A heart-touching incident

A heart-touching incident

It should be around the year 1986 and peak mid-summer  in the month of June that  I was travelling by road from Delhi to Udaipur (Rajasthan).  I was executing two contracts of industrial construction, one at Hindustan Zinc Ltd., Agucha Mines, Agucha, Rajasthan ( a place between Udaipur and Ajmer) and second at Hindustan Zinc Ltd., Chittor, Rajasthan.  Since Hindustan Zinc Ltd, head-office was in Udaipur, I had to come to Udaipur off and on for meeting/discussions etc. I used to travel by road, driving alone in my Ambassador car, as from Udaipur after official work, I could drive to both my sites one after the other.

I had hardly crossed the outskirts of Ajmer city, the radiator of my car started leaking heavily and I had to stop my car on the side. I got out of the car and looked around for water, but I could see that there was no possibility of water being found around. I took out a cigarette and was musing what to do while smoking. Suddenly, a scene happened:-

A cow was sitting under the shade of a tree just about thirty yards ahead in the Udaipur direction, (those days the traffic on this highway was very lean and thus the highway was empty), suddenly, a big-burly barking dog came running from nowhere and straight away attacked at the hind leg of the cow. The cow got up in a jerk and ran towards the other side of the road. A fully loaded truck, at high speed hit the cow so hard that the cow was thrown off about 10-15 yards or so. It was instantaneous death of the cow. The truck stopped and the driver of the truck, who uncommonly was cleanly dressed, wearing white shirt, dhoti on legs and a stylish turban on head, got down.  He went up to the cow, touched the nostrils of the cow, then touched the eyes, would have found the cow dead then he touched the  front foot of the cow and then with the same hands he touched his forehead and stood there still constantly looking at the cow. I went up to him and suggested to him to run away from there quickly lest the villagers should come to know and  beat him. But he refused. I again  insisted that he leave the place immediately or the villagers would beat him mercilessely, to which he replied,“Mere se gau-hatya ho gayee hey, bahut bada paap ho gaya hai (I have committed a great sin by causing the death of cow). I said,“I have watched  the whole thing and it is not your fault, thus no sin will fall on you and you better go fast from here”.  But he would not budge. I was flabbergasted, even taken a-back by his reply and lighted another cigarette. After a pause, I asked, “What do you want or what do you want to do? ” He replied, “Sahib I will like to pay the price of the cow including the other expenses like burying etc.” That made me understand the whole psyche of the driver. Then I said, “In that case let us find the owner of the cow ourselves rather than they find us., it will keep the owner soft towards you”. To which he agreed. I told him to stay with the truck (as he was alone without helper and could’t have left the truck without somebody to watch) and I would go in my car to find the owner but I needed water for the radiator of the car. He had two jerry cans of water in his truck. We filled the radiator with water and kept one full jerry can in the car. A cyclist passed by and I told him that we wanted to meet the owner of the cow. He informed us that there is a village two-three kilometers ahead, the cow should be belonging to that village. I went to that village in my car, the village was empty, could be that people were indoor because of the intense hot weather. I saw a sign board for gram panchayat, I followed that and reached the gram panchayat. There were five-seven persons inside and I narrated to them the whole event. They were easily able to tell the name of the owner and said that I be there near the cow and in the meanwhile they would locate the owner and send him to the place where  the dead cow was lying . I came back to the driver and started talking. He borrowed a cigarette from me and smoked. His name was Umang Singh, age around forty-five years and he belonged to some place in Rajasthan only. There he told me that he was actually owner of the truck. He had fired the driver along with the helper of the same truck the previous day and that is why he was driving that day. And also that he would toe my car up to Udaipur.

Then we saw a group of about 8-10 people carrying lathis (heavy bamboo sticks) approaching us from the direction of the village wherein I had gone. Seeing them carrying lathis enraged me very badly. I asked Umang Singh (the driver) to stay where we were, and myself walked towards them at apace and accosted them. I asked them if they were sent by the village-panchayat over cow, to which they replied in affirmative. I told them that I was the person who had gone to the gram-panchayat at the behest of the truck driver. I told them the whole incident as I had seen and that the driver was not at all at fault, and also that I had advised him to flee but he had remained adamant on staying. They were placated at my words. I said the driver is even ready to pay the price of the cow. The owner asked me how much he would pay, I told him that he should decide with the driver, and warned them not to threaten  or be aggressive. One of them assured me that nothing of that kind would happen. We reached where the cow and the driver both were. The owner asked for Rs.1,500/-, I protested that fifteen hundred was too-much and that Rs.500/- was reasonable since another cow should be available within the same money. But Umang Singh interrupted and said he would pay Rs.1500/-; he took out a big wad of notes from a pocket underneath his shirt and paid the owner Rs.1,500/-. They all turned towards the dead cow, the owner squatted on the road and was caressing the dead cow. We both walked towards my car.

He toed my car. We did not stop anywhere and he toed me straight into an auto-garage in Udaipur  by about eight in the evening. He knew the owner talked to him in separate for sometime. Garage owner came to me and said namastey to me in an affectionate way and took us both to his room. We both had tea and shared conversation between us. He told me that my car would be ready for use by noon the next day. Umang Singh while was still with him, I took leave of them and left them for my hotel by the name Lake-End. Next day the whole day I was busy in meeting etc. and reached the garage around seven in the evening. I was surprised to see my car–radiator was replaced by new one. There were dents in the front left side of the car, they all were removed and the whole car was shining after obviously a coat of fresh paint. The car was serviced and cleaned from inside. I asked for the charges, to which he said that Umang Singh had come around earlier and had paid the entire money. Then I asked him how and where I could meet him. He said, “Sahib you cannot meet him as he has left with the truck for Bombay via Mount Abu.”

I came to my hotel, went to the bar for drinks, and  that evening remained filled with the memory of Umang Singh. Alas! I never met him after that.

By Rammurti    

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