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The writer reminisces how an ordinary man with a disability touched her heart and taught her an important life lesson.
Talap, our colony in Kannur, was never short of varied characters. We got to meet all sorts of them, thanks to the charitable nature of our grandpa. It was not because he was rich, but he had the heart to listen to people and the ability to try and make things better for them, whenever possible. My grandparents’ approach to people helped us cultivate an outlook that was open to accommodating people from all walks of life with ease. At times, I feel that simplicity and openness do not prevail in society anymore, as relationships are now made according to one’s status rather than a humanitarian angle.
Among our frequent visitors was Rajeevettan, a short, dark-skinned and cheerful person with a round, bearded face and trimmed head. What made him physically stand out from the others was his limp. Rajeevettan’s right leg was disabled and he used to catch hold of it with his right hand to support whilst walking. He did not have any proper job as he was disabled and did not carry any educational degree either. But, he helped people in the colony by doing petty jobs like paying electricity bills, getting groceries from the shop, coordinating in getting a person to fix the television cable, telephone, running around for an emergency etc. Everyone used to pay him for his time and effort. All of us loved his nature as he was not cunning and completed the task wholeheartedly. He used to accept what he received, and never used to cross-check how much we, or anyone, paid him.
Grandma always had a soft corner for him; they used to chitchat in the kitchen, and she would ensure that he left only after eating something. I came to know from her that he lost his father when he was young and his nagging step-mother used to treat him badly. He always felt like an outsider in his own home. But, he loved his step-brother, whom he hoped would mend his ways and be a helping hand someday. Also, he used to be a good friend of my ‘film crazy’ uncle, who used to visit our house once in a while. He would go out with my uncle for some quality ‘boys’ time, which mostly meant drinking.
My grandpa used to advise him not to waste his time doing petty jobs, and to focus on doing some small business or to earn a steady income. He told him to come up with a business plan that he believed he could handle and something that would be reasonably successful. Grandpa promised to help him get a bank loan for the same. Rajeevettan took that advice very seriously and came up with the idea to start a poultry farm, along with a butcher shop in our colony. He explained at length as to why he thought it would be successful and after listening to him, grandpa agreed that the idea was fantastic.
Kannur, being a coastal area, had plenty of fresh fish, and people used to sell it to households on their bicycles. So he did not focus on fishes, as the demand was already met, but he knew poultry was in short supply in our colony. He knew that only too well, as the colony folks used to send him for buying it from the market, which for them was a tedious process as it took extra time and money to get there. Moreover, he could sell eggs as well, which was a daily requirement in almost every house and he could deliver them quicker and in a more efficient manner.
Within a few months, everything was done. I still remember Rajeevettan coming home one night, just a day before the inauguration of his shop, to seek my grandparents’ blessings. He said to my grandpa that he was like a father to him. Moved by this gesture, grandpa’s eyes filled with tears as he blessed him and gave a pat on his back.
Rajeevettan’s hard work paid off in a few years. Supported by the colony people and well-wishers, his business started flourishing, and everyone was proud of what he had achieved and was happy to see him successful. He even opened a stationery shop for his brother to look after. Grandma was further overjoyed when he got married to a simple girl from a poor family. Soon, they were blessed with a sweet baby boy as well. Things were all happening just fine when their life turned upside down. His son has just turned four when they realised that Rajeevettan was having a peculiar disease associated with excessive drinking.
It was a very shocking and sorrowful news not just to his family, but everyone in the colony. He knew his days were numbered. I cannot imagine the emotions, the unbearable pain and the thoughts that would have passed through his mind, the sleepless nights he would have had thinking about leaving his family soon. My grandma could not stop crying on hearing the unfortunate news; by that time, grandpa was no longer with us to share the sorrow.
Maybe it was because Rajeevettan knew he was going to die within another two or three years, he had so many things to accomplish in that limited time frame. He was in a hurry to make everything right for his family. He sold his share of property, and built a small, separate house, adjacent to his old house, for his wife and child, so that they could live in peace once he was gone. Everyone in the colony was invited for the housewarming day. My grandma held her sorrow within and attended it. Sadly, within one or two weeks after they moved in to their new house, we heard the bad news “Rajeevettan was no more”.
Years have gone by, but his life has taught me a great lesson- disability lies in your thoughts and not in your body. He was a living example of that. Everyone still remembers him not as a disabled person but, as a genuine and hardworking person with a golden heart or, in other words, a ‘limping gem’.
Image Source: Pixabay
First published here.
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