In life of ordinary men : Shinde Kaka

I came to Pune at the age of 13. I started with Gore sir in Heerabagh and slowly graduated to the WIE Sports complex. Since then it’s been my second home. It’s the place where I work very hard and relentlessly towards achieving my personal goals. Though complex could never be complex without the staff which has been working here since 1982 when it was built. This story is about one of the staff member who has been here since 1984 and has been synonymous with this place. Be it a tournament, the net falling down or wiping of the courts,or getting chai the first name that comes to mind is ‘Shinde kaka’. If he is not around ,complex does feel a little weird. The following is his life in his own words. I loved to hear it first hand.

Early days:

” I come from a small village called Patas. I did my schooling there only. Though just like every village in India I had to help my family in the farms,we were never asked if we wanted to or not. It was just taken for granted. Though I had my parents I was really raised by my elder cousin brother. I dont really have many memories from my childhood. I dont know where it went by. I guess I was just too busy farming. After I grew a little older I joined the forest department. I was just too tired farming I could just not make a decent living with it. Forest department as I figured out later was as bad too. They would just not pay us. It was a every day struggle to get food on the table. I had heard a lot about city life and I decided that I am going to get myself a better living.”

Marriage proposal:

“I was working in the farm and was in my usual avatar. I was covered with mud all over my body and one could hardly see my face, thats when my would be wife’s big brother came upto me and asked if I would marry his sister?  I told him on his face,” Whatever is there is right in front of you,I have nothing more if she is ok with it I will marry her”. Before I knew it my marriage was fixed. I ,neither she had seen each other not even in a photo. We didnt have a choice like now-a-days. I dont really remember my marriage day it happened so quickly. Dont look at me like that I will tell you why. My elder brother had decided to conduct his sister’s marriage on the same mandap as mine. I was the only karta-dharta so I had to run around everywhere to see that everything was in place. I was so busy attending to the other marriage that my wives relatives had to confirm again if I was going to get married today. Before I knew it in 45mins I was a married man. I think my marriage was a good omen it gave me that final push to come and risk it in the city for my family’s future.”

Comes to Pune:

“I came to pune in 1984 and stayed with my cousin Haribhakta(who also works in the complex) for the first few months. He was the one who got me to complex and landed me in this job. At that time the manger was Mr.Dabeer and he immediately took me on board for a salary of Rs.250. I had come alone to Pune leaving my wife and children in Patas. Once I had settled down and got myself a kholi for Rs.50 a month I called them to pune. I have been leaving in that kholi for all these years. Ofcourse now the rent is Rs.4000 for a month, but it is ok my salary has come to Rs.9000 now so I can afford it. My kholi is in Warje and for the last 26 years I have been coming up and down on my cycle. It takes me around 45mins one way. It gets tiring now with me growing older but I can still manage.”

Memories of the complex:

“I have some really fond memories of complex I will tell you a few. There was this group of members who used to come to play. One day as I was doing my usual cleaning up I found this bag under a chair. I looked in to see and saw 10 grams of gold in it. I was worried. First thing I did was that I kept it in my cupboard in the complex and locked it to safety. For a week-ten days nobody came to claim it,then suddenly Mr.shetty mentioned it to me and I immediately got him that bag. It belonged to Mr.Punniya and he rewarded me with 100 bucks for my honesty. Another incident was when in the monsoons the electric meter caught fire and I and Dilip kaka(another staff member at the complex) risked our life to go and stop the fire. The WIE committee at that time gave us a certificate for our gesture and I still have it framed in my house.”

A good life:

“As I look back I have no regrets about the life I have lived. I have two sons whom I have got educated. One of them has done MBA and is working in a company. Another one is a hardware engineer and has a job too. When I came to Pune I didnt have a penny in my pocket, but today I think I am a successful father and hopefully a husband. In my early years and even today my wife has never questioned my decisions .She’s  been with me like a shadow following me everywhere without a word. I am hoping that I have given her some happiness. I do feel guilty sometimes, in all my life we have never gone for a movie or a Marathi play. We have a small television at home which I never really watch, that’s the only source of entertainment for her. I just have my little transistor on which I listen to old Marathi, Hindi songs. What to do? I never felt I was missing anything. I was as happy with Rs.250 as I am with Rs.9000. I managed to live honorably then and do so even today. I did my work with as much honesty and sincerity as possible and will continue to do so till I live. Complex is my home away from home. I am just so grateful to all my bosses here that they just never gave up on me for all these years. I have my own identity today. People have respect for me here. That is all I have ever wanted.”

When I heard his story the simplicity of it absolutely amazed me. In today’s world with cut throat competition, with rising economies, with Blackberrys and Iphones, it’s important to know that there are people living these simple lives untouched by it all. It is important to know that ultimately every person is striving to be happy, to be satisfied and money no matter what day and age will never be able to buy it. It will and will always come down to one simple thing karma and the values with which you choose to live by. The rules to happiness will always be the same be it Shinde Kaka who earns Rs.9000 or a software engineer earning Rs.9 lakhs a month. The most important question will always remain not what you have achieved but always how you chose to achieve it?

Ethiopian airlines

i was mentally prepared for a long and boring 30 hrs journey. i was bound to get back from china to delhi. our great badminton association of india travel agent had very intelligently made sure that i travel all over asia before i reach my destination. he made sure that a simple 8 to 10 hrs journey was converted into a 30 hrs torture. the ticket issued by bai agent was this changzhou-gangzhou-bangkok- 9 hrs night halt at the airport-delhi-and then finally to pune(ofcourse it was air-india and it got delayed by 2 hrs). i tried to tell him that i am travelling alone and there are 100s of flights directly from guangzhou to india, but telling our travel agent or expecting him to show a little empathy is like going for a katrina kaif movie and expecting her to act. i gave him atleast 5 calls from china on my fifth call he said ,” aditi, hamari koshish hamesha yahi rehti hai ki kisi bhi player ko koi taklif na ho,im sorry par mein kuch nahi kar sakta.” i was on skype so i sadly couldnt bang the phone to show him my frustration.

anyways this has been happening since i have started playing international badminton. so thats not what i want talk about. i wanted to write about my flight from guangzhou to bangkok. on my very long e-ticket, my flight was called ET- 107. I asked my team mates if they knew which airline was that, the only full form we could think of was extra terrestrial, ofcourse i would find out later that ET stood for ethiopian airlines. before i start off with my unique experience i would like to say a heartfelt thankyou to Mr. steve jobs. “thank you mr.jobs for creating apple and ofcourse the i-pad two of which i am a very proud owner. my whole world fits in it, internet,books,music,games,and my friend the tom cat. you have no idea how much easier these long hours seem to an all alone female traveler like me due to your creation. THANK YOU.”

So now getting back to Ethiopian airlines. i reached the check in counter and it occurred to me then that i was travelling by the Ethiopian airlines. there were around 50 black men and women standing there.there wasnt any line as such. i didnt know where to stand so i just asked one of the staff where should i go, the staff was a chinese ofcourse he said ” please go ahead all these people are standing here for the last hour,i have no idea whats happening.” he looked as confused as me but i just had an hour and i still had immigration and security check so with lot of excuse me’s i reached the counter. i told her i need a window seat and to check me in till delhi. she did as she was told. i rushed through the rest of the formalities and reached the gate.

this is the part where i kind of started getting scared. gate no 29 was filled with around 200 ethopians. i was the only indian with two white men travelling with us. i had ofcourse heard about how big africans can be,but when i stood between 200 of them i almost felt i didnt exist at all. before i talk about the men i have to speak about the ladies. they all i guess were of the same sizes, some of there butts were so huge that if you had to stand behind them you would automatically be standing at a one hand distance. here i was thinking that indian women have a tendency towards big bums. let me tell you we are nowhere near. the clothes they wore were just really interesting. some of them wore those huge traditional robes,from colors ranging from florescent yellow to orange. one of the ladies just felt she had enough of that huge robe so decided to change. she told two of her friends to stand around as she slipped into a smaller dress. this basically happened right in front of us. my eyes went a little wide and i looked at a girl sitting next to me with ,what the hell expression on my face. other than me nobody looked amazed it was a normal thing i guess. so the girl in return gave me what the hell are you looking at expression , i just quietly looked down.boarding was announced and suddenly all those 200 people made a line. the line was so huge that people from the other boarding gates had no place to go. the staff there would try to make some place for them, but as they turned around it was again the same story. three chinese girls stopped by to click pictures of this huge line. one of them looked at me and smiled at her friend. i guess she must have said ,:what is this idiot doing between all of them?” as i reached near the entrance out of nowhere one big woman wearing a orange dress and gold jewelry which was much more than what bappi lahiri wears stood in front of me with her husband. the staff told her to go back and join the line,but she said, ‘i waiting too long,how much long?”, the staff first replied in chinese than said “others also waiting long, go back.” she stepped aside, as i got in and looked back after a while the black bappi lahiri was right behind me. i just hoped she didnt crack that poor girls skull or something.

i quickly lunged forward into the aircraft. a girl with her hair all over the place and eyes red due to lack of sleep or just because she was plain drunk said hi,i said hi and quickly found my seat and sat down. my window seat had no window ofcourse the whole flight had windows all over the place but i got a window seat without window. i started praying to the lord to let there be noone next to me or at least a woman if possible. as i was lost in my prayers a huge black man wearing a sleeveless shirt asked me ‘eh woman,this my seat.’ i must have gulped at least a liter of saliva in, and managed to say ‘sorry sir,this is my seat’ and quickly showed him my boarding pass. his expression changed and seemed a little less angry now his seat was right behind me. as they announced boarding completed luckily the seat next to me was empty. i let a sigh of relief. the next prayer i made was that the pilot should not be as drunk as the air hostesses,the take off was pretty smooth ignoring the fact that one of the overhead lockers opened and luckily for the person below, it was only one blanket that fell on his head. i started saying the gayatri mantra. i decided to read the inflight magzine. contrary to the body sizes in the flight there were interviews of their long distance runners and about how athletics is picking up in the country and is there best bet of medals in the olympics. it was an interesting read. i was calming down a bit and suddenly i heard a loud thud. the drunk or sleepy air hostess had forgot to put the breaks on the food trolley so the trolley was running down all over the flight and the food was falling away too. the big man behind me got up and stopped it with his two fingers. if i was the trolley i would have automatically put the breaks looking at him, put the trolley wasnt as smart as me. the drunk or sleepy air hostess suddenly woke up or became sober due to this and apologized. as for me i thought we were heading for a emergency landing or something after the noise,and i braced myself and went almost under the seat.

rest of the one hour of the flight was not so scary. the rest of the flight alternated between eating food,magzine, and the chanting of gayatri mantra. the only reason i have ever been scared in a flight was turbulence but this fear i felt was for everything other than that. i am sure this will make me much more well prepared for my next ethopian airlines flight.

i just want to make clear that i am not a racist or anything. for me black,white or brown for that matter is just the color of the skin. it doesnt define a person for me. black people are as smart,dumb,wrong or right , ugly or beautiful as rest of us. some of my favorite people are black abraham lincoln, denzel washington, morgan freeman, micheal jackson, nelson mandela, muhhammad ali and so many more. and you never know one of them in the flight must have had me as the butt of their jokes, may be literally and blogged about it.

i am just really amazed at how this supreme power has created these different kinds of people,languages,food,cultures etc and fit them into this small planet. i am not complaining, it surely makes life so much more interesting and fuller.

i completely believe in what the great MJ says, ” it just doesnt matter if you are black or white.”