Hemashri talks about the Holy Book, Gita, a maid (read casual worker) named after the Sacred Book and the kingdom of wisdom that awaits. Read more in the weekly column, exclusively for Different Truths.
After his retirement, I saw my father getting totally immersed in reading the Holy Books, especially the Gita. He would often lament about some wrong decisions of life. He regretted not reading these scriptures in his early life. From his experience, I decided that I would study the Holy Book early to be wiser. But, I have been just collecting various versions of the Gita, over the last twenty years. A good bibliophile is seldom a good bibliomaniac. All these years I have been gathering like a honeybee.
The Holy Book Gita has always been awe-inspiring. Though my learning of the Sacred Book is yet to begin, I met a real life Gita, who taught me to survive in rough weathers. This real-life Gita left me speechless. Here’s a slice of her life story.
Gita was an elderly woman in my office. She was our cleaner and made tea for us. One of my predecessors had arranged a gas connection and a stove to make tea in our office, for the staff members, on the 5th Floor. Gita Didi was 50 plus and was of a lean built. As the only woman amongst the staff, I sometimes struck up small conversations with her. She told me I resembled her daughter. One day on my arrival I found a young healthy girl cleaning up my room. When asked who she was, I was told she was Didi’s daughter. Didi was unwell so her daughter had come to do her duty instead. Didi’s dedication impressed me. I was curious to know more about her.
Gita had lost her husband when her daughter was barely three-month-old. Her father was a gardener and had purchased a plot of land with his hard-earned savings. The father married her off once again to a man and gave away the plot of land as a dowry. Till the birth of her son, things were normal. However, after his birth, her husband started drinking and he became abusive. Her second husband used to beat her up and snatched away all her money. When her son became a teenager, his father brainwashed him and that created a rift between mother and son. He was such a notorious person that he wanted to marry his step-daughter. A helpless Gita found a suitable boy and married her off to save her daughter’s honour. After her daughter’s marriage, she was thrown out of her home. She constructed a small hut within the same compound, on the plot of land that her father had given as Gita’s marriage dowry.
Though she was a casual worker, a mere cleaner, she would be sent to other offices to deliver letters and run errands. I had found that my staff used to engage her beyond the realm of her work. In the scorching heat, when the sun was blazing brutally, she was sent to the other offices. I called my staff members and told them to stop this practice at once. I issued an office order to this effect.
On a rainy day, I found Gita coming to the office bare-footed. When I inquired she said that her chappal was broken and that she could not afford another pair. She asked me for a pair of used sandals. I gave her two hundred rupees to buy a new pair. After two-three days when I enquired from her whether she bought a pair of sandals, she told me, “With fifty rupee I bought a pair of sandal, another fifty was spent on firewood, a third fifty rupees was spent on rice and with the balance fifty rupees, I bought vegetables.” I felt very guilty. I felt like a heartless, rich merchant. Our children sometimes eat chocolates that cost rupees two hundred or more.
Gita was a casual worker. She requested me to regularise her services. I tried to find out the details. Tracing old references, I located her file in a place, which showed that for four years it was lying and gathering dust on a table. I discussed her case with a lawyer friend. It was informed, had her case been placed at the right time, her services could have been regularised. After a recent order from the Honourable Supreme Court on the regularisation of services of the casual workers, there was no scope for regularisation of her services.
I felt sad but there was little I could do. False promises break hearts so I explained to her that now it’s quite late to try for her regularisation. She appeared to have understood but still, she insisted that I do something for her. I felt very bad and only wished that someone could take the initiative when the time was right.
God only knows how many such unfortunate souls are still working with utmost sincerity hoping that their services would be regularised someday. And that they would get the benefits of pensions, etc. She kept in touch with me even after I moved out of that office. Her great expectations from me made me feel sad, as there was no remedy for her problem, which could have been solved long back, had people been a little more sensitive.
A real-life Gita was perhaps forced to master the art of survival without ever reading the Holy Book, after which she was named.
However, my hunger and quest for the wisdom of life management continue. Gita, the Holy Book – like the person – is still a pending project. Gita, the person, was destined (read doomed) to follow the essential principle of the Holy Book – Nishkaam Karma – duty without the desire of its fruits!
I feel that I have reached the mid of my life’s journey. Much water has flowed down the Brahmaputra. I toss on its mighty waves, like a small boat, amidst boatman’s songs, aware that the journey is more important, far more beautiful than the final destination.
The Kingdom of Wisdom awaits me…
Photos from the Internet
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Hemashri Hazarika is an Officer of the Assam Civil Service since 1997. Her research on Assam Civil Service brought reforms in 2015. A first-class Postgraduate in Economics from Gauhati University, she was awarded JRF/NET by UGC in 1997. Her experience as a bureaucrat has sensitised her to human sufferings. A solutionist by passion, she takes an active interest in issues related to Governance, Development, Women, Children, etc. Reading, Writing, Speaking and Painting are her hobbies.