If you have read Jhumpa Lahiri you would know exactly what i mean. A story I've read so many times in my growing years and how could i have forgotten all about it. I am referring to two specific stories in an epic book Interpreter of maladies, namely " the real durwan" and " the treatment of Bibi haldar"
"There is no place in which to hide When Age comes seeking for his bride." goes a saying by Joyce Kilmer a famous American poet & literary critic. Indeed, old age is inevitable, painful and lonely, of course if you can make it till then. If you don't, consider yourself lucky. I have seen many many old people sitting and doing nothing at all.. contemplating through out the day of things they have done and always conspiring ways to reach to God. If they still have someone to take care of, they watch TV under the guardianship of a maid and if they cant have the luxury of a roof above their head on their dying days they will be always drowsed and drenched in a dream filled with unfulfilled wishes,secret desires and a lot of poison for all of them who didn't give a damn.
Sarkar kaku was one of them who was driven away from his house by his own son and had nowhere to go. He was already doing his job as a durwan in our apartment when all these happened. He had no other options but to plead our apartment secretary to let him stay at night on the ground floor corridor and instead he would do all these extra works apart from being a durwan the entire day and night. Either it was by choice or by pity, that the then secretary appointed him as a full timer. Days went by and he grew sicker and sicker. He would wake up at 4 open all the doors right from the sixth floor terrace to the ground floor collapsible gate. Considering his age that would take him some good forty minutes to do. He would then open the main gate of the building at 5 so that the safaiwala can come in. He would take his bath after that put on the building water pump and wait for half an hour before switching it off. As the day will progress babus from the apartment would go to their work, he'll open and close the gate several times untill all the cars and bikes are off the parking lot and then will his work start.. Between his day dreaming and occasional loitering on the parking lot,, he would be called by several mashimas of the building.. " Sarkar, eta ene dao na dokan theke" please bring me this stuff from the shop, sarkar. On Sundays he'd get special assignments of washing cars of some of the babus of our building. Imagine a 80 year old with chronic psoriasis all over his body thin as a rail, malnourished and with poor chest walking up five floors by stairs getting the car keys and washing it for them and going up all over again to hand over the keys. The babus on the other hand would take care of him by occasionally giving a blanket when it was getting too cold or a tarpoline sheet when it would start raining. He would always be the first to wake up and the last to go to sleep in our apartment.
I was always upset with his work. I couldn't understand why would our maintenance be a charity? For most of the day he would be either sleeping on his chair or would never be in his chair. As of which stray dogs and cats would enter our apartment. Many strangers started entering the premises, at 9 o'clock in the morning the floor lights would be on and even at 12 at night the lights would not go off etc etc. However, I pitied him a lot being poor and not taken care of. I would have never talked about him so much.
Often due to the nature of my work I would come pretty late at night and given the rascal I am I'd always make it a point to continuously beep the horn in front of the gate until he opens it and invariably he would be scolded by someone or else for not responding to insiders quickly. I'd also flash my bike's headlight on his eyes every night I use to come home. By doing all these strangely I never got any sadistic pleasure, which many might think, instead I grew a connection with him. I started liking him so much so that even after his death a week ago I cant let him go away from me. In his last few days I'd often ask him about his health. His ever so always smiling face reminded me of my own philosophy of taking things as they come. I would also buy him food and mosquito coils for the night and so intense was this feeling that I wished him a happy death. I stared wishing him a good afterlife, a kick-ass life so that he could do all those stuffs he couldn't like kicking my butt when I'd honk.
I knew somehow that this would be it. This is the second time in my life when a feeling like this overshadowed on me. I knew immediately he would not survive the night. I opened the huge door myself, parked our car inside closed the door and called his name. " sarkar kaku?? sarkar kaku??" but he didn't respond. he was in deep pain or in a deep sleep. Strangely when you are in deep sleep, you don't feel any pain. Your body becomes obsolete and insignificant. Only your mind plays tricks on your soul and in that battle of mind and soul the mind always wins because we human beings are the ones who invented something called 'logic' and we try to fit everything into it. The soul defeated remains somewhere bruised & grudged and the more it happens you start losing your soul. and When the soul had had enough of all these it packs his bag and leaves. Sarkar Kaku died in his char that night on his duty.
In the story of the real durwan and Bibi Haldar, the fate was similar. situations were similar, underprivileged, lotus dreamers as they were so was the hero my story. We got a new durwan just days after his death and his story is no different from them. I fear that I will start seeking repentance for my earlier deeds with him. Already he talks to me in length about his family and how I remind him of his son and to be honest to myself if there is one thing I fear the most that would be attachment but how can i stay out of it when I know that the new person would face the same fate as others or perhaps we all will..