Friday, October 05, 2007

Learning Curve

Boobalan.......Tussi Great Ho Yaar!!!

I couldn’t wait to narrate this experience of mine. I landed at Chennai Central Railway Station at 10pm to board my train to Bangalore. I generally travel light and I carry only that much baggage which I can lift myself. I have never employed the services of porter ever, but today was a different story. As soon as I alighted from the autorickshaw, one physically handicapped, frail young man, one of the thinnest six footers I have seen, came limping towards me. He had visibly suffered from a polio attack and both his legs were handicapped. But, I was surprised when he asked me if he could lift my baggage if I paid him Rs 20 ( Half an US Dollar)!! His spirit humbled me and I accepted his offer. I handed over the lightest luggage I had. He lifted it, alas, he could not walk more than 10mts or I was too moved to see the way he went about carrying my suitcase. I immediately unloaded the briefcase from his head, and paid him Rs 20. Even though he had not completed his contract, I appreciated his will to work and earn, rather than resorting to begging in streets (which many physically handicapped people resort to).

The story did not end there. The guy had another friend who also seemed handicapped and who came limping to me and said that he will carry the suitcase, which his friend couldn’t carry. I was a little disinclined to this offer, but when he told me that he wouldn’t charge me anything as I have already paid his buddy, I had no option but to give him the opportunity to earn his own bread, when I would pay him once more for his good intentions. So went the story and the second guy, who called himself Boopalan, and who was partially handicapped, started walking towards platform no 3, carrying my suitcase. A few more meters and I could see that Boopalan was sweating and panting. I suggested to him that I will pay him there and will take back the suitcase. He was unimpressed by my offer and considering it as an insult to his self respect, Boopalan walked even faster. It was absolutely heartrending to see him do the job inspite of so many physical handicaps. He was so thin that it appeared as if it had been months since he has eaten.

I asked him how much does he make in a day for his living. He replied that he makes around Rs 50 (a little more than an US Dollar) and even in that frugal earning, he has to pay Rs 5 or 10 to the local policemen as bribe. At this juncture, I couldn’t control my emotions and my eyes moistened. I pitied the state of law and order in our country, where there is bribery and extortion from policemen even from such hapless souls who are willing to work and earn rather than do illegal activities. Boopalan was walking in front of me and I was closely following him, feeling completely overwhelmed by his gumption and energy. But the mother of all acts of kindness was yet to come.

A few steps ahead of us in the platform, a blind man was walking with the help of his walking stick, swinging it all around him to probe for way. As we crossed this blind man, Boopalan, who was carrying my suitcase in his head holding it with right hand, suddenly took hold of the blind man's walking stick and asked him where would he want to go. The blind man replied that he wished to go to S3 coach. Without second thoughts, Boopalan smilingly said that he would hold his stick and asked the blind man to follow him by holding the other end of the stick. I was flabbergasted. Scores of people were in the platform and most of them did not bother even to give way for the blind man. But here is one guy, physically handicapped himself, vehemently refusing to take money without doing work when I offered, carrying my suitcase on his head and walking with great difficulty, but having a heart bigger than the biggest and helping another blind man to find his way through the crowd. I admired this man. I was humbled. I was on my knees. I saw a Hercules in Boopalan. He seemed to me as a man of extraordinary moral values and resilience par excellence.

It was a revelation, a sight to watch, a lesson which a thousand classrooms won't teach what I learnt in those five minutes from Boopalan. I learnt that how ever much difficulty I am in, I must always work and earn honestly and ethically and how ever much physically incapacitated I become, whenever possible I must treat, guide and help people who are less privileged than me. This is what Boopalan taught me in 5 minutes and he showed that it is possible to be like that. I promised myself that Boopalan would join my list of inspirational leaders who have shaped my life and my soul. As a token of respect, I emptied my purse and gave all the money I could find in it. It was a two months pay incentive for him for his good work and a good heart!! He possibly had never seen so much money at one time and his hands were trembling when he recieved it. I wished I had more cash to give him. As he left me, there was a lump in my throat and heart.

Boopalan…… Tussi great ho yaar!!!


Prat said...

what a great story, Jingchakananda Swamigal. Funny how you seem to talk of the same Madras Central in such different tones.

Got here hopping around. Your blog is good entertainment :)

The Soul Doctor said...

@ Prat

Madras Central is a kaleidoscope. When I see so many people sitting their, some happy, some sad, some pensive, some quarreling, some sleeping, some chating, some singing, some eating and some starving, ......i am left to wonder....that each one of us have a trajectory in life. so different from one another and that keeps us preoccupied all life, with out realising which, we always spend most of our time thinking what others are thinking about us, when the matter of fact is that the other person is also thinking what others are thinking about him.

Thanks for dropping by prat.:)

P B said...

moving story indeed.

Prasanna V Bharadwaaj said...

Very impressive blog karthik. Boopalan has made my thinking cap on! When I am back to India, I will try my best to create an opportunity to such people to live with respect. A bit I could do for my fellow countrymen!

Karthik said...

Major Saab...

Just came across your blog.. Thank you very much for sharing this incident.. Kudos to Boopalan.. He has inspired me and has made me think "What am I doing here???"


ush said...

Very inspiring story major....i was really moved. Wenever i see people like Boopalan i feel we r so lucky to have watever we have, n still we complain, we r never staisfied, we search happiness n contentment outside wen actually, it shud come from within ourselves.

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