He was a silent and meek guy.
The Bible says that some day the meek will inherit the earth. If that prophecy ever comes to be fulfilled, Dabbu would be the emperor of the universe. He was the meekest and simplest guy I’d ever seen. His name meant someone who’s too dull or scared of everything. No one knew his real name or his past. He used to do odd jobs for the residents of our Chawl and in turn, they used to pay him either in small cash or something to eat or wear. He never bargained as if, he was afraid of bargaining. Whatever one gave him, he always accepted with a smiling face. He always smiled. He never needed a reason for this incessant merriment. Sometimes people smile for things which they don’t understand. Dabbu never understood anything.
No one knew his religion. He used to join in Easter processions of the majority Catholic community with the same fervor as in Shivaji Jayanti functions of the Marathi community. To be honest, we never ever wondered about his cast or religion. He could have been a Sunni Muslim for all we knew or cared. He was just a permanent fixture of our little world without any religious affiliation whatsoever. Always smiling, even in the procession of Moharrum.
Once we asked him to get a priest for the Satyanarayan puja of our Chawl. He went to the Rosary Church and brought a Catholic priest. We tried to reason with him that he’s not the type of priest which we require for this particular puja. But, he just stood there with the infuriating smile on his face and argued obstinately that if he can preside over one ceremony, why not this puja? We gave it up as a bad job, apologized to the bewildered priest and found another one from the local temple. That was Dabbu all over, with his own logic.
On 26th July, 2005, heavens opened up in Bombay. It rained incessantly for 4 hours and the deep and somber Arabian Sea decided to let go of her solemn gravity and to have fun with the City of Magic. The full moon titillated her like a lover to his Donna and she got aroused. Together with the playful monsoon rains and the naughty wind, they started their cosmic dance of destruction. Like Shiva enjoying what He always loves, the all destroying Tandav! The sea backed up the city drainage and the entire metropolis was submerged. The proud city which never sleeps was suddenly helpless against the roaring fury of nature. The fearless citizens, who could brave the life were cowering in fear. The life ground to a sudden and painful halt.
I had to stay in a bus overnight. When I returned home on 27th, I came to know that many people from our Chawl haven’t returned that fateful night.
I don’t know if you understand the concept of a Chawl! It’s like an extended family with a hundred writhing arms like a monstrous hydra. Like a joint family, we always fight with each other and share each other’s troubles. We don’t have anything hidden from others. It’s impossible.
As soon as I came back, I was treated as the Prodigal Son and later informed of the missing guys. Dabbu being one of the long list. We all offered a silent prayer for their well being and return. It was a terrible day and fateful night. The Missing List being shortened by happy returns of the wanderers. People who always thought that they were unappreciated and uncared for, were celebrated as if they were Christ Reborn! That event, although tragic in many aspects, helped boost many bruised egos. Dabbu remained obstinately missing.
10 days passed. Most of the Lost Sheep had returned and celebrated by our Chawl, except the common son of the community. Dabbu did not return. Suddenly, we started to miss him. The inane smile. The senseless arguments, which were usually logical in a weird sense. We have a fixed notion and refuse to look at a new idea. We thought that he was stupid and retarded. But, in his absence, we suddenly realized that he really made a weird sense! Absence makes hearts fonder. He was suddenly elevated to the rank of seers. Someone who was selfless and always thought good of others.
Real honesty is rare. We all are cheats in some way or another. So, we always worship someone who is truly honest. It’s a kind of hero worship. That’s why we respect saints. Dabbu was honest to a fault. The trait, which was previously attributed to stupidity was suddenly cloaked in a saintly garb. What Dabbu could never achieve during his presence, he achieved after vanishing.
On the 15th day, the Chawl experienced Easter! There he was! Alighting from a black and yellow cab, with his hands wrapped around a hospital orderly. The Chawl erupted in joy! Kids, who have had their kites mended by Dabbu were suddenly hopeful that they will win the next kite competition. Mrs Bhaduri was happy that her laundry issues were solved. But, above all were unanswered questions. We all wanted to know if he was fished from Arabian Sea or was rescued from a horrible death in a gutter!
He hobbled to his little 10 by 7 room under the Chawl stairs and we all flocked there. His smile was still in place. He was unaware of the rain or the turmoil the entire city underwent a fortnight ago. We asked him what happened.
Then we came to know about the guy who cried before him on Byculla station platform, because his uncle needed a kidney transplant urgently. Dabbu, in his goodness went and donated it. He was happy for saving a life at no cost, because he still had one kidney with him. We were astounded! Some of us started to speak, but I ruled over them and we moved out.
I don’t think that Dabbu could have understood that he was cheated and that the guy he was helping was just a broker in the notorious trade in body parts. That kidney transplant requires many tests to check if the donor is compatible and one can’t just approach a random stranger for it. I couldn’t tell this to him. His faith in humanity would have been shattered. I didn’t want to see that inane smile to vanish. He was stupid, but he was humane. A tendency which we so called intelligent people have lost.
God knows that we need more humans on this planet of robots.