“Khayalo mein? Lost in your thoughts? What’s on your mind?” Lulu asked as he flew in and landed on my table. I was sitting alone outside a bar with a drink. The good thing about Khandala is that you can sit outside the bar, enjoy cool weather and your drink.
“Yes. Yes. I was thinking of Suhas Joshi’s answer to the last question.”
“You mean the Marathi theatre actor? What was the answer which set you thinking, I mean what was the question in the first place?”
The barman switched on the lights and it brightened the bar inside though there was enough light outside and on the lawns. Soon the twilight would make the atmosphere magical, I thought.
“Yes, Suhas Joshi, the Marathi theatre actor. She spoke about her career as a stage artist. The interviewer in the Rang Pandhari program asked her ‘After this long journey as a stage artist what did you gain as a human being?’”
“So that was the question. I understand you.”
“Such a deep question. At the end of your career, you are asked ‘what did you gain as a human being?’ And you have to dive deep in mind to search for an answer. Rationality will not come to your rescue if you wish to answer it truthfully.”
“You said it, Lulu. Perhaps that is why I kept thinking about it for a long time.”
The barman kept a watchful eye on customers sitting on the lawn while cleaning empty mugs inside the bar. An overhead device held empty wine glasses in inverted position. And below the device were the draught beer taps.
He looked at me and smiled. Knowing smile. Good barmen vibe well with their regular customers. They understand what customer wants without a word spoken. He picked up a bowl of potato wedges and kept it on my table.
“Enjoy” said the barman.
“So, here is the question for you, ‘What did you gain as a human being?’ You too had a long career in the corporate world,” Lulu hopped and moved closer.
“Difficult question, Lulu. Suhas Joshi said, ‘The roles I played helped me realize what ‘humaneness’ was, and my co-artists extended it to me. They helped me grow as a better human being.’ Hmmm….. I think she has captured my answer too in her words.”
“She has conveyed a wealth of meaning in a sentence or two. I think the catchword is humaneness.”
“Yes, humaneness it is. Some pictures come to my mind as I think about it. I was a young manager and my office was close to the main gate. This was in the mid-seventies. The workmen were protesting and they had gheraoed us for a long time. Eating dinner was simply ruled out, we could not go to the canteen, and it was already the dinner time. A worker came and placed a ‘Vada-Pav’ packed in a newspaper on my table. He said, ‘just thought you will have nothing to eat this evening, so I brought this for you.’”
“Such a nice gesture. It was not a relationship of a worker speaking to a manager. It was more a human being to another. I am reminded that Adivasi families will invariably share their meal with you if you happen to be at their village in the evening.”
“A colleague once fell sick while on duty in another city. I handed over an air ticket and some money to his wife so that she can reach there immediately. She wrote a nice letter to me profusely thanking me.”
“She saw humaneness in your compassion and quick response. Just as you saw it in the worker’s offering a Vada-pav.”
“I guess so, and she also taught me a lesson about how to deal with people. Looking back, both the incidents taught me the same lesson.”
“I know what you are saying, ‘you are not your position’, right?”
I took a deep swig of beer. The dusk light had vanished, and night had set in, and the lights inside the bar were looking brighter. “You got me right, Lulu.”
Lulu hopped on my shoulder. “Roles only tell you a set of expectations from various people. If you deliver your performance forgetting that you are dealing with another human being, you will deliver it sans humaneness.”
“I agree with you. Can we do a good job without touching hearts of people? Impossible!”
“For that to happen you ought to throw away the mask of identity. You are not a Vice President, or General Manager. Perform any role but be your natural self, a good and sensitive human being. Remember Mangesh Padgaonkar’s poem? He wrote, ‘Compassion in the eyes discloses humaneness in people.”
“So true, Lulu. Compassion is the word. That is the precious reward of a long career. If you had it, you grew as a human being.”
“Osho says, ‘You need power only to do something harmful. Otherwise, love is enough, compassion is enough.’ If you realized this through your experiences you have had a successful career.”
Lulu flew away. I looked at the barman. He gave me a knowing smile and brought me another mug of beer.
Vivek S Patwardhan
Feature Pic Tamara Gak on Unsplash
“What you leave behind is not what is engraved in stone monuments, but what is woven into the lives of others.” **** “Aroehan: Creating Dream Villages in Mokhada by 2025: “No Malnutrition Deaths, No Child ‘Out of School’, Reduction in migration by 50%.”