The summer of 2014, I happened to visit this place, I never knew existed, a few months back. In the heart of a street crowded with workshops and greasy mechanics, was the gate of this quiet place, whose inhabitants were absorbed in their own pace and visibly oblivious to the life outside. The building was said to be about a century old but I personally always doubted this information for a century old building could not be in such a good shape…..not when it is located where it was located.
Luckily I had a chance to meet a lot of new people and though it does not happen very often but, I wish not to forget the people I met.
That sturdy, old woman with big blue eyes behind those big round glasses was a class of her own. A woman from a foreign land but her apprehension of the locals was remarkably astute.
The old man, short stature, bald and the kind of man who kept his half moon spectacles at the tip of his nose. Someone with not a very good sense of humor. His company I never fancied. A man of principles and discipline. But he valued his principles more than the people around. I won’t say his preference was wrong but it certainly did not match my taste.
A man in his early thirties. Over- weight, curly black hair. He looked much like some afro-american except his thick mustaches that curled upwards from the edges. He was always good at making jokes and especially parodies. But otherwise, a shy person.
I knew that ‘R’ was christian. She was a happy person who loved to talk. She seemed very animated when she told me about her experiences in Malaysia. I bet she regrets not marrying those Hindus and Sikhs who had proposed her but much as I can tell, she has a happy home. She was the kind of person who make the whole place come alive.
The best one was ‘I’. That young skilled man who knew what he was doing and why he was doing. I must above all appreciate his patience as a teacher.
‘S’ was a good kid. I know I intimidated her because she never stopped smiling when I was around. I believe that was a good thing.
I always found it strange the way ‘S.B’ always fought and resisted taking her medicine and injections, but she never said a word to me and always did what I asked her to do. Although I was glad that she showed me some respect but her silence with me always left me uneasy.
It was hard to swallow that ‘R’ died. He was in a terrible condition. His leg looked awful. What still haunts me is the time his every breath had become visibly painful yet, when asked, he did not as much as complained. Not able to reply, he sufficed to smile. In the world where we strive to be heard. Trying in vain to make our insignificant selves sound significant. Crying at every little thing. There was this man, wise enough to keep his dignity when disease and poverty had taken the rest away from him.
‘N.Z’ , the pushtuun, also had incredible patience. That gangrene and daily dressing must hurt a great deal. I’m certainly not proud of it, but I could never look at his foot without getting nauseated every time. I once forced myself not to look at his foot. On the face of that old man was always this child like innocence. He always looked the way a child looks with curiosity and bewilderment at people, trying to figure out whats going on with all these serious looking people.
I wonder who was the lady with the camera. I never got to know her. With her incomprehensible German, she sounded as if she is cursing someone while she was smiling as she talked. I imagined Hitler speaking like that, all the time she was there.
And I feel obligated to give honorary mention to the beastly german shepherd with whom my encounter was most unusual and thrilling but certainly not pleasant. I once happened to go to the administration block when I passed by an office whose door was open. Walking at my leisure, I was just passing by when I noticed a bull size dog staring at me from inside the office. The dog apparently did not like me much and started barking. As he stood up, he was as tall as me. For a second or two I just stood there trying to figure the magnitude of severity of the situation when I finally realized that someone was angry and someone was coming towards me and might actually bite me. I practically ran and did not look back till I was safe. I was terrified then but I must admit that I loved the adrenaline it gave me. And now to think of it, anyone watching the whole thing must have found it pretty hilarious.
For that place where I may not go again, I can borrow Metcalfe’s words that he had said about the Indian subcontinent in 1800’s, “There is something in this place to which the mind can not be indifferent”.