Sunday, August 12, 2007

Post Card

“ Dhanji!” Mrs Khambata shrieked “ Su thaiyo? Bolni, su thaiyo?” – Speak! Dhanji, what has happened to you?

Dhanji, the sixty year old man, had been a man-servant in the Khambata household for over 35 years. This morning he had woken up at his usual time, 5am and was at the kitchen, preparing bed tea for Mrs Khambata. A loud thud brought Mrs Khambata and her daughter, Piloo to the kitchen. They were both aghast to see Dhanji on the floor. He had fainted. A quick spray of water on his face revived him. Dhanji sat up with his head on his hands. It ached. Piloo offered him a glass of water and helped him up on a chair. Dhanji, whispered, “ Baby”, as he addressed Piloo lovingly, “Can I have a post card? I wish to write a letter to my family”.

It came as a surprise to both mother and daughter, for in the last forty five years, Dhanji had never mentioned his family. Whenever asked, he looked blankly at them.

Mrs Khambata was thirty five years younger when one day on her way up her second floor flat in old Connaught Place in New Delhi, she came across a young boy in his twenties, loitering aimlessly on the streets. She stopped to look at him. Something in her heart told her that he was an educated man. She beckoned him to her and asked him if he was looking for someone. When she failed to receive any answer from him, she went on to ask, where he had come from? The Connaught Place of those times, was free of crowds even at midday. The man answered nothing. Mrs Khambata decided to take him up to her flat to meet her husband. It turned out that, the man could neither say what his name was, nor where he came from, neither, whom was he looking for in CP. The old Parsi generosity burst forth and Dhanji, never ever left the house. He continued to remain there for all these years, weathering the events in the household, as if it were his own. It is Mr Khambata who gave Dhanji his name. Dhan meant wealth. Dhanji had become adjusted to the family, quite soon. A man who knew not his own, could make any home his own. To be a useful contributor to the family, slowly, he learnt to work at the kitchen with the other helpers.

The Khambatas, however, never doubted that he was in some way educated, because he read the Newspapers, everyday. Even, trying to find out about his school, had failed to get any responses. Time passed and many a question from everyone faded into the past as well. He was Dhanji, Dhanji, who belonged to the Khambata family living in Connaught Place, New Delhi.

Until, of course just now. A post card was not something Piloo stored in the house, especially in the days of email. As soon as the Post Office opened, however, she got ten for Dhanji and gave them to him. The next day, she saw him write a letter on one of the postcard. He then handed it over to her to read. Dhanji had written in Hindi, a letter, complete with date and facts. It read like a big story, concise in a very neat handwriting.

August 15, 2006

My dearest brother, Salim,
I have just come out of a slumber that lasted many years. The last thing I remember is taking the money Abbujaan owed to the man in Guwahati and boarding the train at Howrah. After that, I do not know what happened. I am not sure how I arrived in Delhi. Who brought me here. For the last so many years, I have been living with some very kind family here. Just this morning, my head went whirling and I fell on the ground unconscious. When I came to, my head ached and suddenly the memory of the past came back. I cannot remember anything in between - what happened to the money, whether I went to Guwahati at all…nothing! I remember, Abbujaan, Ammi, our sister, Ameena. I remember also, Reshma, your bhabi, my wife and our son, Kharim. He was an infant then.

You perhaps thought I had run away with the money, deserting my family. Leaving Abbujaan to take care of my wife and family. Just today I have remembered the past, slightly. I am writing, hoping that the address, which I now remember is the same. My address in Delhi is: C/O Mrs S Khambata, N-19, Connaught Place, New Delhi 110 001

I have been released from a jail, the prison of loss of memory. Today, 15 August, 2006, I am at last a free man. The song we learnt in school at Bara Bazaar, is on my lips today - Vande Mataram!

Noor Ali Khan
Alias Dhanji

The letter was posted. In a month from then, Mrs Khambata opened the door to a man in his early thirties.

“Dhanji, come quickly. Your son has come to take you home!”






Authors note: Based on a true story. Names have been changed to protect their identities and Dhanji, after visiting his home for a few days, returned to the Khambatas and continues to live with them. Indeed, the Khambata home has become his own.
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B ankim Chandra composed the song Vande Mataram in an inspired moment. Rabindranath Tagore sang it by setting a glorious tune to it and it was left to the genius of Shri Aurobindo to interpret the deeper meaning of the song out of which India received the philosophy of new Nationalism. He did this in English.
An hour before Jawarhar Nehru made his famous speech “ Tryst with destiny…” on the night of 14-15 August, 1947, Vande Mataram had been sung by Smt Sucheta Kripalani at 11pm at The Constituent Assembly to whom power was to be transferred. This was followed by Pandit Nehru's “ Tryst with destiny…” at the stroke of the midnight hour.

India was now free.



The original Bengali version of Vande Mataram

Vande maataraM
sujalaaM suphalaaM malayaja
shiitalaaM SasyashyaamalaaM maataram

Shubhrajyotsnaa pulakitayaaminiiM
pullakusumita drumadala shobhiniiM
suhaasiniiM sumadhura bhaashhiNiiM
sukhadaaM varadaaM maataraM

Koti koti kantha kalakalaninaada karaale
koti koti bhujai.rdhR^itakharakaravaale
abalaa keno maa eto bale
bahubaladhaariNiiM namaami taariNiiM
ripudalavaariNiiM maataraM


Tumi vidyaa tumi dharma tumi
hR^idi tumi marma tvaM hi
praaNaaH shariire
Baahute tumi maa shakti
hR^idaye tumi maa bhakti
tomaara i pratimaa gaDi mandire mandire

TvaM hi durgaa dashapraharaNadhaariNii
kamalaa kamaladala vihaariNii
vaaNii vidyaadaayinii namaami tvaaM
Namaami kamalaaM amalaaM
atulaaM SujalaaM suphalaaM maataraM
ShyaamalaaM saralaaM susmitaaM
bhuushhitaaM DharaNiiM bharaNiiM maataraM "


And the English translation by Shree Aurobindo

Mother, I bow to thee!
Rich with thy hurrying streams,
bright with orchard gleams,
Cool with thy winds of delight,
Dark fields waving Mother of might,
Mother free.
Glory of moonlight dreams,
Over thy branches and lordly streams,
Clad in thy blossoming trees,
Mother, giver of ease Laughing low and sweet!
Mother I kiss thy feet,
Speaker sweet and low!
Mother, to thee I bow.


Who hath said thou art weak in thy lands
When the sword flesh out in the seventy million hands
And seventy million voices roar
Thy dreadful name from shore to shore?
With many strengths who art mighty and stored,
To thee I call Mother and Lord!
Though who savest, arise and save!
To her I cry who ever her foeman drove
Back from plain and Sea
And shook herself free.
Thou art wisdom, thou art law,
Thou art heart, our soul, our breath
Though art love divine, the awe
In our hearts that conquers death.
Thine the strength that nervs the arm,
Thine the beauty, thine the charm.
Every image made divine In our temples is but thine.

Thou art Durga, Lady and Queen,
With her hands that strike and her swords of sheen,
Thou art Lakshmi lotus-throned,
And the Muse a hundred-toned,
Pure and perfect without peer,
Mother lend thine ear,
Rich with thy hurrying streams,
Bright with thy orchard gleems,
Dark of hue O candid-fair
In thy soul, with jewelled hair
And thy glorious smile divine,
Lovilest of all earthly lands,
Showering wealth from well-stored hands!
Mother, mother mine!
Mother sweet, I bow to thee,
Mother great and free!
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