ain’t what you become
In this journey that we call life, we cross paths with so many people; some as acquaintances, some as friends, a few as family and a lot that just co-inhabit the planet. We forget many…remember so few. Only rarely do we come across a person whose name can be appended with ‘the great…’- a person who is truly #madeofgreat and touches our life in a way that changes it forever.
Greatness, I believe, does not pertain to a single act of heroism or an achievement. It is a part of an individual’s personality- a habit of committing to the right, of honouring one’s own purpose in life and keeping the welfare of others before self. Greatness has a wide array of interpretations and this is my take on it.
Of course I can write about the people we hear of and see in news for excellence in their work, who set new records and bring to humanity the discoveries that affect millions. I could write about my father, for he is ‘Superman’ and every other superhero personified for me; or maybe my mother, who has shown grit and determination throughout her life but that would be biased probably, for we all look up to our parents.
In this blog post, I shall talk of an average person, outside of my immediate family, one who is just like you and me-who does not even know or care that someone is writing about him today…a man who is undoubtedly #madeofgreat…a man I truly appreciate and who remains an inspiration to this day-Col(retd) C.L.Salwan.
When I was in school, I was told by my father one day that I would be dropped off by my ‘buggywala’ at Salwan uncle’s house which was very close to my school. I was fine with it. Being a child of working parents, I was used to being picked up by my maternal grand father or at times the ‘buggywala’ would drop me there. Maybe nanu-nani were not at home. I knew Salwan uncle, the husband of my dad’s buaji and had met him many a times before but going to his house from school was a first. I was dropped at the house as per instructions and the ‘buggywala’ left. I was greeted by a smartly dressed, smiling gentleman who wished me before I could. ‘Good afternoon my dear. How are you?’ I greeted back and was ushered in. The grass in the garden was just the right amount of green and all plants seemed well taken care of.
Inside the house, dad’s buaji whom we also addressed the same, hugged and welcomed me. I sat there displaying the best of my manners while I was treated with the delectable savories. As I munched on, I could see that the house was impeccably clean. My mother would have probably given an arm for our house to look the same but with three kids…it could only be a distant dream. An elegant black and white photograph of the couple, which must have been taken in the prime of youth, hung on the wall ahead and looked more like a still from an old movie. Uncle looked impressive in his uniform while buaji emanated grace and poise. I smiled. The two still looked very elegant, though they were easily in their early sixties.
Uncle saw me gazing at the photograph and came to sit near me. I came to know that he had witnessed the Independence and Partition of India and had joined Indian army in the post independence times and had been commissioned into 1 Mahar Regiment. He had fought the wars of 1962, 1965 and 1971. I was in awe, sharing space with a man who had seen and been through so much.
There were many souvenirs adorning the shelves, collected probably from all the places he had been posted at. Every single one of them apparently had a tale to tell and I decided to enquire the next time I visited.
Back home, I told my father animatedly of all the fascinating things I had seen and that Uncle had fought the wars. Of course he knew but he was enjoying my narration. Then he told me what I did not know about Salwan Uncle. Uncle got married to Buaji in the post independence decade, a time when the country was learning to walk on its recently unbound legs yet the society was still in shackles of many a customs unfriendly to women. They were a model couple but could not bear a child. Despite and against all social pressure and the stigma attached to childlessness, he decided it was perfectly okay to remain childless. I can only imagine the pressure the two must have felt, the questions that they must have faced and the ‘advises’ he must have had to turn a deaf ear to. For Buaji, Uncle was truly her knight in shining armour. What is it if not greatness to be able to think beyond your times and do what is right, even if the entire world feels it isn’t? He even went a step further and refused adoption too. For him, the two of them were just enough!
I had a new-found respect for him since that day. Over the years, I saw him with Buaji, always at her side, never missing any occasion of the family, be it of joy or mourning. His ever-smiling face and lively nature endeared him to one and all he met. He never bragged of his achievements in life. He never told stories of his experiences unless someone wanted to hear them.
Being a determined man, he drove himself everywhere till his knees had to be replaced. He got the replacement done and starting driving again. Not that he could not afford a driver; he just wanted to do everything he could till he could. Even in his seventies, he was there for everyone, every time!
He made me realize that it is never the times but the people who change the world. It is never a wrong time to take the right decision. Life has a lot more to offer if we look beyond our misfortunes and embrace the blessings we have.
Today, he is almost 88 years of age. He lost his wife a couple of years ago. It must have shaken him but has definitely not shattered him. Even though he is now so weak that he moves around in a wheelchair, nevertheless he moves. He still lives alone with his domestic help-a couple who cook for him and take care of him. Even at this age, he did not forget to go the extra mile and bought the couple a piece of land to secure their future. Meet him once and you shall understand he has a gift- a gift of joy.
It is his sheer grit and determination and an indomitable spirit that keep him going and I feel fortunate to know him and try and inculcate the positivity he radiates. There is so much that he has taught me unknowingly and continues to.
I have never been able to express it so but I have always held you in great respect Uncle- a soldier of the soil, a man with a dauntless spirit, with the courage to defy wrong, an ability to live life to the fullest and to be there for everyone despite own troubles… I truly believe you are #madeofgreat.
Author’s note: ‘I am participating in the Tata Motors #madeofgreat contest and this is a tribute to a man I believe is undoubtedly #madeofgreat. Do let me know what you think of the post and if anyone you know is also #madeofgreat. And hey,also let me know what you think of Tata Motors’ association with Lionel Messi…a culmination of two Titans-according to me. The best answer stands a chance to win a voucher worth Rs.750/-.
So what are you waiting for? Comment away! The last date is 26th Nov,2015.’