Thirty-seven

It was past 1pm. The workers were all lined up in the hallroom, three on one side and two on the other. There were five today, one more than the number that existed till the previous day. It’s because the main worker had been told that they ought to finish the cutting by today, so he cleverly bought one extra making my dad pay Rs. 350 more per head. Last time, I had given them jeera (juice) bottles to drink after lunch. But today I wasn’t liking them much after my mom told me that they simply waste time talking and don’t do work for what they get paid. There were four members last week – two men, two women. And throughout the day they managed to clear only one fourth of bushes, on the left side below the yard.

Now they all sat down for lunch, murmuring. Sunil and I were inside our room, adjoining to the hall, hearing their movements. I had shut the door because I was wearing skirt and I didn’t want the men to see me though they already had, while I was pouring water over to the rose plants this morning.
We heard the footsteps of our mother walking from the kitchen into the hall. She served them rice, walked back to the kitchen, returned with a vessel of sambar and poured on each leaf plate, over the rice. And they began eating. Few minutes later, we heard them getting to their feet. They had finished eating almost at the same time and while they were leaving, there was this one man, old white haired, still grabbing fistful of rice mixed with sambar. He looked up as the others were stepping out to wash their hands. This crooked man was now in a hurry. My mom who had noticed this came to the room, took a chair to her side and began talking to him. She asked him about his children, which school they go to, what class they were in and things like that. He seemed to have relieved a bit and got down to his normal speed of eating. And he was answering to my mom like a small child when with somebody elder. After he finished and was gone, we asked mother if she was taking census of that person that she was enquiring about his children’ school and all.
So she replied ‘No, he was alone sitting there. So I was just accompanying him’ ‘The others didn’t wait until he could finish and left him halfway. He appeared uncomfortable to be eating alone and I was afraid if he would leave the meal unfinished’
I, at that time realised something. That why a thought so humane as that didn’t cross my mind. If I were in my mom’s place, I wouldn’t have done that. Because just serving him food was my business and nothing beyond that. I wouldn’t have care to talk to him, whether he was alone or accompanied.
So what does it take to understand human emotions? Place ourselves in their shoes? Maybe. If he were my dad, I would have done what my mom had. Maybe that’s what we are to do. To treat each human like your own family. He’s also a father to his two children, who’d wait for him in the evening to return from his work. A husband, to his woman who cooks food for him. A son to his parents who are relying on him. When you look at a person as one’s kith and kin rather than as just another man who is unrelated, as just another worker, there will be love and peace among each soul.

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