The Great Babaji

"Nanni, Oye Nanni Thale aa, Ay sabzi ghin vanj" ( Hey Nanni, Come down and take these vegetables) he would shout at the top of his voice in our Multani dialect. This was the shrill voice of my grandfather who called me by my pet name which I did not like. His name was Locharam, a funny name by all standards but he hardly bothered about it. He was obsessed by his "Karma" and not by his name and perhaps no one among our relations called him by his name. Since he was the eldest in our clan in Ahmedabad he was called "Babaji" by all. We were all refugees from West Punjab who were fools to go to Punjab from Ahmedabad to be got looted and returned empty handed.

My grandfather who married twice but lost both of his wives in early age never rested on his oars. What may be going in his mind, after having lost his wives, and his only son (my father) in his early years could not be fathomed, but his outer visage represented calmness and serenity except his shrill voice. In his hey days, when my father was alive, he made money without investing anything. He knew how to do deal with the British masters in Ahmedabad Cantonement when he would ask them what they needed and supplied them promptly after buying from the local market, taking a profit between the buying and the selling price. And in the evening he played tennis with them not wearing a Pant or Half Pant but a Dhoti and tennis shoes. And people say his shots were perfect. 

When there was no money in the house when we lost our father in our native Punjab, he went to Miran Shah (now in Afghanistan) and did the same work of buying and supplying. And when he would come home, he would bring those Miran Shahi pomegrantes by the sackfull.

He never sat idle when others would have retired. He manipulated his age document and took a job in PWD in Ahmedabad and made a niche in the hearts of one and all, by his service and selflessness. On return from the Office, he would go to the wholesale vegetable market and buy vegetables at wholesale rates and bring all the vegetables laden bags on his bicycle which was tilted on the right because of the weight.

Even till the last few days of his life, he did not live with us because he thought a father in law cannot live with his widowed daughter in law or may be he was afraid of my mother who always questioned his generosity to others. And yes generous he was because though he earned a lot as a Railway Gaurd in the British Railways, as a Army contractor or in the Government service, he did not have any savings when he died except Rs.250/ which he had earmarked for his last rites.

And large hearted he was when I found a small path running from one end to the other behind the Cantonement Office in Ahmedabad  which is still used by the bicyclists. That path was made by Locharam alone to see that no cycle-tyre( tire) gets punctured from the thorny grass of that area.


More by :  Suresh Mandan

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