Yesterday, on the eve of Republic day, our workplace was buzzing with excitement, people were dressed in ethnic clothing and generally, the mood was happy and upbeat. Moving from one meeting to another, I did catch, murmurs about someone really special coming to our workplace. Little did I then know that the man who would come will have such huge screen presence. Frankly, I wasn’t expecting much .. but boy, I was so wrong!
The stage was set, the camera began to roll, people stopped farming on their keyboards and stood to face the projector which had Shuttl banner beamed on it. I was in a meeting with team members .. trying to cover a few items. That is when another co-worker began to test the mic, I knew it was time to close the discussion. We walked out on a promise to gather again, after the event. I let my Mac rest on my workstation and stood like everyone else in amusement unaware of what was to follow. Till then, all I knew was that one of our business associates was to come over and share with us his story and then in walked the man himself, followed by his wife, his only daughter, and younger son; quietly …almost unnoticeable.
We welcomed him with thunderous applauds, he came and occupied the seat that we had set for him, right in front of the camera, our Co-Founder, Deepanshu, extended warm welcome to him on behalf of all Shuttlers and began to tell us who he was and what were we up to – the slide said 486*
In the following moments, we saw on the projector image of the president medal certificate, a couple of newspaper clippings, a book dedication .. enough pieces of evidence to know that he had saved those many lives, all strangers in last 47 yrs; all of us were awestruck, surprised, speechless & stunned.
Let’s accept this – we’re a generation that spends our time debating, Donald Trump and Modi, iOS Vs Andriod, Indian holiday or vacation overseas, the new car, the new tech, the awesome bike, low carb – high protein – these constitute 80% of our non-work related discussions! Here we had a man who had saved more people than we actually knew, speaking to us… telling his tale. I had not expected this!! I was touched, moved beyond expression, I felt emotions that I had not felt in a long time.
He narrated his stories to us, reluctantly, he is a simple man with lofty ideals; he doesn’t enjoy talking about the work that he has done. Doesn’t, count it as anything special. For him, saving lives, helping others selflessly and relentlessly are regular things unworthy of appreciation, let alone applaud. He has had a particularly tough childhood as he was an orphan, growing up in a village without the amenities deemed bare minimum and perhaps it is that special background that gives his character that strength and grit it takes for a normal human to become Kanhaiya Laal. He tells us that it all started in scout guard assessment session where he along with a bunch of classmates had gathered at a kund (water body) for swimming exam, and his teacher who he referred to as “Mastar Saheb” had made him the in-charge of the activity. He had instructions to sit atop and watch over the kids. Things were moving as planned and then suddenly, he says, he felt something was wrong, the intuition of someone drowning. He without applying much thought simply jumped into what was two and a half story deep dive and saved his friend. He took him out of the water and gave the victim mouth to mouth respiration, surrounded by other boys.His teacher happened to call him and without finding out why-why he may have jumped, wiped him thrice and hard.. it was painful but he did not quite reveal himself the reason for his unexpected disobedience and that is when a bunch of kids approached the teacher narrating how “Kanah”, he was lovingly called that, had saved a life. His teacher was in tears and said things to him that he still remembers, clearly, so much so that while narrating he felt goosebumps.
That incident, he says, was the turning point of his life. He said that the joy he felt after saving his friend’s life was unprecedented, he said .. it felt godly, divine in some sense. He had found his purpose in life, his higher calling. His teacher did not keep the incident to himself got him nominated for President’s bravery award which he won too. He migrated to Delhi, mortgaged the very medal and certificates years later to get cash to start selling coconut strips at crossroads of Delhi, he fondly remembers that.. from there on .. Kanhaiya ji, moved from strengths to strength, took many jobs, achieved stability, married a lovely lady, become father of three kids – but while all of this was one, his mission of saving lives ran parallel uninterrupted and unfettered.
He emphasized on the fact that he is an ardent believer in GOD and has unending faith in Ma Bhavani. He says God and God alone does all the good that is there in the world.Humbly, dismisses his great doings as those being mere acts of obedience to God’s will. On his Auto he started carrying anyone he would spot on the road hurt with an accident to the hospital, often returned home without any cash to pay for the food and other essentials for his family.Had to face innumerable humiliation and difficulties financially as well as socially. People doubted him, questioned his motived, confronted him violently, he even had to make many trips to courts and police stations. All of this when he was only trying to help, mostly selflessly, but he did not give up and his amazing family stood by him in the face of most difficult and demanding circumstances.
He shared with us many stories, how he kept doing the noble deed in 1984 when the infamous Sikh massacre happened to things more recent when he with others followed up the Apex court to get the ruling passed which doesn’t require those helping accident victims to reveal their identity and that medical aid is provided for without preliminary paperwork. He has won numerous awards and recognition but still lives a life of anonymity. Still has to struggle to meet the needs of his family. He surely has made progress, from having nothing at all to the owner of a couple of buses and cars and other things but his most prized earning is the lives that he has selflessly saved.
Books and numerous newspaper articles have been dedicated to him but saint that he is, he remains completely untouched by what people feel about him.
In him, I found a real-life hero, someone who is so rooted in the cause of helping others selflessly that he doesn’t care about anything else as much. He could have easily become one of us but he made the tough choice of remaining Kanhaiya Lal. One who is the true embodiment of caring, love, sacrifice, and humanity. Taking our questions he said, that the world is full of people like him ( you and I know, that is not true) and that all of us should do the right thing which is helping others selflessly and always. In 47 yrs old struggle he did not deter.
It was intensely difficult for me to continue doing what I was busy in before he started his narration after he had left .. he set us all aboard a very different thought ferry.
His story .. poses a question to us all .. do we do enough for others?
Think about it. Happy Republic day.