“He is poor but rich by heart”.

By – Rabin Prasad Kalita

I got up at the early crack of dawn as usual. The dawn chorus of birds chirping with ecstasy made my morning pulsating. I had finished my ablution after a brisk walk. It keeps me cool for the day and boosts me up with new avenues of ideas for my storylines. Being fresh and energized, sat across my study table. Opened up the piecemeal news on my laptop and rolled around. 
Got fed up with the same old stuff I read every day. Most of the dailies are field with the articles of the corona virus and the rest becomes the news of Indo-china stand-off tensions. The sports page narrowed to the minimum. Signed the site out in anger I decided to conclude my half-written story that I Kicked off the day before.  
I was struggling to join the sequences of the story. Fell short of words to express my thoughts the way it should be. Thought of a cup of hot tea would help me out. No sooner I contemplated; my wife placed a mug of tea on my table with two pieces of crunchy biscuits. It seemed like thinking of a crow to sit on a toddy fruit to unlock and surprisingly that happened abruptly as expected!
It didn’t feel my heart until I finished the last sip of pungent tea. Yeah, it made me energized and resolute! 
Again I tried rolling the tip of my pen for the best-fit link in between my ongoing write up. In the meantime, someone shouted outside the main gate that I heard vaguely. But I ignored, possibly the call was not aimed at me and I got myself busy in writing yet again.
My idea was wrong. A couple of seconds later, my son who was busy coding at the other room wanted my response that someone was loitering outside the gate who wants to talk me.
It was drizzling outside and the alien stood soaking in rain. Paying his reverence with a Namaskar asked me for a job so that he could feed his family for that day. Started pleading me to have at least for a day’s work or else, his children will remain in an empty stomach.
Probably I knew this man. His face was almost vivid as the mask he wore was hanged down to the chin. Still, I asked him, “May I know you”? 
Sir, I’m Suresh “don’t you recognize me”, who had been working as a labourer during the construction of your house. “Mostly I was engaged for shifting sands and stones along with other manual workers. You did great help by making me work for a substantial period. “How come you forgot me, sir, replied by the latter”.  
I could remember the man in his early fifties. A truly faithful man seemed to be suffering from pennilessness that could be read on his face. The continued lockdown has made him jobless. It becomes difficult for him to pull on even a day. Everyone avoids engaging these people to work fearing of virus transmission. There are a lot of Suresh roaming unwaged today. I can understand these people are facing a tough time day by day. 
Had it not been a rainy day, at least a day’s work could have been arranged for him. Being that a lazy rainy day, frankly speaking, I had no job to offer him. I was muttering myself.
I stood a while on the veranda thinking to help him anyway. Factually to help this everyday flocking poor, becomes no easy for me to show generosity with my limited income.
Still I told him to wait a minute and quickly brought a hundred bucks note for him. Strangely, he refused to receive the cash that way. Rather said, he is labour and has great potency to work hard but not to beg. Further said, begging seems to be the last option for a feeble. Hence it’s better to solicit for work but not for free alms. If at all he takes the cash that shall be received as a loan, but he can’t shoulder such liability. He loves to live on today and deems tomorrow is uncertain.   
That puzzled me a bit. He doesn’t need money without putting his toil. Thought, this kind of person is rare now when most of us bent on betraying each other. He is firm on his principle. It doesn’t matter how poor he is! 
This chap had won my heart. If I had told him that I had no work to do, he would have gone straight.
I had a small heap of stone chips outside the gate left abandoned for many months. They were fully covered by broadleaf grasses all over. That looked so shabby and became a refuge for snakes. I asked him to clean and keep them neatly by putting a boundary of bricks around the stack. 
He seemed hungry which I could peep through his face. My mom said once; not to put anyone to work with a hungry stomach. Hence I briefed my wife to arrange a nice breakfast for him to regain his strength before he starts to work. 
The breakfast was served. He took a small bite out of the whole snacks and the rest he kept wrapped along with a pair of his working dress. I was humbled noticing him quietly. I assumed that he must have kept aside the remaining nibbles for his children 
I saw a heart so near that cries for one’s blood. It provoked me to think this is an extreme instance of a father. No one can replace the eternal love of a father. No father is as expressive as a mother. But his sentiment remains in nerves. A father has many roles to play while maintaining the balance between his work and family. Even he has to win bread during adverse weather. All these things he does because of his unconditional love towards his child. He continues to love even at the hardest time.
Finishing his allotted job shrewdly within a couple of hours he reported me back to have a look whether he missed out anything. I saw no room for my displeasure. Happily, I paid the dignity of his judicious labour with a pack of sweets for his children. 
The poor man with a much richer heart has left behind a mark for my children too. The allegiance he built up over the years shall knock some hearts and also teach the essence of being a father.

The writer Rabin Prasad Kalita is an Ex-Air Warrior . he can be contacted at E-mail: rabin1966@gmail.com

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