Dabbu

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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.

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35 responses to “Dabbu

    • Thanks, Glinda, for taking the time out to read it! As far as other sites are concerned, I’d suggest you to go through the sites of any of the the below bloggers. They all are too good, even better.

      Thanks again! 🙂

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  1. Yeah, some people are very simple and humble in life (even these days)…guess the nasty world around makes them bitter eventually (if ever). I have seen some cases myself!

    Btw, ‘Dabbu’ would not be an appropriate name for him, if that is what it meant.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I know, Alok. I really wish I was like one of them, but I don’t have the strength of the soul to be as forgiving as them. It’s unfortunate that such people are considered dumb because they decide to ignore the inequities and smile.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. There are always people capitalizing on tragedies. The cab drivers, esp, who charge double rates during bomb blasts. This world will always have its share of creeps and naives.
    But there is no greater tragedy than a corrupted innocence.

    Liked by 1 person

    • It’s curious that you mention that! That fateful day, I mean 26th July, I saw many idli walas from Dharavi serving free idli to the stranded passengers. We had money, but how can one eat money? I myself was starved and when I tried to pay he didn’t accept. On the other side, there were taxi drivers, who charged double. As you said, the world has all types.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Daboo was ignorant, so he couldn’t differentiate between the genuine and the fake, right? But what happens if someone, who is intelligent enough to find it, is still being cheated? This world is filled with such shrewd people who can befool anyone no matter what their IQ is.

    As always so beautifully narrated Rakesh ji! And the climax comes in as a striking surprise. as it has nothing to do with the catastrophe. I personally know a similar boy who had been cheated by many, because of his innocence (call foolishness). Emotional people have to survive in this world which is ‘sans emotions’, and ultimately their feelings are robbed because life demands that.
    The best part of this story is that you didn’t intimate Dabbu that he was being cheated. I’m getting emotional too after reading this. That’s why I can’t write such ‘true to life’ fiction!!

    Liked by 1 person

    • There’s a saying in Gujarati: ‘Lobhi rahe, to dhutaaro bhukho na mare.’ As long as the greedy grace the earth, the cunning won’t starve. Dabbu was conned because he was trying to do a good turn to an unworthy guy and didn’t realize it in his innocence. The reason people like us are conned is because we become greedy and try to earn a quick profit. And, I’ve found that the people with higher IQ are more gullible outside fields of their expertise, than the street smart, for whom all fields are same. There’s a difference between ‘wise’ and ‘smart’. They showcase that.

      You are right when you say that the world is not a fit place for an emotional dreamer, unless they accept the cheatings with a pinch of salt. But, is there any option? One has to try to survive and laugh when hurt. That’s the key to preserve sanity.

      Iske siwa jana kaha? 😀

      Liked by 1 person

  4. The story shows how shockers sometimes make us change our perspective. What made you appreciative of Dabbu’s simplicity or faith in humanity while overlooking his stupidity (at least in this case) was the fact that he was not lost in the deluge and came back probably when all had lost hopes of his return.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Enjoyed reading this. The simple people, whom the society calls fools are far better than the so called intellectuals. Have you read Leo Tolstoy’s Ivan the Fool? It tells a story of one such guy.
    I agree, we need more such humans.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Unfortunately I haven’t read Tolstoy. I’ve read only one story of his: Kreutzer’s Sonata. Because of the term sonata, I thought that it’s based on music. Kreutzer’s Sonata is a violin piece in Western Classical Music and is famous for its impressive long silent interludes. I mistook this story to be based on that. By the time I realized that it was not on music but a sad tale, I was too engrossed by the narration of the maestro to leave it incomplete. 😀

      You are bang on nose about simple people being better than intellectuals. They may be a failure in practical life but they are happy and lead an uncomplicated life. Sometimes I envy them. It’s just that I’m not brave enough to emulate them.

      Thanks, Kiran! For reading! 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  6. This one is beautifully done. I’ve always said your narration is brilliant Rakesh. You know I honestly cannot make up my mind whether it is a good thing or a bad thing to have a Dabbu amongst us!

    Btw – did you mean 26 July. 😋 It’s one day of my life I can never forget. I had lost my job and that day I had to meet a very prominent consultant. My brother was going to drive me to the Oberpi for a meeting. Ofcourse we never reached there and we were lucky that after a good hours on the road we and the car reached home in one piece. But the tragedies of the day make me shudder even now. Water – the life saver can so easily become the destructor! Coincidentally, I posted a piece on water today. Do make time to read! Cheers 😊

    Liked by 1 person

    • Apologies for the mistake, Archie and thanks for bringing it to my notice. It was indeed 26th July. I was stuck in Andheri while returning from Dahisar to Mazagaon and spent the night in a bus stranded opposite Sahar Airport. Next day I walked the entire distance. The experience indeed brings shudders! Thank God that you were safe, in spite of getting stuck!

      I have corrected the factual error in the post. I will certainly read the post you have mentioned. Knowing you, it’s bound to be awesome.

      Thanks again! 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      • You didn’t have to change it baba… I was pulling a fast one on you… this is your story, could have been any day!

        Waiting for your feedback 🙂

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        • Well, I like to get my facts right, you see! I’m a perfectionist and am perpetual bonkers about details. 😀 That’s why thanks for spotting that error.

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  7. You were right not to reveal the practicality of the scenario. His smile and faith in humanity, love for people would have lost forever. Dabbu was a rarity… an uncut diamond. But, such people do exist, and the world looks a better place just for their presence.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Wahi to! Sometimes a little white lie is better than stark truth. Especially, if it saves someone from sadness. Such people do exist and in our infinite wisdom we tag them as dumb. But, in the end of the day I’ve found that it’s they who are peaceful at heart, whereas we still end the evenings of our lives conniving to scratch a hold on the ever elusive happiness.

      Liked by 1 person

    • Well, truth is indeed stranger than fiction at times. Just not so palatable and interesting. The fiction ensures that. Thank you so much, Chaitali, for reading it! 🙂

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    • Well, the real person was an old egg seller in Mazagaon. Eggs and slice breads for morning breakfast. He had a small and ramshackle shop opposite our chawl. The above photo is where I stayed for most of my life before moving to Panvel. He was a Sunni Muslim guy called Shamsuddin, who always used to laugh, come what may. School kids used to cheat him by buying things from his little shop and telling that they will pay tomorrow. That tomorrow never came. Even I tried this trick on him during my school days, he fondly used to remind me. He knew that he won’t be paid but still indulged those children for the sheer happiness it brought to him.

      We all are Monsters in a way and we burned his shop during the Hindu Muslim riots in 93, but he didn’t mind even that. It’s a different story that we rebuilt his shop ourselves. Crazy guys, we chawl wallahs! 😀

      He had a heart attack in 2008 and relocated to his village in Azamgarh. The year I moved to Panvel.

      I don’t know how I decided to create this character! 😀

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  8. Was Danbu a seer or a simpleton, we would never know. People or things on both end of spectrum look similar. In our earthly logic, Dabbu was made a fool by some intelligent crook. What about the joy he received for helping someone needy? We can never add a value. With all wealth many cannot smile, with no possession Danbu had a permanent smile.

    Liked by 1 person

    • That was exactly my point of this tale! Kabir has said, ‘Aap thage sukh hot hai, aur thage dukh hoy’. It’s better to be cheated than cheat. At least, the conscience is burden free.

      Alas! These talks are limited to only books. Even I believe in it in a limited manner!

      We all are hypocrites to some extent. We like to believe that we are an ideal human being, till we are inconvenienced. Then we show our true selfish nature. I really knew such q guy during my chawl days, who actually loved to be cheated! Well, at least I considered him a fallen Saint!

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