“Wisdom is the reward for listening over a lifetime.”
This is a story that needs to be shared to illustrate how ordinary people achieve extraordinary things and lead happy lives without having to compromise on basic values.
Anna, a fairly common name given to Maharashtrians indicates that the so named is an elder brother as well as after Rama, the eldest of the Ramayana brothers, and an Avatar of Lord Vishnu. The Anna that I talk about comes from a robust but marginal farming stock. Their rain fed agricultural land is about 50 Kms away from Pune city. When Anna’s father died, Anna and his two younger brothers inherited between the three of them 40 aces of this land. Recently, the Maharashtra Industrial Development Corporation has acquired four acres out of these 40 acres leaing a neat round 12 acres per head to each brother. The brothers live in the same village but in different houses. Their one sister is married to another farmer about 50 Kms away from them.
Rain fed land around Pune usually can raise only one crop per year and is usually coarse grain. Anna decided that he had to go to Pune to secure salaried employment to support his family to live a better life than they would as farmers. After he finished his schooling, he applied for and secured employment as a Security Guard with the Pune Municipal Corporation, thirty years ago.
From about twenty years ago, with the building of a dam near his village, there is water from a canal for irrigation and his two brothers are looking after the farms and doing reasonably well with three crops a year and some dairy farming. They have installed a gobar gas plant that provides them with gas for cooking and heating water, besides organic fertilizer.
Anna is now 54 and will retire as a Security Guard in four years. He has not ever been promoted to anything different nor does he aspire to anything different. He believes that a promotion would expose him to “matters’ not quite to his liking.
Currently, Anna is a watchman in a municipal garden to which he commuted every day from his village. It takes him two hours each way. He has to work in shifts and that keeps changing from 0600 hrs to 1400 hrs, 1400 hrs to 2200 hrs and 2200 hrs to 0600 hrs.
Anna today is a contented man. He was not always so. He wanted his two sons to study and become Engineers or Doctors and secure government employment. His sons had other ideas. Neither wanted to study and was honest in telling Anna that they were not capable of studying. After basic schooling, both apprenticed themselves to some civil contractors. Both now, are in their own business of transportation. Between the two of them they own six dumpers, trucks and tractors, which they hire out to various businesses. His three daughters are all married to employed sons in law in and around Pune and Anna is the proud grand father of eight grand children.
Anna is debt free, can look forward to a reasonable gratuity payment, and pension when he retires. He is under some pressure from his sons to take early retirement, as he really does not need to work any more. Anna, by all accounts is a wealthy man. He continues to work, not for the money but to finish his term with his employer with whom he has got a contract. His simplicity and willingness to commute four hours a day, and to work in different shifts shows character. Something, lacking in many modern young men.
Anna and I became friends in the municipal garden, which I frequently visit. I got talking to him and slowly he opened up and shared this background information with me. If you see him, what will strike you is his friendly face striking for its sandalwood paste dot on his forehead. He is efficient, diligent and does his job without much fuss and does what he can to make the garden a safe place for visitors.
If there is one aspect of his job that troubles him, it is the rude visitor who treats him badly, just because he is a watchman. He is however philosophical about it and says, in his inimitable style, that in his heart he cannot hold a grudge as he understands that the other guy is uncivilized! This insight, from one who would normally be considered as an uneducated man, is surprising for its accuracy and appealing for its innocent assertion.
Anna and his entire family are teetotalers, vegetarians and non-smokers. Anna is extremely proud of this background and expresses his anguish at the younger generation of the city who seem to possess exactly the opposite of these traits.
Anna is an example of simple living and lofty thinking. I admire him. I want to share this friend’s portrait with my readers for what it teaches me:
“You feel happiness through what you experience, not because of what you are.”