Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Dreams Unlimited

In April 2015 , we were in the middle of  our Karnataka tour by road. We travelled to Karwar, Udupi, Coorg and had reached Mysore. It was a rainy evening. We cancelled our plan to visit Brindavan Garden and returned to our hotel on the Mysore-Hunsur Main Road.
 We had visited Abbey Fall in Madikeri that morning. Drive from Madikeri to Mysore was very pleasant. Road conditions were good and the traffic was moderate.
We decided to have early dinner. It was 6.30 pm and there was no one in the restaurant except three of us - me, my wife and our nine year old son Pratyush.
 One lean middle-aged man wearing a broad smile came with the Menu Card. He must be in his 50s , hardly five feet tall.
“Hello Sir..What would you like to have?”
“ I will have a Masala Dosa” said my wife. Being in Mysore, probably she wanted to try authentic Mysore Masala Dosa.
“Sorry Madam, we do not have Masala Dosa” waiter said politely.
“Why don't you serve Masala Dosa”? My wife was not ready to give up.
“Madam, we serve masala dosa only in the morning for the breakfast” replied waiter
“Then I will have Veg Thali ” wife dropped googly!
“Sorry Madam... we do not have Veg Thali  on the menu as well ...If we served dosa we would have offered Thali too!” waiter said. He probably suspected that the next order would be of “Curd Rice” !!
Finally, my wife and son settled for paneer tikka, cheese omelette and potato fries.
“ What about you Sir?” He turned towards me. I could clearly read that he breathed sigh of relief having finished taking half the order!
I ordered my drinks.
“What will you prefer Sir?...soda or water?” waiter asked.
“ both..soda and water” I replied.
“Sir... normal  or cold?”
“I would prefer cold” I answered.
“Sir.. I will get chilled soda and normal water”
I did not understand  logic behind this but I wasn't interested in knowing it either! I said 
“as you wish” 
He served our order. Pratyush  noticed that there wasn't enough ketchup served along with the fries so he asked for more ketchup. To my surprise waiter replied “No my more ketchup... it’s not good for your health.. If you eat more ketchup, then you will soon become an old man like me!”
My son looked at my wife for the confirmation. She nodded in agreement.
I found this guy interesting...sensing my thoughts, he came towards my side of the table. 
“Sir, may I know which place you belong to?” he asked
“ We are from Mumbai” I replied.
“Oh... I was in Mumbai for many years” I could see a twinkle in his eyes as he uttered the word “Mumbai”..
“What's your name?” I asked. 
 I thought after knowing that I was from Mumbai, he would talk to me in Marathi or Hindi but he continued in English
“Howard... my name is Howard ” he said
"Why did you leave Mumbai? I asked.
“It's a long story Sir. I am originally from Mangalore. When I was in school, my mother sent me to Goa...there I stayed for few years and then left for Mumbai on my own. I was just 18 years old then” He was lost in his old days...
"Where were you staying in Mumbai?" I asked
“I used to stay in Kalyan. Actually, for the first few days I stayed on a platform of Dadar railway station. My belongings were stolen and then I found one gentleman who was a fruit merchant.. He took me to Kalyan with him. I started working for him. I used to work with him till noon. At the same time  I found job in one of the restaurants in South Mumbai as a waiter. Everyday I would work there till midnight"
His story resembled to many people from places like Mangalore, Udupi who come to Mumbai in search for job. Now my wife and son also started showing  interest in his story.
“What happened next? “ I asked.
“One day, a lady came to the restaurant where I was working. I attended her that evening. She liked my service. She would come  there often and  I would  serve  her every time. Later she offered me a job in a small restaurant that she and her husband started in Bandra. I accepted the offer and started working for her. She was a very nice lady and used to pay me well. Having worked with the fruit merchant, I knew how fruits business operated. I started my own part time business of selling fruits to the people staying in nearby buildings. I would sell fruits till noon and work as a waiter in the evening till late night.  Because of my good service, many families in the nearby locality became my permanent customers. I used to save every penny that I earned. I saved decent money during those days”
I was curious now...I started thinking of many people like him who had come to Mumbai with nothing and made big. But then here he was in front of me still working as a Waiter.
“But then why did you come back?” I asked
“That was the time when my mother thought of getting me married she started searching a girl for me.  I got married with a girl from Mysore. After marriage, I worked in Mumbai for two years but you know how the wives are!!" 
Oh my god! What did he say? I avoided looking at my better half and asked him the reason why he said the last part of his sentence!
"My wife did not want me to work in Mumbai. I came back and I settled in Mysore”
It was clear from his voice that  he was still not happy with the decision he took years ago.
“My wife does a tailoring job. I have two children. My son has done his diploma in mechanical engineering and now he is perusing his degree in Mangalore. My daughter is also complete her graduation this year.” Now his voice was full of pride.
“I worked hard all these years to give the best education to my kids and they have made me proud” I could see dreams in his eyes.
“ I teach in an engineering institute and  let me tell you that Mechanical Engineering is in great demand nowadays...your son has a bright future" I said.
He was very happy with my comments.
“Thank you so much Sir.... Enjoy your dinner" he said and went away.

एक रुपए से ईन्सान की कीमत बढती है या कम होती है?

रविवार ची सकाळ थोडी आळसावलेली असते. रविवारी सकाळी लवकर  उठून मी पेट्रोलपंप वर गेलोय असे फार कमी वेळा होते. त्या दिवशी सव्वीस जानेवारीला युनिव्हर्सिटी मध्ये झेंडावंदनाला जाताना पेट्रोल पंप वर थांबलो. सकाळची वेळ आणि त्यात बँक हॉलिडे त्यामुळे फारशी वर्दळ नव्हती. पंपावर मोठ्या आवाजात देशभक्ती पर गाणी चालू होती.  

नेहमी त्याच पेट्रोल पंप वर पेट्रोल भरत असल्याने तेथील चेहरे ओळखीचे झालेत. त्यातलाच हा एक अठरा एकोणीस वर्षाचा मुलगा. पाच फूट उंच, सडपातळ, सावळ्या वर्णाचा हा मुलगा गाडी आली की मोठ्या उत्साहाने हातवारे करून गाडी लावायला मदत करणारा. सतत काही न काही बडबड करणारा पण कामात अजिबात टंगळमंगळ नाही. ड्युटी आत्ता सुरू झालेली असुदे की संपत आलेली, हा तेवढ्याच उत्साहात दिसायचा.  गाडी समोर लागली की टाकीचे झाकण उघडे पर्यंत याला धीर नसायचा. मागे एकदा असेच गाडी लावल्या लावल्या पेट्रोल च्या टाकी चे झाकण लवकर उघडावे म्हणून त्याने दोन तीनदा गाडीवर थापा मारल्या होत्या तेव्हा त्याला ओरडलो होतो. पण आज मी त्याला पाहिल्या बरोबर ओळखीचे हसलो.

"साब, सुबह सुबह ऐसे कोई मुस्कुराता है तो अच्छा लगता है! सब ने ऐसेही हंसते रहना चाहिये"तो मला म्हणाला. 

"हां भाई, मुस्कुराते रहना ही जिंदगी है" मी पण एक डायलॉग ठोकून दिला!

"साब, आप ही बताईये- एक रुपये से ईन्सान कि किमत बढती है या कम होती है?" त्याने अचानक प्रश्न केला! 

त्याचा प्रश्न ऐकून काय झाले असावे माझ्या लगेच लक्षात आले. माझ्या आधीच्या गाडीवाल्यावरोबर त्याचे मघाशी काहीतरी बोलणे चालू होते. 
सुट्टे नसल्याच्या नावाखाली पेट्रोलपंप वर काम करण्याऱ्यांचा एखादा रुपया कमी देण्याकडे नेहमी कल असतो. याने पण तसेच काहीसे केले असणार आणि समोरच्याने चांगले झापले असणार!

आता मी उत्तर काय देतो यावर माझी यावेळची (आणि यापुढे प्रत्येक वेळी पेट्रोल भरायला आलो की ) "कीमत" ठरणार असा धोका मला स्पष्ट दिसत होता! तसे मी बऱ्याचदा त्याला टीप द्यायचो पण काही काही पेट्रोल पंप वर कामचुकार पणा करणारा स्टाफ, पेट्रोल मध्ये होणारी गडबड यामुळे टीप देणे हा विचारही आपल्याला शिवत नाही. 

बोलो सर, एक रुपये से ईन्सान कि किमत बढती है या कम होती है?" त्याने पुन्हा विचारले. 

 "उसकी कीमत उसे ही तय करने दो| तुम क्यों दुःखी हो रहे हो?" मी समजावण्याचा सुरात म्हणालो.

"नहीं, फिर भी आप बताईये... एक रुपये से...." तो आपला मुद्दा सोडायला तयार नव्हता... मला आता हा "एक चुटकी सिंदूर" च्या धर्तीवर "एक रुपयेकी कीमत तुम क्या जानो राजेश बाबू" असा डायलॉग ऐकवेल की काय अशी शंका आली!!

त्याच्या दृष्टीने विचार केला तर ते बरोबर होते. हजार दोन हजाराचे पेट्रोल भरणाऱ्याला एका रुपयाने काय फरक पडणार असा त्याचा सरळ सोपा विचार. असे दिवसभरात शंभरेक रुपये जमा झाले तर त्याच्यासाठी  मात्र तो निम्मे पगार! ही तफावत कधी दूर होईल असे वाटत नाही आणि जो पर्यंत ही अशी तफावत राहील तो पर्यंत माणसाची किंमत पैशांवर तोलली जाईल हे ही तेवढेच खरे!  

 "जाने दो भाई.. तुम अपना काम अच्छे से करते रहो और मुस्कुराते रहो " म्हणत मी गाडी सुरु केली!

(हा प्रसंग काही वर्षांपूर्वीचा. हातावर पोट असलेल्या या कामगार वर्गाची काय अवस्था इतक्या दिवसांच्या लॉकडाऊन ने केली असेल विचार करवत नाही. हा वर्ग दोन वेळच्या जेवणाची चिंता करत असेल आणि त्याच्या वरच्या वर्गाच्या चिंता पण त्यांच्या त्यांच्या 'किमती' प्रमाणेच कमी-अधिक आणि खऱ्या-खोट्या असतील हे ही तेवढेच खरे )
- श्रीस्वासम