I live in an apartment block on the ground floor. My window is right over where the watchman sits. So sometimes I do take a sneak peek in to what he is up to.
My watchman is an old man. "72 years" he says proudly in english. He's long past his prime. His one leg is swollen up and it seems that it cannot be treated. He gets a salary of Rs 2500/-. He works 12 hrs everyday including sundays. He has to cycle 8 kms through traffic to be at my place by 8 and cycle back at night once his work is done.
He begins his day by washing the cars parked in the garage. He does a thorough job making sure that no speck of dirt is visible anywhere. His main job as watchman is to see that there is sufficient water in the two tanks. For this he again has to climb to the terrace and climb a ladder to look in the tank.He then settles down to his books. He brings mainly religious books. Either the Gita or some notes by scholars such as Thiruvalluvar and Vivekananda. He has nothing to do most of the time so he busies himself with reading. Around 11:30 he eats his meal, the only meal he has in the day. He has one chair on which he can sit. No fan. No other convenience. I've often struck up conversations with him over a wide range of topics like renting cars, to politics, to religion and have found him to be a very intelligent conversationalist.
I've often wondered why such a religious, intelligent and duty bound man is stuck in such a pathetic job. I learned the reasons only recently.
He worked in ITC as a local level distributor for over 40 years. He earned a handsome salary and had even bought a house. He'd got his children educated and married and retired about 8 years back. The reason he is where he is right now is thanks to his son.
His eldest son took to drinking. He became a complete wreck. He would steal money from home to sustain his habit. When money at home ran out he would take debt on his father's name from his father's friends. They tried all sorts of treatment to try and reform the guy. But nothing seemed to work. Things turned so bad that to clear off the debts the old man had to sell his house.
The son's habits continued. After some treatment he showed some slight signs of improvement. The old man bought an auto for his son hoping he would earn something through it. A few days later he learnt that his son had sold the auto and was using the money for drinks again.
The son died 2 years back. The old man has been reduced to a life of poverty. He has to support himself and his wife and that's why he's taken up this thankless job. His younger son now runs a 'travels' and was doing quite well. However the recession seems to have put him also in a spot of bother.
No doubt all of you feel sorry for the old man. I do too. But I respect him a lot too. I don't understand how he manages to keep his spirit up and do his job with the dedication that he brings to it. He finds time to read. He's very good natured and calm. Here's a man to whom life has been very very cruel. And yet he does everything so splendidly. It's his "dharma" he often tells me. I don't think I will ever completely understand that.
Another man who believes in the Dharma philosposhy is the guy who comes to clean my car. Here's another chap who gets up every morning by 5:30. Comes to clean the car and does an excellent job at it. The first day he came and I was standing around to overlook his work. I gave him a few directions and he got on with it. He was so splendid that when he finished I shook his hand and congratulated him. He does 4 other cars also. And then he has to rush 20 kms away to a factory where he works a 12 hours shift. He comes back late at night. On Sundays, his day off from the factory, he cleans the interiors of the cars. And how much do we pay him? 250 bucks!
What's the motive power of these guys? Money? No way. For the dedication, purpose and excellence both these people bring to their job they are getting paid a pittance. Yet they continue on with it.
I on the other hand am a lazy bastard. I've lived my whole life on my Dad's cash. I'm treated to all the comforts of life. I don't think I've ever worked as hard my whole life as these people do every single day. Yet I lead a much more priviledged life than these two people. Why is that?
The truth is I'm not really living my life now. I'm living a life that my Dad wants for me. I'm priviledged only because my Dad, and his dad before him where able to earn enough to give me the lifestyle I lead. It's not really my priviledge as much as it is my Dad's.
I don't know if I will earn enough to support my Dad in the way he's supported me. But I will not ever allow what happened to the watchman to happen to my Dad. I hope those of you reading this post will concur with that.