I had named him Rampreet. He was aged around 35 years, both his legs were amputated knee downwards, a pavement dweller just outside the Hanuman temple. Rampreet had sharp eyes and was always dressed in clean clothes. Every Tuesday, I saw him sitting at the doorstep of the temple. What struck me most was that he never asked for alms, if someone donated some money to him he would accept with a wide grin on his face. He was cheerful and joked around with his fellow pavement dwellers. It became a routine for me to handover a ten rupee note to him every Tuesday when I visited the temple. This routine continued for almost one year. One Tuesday I did not notice him at his usual place. I enquired about him and was informed that he had gone away from that location. No one knew his whereabouts.

On my way home, there was a temple on the pavement about 50 meters away from a busy traffic intersection and invariably I had to stop at the red signal of that intersection. Almost after three months, I was driving back from office, waiting at the intersection for the signal to turn green. There was a knock on the door. I looked out of the window and saw Rampreet sitting on the lane divider with his trade mark grin on his face. I smiled back at him and handed over a Ten Rupee note. I was about to ask him about his whereabouts of last three months when the signal turned green and I had to move forward.

I went back home and found an envelope lying on the study table. I opened and found that a relative has written a letter breaking news that the piece of land at my hometown has been released by the Government. This piece of land had been forcibly acquired by the Government and a meager compensation had been offered to me. I had moved court and the decision of the court was in my favor after a long drawn battle lasting close to three years. I immediately decided to celebrate with my family by having dinner at a nearby restaurant. While having dinner I informed my wife about my meeting Rampreet while coming back home. She told me that it was a good wish of Rampreet which brought the good news that evening.

In fact, it dawned on me, that since last three months till that evening I had not received any news to cheer about. I started to recollect the previous Tuesdays I met Rampreet at the temple. I received a raise in my salary, my daughter had graduated with flying colours from the University and got a job offer from the Campus interview, there was a get together with my extended family members after a long time and there were much such pleasant news during that period which kept us happy. Though my routine to visit to Hanuman Mandir every Tuesday remained intact during these three months, nothing noteworthy happened neither did anything untoward happened. I wondered if Rampreet really wished me silently each time I handed over a Ten Rupee note. May be, I thought.

On my way back home I always kept a Ten Rupee note in my shirt pocket so that I could hand over to Rampreet at that intersection. Whenever I could find him sitting on that lane divider I handed over the Ten Rupee note to him and he replied back with his grin.

Six months had passed since I located Rampreet once again. Usually I passed that intersection around 7pm in the evening. At least once a week I found Rampreet and the usual routine of handing over a Ten Rupee note and his acceptance with a grin remained. In those four months good news was many and my belief about Rampreet’s silent good wishes strengthened.

Then suddenly, as it happened earlier, Rampreet was not to be seen for three to four weeks at a stretch. I on the other hand always kept a Ten Rupee note in my pocket with the hope that I would meet him at the intersection. Obviously, I presumed that he had changed his location once again. However this time there was no way I could confirm this as I did not find any pavement dwellers sitting nearby from who I could find out about Rampreet’s whereabouts.

It was month of February. There was a slight chill in the air with the receding winter. I stopped at the intersection. There was a knock on my car’s door. The knock sounded familiar. I looked out and saw Rampreet sitting on the lane divider staring at me with his usual grin. I was elated as Rampreet had formed a part of my routine. I took out a Ten Rupee note and handed over to him and for the first time I heard Rampreet’s voice “Bhagwan aapko sada khoosh rakhein”. Just then a cyclist stopped by my side and said “Sahib aapke hath se Dus rupaye ke note fisal gaya”. I looked at the cyclist who picked up the Ten Rupee note and handed over to me.

I crossed the intersection, parked my car and walked up to the temple. On enquiring I was in informed that Rampreet had been hit by a vehicle which had jumped the signal. I inserted that Ten Rupee note at the temple’s donation box.

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Abhijit Sen

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