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Born in the lap of the Himlayas, I have been flowing towards the sea for ages, through hills and valleys and planes by earning love and good wishes of all whom I meet on my long way.
I am a river, a dancing maid, who knows not how to tarry for a while. When I was given this eternal flow I remember not, and when it will end is a mystery to me. This much I know that I was given my birth to serve the earth with her animate or inanimate creations. My life is a dedicated one, meant to purify the filth of the earth.
I wash and carry away the polluted articles, such as the smelly corpses of men and beasts, the wastages of oils and chemicals of the mills, and the excretory refuse of the towns and villages-all sorts of dirty accumulations from my both the banks.
Still with a gay heart, I run and jump and sing my murmuring song, as I pass through the green paddy fields, dense forests or thickly populated inhabitations. The sky overhead protects me with its endless roof; the sun gives me his brightest rays, while the moon plays with me the game of tides : ebb and flow; the passing clouds shower their secret treasures on my hidden heart to make me happy.
I give shelter to the fishes and the aquatic animals; I give company to the innocent boatmen; I enjoy the music of the birds flying in the blue sky above, or settling on the flowing water-hyacinths on my broad bed.
I welcome the soft rays of the setting sun that creates a beautiful glare on my little ripples, when the wind blows slowly. With sun rays I look different at day, and with moon rays mystic at night. I live and will live to continue my eternal journey with my ever youthful heart.
I am an Arabian horse named 'Prince'. I am at present two-and-half years old. I was imported by a famous business man named Ibrahim Munshi.
My jockey Babulal is a good friend of mine. I try to keep his head high on the race ground. But I do not like my master, for he is a proud man. He thinks that because he had paid a heavy sum for my purchase, I am bound to run as the fastest horse in the race. He is concerned more about money than about myself, while other owners of horses caressing their pets and encouraging them by patting on their back, before they appear on the race course ground. Still, I do not dishearten my owner. In the last year's race, I won quite a few that fetched him lakhs of rupees. Still he is not happy.
This year there has so far been only seven race days, in which I took part, and on three consecutive days, I stood first on two occasions. But on the last day of the race, I unfortunately met with an accident while taking a turn as I ran fast and my left hind leg was wounded. That prevented me from doing well in that race. The doctor had advised rest for me until my wound was cured.
Now I heard that my master has told the jockey that he would not sell me to anyone for his prestige's sake, but that he was going to shoot me dead, and get rid of me, as I am unable to run like before. I have been passing sleepless nights since I heard this bad news. I know not when my last hour would come. Winning a race gets a horse garlands and trophies, while a wounded race horse has to face death, for no fault of his. What a fate it is!
I am an old fountain pen now finding my place in a dark corner of a cupboard of my master Sri Rajan, who is no more. I belong to the family of 'Black Birds'. I was manufactured in England 55 years ago and was shipped to Madras for sale. Messrs Simpsons on the Mount Road, Madras was our wholesale dealer. From there I was sent to 'Pen Corner' in Georgetown, Madras. Mr. Rajan, then a young boy of 16 appearing for the matriculation examination, bought me for Rs. 3/-.
I felt happy that I got a new master, a brilliant young lad whom I am going to serve for some years. My color was black and my nib was gold-coated with a firm point. My writing was smooth and it was like sailing on calm waters. I preferred 'Swan' ink, blue or black. It was my master's choice to select the ink. My master first used me to take his matriculation examination. Whether it was due to his hand writing or my beautiful flow I cannot say, but he passed his examination with distinction. That helped me to gain the love of my master who then onwards considered me as a lucky possession. I was always his companion finding my place comfortably in the pocket of his neat shirts. We both developed an inseparable intimacy and he believed that his progress in education and getting a good executive job in government through direct recruitment as a Revenue Divisional Officer was all due to me.
Many pens costlier and more beautiful came his way. But I never lost my place of privilege on their account, from my master. They were also used. But for anything important or sacred, I was to be there for my master to write. I enjoyed the privilege of a Royal Queen.
Then came a change in the clan of pens. Ink pens gave place to ball point pens. Everyone preferred the new variety, as it avoids the need for frequent refilling with ink. As any other young man getting attracted to things new and fashionable, my master too preferred a ball point pen. Then he started ignoring me, which I never dreamt of. Still my attachment to my master was so sentimental that he never gave up my use altogether. On ceremonial occasions and personal matters, it was I who was preferred. It was I who wrote all his letters of love to his dear wife. It was I who wrote the news of his first born and still it was I who wrote the marriage invitations of his first boy. That was my great association with my master.
Time rolls on and the retirement of my boss and his exit from the beautiful world followed soon. With none to take care of me and none to recognize the important events in my life. I was pushed to the corner of my master's cupboard. Here I am living, but dead already for all purposes.
I was a beautiful bamboo shoot in my previous life. My life was cut short and I was sent to a paper mill where I was made into pulp. The various turns in the machinery gave me a new shape and colour and pushed me out lifeless, as a thick card with cream colour. The bundles with no life were sent to the' printing press where a new life is given.
One fine day, the bundle was taken out and the words 'Post Card', 'Address only' along with the Government emblem and cost 25 paise. were printed on the face of the card. Then they were separated by suitably cutting them. Each one of them got a life and a value. I thus got my new life as a postcard and my value was 25 paise. We were 20 cards in a bundle and were despatched to various parts of the country. It fell to my lot to be sent to the General Post Office, Hyderabad. Days passed as we were kept in a stock room with no knowledge of our future.
One fine morning we were taken out for sale. Four of us went to the hands of a young handsome man who from then onwards became our boss. He was a Junior Officer in a firm, living alone in a small house in the posh locality of Banjara Hills known for its scenic beauty and wealthy residents. My new master had a good lot of friends and mostly he was talking to them over phone with no need to use us. Then came his birthday coupled with his promotion. It was an occasion of joy and happiness. He started making use of us as telephones went out of order due to heavy rains.
He addressed me to his girl friend Lata, saying that he got his promotion and also informing her about his date of birth as she is yet to know it. He concluded the letter with words of love. I was despatched to an address at Delhi to carry his message. I was happy that I am carrying a happy message and my life is going to unite two young souls. I was posted in the post office at Banjara Hills. The postman stamped on me the date. Sorting was done. I was put in the bundle going to Delhi which carried many other letters, covers, registered letters etc. Some Air Mail letters going to America and Japan were with us before sorting, but now they got into a separate bag.
I was puzzled. Then an Air Mail cover going to the U.S.A. laughed at me and said "Oh, you PostCard. Don't you know your class? You are the lowest. How could you dream of coming into our bag and travel by air?" I never knew till then that there would be class distinctions even in letters and cards, as human beings are divided into classes of 'Haves' and 'Have nots'. What cannot be cured has to be endured. So I accepted the 'Karma Philosophy' of our land and moved to Delhi.
I reached my destination - No.6., Ashoka Road, New Delhi, and was delivered to Miss Lata. She went through the contents and kissed me, a kiss of love and affection. I was thrilled as that-was the first kiss I ever got from a beautiful lady and thought I achieved my purpose in life. She took me for reading a number of times, whenever she found time and kept me with her for days together. Then came her marriage with her boy friend. With their union I lost my value. I now remain in a cupboard in her room not cared for as a retired old man waiting for his last call. Well, that is the way of the world.
I am a doormat, and my life consists of only people walking upon my body and rubbing their feet or shoes on me. All the dust and dirt the shoes gather from the roads, parks etc. are neatly deposited on my body, and I, believe me, assimilate it all. This is my life, a life of scorn hate and of being used only in collection of dirt.
For a long time, I actually cannot really assess how long it must have been, but it was quite long while I lay in a shop, in an area I think called Lajpat Nagar. There, in the midst of so many of my friends and colleagues small and big, it was a lot of fun and enjoyment.
We often discussed life, and even the people who came to our shop. The haggling of the customers and the arguments put up by the salesman on our shop was really very interesting to hear, and the fun took the toll of the whole day in no time. Before we would know it, it would be time of the evening to pack up.
So very interesting life was for us, that, time just flew. In the daytime when the shop was opened, we were all neatly decorated in the front of the shop in tall heaps, and a large stock of my friends would lie huddled up in one corner of the shop. I was very lucky as, I was always put in front of the shop and, never dumped in a corner.
This is because I think I was and still am very beautiful and attractive. This was my routine in the shop together with my friends whom I miss even to day.
Daily we would enjoy the discussions about us, and ingeneral about the world among our customers, and thus/ not a moment of boredom did I ever feel at the shop. Every day some customers would come and go, and sure enough some of my friends would be bought and find a home, and walk off the scene of the shop.
At times this made me feel rather lonely, and to some extent even worried. I often worried why people would see me and then not choose me, and instead take some other friend of mine. Seeing this for some time, I started feeling rather depressed and I even felt that there must be something really wrong with me that no one wants to take me.
With this sort of feelings, an unhappy mood would often creep in my usually jolly mind. However, the morning would bring in new hope and so every morning I would hope that some one would at last like me and purchase me.
After a long wait in moods of depression and boredom finally one day, a fine looking young lady set her hands on me and expressed a desire to buy me.
It is then during the argument between her and my master that I came to know why I had been left for so long in this showroom when so many of my simpler looking friends had found homes.
When the lady asked the price for me she just jumped in shock, and then I realised that, I was too expensive, and she kept on haggling. All this time of arguments I kept my fingers crossed wondering if she would finally buy me at all or just leave me and go.
This thought of being left back in the shop even after having been chosen was absolutely unbearable but, Lady Luck finally smiled at me and, I was neatly rolled up and handed over to the lady.
Till I reached my new home and I was appreciated by one and all who saw me I really did not know that I was so very beautiful. The children, the guests who came to the house all just loved me and this infused new life and hope in me.
It all helped in boosting my morale and, once again started feeling comfortable and happy. I did not even know how to serve my master but the family was very helpful and they all helped me in feeling at home.
My first experience with life came when the first guest who came to the house and rubbed his dirty shoes on my new neat and clean body. I was pained physically with the harsh rub- and also mentally I was rather upset wondering if this was to be my work always.
To my surprise that very day I came to know that this was to be my onerous task day in and day out. The thought, I must tell you really did disappoint me but then, as time passed by, I got used to this fact of life.
Moreover, my other friends in the house explained to me that I should not feel bad when people rub their feet on my back and clean up their feet/ shoes, instead, I should feel proud that I help people in maintaining cleanliness, and I also help in maintaining the house clean of all dirt.
As time passed by, the thought of serving the family in keeping their house clean and thus healthy, gave me a lot of solace and satisfaction.
Now, I have been in this house for six months. I have taken quite a long time in adjusting myself to all the rude facts of my life but now, I am quite happy and comfortable with the work and duties allotted to me.
Physically, yes, when people rub their shoes on my back it still hurts my body but, mentally and morally I am now quite satisfied with my work, my profession, and my life.
I do sometimes wonder what my end will be, as, I have heard that some of my old friends in this house only have been thrown away in the dustbins of the Municipality. I know that, this is exactly what will happen to me also when I am old and am not able to serve my masters with the same efficiency.
Whatever may be in store for me in the future I am presently, enjoying my life thoroughly, sitting snugly in the huge sitting room of the master and his family; why worry about the future let me live in the present and have a gala time.
No matter how much people talk from rostrums and from housetops, about equality, the dent once put on the existence of my class, I feel, can never really go. My personal view is that, birth does make a lot of difference to an individual's life, life style, and future.
I am a sweeper working in the Municipal Corporation of Delhi. My salary is not too bed, it is about Rs.3000/-, but the stigma of being a sweeper never gets eliminated from my personality.
Born in a family of sweepers I remember how my grandparents suffered at the hands of people of the upper caste. They were so ill-treated that even I sometimes wondered whether we were human beings like all the others or, belonged to some other unearthly planet.
The abuses they got to hear, the treatment meted out to them and the status they held in the society was just deplorable. To-day things have changed a lot in my time; yet, the discrimination is more felt than seen. On the face of it a lot is being done but the ground reality still is that we are abhorred though not maltreated.
When I was a young lad I was sent to a school which was meant for children of only sweepers and the like. This thought itself was sufficiently depressing and a clear indicator of life that is and life that will be.
I do wonder how it will be possible to improve my status if I continued to move among my class only, and that I would have to, as, I would not be allowed to enter any other class of society.
After reaching STD. VI, I revolted against my parents and the school for accepting this kind of humiliation, and, I
demanded admission in a good school where other children of higher castes studied. This was as if asking for the moon but, after a long drawn out struggle for my right to study in any school of my choice finally I did succeed and got admission in a Christian Public School.
In studies I was quite good so, I managed to pass through my STD. X with 65% marks. However, this was to be the end of my dream of becoming something in this world. Now, I realized that, with these marks, it was impossible to get admission in any college for higher studies.
In these days of tough competition when children with 90% have to struggle for admission then where would I stand a chance of any admission with just a 65%? So no, though I had passed STD. X, what avail was it I would not be any better off in the job market. Now the position was that, I could not dream of getting a job or of studying any further - what a dilemma I was in.
However, life is a story of hopes and frustrations, so, after passing STD. X I wasted two full years in looking for an opportunity to improve my status but alas! nothing could be realized and, I, at the age of eighteen finally landed in the job of a sweeper in the Municipal Corporation of Delhi.
The lesson that I have learnt after this fruitless struggle is that, birth seals a human being's fate. No matter how much we try it is impossible to get out of the rut in which one is born.
To day, I have been in this job for five years; I am now married and have parents, a wife and two children to look after. The money I get is just sufficient to pull through the month, but the status I have gnaws at me all the time. What ambitions I had at one time, to improve my status in the society, but nothing could be achieved except the traditional job of my forefathers i.e. of a sweeper.
It is a fact that the status one is born with can never be dispensed with no matter how much we try. To this life I have to stick till God gives me death and then a new life of a person of a higher caste, with a different parental home and a better family and thus a better status. Now I can only hope that things change more when my children enter their lives of adulthood. As far as I am concerned, I have decided to wait for my next life, a new assignment of a new life.
I never knew what I was going to be when I was a glazed white paper taken to the postal printing press. When I entered the press, those who went there earlier were coming out with different pictures, printed in different colours - green, blue, red, brown etc. They were also given a price. Some I saw were for 10 Ps., some for 50 Ps., some for one rupee etc. I was puzzled to know as to what my lot is going to be. It was not long before I got a print on my face, a picture and a price. The picture of the Father of the Nation, Mahatma Gandhi, was printed in brown colour on me and my cost was fixed as Re.1/-. The sheet to which I belong got 200 such prints, 20 vertical and 10 horizontal. We were sent to another machine which pasted gum on our backs.
From the printing press we were bundled in 100 sheets each and despatched to General Post Office, Hyderabad for sale. I waited for my turn to be sold. On 25th of February a beautiful middle aged lady bought ten of us along with other stamps of different values. On 28th February, she wrote a letter to her son studying at Cincinati, Ohio state, the U.S.A and putting it in a cover, she pasted a stamp of Rs.100/- plus three of us on the cover. The cover with four of us pasted on was posted at G.P.O on 29th of February.
The postman collected the cover along with others and stamped on us G.P.O., Hyderabad dated 29 Feb. We, a few, meant to go to the U.S.A were put in an Air Mail bag and despatched by plane to America. I reached my destination on 5th of March. The young lad, a university student, was the man in whose hands I finally fell. He is a collector of postal stamps and so he was able to see the specialty in me. I did not myself know it earlier.
Can you guess? It is not that I am different in colour, size or shape or in picture with other one rupee stamps he got earlier. It is the date stamped on me that is special.
Raja, is the name of the young lad I referred to. He removed me entirely and with tact, as the date was very clear on me and not on others. He took me to his room and pasted me in his Stamp Album along with many other stamps which he had collected. They belonged to different countries. When I was pasted in the album I was all alone. Many stamps joined me day after day. I could find in my company stamps belonging to different countries - England, Indonesia and Japan all (carrying different pictures and of different values, but all stamped the same date at the place of their postings.
We may not be useful once again to carry letters. But our master Raja knowns our value. In the coming two or three decades he says that my value will go up thousands of times because we would then be rare stamps and special in nature. Can you ever believe that the value of a man increases after death? But in our case it is happening that is the wonder about me and my fellow brothers.