Photo credit : Swapan Haldar
Foreword By Piya Mukherjee: Whenever we receive a new story from Swapan Haldar, we know that there will be a valuable life lesson embedded in it. His journey of life has been so enriching that his stories are like gems coming out of a treasure box. I must mention that prior to writing for Chatoveracuppa, he has only written technical books. When we embarked upon our journey of storytelling, the story teller in him became prominent. This story like all his other stories has a climax that will say and mean something to everybody.
If you have ever wondered how people who are in their sunset age are still so active, hardworking, modest and humble, this story is going to resonate with your thoughts.
It was a short journey from Broken Hill to Cobar zinc mine in New South Wales, Australia. The nine seater craft took about 30 minutes. The airport was very small and was looked after by a single staff member. He attended to the single flight in a day and otherwise the airport looked deserted. The passengers carried their own luggage from the craft.
A cab took me to the hotel from the airport. The hotel was expensive. My daily allowance for a long stay in Sydney was meager. I could not afford to have lunch in the hotel. It was 1 PM and I was hungry.
I saw a lean and thin person, little bent due to his age, probably in his early seventies. He was coloring the outside wall of the hotel. I approached him to enquire about any nearby eating places. He offered to drop me to a close by place on his way back home. The vehicle was full with various containers, brushes and other tools that a carpenter and painter uses. It was not comfortable to sit in the back seat of his vehicle.
I saw him working next three days on my way back from my work. I felt sorry for him for all the hard work he was doing at his age. On the last day of my visit, I was waiting for a cab to take me to the airport. I wanted to thank him.
I told him very politely, “This country provides social security for the aged and the unemployed. Sir, would you be kind enough to tell me why you work so hard and how much you do earn for this hard work?” He listened and said, “It is OK.” I repeated the question and the reply was, “Just OK”. After some time, I asked him again, “We will never meet again and after returning to my country I want to compare the earning of a painter in my country for this work”.
He understood me and smiled. He took me to the hotel reception. There was a big painting on the wall of a twin seated craft flying in the blue sky. He asked me if I could guess who built the craft. After a pause, he said that he had assembled it when he was young and used to fly it from Sydney to this place for adventure. He continued that he was the owner of the hotel. “Then why?” I exclaimed. “I earn for my daily bread. I have a room to rest here. I have a house to stay with my family. The manager and other staff look after my properties. This is my learning from life”.
I wanted to touch his feet*; I could not, So I said ‘Be happy my friend and Good Bye. I will carry your message throughout my life’. I have been telling this incident to every batch of my postgraduate students for the last decade. I tell them, “Keep your eyes, ears and mind open, you will learn many valuable lessons in your own life”.
* Touching other’s feet is considered as a method to show respect, convey regards and gratitude in the Indian culture.
Authored By : Dr.Swapan Haldar. This is a true incident from his own life. Dr.Haldar a professor at Presidency University and Calcutta University and author of many books on Mining and Geology. He is also a passionate story teller and believes in sharing his life experiences. We are honored to have him as one of our regular storytellers.