Ramkumar would be 5 ft tall, wearing a black kurta pajama, turban, and loverly smile on his face. He looked perfect for Instagram, just I had no smartphone, and we were in the Orkut era. He was preparing the fire as November evening gets much colder in north India.
I was with Ashish on our way to meet Vishal in Ajmer from Jaipur. We had a flat tire and were working on fixing it. It was a sort of ghost encounter in the middle of the highway, a sealed compound with disputed property written on the gate. The property was under litigation for over 30 years. Thanks to the Indian judiciary, the owner and chowkidar both had switched their generation. Ramkumar’s father passed on the job to him before taking his last breath.
Me: Bhaiya paani milega?
Ramkumar: Ekdum milega Saheb.
Ramkumar lives with his wife Radha and Eight years old daughter Munia. Munia never misses her school. Munia was singing, dancing, and hyperactive like other kids of her age. She wants to be a scientist and like APJ Abdul kalam.
Ashish: Abe salle, Kahan Mar Gaya. (That was for me since I was busy with Ramkumar, instead of helping him)
Me: Aaza chai Pete hai.
Radha got us some onion pakora, chai and Ramkumar set a hookah. Next 30 mins I was zoned out. Was it their selfless hospitality or, was I high over hookah? I can’ recall. Ashish joined us after replacing the tire and giving me all the crazy looks.
I offered some money to Ramkumar, which he turned down. His words are still fresh in my ears.
Ramkumar: Garib paise se hai, Dil se Nahi. (poor with money, not the heart)
My eye went numb, and I hugged him and forcefully put the money in his pocket for Munia’s sake. I told him to buy some toffee for her.
For a change, I prayed for the property to remain disputed for years to come. It will ensure shelter for Ramkumar and his family. Munia must have grown up by now. I hope she ended up fulfilling her dreams. Most women in our country live life on the dreams, checklists, matches defined by their parents.