“Happy Birthday, Mahavir Swami!”

“When you make a greeting card for a person, you express your true love for that individual. It is one way to say that you care,” Chhaya used to tell our son, Mudit. Mom’s word being gospel, the little Michaelangelo used to let go of his imagination to create masterpieces of greeting cards. A skydiver, a flower, a hut, a car, a motorbike, a bird, or even an Uncle Chips sticker––literally anything that crossed his mind when he sat down to make a greeting card––found a place on his canvas (paper).

Some of the best wedding anniversary cards we have ever received in over three decades of our happily married life have been the ones specially designed by him––they are among our most prized possessions.

Mudit Greetings 1

In due course, it became a habit with him. If it was a birthday, it was his responsibility to make a birthday card.

One day he came to Chhaya and said, “Ma, tomorrow is a holiday. The school will be closed. They say it is Mahavir Jayanti. What is Mahavir Jayanti?”

“It is Mahavir Swami’s Birthday. He is our God,” explained Chhaya. Little did she know that her reply would trigger a chain of programmed actions; those that went into designing a birthday card.

Mudit was gone for a while. When he returned, he had in his hand a beautiful greeting card conveying birthday greetings to Lord Mahavir––perhaps the first ever birthday greeting card that the Lord had ever received.

Mudit Greetings 2 Mahavir Swami

Any reason is a good reason for creativity.

Being a Player

The seeds of this endeavour were sown in the December of 1996 when I arrived in Delhi on posting to Air Headquarters. For one like me, who had until then lived in small towns, the transfer was a cultural shock. I was not used to the fast paced life of Delhi. Heavy traffic, growing heavier by the day troubled me most. It was painful travelling every day by the Air Force bus from my home in Noida to the office in Vayu Bhawan and back. It was even worse if one were driving a car. Being stuck for long hours in traffic was a routine, almost. The stretch between Outer Ring Road and Akshardham was particularly bad. The traffic jams could be kilometres long and could take in excess of an hour, at times, to clear up.

Those jams sucked, turning helplessness into a permanent emotion.

The inauguration of the new bridge across the Yamuna, and the road connecting the Ring Road and Akshardham, came as a big respite. I did not enjoy the benefits of it for long. I was posted out to the tranquil town of Tezpur.

Everything had changed by the time I returned to Delhi on posting about eight years later. More than a dozen new flyovers had come up. Infrastructure to support the Commonwealth Games was also nearing completion. Ideally, these developments should have solved the problem of hold-ups in traffic and should have provided succour to the commuters. But the respite was short-lived because Delhi and the NCR had contributed vehicles to the roads at a very high rate.

The infrastructure development fell well short of the need. Traffic snarls returned with a vengeance. They were unpredictable in terms of time and location. The choice was between accepting the situation as it were (fate) or to do something about it. I chose not to be a sorry spectator; but to be a player and to contribute my tiny bit to address the problem.

I had observed that on many occasions the trigger for a jam used to be a broken down vehicle. The recovery van used to take some time to reach the spot and remove the vehicle. Ironically, the jam caused by the broken down vehicle used to hamper its recovery. For the jam to be eased it was imperative that the vehicle be taken away to a location where it would not obstruct the traffic; and it had to be done expeditiously.

IMG_3800I started carrying a towrope with shackles in my car. And, whenever I came across a broken down vehicle causing traffic jam, I started towing it away to a location that would ease the traffic situation. Drivers of such vehicles are always surprised getting help from a stranger and at a time when they need it most (and expect it the least). For me the glow in their eyes is a big reward.

In the last ten years, I have towed more than a hundred vehicles to comfortable locations. In addition, I have helped others looking for assistance on the roadside. Each encounter has been a memorable experience.

Author’s Note: Some of those who were towed/ assisted by me, and some others with whom I have shared these experiences, have resolved to follow suit. Some have even started carrying contraptions (rope and shackles) to provide assistance likewise. The contagiousness of the endeavour has nudged me to write this post and the ones that follow in the Section: “O Delhi!”

Being ‘a spectator’ or ‘a player’ is a personal choice.