This happened during my graduation final year. As part of college dramatics team, we would often stay back late and rehearse. Once such evening after rehearsal, we were at this place right outside college, having tea, discussing upcoming plays etc. We were a group of about 10-12 boys and girls. As we were engrossed in our chit chat, an elderly man approached us and asked if he could join. A little startled, we reluctantly ‘allowed’ him to sit with us. Back to the excited discussions.
The old man tried joining the conversation, asking us where we were all from, what courses etc. We gave him curt answers, exchanging looks with each other like “Why’s this oldie so interested in our lives?” He asked a friend of mine, whether he could really play the guitar he was carrying. When my friend affirmed, the man asked him to play something to which my friend just smiled and ignored.
After another few minutes, in which we completely ignore this intruder’s presence, the man called a shopkeeper and asked him to give us all samosas and cold drinks. His treat. Now we were pissed. As much as we loved free food, this was weird. For one, the girls started thinking he was a pervert, trying to be friendly to hit on us (Delhi does that to you). Rest thought he was being too desperate to be part of us and no way will we accept food offered by a stranger (even if it is aerated soft drinks).
So what did we do? We promptly and rather rudely said no and asked the old weirdo to leave us alone. No, we didn’t want his treat and we were not interested in wasting our time with him. The man left.
A shopkeeper, who was observing all this for a while, quietly walked to us and said, ‘’You guys shouldn’t have done that. You know who he is?
”What? Did we just piss off some gangster or a really rich powerful guy or whatever?”
“No. That was Mr. S.K Nayyar. He is father of Captain Anuj Nayyar. The name rang a bell. And then it struck me. Hard. By then, one girl was already looking up Capt. Nayyar online and was reading his Wikipedia page aloud. Reading his Mahavir Chakra Citation, she started sobbing and then crying uncontrollably. The rest of us weren’t any better. Almost every one of us was crying. For all who don’t know, Captain Anuj Nayyar is a Kargil War hero, who laid down his life for the nation, all at the age of 24. He was awarded Maha Vir Chakra (India’s second highest military decoration) for his bravery.
However, we weren’t too late in realizing what major a**es we had been. We spotted the man soon, chatting with other shop owners, still smiling. This time, we requested that he join us. He didn’t even let us feel bad and just said “only if we all have samosas!”
We then sat surrounding him. This man, who lost his only son to the war, fought long and hard with the bureaucracy even after that, was still zealous, still smiling. We sang songs till late, my friend did play the guitar, played songs on ‘uncle’s’ request.
He told us his son used to love music. And he was very good at sports. More tears. He asked about our career plans, our interests. He was surprised why no one wanted to join the armed forces. We talked, we sang, we performed silly improvisations; all this with glistening eyes and a sense of guilt.
So yeah, this incident changed the way I saw things. That evening is etched in my memory. What I learnt:
1. Seeing him so full of life and his efforts at keeping everyone cheerful, helped me be stronger and focus on good things in life. We all have tragedies to deal with. What’s important is to move ahead, cherish the good memories and live life for the gift it is.
2. Arrogance comes easy when you’re young. But humility takes you a long way. I was ashamed of the way we had acted, even if he was a stranger. I learnt being non- judgemental and respectful towards people.
3. Lastly, not all of us are meant to do great things. But we can all be heroes in small ways – by being responsible citizens, following rules, respecting every individual. Small things really. If you continue being arrogant, selfish, self centered so called future of the nation, the next time you come across someone like Mr. Nayyar, you won’t be able to look him in the eye. You don’t want to prove to him that his son gave the ultimate sacrifice for nothing.
P.S – I urge everyone to watch Bollywood movie Dhoop that beautifully portrays this man’s life and struggles.
This soul stirring experience was shared by Ankita Dhyani on Quora.