Vicissitudes of Life
Epilogue- The story of life of Baba Ka Dhaba.
There are many things that we learn from the story of Baba Ka Dhaba.
At this moment we do not know, what will become of the dispute between Mr. Wasan and Mr. Kanta Prasad if it doesn’t get sorted out by the police, the chance of which happening is very remote because as I said, the police is guided by the Panchtantra story- Bandar Ka Nayay. But this story makes me think that how of the life that all of us spend on this planet and that it could be the story of any one of us.
As the video camera pans and the narrator starts with bringing to us the plight of an old couple running a Dhaba at a nondescript roadside in New Delhi.
We are shown a very old couple that has run in to deep financial distress because of the Pandemic. Pandemic is not directly responsible for it, but it has affected our lives or to be exact, it has affected all aspects of human life in many ways.
The plight of the old couple is brought to our attention by one Mr. Guarav Wasan who seems to be doing well with his short film productions. He posts them on the web under the banner “@youtube swad official”. His objective of bringing the stories of street food, seems to be doing well as he has quite some fan following on facebook and pintrest. From the narrative that follows the camera, as he relates the story of the old couple, he seems to be genuine in his intention of helping the couple by way of bringing their woes to the notice of the people through the powerful social media tool-youtube, so that at least the people living nearby may order food from him and the poor old couple may be able to make a living out of it.
It is primarily targeting the people, who like to have the street food. As we learn from the video that Baba has been running the place since 1988. So, in more than thirty years, Baba hasn’t been able to shift from a shack to a regular shop. Either his set up is unauthorized or he could never earn enough to upgrade from he started. He might be just about making enough to survive on. As we learn that he doesn’t even have a Smart phone which today even the poorest of the poor, even the beggars have. His food, is quite cheap and the serving, generous. From one of the questions asked by Mr. Wasan about his children, we learn that he has two grown up sons and a daughter. The daughter is dependent on him, but neither the daughter nor his sons help him in his business. It is not clear as to why they don’t do that. Maybe, the sons are doing jobs or running their own dhabas or some other business, but obviously they don’t have the time to bother about or take pity at the condition of their parents. At least the daughter who according to Kanta Prasad is still dependent upon them can help them in running their business, but she also can’t be seen doing that. Who knows why?
Children not taking care of the aged parents is A story of every house or “Ghar Ghar Ki Kahani” as it is said in Hindi and it is same across all sections of the society. While the rich can afford domestic help for assisting them in household chores, the poor have to depend on their children. Since the concept of living together is lost in history, the houses are small and the pay packets smaller, it is everyone for him/herself situation. It is same all over the world. The older people, even if they have money can’t manage their lives on their own. They need help as the health problems bog them down. In India even the concept of living in old age homes too is not a very popular one. Either they are too expensive or too deficient in services. There is no existing mechanism for taking care of the old people in the old age homes. I am not sure, if some NGOs work to alleviate the sufferings of the old people by way of providing them help or spending time with them.
The trouble started when there was a windfall in the form of the monetary help and orders for food started pouring in from the people, when the video went viral. I am reminded of the movies “It’s a mad mad world” of 1960s or Maalaamal Weekly based on weekly lottery draw. Money is the root cause of all the trouble but, well it is only the money that is running this world. God might be doing His part of spinning the earth, protecting it from colliding with other celestial objects, for keeping us alive on this only planet that supports life so far as it known to us. He might be having a great secret purpose of creating us, but for us it is the paper currency. An idea that replaced a cumbersome system of barter, by much simpler exchange of tickets, like the boys exchange the cards with pictures of their heroes, changed our lives for ever. It is so popular that we are all hooked to it, crazy about it. From the day of its creation the whole human society is literally dancing to its tunes, because it can get us any material thing we need and it can get us all those things we desire, that we think will get us the ultimate happiness. We are so lost in acquiring those material possessions that all thought of the purpose of us being here is lost to us.
Time continues to have its toll and we are oblivious of this. There is a continuous attrition going with in us of our body. The biological clock is set ticking, the day one is born and the day of the judgement arrives, unannounced. All the wealth and fame become meaningless then. There’s regret for the desires unfulfilled, but there’s no time left.
This time round, the God sent a tiny agent of death, hitherto unknown to our bodies which have the intelligence of storing in memory how to fight, every antigen that invades it and has the potential to harm it. But this one is new as it beats the millions of years of human evolution and has exposed its vulnerability to us. It might be debated for years whether this was a zoonotic agent that crossed over from some wild sea creature some Chinese ate or it was through a contact with some exotic, nearly extinct ant eater or the soup of some bat that he/she tasted or it got because of an experiment that went wrong or it was intentionally created as a weapon, an outcome of a diabolic plan. Whatever be the motive, the reason, the cause of its creation, it has shown to the man the power, the creator holds over us, but has it changed us in anyway?
During the initial phase, when the people were dying in hundreds and there was panic all around, there were those laboratories making money by giving false positive reports and taking %age of the loot from the clinics they were sending the patients to for treatment. There were instances where false negative certificates were given to the families of the people who had actually died of Covid in exchange of money so that the dead could be given a normal burial at the graveyard instead of being dumped in a special graves dug for the infected patients. I am also reminded of an instant when a doctor who had got himself infected of Corona virus while treating his patients in TN was denied permission for being buried in their community burial ground when he died of Covid-19.
This tiny pathogen has brought the worst of human behaviour to the fore and because of high speed exchange of news made possible by the high tech gadgets that the advancement in technology has given to us, the whole world has seen it as video clips and still shots but there are very few stories of the people, who shed their fears and came forward to help those who were suffering, except for the health workers. Those days of faith in the stories of the saints who cured the lepers by kissing them are long gone and in the present day, one would not recommend some to experiment such mythical cares, or are such beliefs really lost to us? If you can recollect that the initial spread of Corona in India is largely attributed to one Tablighi congregation at Nizzammudin in Delhi where the Maulvi declared to the assemblage that if death comes by hugging the people in Masjid then it is the best way to die. He is still hiding from the police against warrants of his arrest because of his misplaced beliefs, his pupils became the cause of spread of virus to many and certainly brought death to many. There are legends of the past, where we it is said, that leprosy of the people was cured by a priest who kissed those suffering from it. No, miracle is like this is going to save the humanity from Corona, but as I write this, it comes to my mind that there is no alternative to the magical powers of a mother’s kiss that gives the child and instantly relief from the pain he gets after a fall.
Before my thoughts run astray any further, let me come back and put an end to my story. As of now, we do not know what will happen to Baba and his Dabha and how sincerely will the police investigate, if at all it does. If the case finally goes to the court, whether there will be anyone to fight for the justice for the Baba and for how long will the case languish in the files of the courts before it comes for the hearing. What will be the outcome, I do not know. The battles in the court rooms are fought by legal eagles. The judge is surely going to find it difficult to decide. It is not as straight forward a case as that of the TRP manipulation scam where the police can pounce upon the paid viewers and hound them to name a particular channel for paying them for upping the TRP.
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