‘She Moves Mountains’ and there was a thunderous applause. Zoya stood there, on the stage, a personification of humility, courage and determination. At the mere age of forty, she was being felicitated by the UN, as the founder of the NGO ‘Samaan’, that worked for the upliftment of the under-privileged. In just about a span of ten years, ‘Samaan’ had made it’s mark enough to be recognised internationally and today Zoya stood there with the coveted title, ‘She Moves Mountains’ conferred to her by the UN.
Zoya sat in her hotel room letting sink, all the honour showered upon her that evening. One person who she remembered the most, was Dadu, her grand father. How she wished he was with her, that day. In no time, she got lost down her memory lane. How vividly that day came floating in front of her eyes. She was may be around ten years of age. She was getting ready to go for her school picnic that morning. Maya Di, the help at home, was helping her get ready. Zoya was being moody and was getting late too. The bus was to come in about ten minutes. As it was time to leave Zoya started shouting at Maya that why had she not cleaned her shoes that she was to wear that day. Maya was being apologetic and mumbled that she was not told to keep that pair of shoes ready. Zoya was shouting when Dadu walked out of his room, came to Zoya and told her gently yet firmly to stop shouting and to apologise to Maya for being so rude to her. Zoya remembered her flush of anger and the awkward flustered look on Maya Di’s face; Zoya muttered a sorry and ran out of the house, to catch the school bus.
Inspite of the fun picnic, Zoya was upset the whole day. She could not get over the fact that her Dadu had made her apologize to Maya Di, a househelp. She returned home in the evening and was surprised to see Dadu waiting for her at the bus stop. It was Maya Di everyday. Dadu held her hand with a smile and they walked back home. Asking about her day, Dadu suggested they sit in the garden for a while. They both sat on a swing. Zoya knew Dadu had something to tell her.
“Zoya, today I want to tell you my story. Would you be interested in hearing it?”asked Dadu. Zoya was intrigued. She nodded in the affirmative.
“Zoya, I was around your age, when I lost both my parents to cholera. An epidemic broke in our village and it’s entire population was almost wiped out within a fortnight. I was at my maternal uncle’s place so I got saved. There was no one to come back to, in my village so henceforth, that home became my home. I was shattered and did not know how to react to the fact that I would never ever see my parents, grandparents, my two uncles, aunts, my little sister and two cousins. We were not rich. We just about managed. I was fortunate to have my maternal uncle and aunt take me into their lives as their own child. That my share of daily bread, ate into theirs, was never expressed to me in any way. I started my schooling in the only school that was a bit far away from the village. I would walk barefoot but loved going to school. I put my heart and soul into my studies. I had to be big someday. I don’t know how this determination took shape in me.” Dadu looked and smiled at Zoya, who was listening intently. Dadu was telling her his story. “So Zoya, I excelled in my studies and soon I went to the best college on scholarship. There was no looking back from then onwards. In due time I was blessed with a family of my own and then as the most beautiful blessing, you, Zoya came into my life. Every moment, in my life, I feel grateful to God for his love for me. He took away my parents so soon in life making me an orphan, but since then has not given me a reason, yet, to shed a tear. I have worked very hard in life, doing my best and am immensely satisfied with the rewards. Zoya, I had only two meals a day, all my growing years and the meals comprised chapatis and achar or chapati and dal. Curd was only on special occasions and curd boondi was a rare treat that I had only when we went to somebody’s wedding.” Dadu got up and continued talking, “Zoya, my uncle was a bus driver and my aunt worked on others’ fields. I would do the household chores after school to help my aunt. If you have noticed Zoya, even today I do my things at home, myself. My dear, you are privileged to have such comfort and opportunities, but have you ever realized that you haven’t earned them? They are being given to you by your elders, who have earned them.” Dadu took out a chocolate and handed it to Zoya. Zoya started nibbling at it all ears to Dadu. She had suddenly grown up. Dadu was saying, “No work is small Zoya. Maya Di is no less than you just because she is working in your house. For no faults of her’s, she does not have such an easy life as you have, again no credit to you. Respecting all for who they are, is a pre-requisite to being a good person. After seeing your behaviour towards Maya today, I realised the need to teach you Dignity of Labour. Do I make sense to you my child?” asked Dadu affectionately.
Little Zoya now, had a new pair of eyes. How differently she could see now!
Zoya, still sitting in her hotel room, let the tears flow.