Yearning to Read

Perhaps you can tell by the photo, Bapu Ji is sitting by himself with the paper close to their eyes as they try to read it. I was taking photos of the elderly at the protest, and my friend Inder gestured to me to photograph him. When I looked at Bapu Ji carefully before taking my photo, I already knew that I would go and speak with him. After taking my photo, I went to him and asked, “Bapu Ji, did you forget your glasses at home?” He said, “No, child, I don’t know how to read very well. I only recognize the letters, connect each of them and some of the words appear!” I asked, “Bapu Ji, may I read it aloud for you!” They said, “Child of mine, that would be amazing!”

It was a 4-5 page leaflet from the Joint Farmer Committee that I started reading, and believe it or not, Bapu Ji explained it to me. He is 85 years old, a resident of Jhorrhan village, District Ludhiana. As he spoke, he pulled out a tiny, worn diary from his pocket and asked me to write my name and I said, “Should I write my phone number?” They said, “Daughter, write down the name of your village. Whenever I go towards your village, I will find you and visit you. You have taught me so much today.” But actually Bapu Ji had taught me. I had only read aloud to them.

At that time, I saw that Bapu Ji did not have a blanket, and the afternoon became extremely cold after it rained. After asking, I learned that he did not bring one from home and no one was distributing blankets in this area. Some young men were eating nearby at a trolley and I requested them to arrange for Bapu Ji to receive a blanket. They promised to do this. In my haste, I didn’t even get their number, but as I sat in my own blanket, I kept feeling bad as I thought about Bapu Ji.

In an hour, one of the young brothers instagram messaged me – “Sister, we have given Bapu Ji a blanket. We requested him to join us to sleep in the trolley, where it was warmer, but Bapu Ji refused – ‘Son, if I get up from here, then it will be the same as running away from the battlefield.’ ” So Bapu Ji slept on a carpet laid out on the floor.

My dear brothers and sisters, the courage of our 85 year old grandfather is an example of wisdom. If thousands of our grandfathers, grandmothers, and parents are sitting here with this courage, then why shouldn’t we be in Chardi Kala (state of eternal optimism despite all obstacles) ?