A lot of water has gone past the bridge since I met Banwarilal last. Today, I met him after more than eight months. I saw him sitting at the place where I used to drop him whenever I happened to give him a lift in the past. I pulled up by his side to say, “Hi!”
“Hello Banwarilal, how are you doing? Tired today? Relaxing here before you resume your walk home?”
“I am doing fine, Sir. Not really tired but barely able to walk,” he said with a diminishing smile.
“Life has been difficult since we met last. A vehicle ran over my foot, crushing it almost. I was bedridden for several months. In the meanwhile I lost my job. Now, I am working for a contractor––more work, and less pay. Earlier I used to get Rs 9000/-, now it is a mere 7,500/-.”
“I feel sorry for you. I hope your son is doing well enough to take care of the family?”
“He has also suffered much setback. He can barely support himself and his wife. Our lives are in a mess.” He massaged his foot as he spoke to me. A chill ran down my spine when I saw the scar marks on his foot.
I had no doubt that he had gone through hell.
“Uhmm,” I encouraged him to continue, hoping that it would make him feel lighter.
“Now, I have only one desire––to be able to repay a loan of Rs 40,000/- before I die. If I don’t pay it,” he looked at the sky and continued, “I’ll have to settle the score up there.”
I stood speechless for a period that felt like an eternity. He had refused monetary help last time I had offered him cash. Would he accept it this time on?
I re-mustered my thoughts and offered to give him some money to repay part of his debt. I thought his hardship might have changed his outlook to such unconditional assistance.
Smile returned to his face, “Thank you Sir, for that generous offer, but I don’t want to be in debt of a kind person like you. God willing, I shall be able to settle all my debts before I knock at His door.”
I didn’t want to leave it at that so I continued talking with him for some more time, clicked a picture (something that will inspire me in the times to come). He told me that he takes a break everyday at that spot between 5:00 pm and 5:30 pm before resuming his walk back home.
I bade him goodbye, hoping to meet him again. Soon.
On my agenda now, is to work up an offer that he cannot decline when we meet next. I owe it to him for teaching me some of the good things in life.