Wednesday, April 29, 2009

The visitor of the dark !!!

There are few incidences from our childhood, which have a lasting effect on us throughout our lives. Unbearable may have been such incidences when we were kids, but they do make us smile with satisfaction when we remember them as adults.
“The visitor of the dark” -one such incidence for me.
Imagine the cold, silent winter nights when you used to sleep next to your mom, under the warmth of a thick, soft blanket. You are fast asleep and there is no sound except the familiar “krr krr” of the ceiling fan. Suddenly you hear a shrill and loud whistle shaking each and every nerve in your body. It makes you wake up with a start and hold your mom even more tightly. You are soaked in a cold sweat due to fear and shock. After a few tense moments you realize that the “gurkha”, the night guard of your locality, blew the unnerving whistle.
This was a regular incident that spoiled numerous nights in my childhood and even in my teens. After I woke up to the call of Gurkha I always felt as the luckiest person on earth to be sleeping under mom’s protective arm. But often I remember to have got cold feet before going to sleep only out of the fear to wake up in the middle of the night all alone.
Gurkha- one who protects us from the thieves at night. Really!!!
Well I could have afforded a thief better than this crazy creature called “Gurkha”. Why does the Gurkha have to be such a dreadful and scary animal when he is there to protect us? I would always ask my mom. And to that my mom would give an equally convincing answer, “ Beta, what’s the use if you don’t fear the Gurkha? After all he is meant to scare and expel off all the thieves with his strength.
Well! That sounded great; but I was unable to imagine the appearance and behavior this mighty unseen warrior who would single handedly scare off all the thieves and antisocial creatures. Often I would keep guessing about how did he look, what did he wear, did he have a sword or a pistol to fight the thieves or could he just chant some magic spell to turn them into mice or pigeons. Phew! Dark, secret, mysterious and dangerous. I would often leave my thoughts at these four words after giving lots of strain to my tiny mind.
And know what…… one day all of my doubts about this mysterious fighter got cleared in an instant. It was some day after Diwali. When after hearing a knock I opened a door, I saw a middle aged man with a wheatish complexion standing casually in the doorway. He was wearing a khaki half shirt and a pair of clean, black trousers. He had a pleasing smile and was humming some famous Hindi film song. When I asked him who he was, he replied with the same pleasing smile and humble voice “ I am the Gurkha of your society. Please tell your papa that I have come for the Diwali bakshish.”
Gurkha!! At my home! I couldn’t believe my ears. My legs were completely stuck to the ground. I kept staring transfixed at this visitor confused whether to believe he is really the one who has haunted so many of my childhood nights. Just then my father came; and looking at the surprise on my face, tapped my shoulder and said with a smile “he is our Visitor of the Dark- the Gurkha” and both of them started laughing.
God! What an emotional shock!! But I was not dreaming after all. Jolly and expressive, the Gurkha started talking in his broken Hindi. He told us everything about his work, how did he land in such a place, how his family (wow! He had a family too) had migrated to Maharashtra from Sikkim 20 years ago and how the job came as an inheritance to him.
He explained us that even if in the beginning he scared the job, he never gave up. After some initial doubts and fear he started enjoying his job and the nighttime strolls through the silent streets. He even had a couple of successful attempts at catching the thieves, which led him to get a prize collectively from the residents of the colony.
I wanted to know what did he feel at night alone, totally cut out from the world. He accepted that sometimes it did get too much on his mind. But his job required courage, responsibility and patience. Just knowing the fact that all the homes and their residents relied on him made him feel proud of his job.
I asked him what did he feel about people’s attitude about him. Did he feel isolated? “ Not at all”. He replied with a smile. “Initially I did feel hurt but somewhere u have to accept that with your job comes certain other things that you can’t change.” He recounted some of his experiences with children like me, who; after knowing his identity would ran away out of fear. He told that times have changed a lot since last few years and now they had a better standard of living than his father’s times.
So this was him. One of us but yet so different in his own world. I was overjoyed to know and understand that this visitor of the dark, whom I feared so much, was very much human after all. But what made me happier is that discharging his duties for this unusual job, he was never complaining. He was happy and content.
After he went away, I kept thinking about this man for days to come. Now I no longer feared him. Instead I felt a newfound respect and praise for him. I longed to meet him once again but never got a chance though.
And the most important thing I realized after this incident was that it was the ignorance about him as a person that made me fear him. But once I faced him all the fear was gone. This is one funda I still follow, if you fear something, face it and the good will follow.
I still wake up with a shock at night occasionally when I hear that shrill whistle. But then I smile to myself and go back to sleep thinking “ The visitor of the dark on his visit…!”