The rain wouldn’t stop. And I had to reach college in ten minutes for I had a test. I waited outside the metro station and looked for an auto, desperately. One after the other, autos passed. I cursed all of them. Bloody idiots. And then suddenly, one autowallah stopped, seeing how flustered I was. And I am glad he did. Because the next fifteen minutes in that auto would leave a life-long impact, it would teach me more than a stupid class ever would and I would get off from the auto a better, a more inspired person. Here’s one of the most beautiful journey’s of my life-
Bhaiya. Kitna loge? How much will you charge? I asked, knowing he would demand double the money owing to the rain and my desperation to take the auto.
He turned around and pointed to the meter. And I developed an immediate liking towards the man. You would know what I am talking about if you have lived or travelled in Delhi.
‘You want to go to Jesus and Mary College?’ He asked after I got on.
After a gap of two minutes, the most inspiring conversation started.
‘It’s a good college I have heard. I am sure you would have worked hard to get in’ He said enthusiastically.
‘Well.. Kind of.’ I said.
‘My son is in class 9th. He wants to become a mathematician. What are the good colleges in India and abroad’?’ He asked in a very matter-of fact fashion.
Abroad? I thought. Now that’s a bit too ambitious for an autowallah.
‘I know its difficult for me to afford. But I don’t want to look back and think that I could have done something for my child and I dint.’ He clarified, observing my silence.
‘No, no. I was just silent because I don’t know many good mathematics courses. I am from psychology background, you see.’
‘Hmmm. Even I wanted to study. A lot. But as you can see, I couldn’t. My father passed away and I took up all the responsibilities. But I wouldn’t let this happen with my son. I will make sure he studies whatever he wants. For as long as he wants.’
I smiled, not knowing what to say. This man would make me cry, I knew it there and then. And after ten minutes, he did.
‘ I love teaching him. I cant teach much. But I try as hard as I can’
‘ Do you find time for teaching him?’ I asked.
‘Kisi bhi cheez ke liye time banana padta hai madam. ’ You have to make time for things you want to do. He said, very simply.
‘My son’s education is important to me. My son’s life is important to me.’ He went on. ‘I reach home by seven in the evening. I don’t watch any TV, I rather like spending time with my wife and my son. I talk to him about his school, ask him about his friends. I ask him whether he likes any girl, I understand that this is very natural in his age.’
‘Wow. What is your reason behind doing this?’ I asked, curiosity brimming.
‘Madam. I hear all this news- about rapes, murder, and theft. I get very concerned. If tomorrow, my son grows to be a murderer or a rapist, I will be equally responsible. That’s why I spend quality time with him. And not only I teach him his school stuff but we read stories together, I teach him to be a better human, I read Bhagwad Gita to him every day. That’s why I reach home early every evening. To spend time with my family. Because it’s important you know. I can probably earn Rs 10,000 more (a month) if I run the auto at night. But spending money doesn’t guarantee being a good parent that raises a good human being. Spending quality times does.’
‘I want to be an amazing parent, madam. Every Sunday, I go to Daryanganj book market and buy cheap, second hand books. I know I can’t afford to take him for these movies and amusement parks, like other parents can. But I try to make up by doing everything I can- we read together, play together, go for walks, discuss the daily news.’
Silence. And tears that I was holding back. College was hardly two minutes away. Hold back those tears. I reiterated to myself.
‘ My biggest achievement would be raising my son into a man who is independent, who respects everybody, who is sensitive towards others feelings. I hope I can be that parent. And not just the one who prepares their children to take up jobs. I know I can’t influence the world with my opinions. But I surely can influence my child.’
‘Aap bohot ache hain, bhaiyan. Kaash sab maa-baap aap jaise hote.’ You are amazing, brother. I wish all parents were like you.
‘Thank you madam’ He beamed, seeming very proud.
He stopped the auto, I had reached college. I wish I dint, not that soon. I handed over the money, holding back my tears and thanked him.
I just turned around to leave when he called me out. ‘Madam!’
‘ Sorry. I know you are getting late. But can you tell me some reasonable institute which teaches English-speaking and reading?’ He enquired.
‘Why?’ I asked.
‘ My son is in a very good private school. At parent meetings, all parents speak English. I want to, too. My son has never told me to do this. But I want to do this, for him. I want to be his hero.’
In an instant, a gazillion thoughts buzzed in my head. How this man, his ideas, his purity had inspired me. How he dint have much money, but he was probably a better parent than most who had more than him. How he has taught me much more than any class ever could. How he took away all the negativity. How I will strive to be a parent like him when the time comes. But more importantly, I hoped that his son knew that he was a lucky, very lucky boy.
I snapped back to reality, told him a couple of names and assured him that he could find it in any number book.
‘ Thank you Madam’ He said, smiling.
I smiled, turned around, heading towards the main gate of the college. And I finally let those tears fall. Shamelessly.