Jaggar Dev came from Uttar Pradesh. He stayed in the outhouse. The man was no less than an enigma, for we could never make out what was his value system, that made him happy and sad on different occasions. When for three years he did not visit his village, but happily informed us that he had been blessed with a son, we genuinely had an expression of 'whodunit' on our faces! But Jaggar Dev wasn't bothered about it. Hold on for this till the end please.
Jaggar Dev came here in search of employment. He was as if a typical character just out of the cast of Ganga Jamuna - a Dilip Kumar movie of the sixties. He had bushy eyebrows with a mild and sparse drooping moustache. With a broad denture showing his teeth darkened with paan stains, he smiled ear to ear. He wore a vest and a dhoti. Also silver ear-ringlets.
In our mofussil town we stayed on the outskirts, quite vulnerable to burglaries. We offered Jaggar Dev the job of a chowkidar, which he thought was a regular appointment, as against his daily toiling, complicated and compounded immensely by search for a daily hiring of his labour. I gave him my NCC uniform and a whistle besides a torch. I recall him being on cloud nine, crooning, '"Sala main to sahab ban gya" a laDilip Kumar of Sagina Mahato.
It went well for about a week but one day we found that Jaggar Dev did not wake up till late in the evening. He must have kept vigil all through the previous night. But worried, we woke him up finally. He did no talking. His eyes were swollen. He had tied a tight band around his forehead. On much insistence, he opened up and broke down, "They beat me up! And abused me in the name of my…!" he sobbed. "But who? Why," we asked. "The cops! They said why did I wear their vardee. And who gave me a whistle that sounded fen-fen like theirs. And they hit me here, here, here," he spanked his posterior thrice. We couldn't help laughing. An upset Jaggar Dev gave up the chowkidar's job.
Jaggar Dev got news that his wife was coming along with his son named Hari Ram, who was born 'unto' him in his absence. When we sought to know how, he grinned and chuckled that he had sent his dhoti to his wife through one of his cousins, who was to visit his village the previous year. Sensing our being more curious, he smiled away as if saying, "After all, all beliefs in the world subscribe to reproduction in their own typical way."
Well, Jaggar Dev went to the railway station to receive his folks. He carried his son proudly and affectionately in his arms, but he kept cursing his wife, who followed him quietly along with the 'dhoti-carrier cousin'. We thought he might be angry for she bore him a son not from his groins. He explained later, "Ooo baat naahin na hai baboo! Ey sasuri to us sasur ka nati ko paan khilati layi hai! (That's not the case sir, this wretched woman has travelled with that good-for-nothing-fellow offering him the niceties of a paan)".
I still remember his laying stress on the word paan. For having been wronged, he quit his job. For not having been wronged, he adopted his son.
The writer can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org