Hamari Kahani – Version 1
Co-authored by Shamshu Hirani & Arun Nathani
An IT professional while getting ready for work, gazed in the mirror and noticed a grey strand of hair. “Age is catching up,” he reflected gloomily, “and I still haven’t found my life partner!” His glance slid down to his old, faded shirt, the wrinkles gradually smoothening against the slight bulge of his stomach. “It’s high time I got back to my exercise routine,” he reminded himself, “and perhaps it’s also time to upgrade my wardrobe, maybe my entire lifestyle. I need to get out of this tiny apartment, discard my old bike and buy a car.” The brainwave triggered an image of his parents and made him ponder, “What is more important? Upgrading social status or financially assisting those whose sacrifices are the reason I have a good job today?”
The thought of his ‘good job’ failed to elevate his spirits. Career came with its set of stresses—demanding boss, subtle politics, promotion anxiety, and competing colleagues. Yes, the teammates were nice, but it was just not the same as college friends of the carefree days. “I wish my old friends lived nearby,” he lamented as he got off the elevator, only to realize that his bike had gone for repair. “Everyone has deserted me, so why not my travel companion as well,” he resigned with a dejected smile. “So today is the first day I try out the new metro,” he concluded as he walked over to the station and boarded the train.
40 minutes later, he disembarked and began strolling toward his office. His walk was light-footed, he hadn’t felt so positive in a long time! His mind raced back, reliving those 40 minutes and replaying every moment from the time he boarded the train…
As he entered the car, and realized there was no seating room, his mind continued to race – “of-course with my luck, how can I expect to find a nice seat, if any at all?”. Since, his was the second last stop, he decided “let me move to the center, away from the constant push-pull of people moving in and out!” As he started to make his way to a spot, he found the gentleman seated right across, smiling to him. “I am sure, I don’t know him” he thought but the gentleman’s gaze was fixed on him. There was something about the smile – it was open, genuine and warm, immediately putting to ease some of his awkwardness. Before he could return the smile, the gentleman whispered something to the lady sitting next to him and then to the boy to his right. As they all started to shuffle, he realized that they were making place for him to seat. The gentleman motioned to the engineer to take the recently conjured spot and then turned away to again speak to the lady next to him. “He looks to be in his mid-fifties”, he thought. Nothing about him suggested any affluence, the shirt and shoes were well worn but crisply ironed and polished to a shine. “He carries himself well but there is something odd about him that I cannot place”, he brushed aside that thought as he finally sat down and the gentleman turned towards him and started talking..
To his surprise, the gentleman was a security guard in the same IT company and had recognized him. He felt embarrassed – “I wish I had noticed him, I do pass the gate few times a day for my smoke breaks”. The lady was his wife and also worked there, in the housekeeping department. The gentleman continued talking, with the familiarity of a long-time acquaintance.
Yes, the job was tough and required him to stand for most of the day and work six days a week, but there was a sense of pride in the way he talked about it. The supervisor was demanding but he spoke of him like a tough parent, who was strict but meant well in his heart. His colleagues were fondly referred, he even turned to his wife to confirm that there was an extra helping of ‘sabzi’ in today’s tiffin as it was a favorite of one of his colleagues. They lived in an old building in an area that he recognized quickly because that’s where his domestic help also lived, to him it was the best location in the city. The parents had passed away and he could sense the reverence and love for them in his words and perhaps a tinge of guilt that perhaps he could have done more. As the conversation progressed, the engineer became more and more unsettled – “from my point of view, I just see an average life, but all I hear is joy and gratitude for the way things are!”
“I, on the other hand, seemed to have received a much better bargain – a promising future, potential to realize all my dreams, and yet all I think is complain and regret” And then as his eyes came into focus from his musings, he saw the lines on a self-help course pamphlet stuck on the other side:
‘We choose our joys and sorrows long before we experience them’ – Khalil Gibran
And then it finally clicked, that something odd was actually the most striking quality of the man – a certain serenity, a calmness as if he was totally at peace with himself at that moment. And just like that, the fog had cleared and a weight lifted off his chest. He glanced again at the gentleman, now chatting excitedly with his wife, thanking him in his heart for showing the path. After a heart-felt namaste, he stepped outside. It had started to drizzle again but this time instead of seeing it as an inconvenience, he received the droplets from heaven as a blessing, a gift to enjoy! And with a spring in his steps, started walking towards his destination!