strangers as others were atleast passing him a glance. Maybe they didn’t know his credentials. So he shouted at Raju to get out of the chair. Pravin meanwhile was trying to pull Raju out of the chair to the consternation of Jayanthi Lal. Today it seemed he had to deal with not one but three thugs who might pull the rug from his feet if he didn’t act in time.
Pravin nearly managed to drag Raju out of the chair ignoring the pleas from the hair dresser and good old Javed bhai who had now withdrawn his case and awarded his turn to Raju. But Pravin would not let go of Raju and pulled him out. Gajya came and tried to sit in the vacant seat or so he thought but Raju on his way down pulled him down with him. Now Pravin asked Javed bhai to seat himself to which the poor Javed bhai said he could wait. Now Pravin looked so angry that Javed brother got into the chair.
This was too much for Gajya who got up and was trying to work himself into a rage but now Pravin took hold of him and gave him such a resounding slap that his face turned outside to the lane where his eyes met the poor fellow still grappling with his cart. How in a few minutes the equation has changed, he thought. “No, I will not take this beating quietly” he loudly said. You will have to pay for this and he pulled the infamous knife from his pant.
The gleaming wicked looking weapon was well sheathed and in Gajya’s hand could work wonders. It was not without its labor that its master had become himself respected out of fear. Slowly as everybody stood frozen, came the knife at Pravin but the plunge was arrested with a timely kick to the knee from Raju.
What followed was a brawl. Gajya didn’t know from where all the blows came, so thick and hard that he cowered before the lot. A few passer-by fellows also joined in the revelry. It seemed to everybody that Raju was a much bigger thug than the punitive Gajya. All the cash on Gajya was taken out by Raju and he was unceremoniously kicked and dumped out of the shop. The knife now in safe hands, Gajya had to run out for his life.
Raju bhai please be seated said all in one voice to which he laughed and walked out with a smiling Pravin. On the way they treated themselves to cold water offered by the old gentleman after having helped his cart out of the gaping pot hole. When they looked back at the salon, they could see Jayanti Lal and Javed bhai saluting. On their way back they parted with the money to those few hawkers who had lost their money earlier. “A visit to the salon can wait, Big boy” said Pravin as they walked hand in hand back to their lodge.
Why should you bother about him?
When someone whom you rejected
Approaches him in hope for help?
Why do you bring fear upon them
Using your clout in forsaking him?
And when that too doesn’t work
Why do you self grieve
When they shun you for him?
You, who thought were all powerful
To keep all away from dear him
Who was silent all this while
Knowing your intentions though
Emerged more powerful than you.
Envy is a self afflicting curse
Throw the serpent off before
It engulfs you and your thoughts…
When Apsomji got up at 5 in the morning partly because of the alarm bell ringing and also because of the commotion caused by his few followers who had already entered his visiting room, he knew it was going to be a good day.
Sometimes he was wary of these followers who had been acting as his disciples, advisers and red tape, all put together. Their clamoring was so much that he had always thought of sacking them all or at least put sack cloth over their loud mouths. There was no privacy in the sense, as he could sense it from the bed room. Here he was only getting up and they were walking into the dining room now as enforcement sleuths would walk in uninvited and treat themselves to food leftovers in the refrigerator and on the table.
Still, Apsomji thought, they were needed to give him company and vet on his ideas that steamed from his head. Today was going to be a good day, as he stretched his arms, went through his yogic motions followed by the rush to the bathroom to complete his ablutions. When the warm water was falling from the geyser, he was wondering what pep talk should he be doing in front of the European delegation who were in town to gauge and most probably reward his city for its cleanliness and care of labor and destitute people.
Apsomji as Mayor for the last 2 years, had been made aware of this comprehensive clean city trust that was set up some place in Luxembourg. Apsomji was a poor reader and whatever information he got was from his sycophant gathering of the above mentioned followers. This award specially set up for cities in developing nations, they had told him was to be awarded if certain conditions were met. On top of the list was – There were to be well-managed slaughter houses, proper waste management, clean drinking water and no overflowing drains, no sight of child labor, no barking strays and polluting vehicles and of course presence of a few parks and gardens to counter the greenhouse effect. Apsomji was a little confused as to how a green park could counter a green house, but he left it to his intelligent team to figure out.
The past few weeks had been hectic for his supporters and people in high offices who helped him to design the itinerary and chart out the survey course through select places in the city, which would keep off-limits, the dark areas away from the sight of the trust members who had flown in 3 days back. If only he could trust them to deliver the coveted award to his city. Apsomji and the corporation members made sure that the award committee visited few looms (hand-loom enterprises) where no child labor existed, a few eateries where everyone who worked was above 18 or made to look like that. A visit to a park that was renovated this year and what was previously a deserted junk yard was also on the list. Slaughter houses were cleaned up and the animals lined up and cleaned up one day in advance. Drains were covered with hard sheets and very feeble concrete slabs that would break if a vehicle went over it. All these were laid out just in time before the motorcade of the visiting luminaries went that way. All strays were rounded up or those who could not be, were chased away in such a ferocious manner that the corporators knew they dare not enter the city limits again.
Clean drinking water taps were setup, 100 in all, at various points, around 30 across the course that the award committee were to travel and visit on feet. 70 sweepers were employed on a 5 day shift and most of them were child labor. The terms and conditions read – They were to sweep the streets early in the morning and never to be seen again in the daylight. Brooms were given to them but no collecting buckets for the filth they were supposed to sweep. These should be collected as heaps, so that in the morning run, the sewage vans would collect them. Since 2 weeks, around 100 traffic policemen were given the additional responsibility of noting and chasing down vehicles with polluting exhaust. Those who belonged to the polluting lot however belonged to the city corporation buses and these were asked to keep off the roads on the day of survey. It was rumored that a traffic inspector who went running after one such vehicle had his white uniform turned to black and was in the hospital wheezing it out.
The waste dumping yards, all three of them which the city had, had got a carpet of sand over the now rotting junk. This sand would help control the stink emanating from it, as per his genius corporators. Another set of volunteers of the CLEAN CITY CAMPAIGN promoted by the corporation had rounded up the rag pickers most of them children, beggars, the old and the infirm who were seen on the streets and packed them off to a home in the suburbs for a week till this thing would get over. After his bath and breakfast, Apsomji with his followers neatly dressed went over to the corporation office ground next to which a dais had been erected to seat the award committee members and the corporators. He made sure that the newly put up dais could hold the weight of at least 20 people sitting and 20 people standing and another possible 20 rushing on to it in the last-minute by doing a dry run.
Everything looked perfect. The dignitaries, 5 of them, were to start of from their hotel on their run up passing several points in the city as per the scheduled path that the corporation had charted out for them. They were thinking of using an open jeep for the purpose but the clouded skies that looked imminent to drop tons of water forced them to use covered cabs. After all, they could always get down with umbrellas to inspect anything if they wanted to. As they had their breakfast in the hotel, there came the rain that was helped by the monsoon winds which was holding out for so long. Now with no holds barred, the pouring rain stood its ground for a full 40 minutes to register a 4 cm rainfall.
With the high tide now against the Mayor and his corporators, the drains got flooded up in no time and as the touring party left the hotel in cabs, they were witnesses to the flooded conditions of the city roads in rainy times. Out came their notepads and drainage was given a very low score. When they visited the slaughter-house, it was pouring water over the tin sheets on to the meat and the animals huddled up. The stench was unbearable, as the drains had vomited out the filth back on to the well cemented floor. They left in a hurry in a nauseating state.
The water in the roads, in the parks and the waste dumping grounds had cleared up everything that was supposed to be hidden. A cow which had a fall in one of the covered gutters just managed to climb in front of the approaching motorcade to visually treat the guests with the black coat of paint it had acquired on its legs from the drain. The city was churned up with waste with all the money invested to make it clean going down the drain. There were still a few street boys here and there with gunny sacks on their shoulder trying to pick things that could have some salvage value from the flooded streets. Sadly, the dignitaries could not get down anywhere as most places had rising water till knee height. When they reached high and dry ground at one place, one of them got down and opened one tap to inspect. The sound of air gushing at first made him jump and then muddied water came out, all to his disgust. Grimaced with suffering at the plight of the city dwellers, the visitors rounded off the survey, half way, and made their way to the corporation grounds.
The corporation ground was in no way different from the streets. They barely managed to get themselves on the dais without water entering their shoes. The bright sunshine after the downpour did little to lift the curtain of gloom that had descended over the hosts and the audience. The results were expected to be as bad as they could get and the poor Mayor and his team had to leave the stage in disgrace. Nevertheless, they had high hopes for next year to make amends. One thing, they collectively agreed, while getting down the steps into the pool of water was – Never to invite anyone during the rainy days…