The pestering milkman of “Ekbar try maar lo, madam” fame has a daughter who rekindles Santosh Bakaya’s faith in humanity with her compassionate gesture.
A mangy little dog lay curled up under a car, a cow looked around listlessly, and a sleepy looking, unkempt man rushed in my direction with a leafless branch in his hand. My eyes followed him, and he even looked back to find me staring at him. I was very curious to know what he was up to, so I left my walk halfway and rushed in his direction. In no time, he built a roaring bonfire and started warming his hands on it; the smoke swirled up towards the sky which still had sleep kinks in its eyes and the sun was an idea whose time had not yet come.
The builder had hastily constructed a small shack for him, but I noticed, it was still incomplete. I was aghast to see that the poor man had slept outside on a pathetic little slab of stone placed on bricks to give it a semblance of a bench, which he had used as a bed. I also saw a frayed blanket and no pillow.
“Did you sleep outside in the cold, last night?” I asked.
“Hanji, madam ji, kya karein? (What to do, Madam) I have no choice. They have employed me as a security guard here,” he said, stoking the fire, and flashing a pathetic little smile in my direction.
“I will have a cup of tea, and will be fine,” he added, pulling out a saucepan and a small stove from under the bench. “In a couple of days, I will make a choolah [earthen stove] here.”
“Okay that will be fine,” I said, smiling half-heartedly.
“Baba, doodh logey chai key liyey?” (Would you like some milk for your tea?) It was a bright, young, ponytailed girl on a scooter, with a milk can tied to the pillion.
“Yes, bitiya,” he said, pulling out a fifty rupee note from his pocket.
“No, no, no money please, some day I will have tea with you,” she said, putting the lid back on the milk can and smiling at him first and then at me.
“Good morning, madam! I am on leave from college as my dad is unwell so I have come to supply milk. I am an engineering student, you know. I have often seen you on your morning walks,” she said, flashing another smile.
“Do you know this man?” I asked, curious, half of my mind wondering whether she was the daughter of the persuasively eloquent milkman, who had pestered me for many a day, asking me to buy milk from him.
“No madam, I’m seeing him for the first time,” she said, flashing a broad, dazzling smile leaving me drenched in the bright rays of her smile. No, she couldn’t be that irritating milkman’s daughter, she had no resemblance to that scowling character. Maybe I would come to know some day.
A little further on, the peanut seller was getting his brazier ready for the day.
“Madam, Ab to moongfali ka season shuru ho gaya,” (The season for peanuts has begun) he said with a glow of happiness on his face.
I was feeling like a glow worm myself, and walked on, clasping all those heartwarming smiles close to my heart. That idiom from Macbeth, ‘the milk of human kindness’ popped up in my mind and I smiled at the thought of that pestering milkman of “Ekbar try maar lo, madam” fame with 4 large milk cans hanging from his motorcycle and not a drop of human kindness. I wondered if I should ask his daughter (if she was really his daughter) to give him a crash course in kindness.
(Pics: Santosh Bakaya)
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