Tuesday, 25 August 2015

The 'Ironman'

In India, we can hire the services of the ‘isthri’wala or the ‘Iron’ man. His job is to roll press or steam iron the clothes that we give them. Some of the apartments have a complete laundry shop running at the basement.

When I was still at school, the apartment systems were not so popular and I grew up in an independent house. Back then my father had built a garage while constructing the house. But unfortunately (or fortunately, I am unable to assess), he could never own a car. Undeterred by his economic constraints, he gave the space to the ‘Iron’ man of our street.

Initially I found this a hindrance as my play area was occupied by him most of the time. I would, ignoring his presence, lift my head high in the air as I walked past him. I thought that he would understand my protest and as though by magic, vanish from the spot!

That never happened. After a few years, my father sold the house to a flat promoter, to sponsor our higher education. He booked a flat for us and we relocated for a year till the flat was ready.

We moved back into our flat and as per my father’s instructions, the garage, this time was covered and made into a study room.

The ‘Iron’ man settled himself outside the gate.

When I walked past him, I no longer lifted my head as I had grown a little older and probably a little wiser too! If he did not have the garage for his shop, neither did I have the place to play. In fact, I felt sorry for him!

One day I returned from a match, absolutely tired and drained. I was bruised badly on my knee and had lost in the last round of the match. The journey back from the venue was not comfortable either. As I opened the gate to step inside, the ‘Iron’ man called me to tell that my parents had gone out and would only be back in the evening. He handed over the key to my house.

I could not take that as I wanted to share my physical and emotional hurt with my mother. Before I knew what I was doing, I burst into tears.

The ‘Iron’ man, withdrew the key almost instantly. He sat me down and asked me what had happened. I took control of myself. Wiping my eyes, I told him that I was hungry and I will be alright. He walked up to his small mobile cart and took out his lunch box (Those were days when fast food and pizza joints were non-existent).

He gave it to me and asked me to eat. I looked at him in utter disbelief.

He asked me to take half of the food in the lid of the box and leave the other half for him. As I started eating the food, he told me something that changed the way I viewed life.

“Food meant for one person can be shared between two or three people, but the food meant to be consumed by two or three people can never be consumed by one person!”

Life has a strange way of teaching lessons. I have not forgotten to pass on this lesson to my children and always encourage them to share their food and their knowledge with people around.

I realised that knowledge is incomplete when not put to practical use. The great poet Thiruvalluvar, in his book Thirukkural has written thus:

“Paguthundu Pal Uir Oombudal, nooloar
Thoguthavatrul ellam thalai.”

When translated this means that sharing what you have with all life forms around you is the best virtue one can possess!

An uneducated ‘Isthri’wala, taught me how to practice what is considered as the best virtue by the one of the most learned man to have lived on earth!

A person from humble roots can be a storehouse of great wisdom!