During childhood, my grandfather told me the story of a police officer named Ahmed Hussain from his village, fondly called Hussainya by the village elders. He had spent his entire service span of 35 years in Madhya Pradesh. He was an only child; his parents had passed away when he was young. Thus, he had nothing to lure him to return to his village during service.
Hussain was a self-made man. He married a local girl from Bhopal. Unfortunately, she died during childbirth. Hussain, who did not have children, did not marry again. He remained engrossed in his duty. Hussain was an honest police officer.
On retirement, he returned to his village to settle down. He got off the railway station with his luggage, which included a few iron trunks, holdalls and a bicycle. As he passed by the banyan tree outside the village, a common meeting place for the village elders, an old man called out to him, "Oye! Hussainya, wapis aa gaya hain? (Oye! Hussain, you have come back?)."
Hussain dropped his bicycle and came running to the old man and fell at his feet, crying. The old man asked him, "Ki ho gaya hai tainu Hussainya, ronda kyoon hain? (What happened Hussain, why are you crying?)." Hussain replied, "Buzurgo, painti saal ho gayay, kisi nay mainu meray naam naal nahi pukaraya. Sahib hi banaya reha saari umar. Aj lagda hai ghar wapis aa gaya haan (It has been 35 years since someone called me by my name. I remained an officer throughout. Feels like I have come home now)."
While I was working for a British MNC, I had a company-leased house in Sector-33, Chandigarh. The shopkeepers in the market addressed me as Sardarji. When I shifted to my ancestral house in Sector 8, where I had spent my childhood, my daughters were surprised to hear the shopkeepers address me by my nickname 'Sheru', they couldn't fathom it. I explained it to them, "I used to buy marbles, kites, notebooks and toffees from their shops as a child, and that is the name they called me by, then. I have aged now, but am still the same young Sheru for them that I was in 1966."
One is lucky to have someone call one by the childhood name. The lineaments of our childish faces are visible in our middle-age faces. I thought these are the only people who remember me as a child. When they are gone, my childhood will vanish.
During childhood, I could never understand why Hussain cried. Now I know why.