Daju’s designation declared that he was the ‘office water-carrier’. His job required him to fetch water, cook food and keep the office clean . No one in my office, wanted to eat the food he cooked. They preferred to do the cooking themselves. There was not much work in the office where I was the district-in-charge. It was a government office in the foothills of the Himalayas. Still in my early twenties, I was struggling to grow a mustache then. I hoped it would give me a serious and more of a mature look. I was having a tough time controlling my staff. They were all older than me by at least five years.
We had a staff count of five including Daju. As the boss there, I lived in an all wood cabin. This was my office cum residence. Next to me on a hill slope, lived the other staff members, some with their families.
Daju is not a name. It means brother in Nepali. Everyone called him that. I do not remember what his real name was, for this story is more than two decades old. He claimed that he was originally from Tibet. His story was that he had sneaked into India as a young boy and joined the army. There he managed to get court-martialed for picking up a fight with a senior officer. For sometime he did odd jobs and moved around. Roaming around he reached this village, liked it and settled down. A Buddhist by birth, he was converted to Christianity by the over-enthusiastic local pastor. A decision the pastor lived to regret for the rest of his life! Daju was a reluctant convert. He rarely if ever went to church. Yet he married a local woman and built a small hut for her. Daju and his wife had six children. Five of them lived with him.His eldest child a boy was working somewhere in Mumbai. Their hut was next to my house.
Every morning at five, Daju would come in and start his days work. Life in the hills started early. In India, due to certain unknown reasons, we have the same time across the country. This even though the country has three time-zones passing through it. Due to this, in the north eastern states, we can see the sun rise at five in the morning and set by four in the evening. The early morning appearance of Daju’s did not trouble me. I had a habit of waking up early since I was a child. Daju would sing old hindi movie songs while he cleaned the dishes. He was blessed with a great singing voice. After the dishes, Daju would wash my clothes, hang them out to dry and then disappear for the rest of the day. Years ago, when he had joined the office , after washing the dishes he used to go off in search of water. Water then had to be fetched from a small stream a few hundred meters away. That was until someone had the brilliant idea of connecting a pipe from the source to the house. With that one stroke of ‘brilliance’ the post of a water carrier became redundant. Over the years, the post in-charge never reported the availability of portable water and Daju kept his job.
For all his good nature Daju had a slight problem. His gentle and would-not-hurt-an-ant nature would under go a dramatic transformation the minute he consumed liquor. Once he had downed a few pegs , gentle Daju would become the epitome of nastiness. He would stand on the street outside the office and vent out his anger and frustration on the world. He would abuse one and all, using the vilest language that could be imagined. The target of his abuses could be anyone ranging from his wife to anyone who unwittingly happened to cross his path.
Since I was new there I was his preferred target. When he was in his Jekyll and Hyde transformation phase, it did not matter to him that I was his boss. He was not bothered by the fact that if I wanted, I could with a stroke of my pen have him terminated. Noting mattered to him. He would stand outside my office and abuse me. His voice loud enough for the whole village to hear, he would make fun of me. The villagers were poor and almost no one owned radio’s or TV sets. Daju was their only source of entertainment . They would all gather around and listen to him and enjoy the show. It was free entertainment and it was fun as long as they were not the target of his barbs. This went on for about an hour or two and then he would calm down, go to his hut and sleep for the rest of the day.
The next day, instead of Daju, it would be his wife who would come in to clean up my office. She would do her work quietly, while I worked in my office. A day later, Daju would be back at his usual time. He would singing soulful renditions of old classics and work his way through the dishes then my clothes and sweep the floors . Not a word was said about his theatrics of the previous day and life would be back to normal.
I was not sure how to react. I was too young to catch hold of him by the neck and advice him and too old to understand that firing him was not the solution. My staff members told me to ignore him. They told me how my immediate predecessor had submitted a complaint in writing to the head office. The result of the complaint was that Daju’s salary was frozen at rupees six hundred per month. His counterparts in other offices got a thousand rupees more. I could not imagine, how he managed to feed his family of five on six hundred rupees a month. This was back in the 1990’s but even then five hundred was a small amount.
The first time he did his Dr. Hyde transformation, I was shocked. I kept a low profile in my office that day. I hoped that people would not have head everything that he had shouted about me. The second time this happened I was prepared. Even then the after effects of this public slandering took a couple of days to wear off. I knew this could not go on for ever. The problem was I did not know what to do. Then fate stepped in.
As I must have mentioned some where in the narrative, that I had the habit of getting up early. Father was an army officer and had the bad habit of waking us up early. I do not remember ever having slept beyond six o clock in the morning. This habit gave me a few extra hours in the morning to kill. I used to do yoga in those days- Yes back then I used to be flexible. Every morning after waking up at five I used to put in an hour of yoga. I used to wind up the session with a few minutes of meditation.
One day I had reached the end of my yoga session and was meditating – basically sitting in the lotus pose with my eyes closed when I heard Daju coming. He was humming a song . The room I was in, had a window and through the window, I could see him peeping in to check if I was awake. Through half half-closed eyes, I could see Daju peeking through the window. Then I heard him gasp. His grip on the window-sill loosened and he fell down. Daju may have been in his fifties then but had the agility of a monkey and the strength of a bull. It took me a few seconds to realize what had happened.
The house I was in was as I have mentioned, made of wood and was old. There were small cracks in the ceiling through which sun light crept in. The sun’s rays would cut though the room in laser like beams. One of the beams was falling on my head. There I was seated in a perfect lotus pose, eyes closed, deep in ‘meditation’ with a halo around my head. For poor Daju that was a sight that took him back to his roots. For a few seconds the Buddhist from Tibet in him was awakened.
Daju was a different man after that ‘vision’. Later that day one by one my staff members came and spoke to me.
“ Sir, what have you done to Daju? He came to my house and apologized for his behavior! This has never happened before in my three years in this post,” said one of them.
“ Daju apologized to me too!” said another member standing next to him.” Did you ask to apologize?”
Later that day Daju came up to me. I was busy at working on some report to be sent to the main office. He stood near the door waiting for me to look up.
“Yes Daju? Is there anything you wanted to say?” I said.
“Sahib, I want to apologize for my behavior over the past couple of days. I have a problem with alcohol. I know that. I cannot control myself when I am drunk. I promise that will not happen again.”
Having said that and without waiting for a response from me, he walked away.
Not that he stopped drinking. He drank but in moderation and when drunk he would come towards me and from a distance shout, “Sahib, I am drunk now. You know what happens to me when I am drunk. I become an animal .I am going towards the forest and will be back later when I am sober!”
With that he would walk away. He would hide somewhere for a few hours returning only after ‘everything’ was normal. The one year I was in that post, he never shouted or abused anyone. He became an ideal villager, a good father and a responsible husband.
Today there are a number of types of yoga – Hatha, Ashtanga, Viniyasa yoga. Some have easier to remember names like hot yoga, beer yoga as so on . I think based on my experiences with Daju, I will create a new variety – Watch yoga. Change your life by watching someone else do yoga!