Its 9:30 AM sharp in the morning and as usual, the security guard locks the main entrance of the school. He swings the key-chain on his index finger and before anyone could even notice, he flips it at the back of his palm and stands straight in front of the closed gate. The assembly begins. Teachers- sharp, smart and as strict as soldiers, begin inspecting every student at the assembly, making sure that the order and discipline of the assembly is maintained. Except for the fifteen minutes of every morning where every teacher acts like an M.P. guarding the prisoners in a jail, all the fifty-two teachers are very humble and friendly at other times of the school. There are teachers as old as the school and other teachers who are half as old as the other teachers. Somehow, the teachers’ room gets filled with this wide variety of species of teachers who, during their leisure time, have either some spicy gossip to share about their neighbors’ or about a teenager student’s love affairs with someone else.
Besides that, there are administrative staffs, often referred to as the Hitler’s army by the teachers, who impose rules and regulations on the chaotic teaching faculty. This army generally reports to its commander, the administrative head, who in turn, with the consent of the humble principal decides whether to cut off the daily wages or to deny any teacher of their privilege provided by the school. The principal most of the times denies any action however. Then there are the non-teaching faculty, whom the school likes to refer to as helper didis who serve tea and biscuits to the teachers during the breaks, take care of the sick children and are responsible to make the kinder-gardeners forget their busy parents and get accustomed to the school environment. Every body has groups, groups they can share their laughter with and gossip anything about- the teachers’ group, the Hitler’s army group, the helper didis’ group, all but the security guard who, is thought to have attained the lowest level of education and is never invited to be social with anyone else except the school’s main entrance gate. Another reason why the security guard never gets familiar with anyone around the school is because he is easily replaced by someone else within a month or two depending upon their performance. The last security guard before this currently stationed personnel lasted only for fifteen days. The one before him lasted for about thirty days or so. This security guard, however, has been opening the school’s main gate for almost three months now with no complaints from the teachers, parents or the Hitler’s army whatsoever. Standing proudly everyday wearing a big smile on his face along with his uniform, Durga dai is a very cheerful man in his late forties. He serves at the school gate from 7 AM in the morning till 7 PM. Every morning, he reaches the school at 6:45 AM in his shorts and slippers. He wears a single pair of t-shirt and shorts for a whole week, washes them at Saturdays and wears the same pair next week. Once I had reached school early in the morning around 6:30 AM maybe, because all of us teachers were requested to be as early as possible for the Saraswati Puja that day. I didn’t see the security guard there to open the gate so I had to open it myself and park my bike. A few moments later Durga dai arrived, saluting me in his shorts and t-shirt and slippers.
‘Good morning sir!’
‘Good morning Durga dai! Did you have your tea?’ I smiled back.
‘Yes sir. Did you?’
‘After puja Durga dai.’ I replied short.
Durga dai smiles a lot. He wears a pair of glasses, through which his tiny eyes sees the world. His hair has started to whiten and it seems like he feels pain on his left knee. I quickly cut off the conversation and went to help my colleagues with the chores, forgetting that I was in conversation with Durga dai. Maybe he went to change his dress and stand by the gate quickly, that’s his job after all. The celebrations went well, everybody bowed before the Goddess of knowledge and everybody were given prasad. Durga dai was called at last, and given one too. Everyone began eating in groups, the teachers, students, everyone were smiling and the kids were happy eating the sweets. All but Durga dai didn’t have anyone to talk to, anyone to smile with. I noticed him walking quietly towards the main entrance. A few moments later, I followed Durga dai to his gate. He was sitting there, silently on a chair, resting his shoulders on the back support of the wooden structure, holding the packet of prasad on his hands and looking at it. Somehow, seeing him like this made me feel sorry for him. ‘He has nobody.’ I thought.
‘What happened Durga dai?’ I went close to him and asked.
He seemed to be shocked for a while and raised his head to look at who it was.
‘Oh its nothing sir. I just had my tea. I don’t like sweets in the mornings sir!’ He replied looking at me.
But I sensed something wrong. Durga dai, who always wore a smile on his face, was sad this morning. And whatever it was that he was hiding, he didn’t want to reveal it to it seemed. From the way he talked to us all the time, I never expected him to be this introvert.
‘Sure its the only reason you’re not having this delicious pack Durga dai?’ I tried one last time to know what the main reason was. I might have sounded a bit clingy too then but he didn’t seem to get offended.
‘It’s nothing sir. Enjoy the time sir.’
I smiled at him before I turned by back on him and started strolling.
‘My daughter used to love buniyas very much sir!’ His voice was low, sad and depressing.
I stopped at once and turned back. I had never seen Durga dai like this before. His face was hidden behind his security guard hat and from what I heard, his face must be shrinking with grief right now I thought. I quickly pulled another chair that laid there and sat beside him.
‘What happened Durga dai? You were cheerful always. I always felt like you are the most happy person at our school.
‘A man who is happy is either too drunk or grieves too much in darkness, sir!’ Durga dai replied.
‘Would you like to share with me Durga dai?’ I asked.
He nodded his head positively.
‘My daughter,’ he continued ‘ me, and my wife were having lunch at our room when it all began to shake- the utensils began to fall, the television collapsed to the ground and my wedding picture that hung on the wall shattered to the floor. I grabbed my daughter and held my wife’s hand and ran as fast as I could. We lived in an underground flat, so I had to climb upstairs. Somehow, I slipped and I and my daughter fell on the staircase. my wife somehow managed to get out of the disaster and off to the road she went. All of a sudden, the walls began to crumble down. I thought this was the end, so, without any effort to get to the door, I covered my daughter and hugged her as tight as I could. The walls fell on my back and my daughter laid beneath me. The last thing I remember before fainting is having the feeling that my daughter was safe. A few days later, I woke up at the hospital, my left leg, as the doctor said, had broken at places and they had to stick a metal plate on my left leg. I asked the doctor about my daughter. He said that she didn’t make it. When the rescue team took us out of the demolished building, I had a faint pulse and my daughter died due to suffocation they said. For a moment, I cursed myself of having crushed my daughter to hard on my chest to protect her from the walls. But what could I do more? God wanted it that way. 2072 was the year of great loss for me sir!’
When Durga dai finished, I could see him wipe the salty waters from his eyes. For a moment, we both remained silent. I had no words to pacify him neither could I say him anything to comfort his soul. His head was still facing the packet of prashad, his thumbs were rolling over the packet as if he were caressing his daughter’s hair.
‘I’m sorry Durga dai. I never knew you had to go through all these all by yourself. The loss is unbearable, I can only feel. Living with the loss of someone whose laughter meant world is a tragedy I wouldn’t even want my enemies to face. may God give you strength Durga dai. I shall pray for her departed soul.’
‘Thank you sir! After I got discharged, I went back to the place I used to live. The building was completely ruined. My stuffs were all buried deep down inside the earth. The only things I have now is the memory of my daughter playing with her doll in the bedroom.’
‘And what happened to your wife?’ I asked.
‘That whore.’ He raged.
‘Please don’t say so to someone who once gave you such a beautiful daughter Durga dai. That’s bad.’
‘No sir! She deserves it. She came with a man after three weeks at the hospital. All she could say to me was that I was a cripple now and that I don’t have anything with me, all the money was gone and that our only daughter was dead. She left me because she said she deserved a better life with the man she is with now. The man looked like a pimp to me. I didn’t bother asking her to stay. I was amazed on how someone who vowed before the world to be there through thick and thin stayed only when I could bring food on the table. She couldn’t help us struggle through our thin. When I needed her the most, she showed her true colors.’
‘Don’t worry Durga dai, time will heal they say. I hope God will give you strength to get through this too.’
‘Thank you sir. Can I say you something sir?’
‘Sure dai. Go ahead.’
‘Sir, I have been working at this school for six months now, and nobody till now has ever asked me if I had my tea or not, if I was fine or not, and nobody actually felt like I was a human who could talk to except you. Thank you sir.’
I felt glad he said so to me. I never knew that others never talked to him until he himself told me so.
‘No worries Durga dai. You’re like a brother to me. Talk to me anytime you feel like okay?’
‘Sure sir. Thank you.’
‘Well, I’ll get going now Durga dai. The teachers must be looking for me.’ I smiled at him and left.
‘The watchman asked me for Nrs. 200 today! What a beggar.’
‘Did you give him the money?’
‘I gave him out of pity. He doesn’t seem to be a drunkard. I think he needs the money for his family’
I overheard two of my colleagues talking as I was arranging the notebooks of ninth graders.
‘Anything new sir?’ I barged in.
‘Well, looks like our school’s salary isn’t enough for our watchman to sustain his family’ She giggled as she said.
‘Or maybe he has another family to look after?’ Another of my colleague added his opinion.
‘Lets not judge anyone. Maybe he needed it for something in need.’ I smiled at them as I replied.
‘Why would Durga dai need extra money?’ I thought to myself.
Few days later, after my lunch, as I entered the school premises, Durga dai called me in a low voice.
‘Sir!’ He smiled at me, waving his hand gesturing me to come to him.
‘Yes Durga dai, did you have your lunch?’
‘Yes sir. I did.’
‘How are you these days Durga dai?’
‘I’m fine sir. Actually I wanted a small favor.’
‘Go ahead Durga dai.’
‘Sir, I needed Nrs. 200. Would you lend me please?’ He asked hesitatingly.
‘Sure Durga dai.’ I slipped out two one hundred rupees notes and handed it to Durga dai.
‘Strange.’ I thought to myself as I returned to the teachers’ room.
‘Durga dai asked me Nrs. 200 today.’ I told one of my colleagues.
‘So you’re number thirteen out of fifty two of us!’ He replied mockingly.
‘Huh? Thirteen of us have been asked for money by Durga dai you mean?’
‘Yeah buddy. Twelve of the female teachers and the first from the male species!’ He laughed.
‘That’s strange. I wonder why he has never asked you guys.’
‘Well, only you thirteen go and talk to him. We’ve never actually spoken to him mate. See, that’s the benefit of not talking to someone who won’t do good to you.’ His laughter grew more as my confusions grew even more.
‘Let’s not put it that way man. He’s gone through a lot. Let’s not judge him. He’s a human being after all. Maybe he needs the money for settling his own shits.’ I replied harsh.
Both of us enjoyed an uncomfortable and awkward silence until the school bell rang. He never came to me to talk about Durga dai from that day on-wards.
Once I saw Durga dai handing a Kit-Kat to one of the students of fourth grade. The child was happily sitting on the laps of the watchman, enjoying her chocolate and hugging him at times. She didn’t seem to mind the dress he was wearing at all, neither did she hesitate to sit on his laps. She wasn’t bothered that he was poor, and she didn’t even care if he was a watchman and such. All she cared was the love the man bestowed upon her, the care and affection he showered on her. It made me realize certain things- first, who are we to judge others based on their work? Second, why haven’t I hugged Durga dai ever? I was fond of this man after-all, and I have always enjoyed a 5-minute chitchat with him every-time I had a chance.
The next day, I called upon the child Durga dai was holding yesterday and handed her a box of momos during the tiffin break. I requested her to take it to Durga dai and have him eat with her own hands. I had to ask her to lie to him if he ever asked about who gave her that momo; I didn’t want to sound like doing something for someone and getting praises and all.
‘Durga dai deserves this’ I thought.
From the corner of the teachers’ room, I could see Durga dai feeding the girl first and eating a few pieces later. A moment of true happiness for both it seemed. The tiffin break was over and the girl merrily kissed his cheeks and ran towards her classroom. Durga dai watched her go until she went in and the teacher closed the door.
Next week, Durga dai asked me for Nrs. 200 again. I gave it to him happily. I realized that Durga dai was asking me Nrs. 200 on every Fridays and that I was spending almost Nrs. 1000 per month on him. I didn’t bother about the money though, but I began getting curious on why he had the sudden urge to ask the money from thirteen of the teachers at school. It continued for a few months, and I never hesitated to give him the money. The only question was why? Why would he ask money?
One day, I decided to ask one of my colleagues whether she was still contributing to Durga dai’s request or not. So, I went to the primary block and called out one of the teachers from the classroom.
‘Mam, I have a matter to discuss with you.’
‘Mam, does Durga dai ask you Nrs. 200 every Fridays too?’
‘Well, not on Fridays, but he asks me every Tuesdays sir. Why?’
‘Nothing mam. I was just curious whether its only me or is it you people who are still giving him money. I guess I’m not alone.’
‘Yeah. I just give him the money. He seems too good to be neglected. I don’t know though, why he asks the money.’
‘Maybe he is in trouble mam. Do you think we should go and talk to him about this matter directly?’
‘I suspected so too. But I feel like asking someone about their private life during professional hours are unethical. Maybe the thirteen of us should all gather up and ask him someday?’
‘I don’t think that would be a good idea mam. He might feel embarrassed before us all. I think its better we don’t ask at all.’
‘I guess we wouldn’t know where our money goes after all then?’
‘Let’s think of it like we are helping another man in need? Would that help you console yourself mam?’
‘I’ve been doing that all the time whenever I ask myself on why would Durga dai need the money?’
‘Well, I guess its better that way then mam. Let’s all not ask him anything then.’
‘That’s fine with me sir. I’ll pass the message to others as well. They were talking about asking Durga dai too.’
‘Kindly do mam. Let that man be at peace for himself.’
‘Sure. Good day sir.’
‘Good day mam.!’
I returned to my block and rested my head on the chair, happy and satisfied that I was not the only one to be asked with money and that Durga dai was actually being helped by my other faculty members too. I hoped that whatever would be the reason, Durga dai would one day, tell us why he wanted the money.
It was a rainy day. I honked the main entrance. The rain seemed to rain like forever and I was all drenched, even though I had the raincoat on. Durga dai came running to open the gate. I could see him from beneath the red gate, splashing the waters accumulated on the ground, and the umbrella he was holding was dancing up and down as he ran; I could see that from the top of the gate too. He hastily opened the gate. As I entered, he saluted me. I smiled back at him as I hastily rode forward to let him close the gate so that he could harbor to a no-rain-land too. I switched off my bike’s engine and opened my helmet. Suddenly, I could hear a bang. It was as if someone forcefully held onto the knob of the gate while falling helplessly to the ground. Durga dai never closed the door so loud. I turned back hastily, only to find Durga dai on the ground. He was laying flat, facing the sky, with his left knee pointing upwards and arms wide open, as if trying to embrace the huge sky. The umbrella turned upside down and began filling itself with the downpour. His hat fell wasn’t in his head and his face seemed to receive as much rain as it could. He didn’t move.
‘Durga dai.’ I shouted as I rushed towards him. No response. He didn’t move an inch. I touched his hands and then his chest. His hands were cold all of a sudden and his chest didn’t have any friendly rhythm that causes blood to pump. I shouted for help before I dialed for an emergency ambulance service. Everybody rushed, few without umbrella, few still on the other side of the block waiting for the helper didis to fetch an umbrella for them, few didn’t even bother to come out of the teachers’ room. Maybe they didn’t come out because they thought it was just another nasty accident like any other accidents happening frequently at school premises and that they’d get the spicy news afterwards from other colleagues present at the scene after-all. I knew it then and there that all the efforts to rush Durga dai to the hospital would all go in vain- he was already dead. But a faint hope, a faith in God for a miracle to occur made me positive about the life inside Durga dai’s soul. The ambulance arrived, the medics checked his pulses.
‘Faint pulses, there’s still chance.’ They lied. They put an oxygen mask on his mouth, placed him carefully on the stretcher and rushed him inside the van and drove off. I rushed towards my bike and started the engine and followed the ambulance too. A couple of teachers came along.
Within ten minutes, Durga dai was declared dead. His already dead body was handed over to us, along with a list of medicines that were required to treat a dead body. Durga dai was no more. The smile of a watchman who affected the fifth grader, me and other twelve colleagues of mine, along with the other cruel teachers who never returned a smile back to him when he saluted them, was gone. From a body that always had a cheerful face to a body that no longer was capable to sustain a life inside it, all occurred within fifteen minutes I guess. The doctors said that he had a heart attack and that he had been a heart patient for a long time. I was there, at the ward, listening to what the doctor had to say. He concluded, looking at the dead body with pity that, ‘although no traces of alcohol or smoke related activities have been traced in his body, it looks like he has had heart conditions for a very long time, carelessly neglected and never medicated.’ I knew that Durga dai never drank alcohol, and that the only reason why he looked so cheerful was because he used to grieve in darkness all by himself, according to him. But what got me confused was the doctor’s words- ‘never medicated’. It kept echoing my head for a long, long time.
I returned to the school, with Durga dai no more to open the gate for me, with nobody to smile at me. Only if I could have hugged him once, at least once, before he died? What would I have wasted if I took few minutes of my time to hug him? How would the fifth grader kid react to his death? How will she feel if she won’t see Durga dai standing on the gate again? A lot of questions I had, in my mind, and above all those questions, I had the biggest question in my head- why didn’t Durga dai medicate while he always would ask us for some amount every now and then? As far as I remember, Durga dai lived alone, his daughter had died and his wife had ditched him already. He had no intentions of marriage and he had no will to get a drink for himself either. If not for his medical fees, where would Durga dai spend the extra money?
Unsatisfied with the doctor’s answer regarding Durga dai, I went to the hospital once again, two weeks after Durga dai passed away. But nobody seemed to have proper records about a dead body. They never cared to record is death either. Everybody thought he was a watchman and such. And that pissed me off. Disappointed, I returned with a lost hope of ever finding the answers. I never knew anyone close to Durga dai, nor did I know his place of living either. It seemed like Durga dai never existed on earth! Reluctantly I held my helmet and wore it. As I was about to start my bike’s engine, an elderly woman came towards me, holding a broom in her hand. She seemed to me like one of the cleaners of the hospital.
‘Aren’t you the teacher from the school where Durga worrks?’
For a moment, I couldn’t believe my what I heard. An outsider was present, in this very earth who knew Durga dai. What more of a joy would it be. I suddenly took off my helmet and concentrated all my focus on her.
‘Do you know Durga dai?’
‘He and I are neighbors. That poor man lived all by himself.’
‘Why are you here? What do you want to know about Durga? I heard you talking to the clerk at the help desk. What do you need to know?’
Like a curious child, I quickly began asking her what I always wanted to ask Durga dai.
‘The doctors said Durga dai never medicated. But he used to ask money from me and other few colleagues from my work place. We all thought he used that money for medication. But from the doctor’s mouth, what I hear is not what I expected. Do you know anything about this?’
‘Well, I don’t know what he did with those money either, but I do know that he never used medicines. I didn’t know he had a heart disease either. Maybe he didn’t want to depend on medication? Or maybe he didn’t want to spend money for himself? Now, only God and Durga knows. But one thing I know about Durga is that he always smiles. Once, he helped get my water gallons inside my house and I got into a bit of chitchat with him. “I want everybody to smile.” was what he’d always say in middle of the conversation. That’s all I know now sir.’
‘Thank you.’ I smiled at her and left. ‘It seems like Durga dai never wanted us to know what his true intentions were.’ I thought to myself as I rode off.
The school has hired a new security guard. A fresh, young blood who looks cruel by eyes and concrete by his appearance. The firth grader didn’t attend school for fifteen days. On enquiry, their parents told that the kid cried for so long that she caught fever and now she’s recovering.
On the day of the fifth grader’s arrival, she came directly towards me and handed me a letter.
‘Durga uncle used to make me write this during tifin breaks. He told me not to give it to anyone except you.’ She said, hesitating.
‘Did he say anything else? Did you read this letter?’
‘I tried to read sir, but I couldn’t understand. He told me he couldn’t write, so I wrote it on his behalf. I tried my best to convert his Nepali speech into English.”
‘Thank you kid. Kindly go back to your class.’ I replied as I took the letter.
‘Okay sir!’ She replied short and marched towards her classroom.
I was excited, and sad, and terrified and happy, all at the same time, to have received a letter from a dead man, whose words were translated by a fifth grader. I was prepared to forgive the child for her bad English and had made up my mind to try to understand as much as what Durga dai was trying to express. I sat comfortably on my chair, relaxed my back and unfolded the paper to read what was inside.
Thank you for being such a good company to me. I have always felt you as a littlle brother. If I had a small brother he would look like you. Thank you for the money you give me. I don’t want to live long because I have no body. My only family is you and those teachers who helped me with the money. Thank you everyone for the support. Trust me, I have not used the money unwantedly. I have used it wisely. I want everyone to be happy. I want you to be happy. I wish you all the best for your future. Always be a good man. Always love everyone like you loved me. Thank you sir. Thank you teachers. Thank you for the momo. Thank you. I love you.
It was a plain English, alright, and I understood what exactly he meant to say. Now I regret even more why I hadn’t hugged him when he was alive. The letter was fine, I understood that it was his wish to die early, and that he didn’t want to waste the money on medicines. But he too, never answered why he asked us for the money weekly.
The school days passed by, day after day, it was a month or so now that Durga dai left. I still look at the entrance and pretend as if Durga dai is still there, smiling at us. The fifth grader sits by the side of the entrance gate every day during the tiffin break, hoping that one day, Durga dai might just come in from the gate and carry her on his laps. It touches me everyday. Now, there’s a young lad standing, and bringing in the mails delivered to him. He too, is alone, but he seems to enjoy it that way. Young blood.
The next day, principal addressed the assembly with a letter in his hand. He didn’t go through the letter but he described it in brief.
“It looks like Durga has left a legacy here, an example for all of us, a lesson for all of us. An ordinary watchman who taught us the lesson of giving. A true human who, with his deeds, opened my eyes too. I, being the principal of this institution was shocked on what he has done behind our backs to set this wonderful example. This letter here that I’m holding, is from an orphanage. The letter mentions here that our school has been donating Nrs. 15,000 to this orphanage from the past six months and that it has been stopped since previous month. Now I’d like to know if anyone of you have been making the donations to this orphanage? Anyone? Because this orphanage wants to know why we stopped the donations and is asking for us to contribute again.” The principal went silent for few minutes before he began addressing the assembly again. Within those silent moments, the teachers and staffs and students murmured among themselves to know who it was because it seemed like even the principal didn’t know. “Speak no more people.” The principal began. “It was not me, not you, not anybody living. It is a Durga, the dead watchman of this school now.” For a moment the assembly was noisy too. “He is the one who collected the money from thirteen of the loyal teachers of this academy and donated them to this orphanage. And the donations were made anonymously by him, not to get recognized and boast about his name and fame. He silently donated it in the name of our school. What a wonderful human he was, what a careless being I was not to recognize him earlier. Thank you teachers who helped him, thank you for those who didn’t too. Because those who didn’t, including me, have taught me that money cannot really earn you pride and respect. Thank you school.” The principal left the hall.
Soon after the assembly, the thirteen of us gathered in one big circle to discuss what actually happened.
‘I never knew Durga had such a brilliant mind.’
‘Neither did I.’
‘So what do we do now? Keep donating like we did before?’
‘Sounds like a better idea to me.’
‘Its all agreed then? Shall we consult other teachers too?’
‘I don’t know about other teachers but I am contributing.’
‘Okay. Lets do it then.’
‘Count me in too.’ I replied among the lady teachers.
‘Sir, why don’t you, on behalf of us go pay the orphanage a visit and know the situations of the children there?’
I was more than glad that one of the teachers asked me to do so. I had already made up my mind to go all there by myself too. But the intentions of other teachers were similar as mine too, and that, made me happy.
‘I’d be more than happy to assist mam.’ I replied merrily.
That very day after school, I drove to this orphanage. I learned that the orphanage was for the kids who lost their parents during the great earthquake of 2072 and it was run by youngsters. Each and every one of the founders would literally go out on the streets during daylight holding a donation box for supporting their orphanage. One of the members of the orphanage came to me and talked to me curiously.
‘Are you from the school where Durga dai works?’
‘Yes. I am.’ I smiled at him.
‘I met Durga dai once when I tried to enter the school.’
‘I never saw you inside the school though, sir?’ I asked.
‘Because Durga dai didn’t let me go in.’
‘Why?’ I asked.
‘He inquired me about who I was, why I was there holding hands and all sorts. And when I finally asked him to let me in, he gracefully said, “Come back next month brother. The school will help you.” Since I didn’t have any official letter, he didn’t let me in, but promised to help me. So I returned.’
‘Oh so that’s why you people never came to us.’
‘Yes. But that wasn’t necessary either. The school generously donated us every month after that. Every time I tried to enter the school, Durga dai would hand me the money in an envelop and say, “Don’t waste your time in unwanted talks here. Go out there and collect as much as you can. The kids will feed on food and not on words. I want everyone to be happy.” So I never got to enter the school. But than you, you came on behalf of the school.’
‘Thank you. You people are doing such an amazing job. How can I help too?’ I asked.
‘Oh sir, you are interested too?’
‘Yes, and few of my colleagues might be interested too.’ I replied.
‘Well, the kids have nutritious diet and the lodging is all right, but few have problems learning.’
‘Oh don’t you worry. I will contact with my colleagues and see what we can do.’
‘Thank you very much sir!’
‘And thank you too, young man. Keep doing the good work.’
As I returned home, I began thinking of all the good times with Durga dai, the way he made me laugh, the way he saluted merrily to those who never appreciated him. But damn, I never got to hug him once. Durga dai.