I live in a decent society of Jodhpur, whose center point is the green and beautiful rectangular shaped park (for me it was like 2nd home). In our society, there used to live Dullaram all alone in the corner site of society. His house had two rooms and a big courtyard outside with only one bicycle parked in it. While growing up, I never saw any society member talk to him or vice versa. Also, all my friends and me were instructed by our parents not to speak to him. Even not to take होली का चंदा (money contribution from all society houses for Holi festival)
The society members used to have made up stories for him. I, even till date, never understood why he received such boycotted behavior. While growing up, for me, he was just a regular man who use to ride a bicycle for his work. He had a tall, lean body, always wore grey pants and half sleeves red sweater with grey hair never really combed. Along with my friends, we use to mock him with ए दूल्ले, नाहा ले ( Aye Dullaram, take a bath) whenever he uses to pass by the park.
Though I am not proud now, the mocking continued till the age of sixteen. After the 10th class exams, I was supposed to leave for Kota (the coaching hub for IIT Jee) in a few days. The curiosity was always there, and with little courage, I visited his house on a bright Sunday morning. I think he knew me and was very comfortable in welcoming me. I introduce myself, but he, with a swagger smile, asked me- “Kid, I know about you. Tell me about the purpose of your visit ?”
I told him that I wanted to know and meet him but couldn’t and told the made-up stories that society has for him. He kept that swagger smile throughout the conversation. He brought a water bottle for me. While gulping the water, I asked him if he plays cricket? He gave a bright smile (as if he was longing for this question) and replied, “Yes.” He immediately asked me if I can play with him in his courtyard. I agreed, he went to get a bat and a ball just like one enthusiastic kid. I asked who he plays with, and he replied with a momentarily pause, ” Alone.”
We started playing, and believe me; he was outstanding. He bowled me twice on the first ball (my pride as one of the good players in the society was no more for the moment). We had good six games where he won four, and my pride was satisfied with two win games. I told him he should have come to the park to play. With a wit, he replied I should have visited him earlier. I was feeling sorry, and he understood the awkwardness of the situation and asked me about my post-exam plans.I told him about my Kota plans. He wished me good luck for it.
Now it was my turn to ask him several questions about his work, bicycle, and why he lives alone. He was kind enough to answer them patiently. He was tailor by profession, working at one of the famous shops of Jodhpur. He brought the bicycle from his village, treats it like a souvenir, and does not want to replace it with any other vehicle. The reason for his loneliness relates to some problems with him, which he mentioned that I wouldn’t understand. I did not know how to respond to such a reply. So I told him that it’d been quite a time now and I should take leave now. He was polite enough to open the gate of his house. As a final note, I told him that after two years, when I will be back, we will play in the park. The swagger smile was back on his face with the response, “Alright, we will.”
After two years of Kota’s stay, I went to his place. Neither was he there, nor was his house. A new house was there. I asked my parents about Dullaram and the new house. They told me that the house was sold eight months back and was not aware of where he went after that. They were also okay that Dullaram was no more in our society. I did not tell them about my visit to his place.
Even after ten years, I remember that day vividly. I did not have much emotional intelligence back then to ask more about his whereabouts. Neither did I had the courage to confront the society members not to treat him like they use to. I wanted to thank him for the Good luck wish. I so wanted to play cricket with him in the park.
Of course, most of you don’t know him, and neither does my society members. But unlike some of them who very faintly remembers him through those old made up stories. I finally decided to write and share this as I genuinely want Dullaram to have at least one legitimate story about his life.