Nikhil Ghosh ─ more popularly known as Nikhil Master ─ in our locality is a person who somehow manages to run his family by the scanty income he makes by teaching a few students of the Tenth Standard as a private tutor. A private tutor in a village like ours does not earn much. Students are from poor families. Parents provide him with a little money as remuneration. Some parents even simply cannot afford that. They give vegetables to their dearest teacher of their sons and daughters.

         Sometimes the father of a student comes to the teacher and says, “Master, I’ll give you the money after harvesting the crops after two months”. Some other says, “I can’t give you anything this year. All my crops have been damaged. The next year I must give you your fees.”

        Nikhil master never minds these things.

      In this way he passes his days without affluence or poverty. It would be more proper to say that he makes both ends meet. But one cannot find an equal of him in self-sacrifice, generosity and compassion for other human beings. He generates deep veneration in anyone who comes in contact with him. The more I see him the more I am amazed. In today’s world, how a person without any financial and political influence can exert such influence in the social circle!

       The other day an incident happened in front of my eyes. That incident was an eye-opener.

       Soma Aunt lives with her only daughter in a cottage just opposite our house. Her husband works as a bus-boy in a restaurant in the town. He comes every two months to provide his family with money. Soma Aunt struggles hard to run the family. Normally she works from morning to night. She buys newspapers from various families and prepares packets and sells those packets, and thus gets some money as profit.

      That day her ten-year-old daughter was burning with fever. The girl who helps her mother prepare the packets and has learnt from her mother how to work harder has not left the bed since dawn. The girl understands her mother’s condition and cannot indulge in the luxury of playing in the field next to their house where, in the afternoon, children of her age play various types of games.

      One day Soma Aunt asked her, “Nupur, will you go with me to the field? Rupa, Monalisa, Ankita go with their mothers every day. You can go at least one day a week with Ankita’s mother. If I tell her she’ll take you with her.”

       “No mother”, replied Nupur and added, “I don’t feel like playing. I like working”

        Nupur’s mother only sighed and said to herself, “We’re cursed with such an unhappy lot that a ten-year-girl of our families are so ripe with maturity and experience! She cannot afford to do that which is very normal for a girl of her age.”

        Soma Aunt became very worried. She went from door to door in the neighbor-hood, but nobody came forward to help her.

        She came to my house with a bowed head and said, “Rathin, Nupur is suffering from high fever. Will you take her to the doctor?”

         My final exam was knocking at the door. So, I justified my conduct by saying, “If my exam were not on the threshold, I would definitely go to a doctor. But, now I’m helpless to help you.”

        I felt that I can at least remind her of Nikhil master of our locality, “Why’re you asking others when there is our savior Nikhil master? I can accompany you if you want that.”

        She immediately jumped at the suggestion and headed towards his house. I felt an unbounded satisfaction of showing a helpless person the right direction.

       I told him everything and he immediately wore his very old discoloured shirt and came out. He took the girl to the doctor, spending the little amount he had with him. Nupur’s fever was gone the next morning but I came to hear from Jatin, my childhood friend and a neighbour of Nikhil master, that he had a bitter quarrel with his wife as they themselves were suffering from terrible poverty. A few days ago, Nikhil master’s wife had to undergo an operation. So, literally Nikhil master was in a state of penury.

       When he came back from the doctor’s chamber, his wife started yelling, “Is it called kindness when your own son is remaining half-fed? I never mind you helping other people, but spending money on others when we ourselves are moneyless!

          Nikhil master only said “Her suffering is bigger than mine. So, I cannot but help her. My son is at least alive but her daughter was going to die. I’ve only done what I should do in such a circumstance.”

          On that day I could only feel that this person is made up of the stuff the saints are made of.

          Another thing happened a few days later. The incident has left an indelible impression upon my mind. I have been convinced that he is not an ordinary human being.

           Nikhil master used to go to a nearby town called Katwa by his bi-cycle, which saved the fare of the journey by a vehicle. If people asked him, “Nikhil master, why do you use your bi-cycle in this age of advanced technology and unnecessarily waste your energy?”

           Nikhil master immediately retorted, “Unnecessary? Do you understand what is necessary and what is unnecessary? People have forgotten to remind themselves of the austerity Indian saints underwent. Working hard will keep you physically fit. Moreover, my bi-cycle offers me the freedom I never enjoy anywhere.”

          That day he was running his bi-cycle and was humming a song to himself. He had almost reached the periphery of the town when he saw some people indifferently watching a suffering beggar who was crying in terrible pain. He was all besmeared with filth and mud as he was sitting beside a dustbin to collect his food. It created aversion in people who watched him lying there and suffering indescribable pain. He was crying and asking everybody, kneeling in supplication, “Babu, please take me to a doctor. Unbearable pain in my whole body!”

         Nobody thought it proper to relieve a beggar of his pain, especially when he was all but dirt!

        Nikhil master was born to save people from danger or pain. So, he saw the beggar only for a moment and leaned his bi-cycle against the wall of a shop.

         He asked a rikshaw-puller, “How much will you take to take this beggar to the hospital?

The rikshaw-puller loathed the idea of carrying a beggar who was spreading foul smell all around. He only said, “Let him remain there. Even God cannot save him. Why are you bothered about that?”

   Nikhil master got almost the same reply from several rikshaw-pullers.

   He could understand it very well that asking people was akin to letting him die. So, without wasting time, he lifted the beggar on his shoulder and started heading towards Katwa Sub-divisional Hospital for his treatment.

        He asked the doctor on duty, “Is there any hope of his life?”

        The doctor replied, “I see no hope. Yet we are doing what we can.”

       Nikhil master then came back to the place where he kept his bi-cycle. He again came back to the town and did his scheduled jobs. Before going back home, he again came to the hospital to enquire about his condition. He came back home without any hope.

          After a few weeks, Nikhil master was teaching a few students in his house. A person outside was asking, “Can you show me Nikhil master’s house?”

         His wife asked him, “What business do you have with his house?”

         The man replied, “I have come to visit the Temple where my God has His abode.”

         Nikhil master came out of the house and recognized the beggar who, to his utter shock and unbounded joy, has been restored to life by God. The beggar related how he has searched Nikhil master after his recovery.

         The beggar said, “After recovery, my only aim has been to go on a pilgrimage, and now I have achieved that.”

July 03, 2020 12:29

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