A conversation with a retired Himalayan Army Havaldar

1st OCTOBER 2019

It’s 9:12 in the morning, the weather was bright and sunny. I decided to pull a chair out to bask in the sun when Dada Ji joined me. We covered a considerable ground that day. From titles in the village to the current political status of the country, the effects of demonetization, and Dada Ji life as a retired Havaldar.

The view from Dadda Ji’s House

As we began our discussion, a group of young local boys came and stuck posters of the candidates standing for the village elections on the outside bathroom door. The Village Panchayat Elections were to be held in exactly two weeks.

As we were enjoying the summer breeze I asked Dada Ji what his views were of the Modi Government, was it a hit or a flop?

He pointed at the two outdoor bathrooms he had built due to the Modi Government schemes. For this, he received 12,000/-. All Dada Ji said was they delivered what they promised.

Since we were in the middle of nowhere and had no network connectivity I was pretty impressed with the schemes as it reached the remotest of mountain villages. His house was the only concrete house in the village of houses made wood or clay. And guess what, it had a tap in it. ( Credits to the Jal Yojana scheme)

I was pleasantly surprised with Dada Ji since you don’t come across people that are grateful for the government’s efforts.

The only location outside the house to get network.

We smoothly glided into the next conversation on Dada Ji marriage. I decided to excuse myself for a moment to bring & chop vegetables for lunch as we spoke.

I started peeling the garlic, when I learnt Dada Ji was married twice. In his first marriage, he had lost his wife. Then he married Durga Devi Ji at the tender age of 13 while he was 23.

Then out of nowhere, he asks me what date it was. I said it was he1st of October. He continued, “It was exactly a year ago when dadi was hit by a stick in the eye and had a 42-minute operation.”  I must say he was pretty well versed with the facts along with his fantastically dramatical way of storytelling.

He continued to tell me about his first salary which was a sum of 109.52 paise out of which he continued with a huge smile, that he ensured 4.50 paise went into a provident fund. I sat in awe of his proud attempts to save money from his already meagre salary. 

On hearing this I tried to imagine how much that would have been worth at that time. clearly, I had no visible comparison available, so I sat there in blissful silence.

I began chopping the onions. When he began his next story. Over here he spoke about his childhood and how he had no option but to drop out of school in the 6th standard to support his parents as his parents couldn’t pay his school fees of 10 Paisa. My eyes began to tear up from the onions or the story, I can’t say.

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