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Finding heroes at unlikely places

chandigarh Updated: Feb 17, 2014 11:29 IST

Jamuna came to work for us, always riding an immaculately kept bicycle every morning. The bicycle was an old one, bought for a pittance. Being a fastidious woman, she kept it sparkling clean and well oiled. Whenever she appeared at our gate, she invariably reminded me of Vivien Leigh, the heroine who played the role of 'Scarlet O' Hara' in 'Gone with the Wind'. Her features and physique bore an uncanny resemblance to Leigh's.

In spite of her being illiterate, qualities like honesty, punctuality, responsible behaviour and prim-proper work were the hallmarks of Jamuna's personality. Anyone wanting to lead a quality life could learn a lesson or two by simply emulating her. A few days after she started working for us, Jamuna accidentally broke a glass tumbler.
"Jamuna, did you break it intentionally?" I asked. "Oh, no, I work so cautiously," she said.
"Then don't bother, glass is bound to break, sooner or later. It's only that one should not be careless." Relieved, she said, "Where I worked earlier, they used to deduct the price of the broken items from my salary."

Jamuna's level of understanding often made me wonder, what she could not have become had she got an opportunity for formal education.

One day during extreme winter, she came to work in spite of having high fever. "Jamuna, why did you not stay at home?" I enquired. "I didn't feel like sitting idle at home," she responded.
"Okay then, sit here and I'll make tea for you. After having it, go home to take rest. And don't come until you are well." She smiled to say 'thanks'.

She worked for around eight years for us. But then change is the law of nature and accordingly she had to go to her 'des'. She brought Ram Lakhan, her nephew, to replace her. Aged about 20, Lakhan was an honest, intelligent and diligent youth having an amiable disposition. He used to wash and clean cars in a few houses, early in the morning and did odd jobs later in the day.

One day seeing me writing, Lakhan said wistfully, "How I wish I too could read and write a letter."
"Would you like to learn Hindi, Lakhan?" I asked. His eyes lit up, "Yes."

The next day I brought 'Akshar Mala', the Hindi alphabet book, for him and gave him a notebook, pencil and eraser. Every day I taught him for about half an hour. A keen learner, he progressed fast and was able to read and write Hindi in a month. His joy knew no bounds but I wonder if he was aware of the satisfaction I got from making his dream come true.