Tag: Story

The Husband

He entered the coach with two huge bags. Actually, one was huge and the other one was just medium sized, but both of the bags were stuffed and I can see by looking at them, that were quite heavy and his shoulders were under strain. I could tell, since I have carried huge bag myself while going home, but that’s not what this is about. His wife (a fair guess) entered the coach behind him and she was carrying one of those shopping bags, which are made of cloth, and you see in India. The bag in her hand, did not seem that heavy, as she was carrying it quite comfortably. 

The coach was not crowded for a Sunday evening, though it was 8 PM, and was mostly cold throughout the day, so many people might not have stepped out of their homes. I was standing and so were they. He was wearing a woolen cap over his head and a jacket. His wife had a cardigan sweater and a shawl to top it off. I could tell that he was a normal worker some place, maybe one of the many factories in Noida. Not very poor, but might be just making his ends meet while affording to keep his wife with himself, rather than leaving her back in his village, wherever that might have been. Though, I would guess that  they were from Bihar. So am I, by the way.

After three stops on the way, a seat was vacated and he kind of fended the seat and asked his wife to have the seat. She took that seat. The bags were close to the door, and he went back there to stand by them. I was looking at him, and for some unknown reason, as it happens a lot with me, was feeling partly pity, partly sympathy for him. I could not tell, why, since he was not that poor, or shabby for that matter, which usually evokes those emotions inside me, when I start questioning the society we live in, the economics, the politics, and every damn thing which is broken with the state he comes from, to earn a living. 

I noticed that he was touching, kind of patting his right leg, below knee. I though, he might be feeling itchy. But then, he pulled up his pants a little bit and I saw that he has a long scratch on his right leg. A scratch, which you get you fall on the stairs or one of the steps, while walking. I can tell that wherever he fell down, it would have caused a lot of pain for such a scratch. I have had something like that, and it made my cry and curse. To top that, it was one of the coldest days, and as you know, it hurts more when its cold. He did not seem to be in pain now, and neither did he looked to be in pain when he entered the coach. But now, I was thinking how and where he might have had taken a fall. Maybe, when was entering the metro station, and was getting off the rickshaw. The roads and steps are slippery at times, especially after last night’s rain. He might have fallen at that time, and scratched his leg, specially while trying to carry those heavy bags. I did not think more than that.

In few minutes, my station was coming and I thought that since he was carrying bags, he must be going to the railway station and would get off at the same station, I was, as that’s the interchange station. Though I was not traveling to the railway station. I had to get out at the interchange station. I was right. He dragged his bags towards the left gate, where I was standing, and signaled his wife to be ready to disembark from the train. He kept one bag over his right shoulder and the bigger bag was by his left side, still at the floor. Then he tried to balance himself with his left hand by the door, and I saw that he had cut marks on his knuckles of the left hand, and at that time, I could tell that he did had a nasty fall, wherever he had that. I visualized the scene quickly in my mind, and felt his pain for a minute, and thought about the reaction of his wife, when he would have been on the ground or the steps. He did not look like the ones, who would have cursed at their wives for not carrying one of the bags, or for overloading the bags. No, he seemed like the ones, who would have asked to carry the bag, even when the wife would have asked to carry one.

The gates opened and I stepped out of the coach and looked back to notice that the couple had disembarked too. I turned around and started walking towards the exit.

An initiative worth mentioning

I am quite a frequent customer at Costa’s Coffee, esp of the store in the Great India place, Noida. Some time back, I noticed that they have hired some employees who cannot speak (as in speech impaired). I personally appreciated the initiative and gesture of people at Costa’s India after seeing that. I thought at that moment, that I should write about it so that more and more people know about this.

There must be many such organizations in India who promote and facilitate employment for physically challenged people, but this was the first case I ever witnessed in India. This means a lot to the people who took pains to override the physical limitations and trained themselves to try to be at par with everyone else. We must have read or heard about such facilitation, watched movies and then appreciated and/or where touched by specific instances, but little gets done in the real world to promote employment for speech and hearing impaired people in the regular sector.

Last Saturday, I was with Sharad at Costa’s again and decided to talk to one of the store managers. We were sipping our iced coffee and keeping a watchful eye at the proceedings in the store. I noticed the two employees leaving the store, who had served me before and who were speech impaired. After some time, when the store was a lil easy on customer inflow, I raised my hand for the manager. When he came, he was for sure waiting for me to complain about something. It was evident from his watchful face and his denial to my offer of pulling a chair and sitting down. I told him that we are regular customers and we noted that they have employed some speech impaired (and probably hearing impaired) people. He came at ease and answered in affirmative.

Ankur: So, tell me about this initiative, is it specific to this particular location or is it all-stores wide?

Naresh: This has been launched by our franchise, which operates all Costa’s locations.

Ankur: That is Devyani International, right?

Naresh: Yes!

Ankur: So, how did this start?

Naresh: Not sure, maybe someone pressed the franchise to employ them

Ankur: No, it cannot be like that. I think may be someone in the management, felt a need for getting involved in such an initiative by promoting and facilitating employment for speech and hearing impaired people.

Naresh: Yes, may be something like that happened.

Ankur: So, is there any number specified for every store?

Naresh: Yes, every store has to have at least 2 employees

Ankur: I just saw them leaving the store. Was it the end for their shift?

Naresh: No, they have went to another location of ours, which is in Spice Mall, Sec 25

Ankur: Oh ok!

Naresh: We have been trained in basics of sign language so we can communicate easily with them

Ankur: Has it been any difficult for you or others?

Naresh: No, we have had no issues. And they are very good workers. One of them, Mohit, is very good at his work. It’s good that they got a chance to work here. These jobs do not demand someone who can speak. We can get our work done without speaking. Maybe in sales, they cannot be of value, but here they sure can do what is needed out of their job

Ankur: Yes, I agree with you.

Ankur: So, is there any other location around here where you have other such workers?

Naresh: Yes, we have a store in Green Park, Delhi. That store has all employees who are speech impaired. The store manager there is Devashish, who knows sign language, and he is the one who trained us in that.

Ankur: That’s good.

After this conversation, I thanked him and he left. Sharad wanted to leave for Green Park to check out that store. I was being lazy and decided against that.

I really hope that more and more companies/store owners come forward and open avenues for employment, where ever possible, for physically challenged people.