Sunday, October 19, 2008
Lighting up lives ......अशीही एक दिवाळी
Festival days around the corner. And so along with giving the house a decent swipe with brooms,mops and assorted cleaning agents, its time again to get organized with the various savouries and sweets we make at Divali.
At one time, Divali , described as a festival of lights, was not very well known across the world, but greatly celebrated by all Indians no matter where they lived. By and by, the number of Indian folks in other countries grew, and even started having some influence there. Which probably explains, why, George W Bush even sends "Divali Greetings" in his speeches, to Asian Indians (maybe most of them Republican) around this time.
Today, along with the globalization of Divali, India is now firmly entrenched in what may be called the Mall culture; in most metro cities , you get junk mail announcing all kinds of sales, of basically clothes and electronic items. For Divali only......
And thousands of paper-and-plastic-endowed folks rush to grab whatever they can. Clothes and utility machines have stopped being a need. You now need to dress, to be fashionably casual as you disdainfully drop your dirty clothes into a washing machine that thinks fuzzily, and angrily rumbles and whirls, as you settle down to watch a DVD on a flat screen contraption , that covers half your wall, and never mind that you have no place for bookshelves.
I was examining a contraption that we use to make something called Chakli, when I suddenly realized that the disc at the end of the rod (that got inserted in a cylindrical holder), had got separated. It wasn't something that got fixed with a nut and screw, so I took it to the nearest utensil shop. In a nouveau-riche moment, they said they didn't do such repairs.
And so I landed up at the shop belonging to Hites(h). The second H , silent.
Hitesh never went to school. But went trailing after his father who was a old-newspaper-dealer (" raddiwala") here. These guys bought old newspapers from you and marketed them to those needing them, like paper mills, packaging folks and stuff. His father also bought old appliances, ramshackle furniture, old watches etc from folks. Mostly non working.
And young Hitesh spent his growing years fiddling around with these things and developing a unique technological perspective on things. His father's shop was in the path of the new arterial road, and the municipal compensation allowed them to get a slightly larger shop elsewhere. Hitesh started out with a shop dedicated to repair of pressure cookers. Slowly the paper trade reduced, and today, his shop is always crowded, as women throng there with various non functioning blenders,food processors,ovens, stoves. In addition, he always stocked a huge supply of what could be called generic,nonbranded items of household use.
It was amazing to observe how things worked. He had an endless supply of all kinds of spares stocked in faded plastic containers, all around the shop. No doubt manufactured by innovative folks with still more innovative machines, and a fine sense of what fits where, somewhere in the hinterland. It didn't matter to Hitesh, if you came in with a GE, a Westinghouse, and Oster, a Kenstar or a flourishing local brand. It didn't matter if you arrived wearing chiffon in a chauffeur driven car , or huffing and puffing after a tangle with a crowd in a municipal bus.
He treated everyone with the same courtesy. The assumption was that it would be repaired.
There wasn't any token or queue system here. You sort of appeared at his shop. Regardless of a throng, his alert eyes noticed a new comer, and asked what the problem was. He nodded, asking about it, simultaneously plugging in someone else's electrical item to check continuity, and nodding to an assistant who was confirming some money ,to be paid back to someone else; in a fine display of multitasking that should have him giving seminars at B-schools.
I appeared with my very simplistic, non fashionable, no-name,mechanical, small contraption amidst all these power-items. Waited for the crowd to thin a bit. Hitesh appreciated that.
There was another family left, an old lady with her recently married daughter. They were looking at blenders. He told them the price and the old lady's face fell. They were speaking in a language different from mine, but such is the effect of Mumbai, that you end up understanding whats being said regardless. The lady was looking for something to be presented to her daughter's in-laws.
At this point it needs to be explained that in India, Divali and in-laws are kind of connected. The married daughter's first Divali at her in laws is a BIG thing. Her folks give presents. And despite legislation, social movements, et al, parents consider it very important that a decent gift is given.
There was some explanation going on. The old lady, putting aside her own pride explained the circumstances to Hitesh. Her daughter, confused and distraught, stood by, with a covered head. Her father was scheduled to have some surgery and they had set aside money for it. They would only be able to pay for this blender in installments. Maybe he should show them a cheaper variety, they said.
Hitesh nodded. More to himself, as if he just decided something. Amidst all those grayish containers filled with nuts, screws,washers,pins,rings etc of various sizes,makes, and colors, he climbed on something to drag down a packing box. Put the blender inside.
" You take this, Mother. " he said. And got busy with the contraption I had brought in.
The old lady shook her head trying to explain. Her eyes welled up. Her daughter put a comforting arm around her shoulders. The old lady opened her cotton bag which held her traditional embroidered money purse. Started counting out fifty rupee notes of which she would need at least twenty, if not more. Her hands shook. The surgery would have to wait. ....
"Did I ask you for the money, ma ? You can pay me next month. Its Ok. "
The proud lady was in tears. Hitesh pretended to be absorbed in finding some spare part for some item below the counter.
" Look, ma. Leave your address here. If you are too busy, give me a call, and I will come and collect the amount next month. Your Divali is my Divali. So take this blender which you have liked, and have a grand first Divali for your daughter and son-in-law. "
The details recorded,their faces confirming the existence of Someone-Up-There-Looking-Out-For-Them, the lady and her daughter left, a smile in their full eyes, and both carrying the biggish box.
Hitesh was doing something to the Chakli contraption and had a sad smile on his face.
" See, I don't have a sister. My mother passed away several years ago. And I am so busy in the shop, I almost never celebrate a proper Divali. ". He got out some pliers, and pulled out a pin from somewhere that was holding things from functioning properly.
" I just decided on the spur of the moment, that this mother's and daughter's Divali would be my own. I would have done the same for my sister if I had one." He got out a hammer and gently hammered something into place , after checking the positioning.
Handing me the chakli machine, now working, he said " Its no big deal. My job is to do my work, honestly, and to the best of my ability. "Baki sab Uparwala deta hai " (Everything else is given to us by Someone Up There)...
Divali is yet a week away. My machine has been repaired by Hitesh. I will probably spend the next week, making all the usual savouries, sending cards, making last minute repairs to something that needs to be worn by my daughter, on a specific day....... Folks will visit us, lamps will be lit, rangolis drawn on the floor.
Something tells me I have left something out.
Divali is all about being Hites(h). The second h, silent. And all of him, silently telling us what the festival is all about.