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Short story: The grandpa who became Sarpanch  



By Devansh Panwar

On a rainy Sunday afternoon, my brothers and I were lying in bed watching television. The doorbell rang and we raced to open it – as we all knew that whoever opens it first would be given a candy. Luckily, I did it and Grandpa was there.

He said, “Oh!” Not having seen his grandchildren for nearly a month now, he exclaimed fervently, “I missed you all!” His work ethic was admirable; and he liked to work even at this age. His presence was a source of inspiration to our family, but we were yet to figure out why he preferred to live alone.

We had lunch after Grandpa freshened up. Later, all of us gathered around him on the balcony while he smoked his pipe. Our youngest brother, Rahul, who had a knack for asking questions, asked him why he lived alone and went to the farm to work when he could just relax and enjoy life while his sons. Grandpa gazed into our eyes and said, “Oh! Do you really want to hear the tale of this old man?”

“Yes!” we all shouted instantaneously.

Taking a puff from his pipe, he told us his story. “I was born in a small town named Gamdir, several kilometers from here outside the city of Uttarkashi. In my family, there were 7 children and I was the eldest of them. My mother was remarkably spiritual so she named me Badri. My father’s youngest brother adopted me when I was 6 years old because he did not have any children.”

“And your father let you go?” I inquired quickly. Taking another puff, he smiled and after a few moments of thought, he replied, “I come from a poor family and raising seven kids was quite a burden for my father. In this way, he thought, if uncle adopted me, it would be good for me. As my uncle grew older and was unable to do his daily tasks, he thought I could help him do all the duties of a son.”

“Well, what about your school? How did you manage your time?” asked Rahul. At that moment, Grandpa was going to answer, Rahul asked another question…Grandpa seemed disturbed at Rahul for asking so many questions and my sister and I had to take Rahul away because he was disrupting the flow of the story. Although Rahul was 17, he sometimes acted like a 9-year-old.

“You guys remind me of my brothers and sisters. Considering the question you asked, I never really enjoyed going to school. I was a workaholic and I would do anything to help my community. Eventually, the hard work paid off and I was elected as the village Sarpanch.”

“The Sarpanch?!!! “All of us exclaimed in awe because the Sarpanch is the head of the village committee.

“I was the Sarpanch responsible for 18 villages.”

The number of villages absolutely amazed me. “18 villages!!”

“There were, of course, immense obligations that came. The amount of work that I used to do doubled. I started coming home late even working the entire night just so that I can earn more and take care of my family. It was at that time, I started understanding more about the ways of the world. I learnt that the world is a cruel place and that everyone just tries to amass wealth for their upcoming generations. No one really cares about their surroundings. Everyone has turned cold with no feelings and respect left for others and money is the most important of all.”

“People can do anything for money and would not care a bit to see what effects it would have on one’s relations with others, even for their relatives and friends. During my tenure, we worked for the construction of a Higher Secondary School as there weren’t any at that time. This should have been an undemanding job but I had to face a lot of problems and opposition. The people of the neighbouring villages were opposing the initiative and demanding that we should construct the school in their village instead of ours. So, keeping the demands of both these villages in my mind, I thought that we should construct it in the primary district of Uttarkashi as it would make transportation easier and more workable. That was when I faced the opposition from my people. If the village had a school, it would have been more developed. That’s why I eventually had to reject the appeal of everyone and go on with the construction of the school in the primary district. From then onwards, I have never been treated the same way. That’s one reason I live alone and I have developed a sense of distrust in people. It’s not like I don’t trust my family but I think that if someone can work and earn his living, why should he sit back and become a liability.

‘You get what you work for, not what you wish for, so keep working hard until you achieve your goal. That is the mantra of a successful person. Now, we should stop this narrative, it’s really getting dark outside.”

And just as I was going to ask him one more question, my mother called me. Even though Grandpa told us most of his story, there was still something that he was hiding. It was clear from his expressions but I never asked him what it was. Maybe, we were too young to understand what it meant.