Saturday 29 June 2013

Dashing Old Souls

The only cyber city in the world where one has to stand in queues for hours to pay electric or sewage bills is where I live in. I rushed to HUDA (Haryana Urban Development Authority) office to pay sewage bill that day. I reached there at 9:30 AM to avoid long queue and luckily there was nobody before me. First time in my life so far, I was the first in any queue. I enjoyed this thought for few seconds and started enquiring. An employee, who was busy fluttering his broom out side the office, told me that the cashier will come at 10 AM.

Soon people started coming and most of them were Sr. citizens. They voluntarily take this responsibility of paying the bills or their highly educated children assign it to them. A frail framed old man, in a round neck T-shirt and crop pants, came and asked about the remaining time for window to open. The other old man, swelling his nostrils wider than required to inhale the necessary oxygen, told, “Half an hour”. The frail old man annoyed and said, “Who the hell will wait for half an hour, all these government employees are corrupt. Who knows he will even come or not.” It seemed as if he is scolding to all other who are waiting in the queue. He kicked his scooty and rode to his way. Demonstrating the damn style statement by his body language, he made others feel the importance of half an hour for him.    

A short heighted, partially bald, old man asked, “Gupta ji how is your health now?” So the big nostrils old man was actually Gupta ji, I noticed. Gupta ji replied, “There is little improvement. I saw you yesterday while going to see doctor, where were you going on feet in the scorching sun?” Having completed his sentence, Gupta ji swelled his nostrils as if he has just completed a 100 meter race. The short heighted old man replied, “I was going to bank for withdrawing money, where else will I go? Government has labeled us ‘Retired’; we are of no use.” Gupta ji smiled to show his agreement and asked, “Bansal Yaar, Why don’t you use ATM card?” So he is Mr. Bansal, I noted. Mr. Bansal replied, “It requires one to have almonds daily to memorize ATM pins and other passwords that my pension amount doesn’t allow me.” “Though as per government data, 32 INR are enough for a person to survive!” he added sarcasm.  I was moved by his point. Technology is empowering youth day by day; there is hardly anything for our elderly family members, I was thinking. Looking an opportunity to demonstrate the knowledge gained by reading newspaper daily, one old man poked his nose and said, “Bhai saheb, internet is not at all safe; hackers have capabilities to decode your pin also. Moreover walking has its advantages too.” They all indulged in their time-pass conversation.

Stressed till grave, an old man was wandering here and there. He was shivering as if he has just come from death bed to give a final touch to his larger than life assignment. He dialed a number many times but couldn’t connect with intended person. After many efforts the call got connected, he said, “Siya, they will only accept cheque if due date is passed, it is written… But…but your mom…OK.” Just one sentence and lots of ‘buts’ he could speak and then he listened quietly, disconnected the call and stood in the queue. He was sweating a lot. The respected old man probably belonged to a ubiquitous species of men who remain dominated by fairer sex throughout their life - being afraid of mother, girl friend, wife, and daughter in law. 

Sporting sunglasses and wearing a red T-shirt, another old uncle joined the queue. He smiled at Mr. Bansal with his gutkha stained red teeth and said, “Why are you standing in a common queue; you are a government-of-India-certified Sr. Citizen. Come to this queue. It moves faster.” Mr. Bansal replied, “Bhatia ji, I am at a fairly better position in this queue also. Why to take advantage if I can afford being ‘general’! I have seen many people come with a female member with them just to take advantage and get their work done quickly.” Mr. Bhatia said, “I would even appreciate such people; in a way they are doing a favor. It adds the spice of diversity and keeps other persons interested. The moment one finds suitable intoxication worth having his eyes on, he starts enjoying his time in queue and the one who doesn’t find keeps his brain busy hunting.” I was shocked with his revolutionary views and more importantly his guts to share them in public.

The cashier came at 10:10 AM and I paid my bill, collected the receipt and left for my office. I kept thinking on the way – Some old men are so stylish and confident as if they are proud of their wrinkles. The curvature of backbone cannot libel their style statement that has been built over the years by number of success stories they have created in their entire life.

-Amit Roop 

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