This is not my story. This is the story of the security guard who is often seen at the entrance gate of my apartment. He is very jolly and greets everyone with utmost warmth and hospitality. That is how we got talking last Sunday. I have tried to reproduce the story as he narrated. So here it goes.
I was born in a poor family in Bihar. I am the oldest of 3 brothers. My father worked on the farms of the landlord. He did his best to ensure that we always had whatever we needed. Ambition was a luxury that we could not afford. We were content with what we had. My father was illiterate. Hence, he always emphasised on the need for education. None of my friends went to school, but my father enrolled me into government school the very day I turned six. I resisted. I wanted to be free like my other friends. But he said, “Do you also want to die as a bonded labourer like me or do you want to be like Ram Babu?” Ram Babu was the postmaster of our village. He lived just next door. He was one of the very few acquaintances who could read. He was our goto person whenever we needed to write some application to BDO. I wanted to reply to my father that I wanted to be like him.I liked one thing about my father. He could take a day off whenever it rained. But irrespective, Ram Babu had to go to the office. I preferred to stay mum because I knew that my answer would not change anything in life. My father had made up his mind to get me admitted to the school and there was no stopping him.
Half-heartedly, I started going to school. Initial days were tough. I would always try to skip school citing one excuse or another but my father would not listen to me. Gradually I started liking the school. Mostly because they provided free meal in school. It was the only meal that was guaranteed, other meals depended on the season’s harvest. I had another reason to like school.I was making my father’s dream come true. Like Rambabu, I could also read english text and write application to BDO. Soon after, my younger brother joined the same school. 2 years later, my youngest brother too joined the school. Now, I had company on the way to school. Being the eldest, I would command them to carry my books and my mat while I would drive my way to glory on my dad’s cycle.
It was the first day of class 8th when an incident happened which changed my life forever. My father fell ill. We thought he would get better. His health only got worse. Later he was diagnosed with cancer. Doctors at the city hospital told us that he must undergo chemotherapy immediately.We did not have enough money. Even the landlord denied to loan us the money. We could not approach banks either. Whatever little land we had, we sold it. We got his operation done. He got better but still not good enough to work. All our savings had also gone. We had no other source of income. My mother started working in nearby houses but that was not enough. I had to drop out. I started working at landlord’s farm. Things were getting better when suddenly dad’s health deteriorated again. Doctors suggested another round of operation. This time we did not have money or land. He was already on medication and it was difficult to meet the expenses of medicines alone, another operation was not at all possible. Yet, we tried our best. My younger brothers too dropped out of school. They started working at a Tea stall in the city. All of this wasn’t enough to arrange for the money. Dad’s health kept on deteriorating. He passed away.
I became the decision maker of the family. I wanted my mother to have a better life. I also wanted my younger brothers to get proper education. Hence, I decided to go away to some big city so that I could earn more. One of the Villager promised to take me to Delhi and get me a decent job with a salary of 4000 per month. I came with him. Little did I know that he had plans of selling me off. He sold me to one of the factory owners on the outskirts of Delhi. I was expected to work in a chemical factory. They provided meal, cloths and shelter but no salary. We would work for 18 hours a day. The only difference between us and the machines at the factory was that we would work even when there was no electricity. We were not allowed to leave the premises. Anyone who attempted to leave the factory was brutally beaten up by the security guards.
I thought that was the end of my life. I would die as a bonded laborer like my father. But then, I knew my father wanted me to be someone like Ram Babu. It was father’s wish that kept me going.I planned for months and finally, on Diwali night I climbed down from the rooftop and escaped. I went straight to the station and boarded the first train that I saw. I didn’t have a single rupee with me. Next morning when I woke up, I could see C.H.A.N.D.I.G.A.R.H written on the railway station bench outside. I arranged for few bucks and called my mom. Few train journeys later, I was back home. Life at home was still miserable. I could not withstand the plight of my family. We were neck deep in debt. I decided to give it another try. Delhi had disappointed me but it had taught me few crucial life lessons. It was my entry into adulthood. I took a train to Mumbai. Someone from my village ran a security agency here. I directly came to his office in Malad. In a week’s time, I was working as security guard, earning 5000 a month. I saved as much as I could and sent it back home. But this was not enough. Half of my salary went in accommodation. I could not save much. I direly wanted my brothers to resume their school. So I took another job. I would work as a security guard for 10 hours at one place and for another 10 hours at another. This meant more money and less expenditure as I could cut down on my accommodation cost. I was making 10K a month. I could save 7K a month. Soon enough, my brothers started going to school and mother stopped doing daily chores for other houses.
It has been 3 years now. My salary has increased since then. I have saved Rs 1,20,000. I plan to leave this job and go back to my village. I would keep aside 20K for my mother’s health. We have started building a concrete house which would cost us another 70K approx. With another 20K, I will start a grocery store. The remaining 10K would be used in transit for a month or two till we get stable. I also wish to continue my education. So I will resume my formal education soon. I need to clear class Xth to be eligible to join Army. We still have dad’s cycle. I will use it to go to school. While I am at school, my mother will take care of the grocery store.
My dad believed in me. He wanted me learn from my mistakes and be successful in life. I do not have any choice but to live his dream.