Out there it was a somewhat unfamiliar world – not there in books, nor depicted in cinema. It was during the initial phase of my deputation with Seva Mandir, when the final project and location had not yet been decided that I once found myself sleeping under the sky, which though unusual, was not a new experience. The only addition was the background music. Scores of species were at their best, singing to all their folks in the dark. The crackling sound of dried leaves (you could only play a guessing game about which reptile it was – the only clue being that they were all deadly) and the regular barking of dogs was harmonic. Though the platform where our bed was laid was higher than the habitat of these musicians, yet the darkness had removed that visual barrier for the mind to be consoled by the fact.
During the day, I accompanied two of our fellows and the owner of the house Jhaluramji, to the project location. The day was tiring and that night, tiredness was the only morphine that I had to fight the background music. It must have been just a few seconds before I would have started snoring, Jhaluramji then asked “क्या airport पे जहाज ऐसे ही खड़े होते है जैसे बसदिपो में बसे ” I was pushed to consciousness and could see a moving light in the sky. (Could I have drawn this comparison had I not seen an airport). “Kind of very similar” I replied and then the conversation jumped from one subject to the other. It continued for a while till I had to formally request for permission to sleep, giving the excuse of the day’s tiredness.( you can curse me and so did I when the next day I saw him starting his day at 5.00 am and none of his work was less physical than that of the others) While departing he said “माफ़ कीजियेगा कल रात में आप को सोने नहीं दिया, आप लोगो से बात करने का मौका बहुत कम मिलता है ”. I don’t remember what I said but I knew that it was I who had lost an opportunity.
On the way back, one of the Seva Mandir staff narrated to us that once during a fruiting season all the fruits of Jhaluramji’s lemon tree were plucked and stolen at night. Next morning, he did not discuss this matter with anyone in the village. In a few days, he developed lemon saplings and planted it himself at many of the households of the village. “अबअपने गाँव में किसी को निम्बू चुराने की ज़रूरत नहीं”. The interaction with Jhaluramji left a great impression on me for I do know that this is tied to my experience, and will ever be……
– SBI YFI FELLOW Manish Dwivedi
* The accompanied photo was taken from a hut-top on a stormy night, and is indicative. Presently, we do not have a photo of Jhaluramji.