Kham Bahadur Stores.

It’s 24th December, it’s a cold evening right before Christmas, and I’m standing at the edge of a lake staring into the freezing water.
Temperatures here touch 8 degrees in the coldest days of January. Right now, it’ll probably be something close to 15.
It’s the evening before Christmas and some houses have balloons of a huge star on their rooftops. It’s the evening before Christmas, and Chacha is smiling through his stubble of grey beard.
20 years ago, there was a riot that broke out in a valley of Nepal, and families were forced to give up their last hope of a life in their homeland and move to places with no memory of it’s own.
23rd September, three months ago, chacha refuses to sell me cigarettes.
You’re not old enough for cigarettes, he tells me.
26th December, two days from today, chacha’s only son would get himself arrested for drunk driving on his bike.
At this moment, chacha’s smile warms the evening. Merry Christmas chacha, I say. His smile widens.

20 years ago, a family arrives at this old town, still colonial in its spirit, with the railway servicemen babus and their missionary school educated kids and their love for benarasi paans. The family consists of an old withering father, and his 45 year old son who used to work at a textile mill back in abandoned Nepal. The father coughs a lot, and spends sleepless nights hallucinating about his own death. The son finds work at one of the missionary schools, as watchman first, then gets promoted to a peon. There is no female figure in the house, and the son marries a month after he is made the school peon. The bride, in her early 30’s, had given up hopes of being married, and is too shy to tell her husband her name properly.

7 years later, another Christmas, the son leaves his job as a peon, and opens a tiny shop right outside the school gates. Kham Bahadur Stores, the painted sign above the shop reads.
Kham was the name his grandfather had given him. His father died 3 years back. Bahadur means brave, in Hindi.
Over all these years, only memories remain, and they are broken and replaced by new ones. But Bahadur Chacha becomes a permanent fixture in the minds of all students who frequent his shop. Every year, he turns a little older, and another batch of students pass out, and they all buy candies and biscuits and laddus and cigarettes from Chacha.
One year, there’s an idol immersion in the lake beside his shop, and one of the kids who was with the group, slips and falls into the waters.

His feet get stuck in a curve of the idol, and in a moment, he’s getting pulled into the waters with the heavy idol holding him down, till he can’t breath anymore. The other guys are standing, frozen with shock and fear, unable to scream, unable to jump in and get their friend now slowly drowning right before their eyes.
And then, there was Chacha, running towards the lake in his stubble and lungi, and jumping in before anyone really knew what was happening. He frees the boy, and swims with him till they are both gasping and panting for breath, but now on the dusty road.
Overnight, people are suddenly coming over to congratulate Bahadur Chacha, and the school rewards him with a gold plated memento to recommend his act of bravery.
Chacha still sells cigarettes and candies, and his beard turns entirely grey as the memory of his bravery slowly fades away from people’s minds.

The school hires twenty six new teachers, and fires four. Eight retire. Three find better jobs somewhere else. Fourteen teachers marry. One files for divorce, and charges her husband with a domestic violence case. One goes away to Australia, and returns six years later. Chacha slowly becomes the beacon of safety in a part of the town where at least thirty muggings took place on the roads around the lake, because it was completely deserted after 8 in the evening, and one baby was found floating in the lake, dead and bloated, after her uncle strangled and dumped her following family quarrels.
Chacha became the one person who would always run to the rescue of anyone in need. Over the next few years, he prevented numerous cases of muggings, and brought home a German Shepherd the retiring principal of the school was giving away.
Several alcoholics were saved from either drowning in the lake while intoxicated, or being robbed and killed by thieves preying on their incapacitated state. One man who got hit on his head over some property dispute he got into, and left on the road to bleed to death, was rushed to the hospital after Chacha found him.

24th December, I stand beside the lake, and there are streetlights and regular police vans patrolling the area now. People take shortcuts from the station through this road at midnight, without the slightest fear of getting mugged or raped or killed. The area looks very different from how it used to, even a decade back.

Chacha smiles at me.
Merry Christmas chote babu, he says.
Every ex-student of the school was always chote babu for him.
Chacha smiles a lot, I remember.

Even when there would only be sadness around, Chacha would smile and tell us to hold on.
2 days later, his son would be arrested for a drunk driving case, and Chacha would say, ”

I tried. But he didn’t learn. Maybe life will teach him now.

And he’d smile a sad smile. But he’ll know his son isn’t a bad kid. That soon, he’ll realise his mistakes, and turn over a new leaf. That was the most important thing about Chacha, the belief in the existence of goodness, and the will to fight for it.

Bahadur, means brave.

And his biggest act of bravery, was to believe, no matter what the circumstances.

24th December, the evening before Christmas, I look at Chacha. Some people are the waves which rock our boats when they come. But some, are like a lighthouse, always there, standing tall and proud against the lashing severities of the ocean, guiding sailors to safe lands, and holding on to the belief in good.

Chalte hain Chacha, I call out before leaving.
Chacha smiles.

Some smiles warm the coldest nights.

Some smiles, are like Christmas themselves.

Link to Tata Motor’s #madeofgreat contest: http://madeofgreat.tatamotors.com/

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4 comments

  1. Alok · November 24, 2015

    Indeed a nicely written post. I wish you good luck for the contest
    Here is my answer
    The association of Tata Motors with Lionel Messi is that of two greats. Lionel Messi has been exceptionally talented who with his hard work, determination and sacrifices has got better and tougher in his chosen sport so is the Image, reputation and quality of TATA Motors that have transformed brilliant ideas into masterpieces of engineering and created a brand and products that we are so proud of as Indians. Lionel Messi has transformed his body and the mind body co-ordination into a masterpiece of precision and excellence it would not be wrong to say that Lionel Messi is the TATA Motors of sports where as TATA Motors is the Lionel Messi of vehicles both giants in their own spheres driven by the drive to excel and lead by example. So Lionel Messi is the best choice for becoming the brand Ambassador for TATA Motors
    aaloke19@gmail.com

    Like

  2. uk8971 · November 24, 2015

    The story of a Legend in himself – that’s how I will describe it in a short sentence. Very well written with words which enhance the simplicity yet greatness of the person. Salutations and very happy for you to have got inspired and bringing out your best in life.

    My answer: Tata is a name which any and every person can rely on for its honesty, commitment and perseverance. Lionel Messi is a legend who has carved his name in history books with total dedication to the game, simple living and improvisation which is seen with each game he plays. The association of Tata Motors and Lionel Messi as their Brand Ambassador will definitely give an edge to the Tata group over its competitors solely because the brand Ambassador also holds the same reputation of not letting his fans down ever, like Tata Motors who have given the best to the world over the decades. Its an exemplary association par excellence.

    You can choose my answer as the Voucher winning comment if you feel I described it all well.. 🙂 Please remember to post it on the Indiblogger contest page today as soon as you have 3 comments here..

    Like

  3. Remas Cafe · November 25, 2015

    Awesome post. My best wishes for you to win the competition.
    My answer: TATA is a big name which implies big things in the field with no compromise in honesty, commitment and hard work. Lionel Messi is an appropriate person when compared with TATA as he is a down to earth person with the same qualities like honesty, commitment and hard work. He is a great example for “Hard Work Pays” like the dynasty of TATA. So, Lionel Messi is the correct person to be considered as the “Brand Ambassador” of TATA Motors for this decade.

    Like

  4. yagneshbjoshi10099 · November 25, 2015

    Yours is a very well written post your .Its is a very nice description of #madeofgreat
    TATA Motors is a brand associated with performance, endurance and excellence. These words are also synonymous with Lionel Messi who plays as a forward and weaves his magic on the football field.Just as Lionel Messi is considered the best footballer in the world ,TATA motors which is Indias premier automotive manufacturer gives wheels to the people of India with its wide range of vehicles. Both believe in excelling in whatever they do and set examples for others to follow. They compliment each other as both are reliable trustworthy and leaders thus Lionel Messi is the natural choice as the brand ambassador of TATA Motors
    yagneshbjoshi10099@gmail.com

    Like

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