Sometimes I ask myself: would I handle my new job with the same feeling of satisfaction I derive from my present calling, if I were to work as a sweeper?
Maybe I’d. It’s a hypothetical question though.
India is a strange country with weird social mores—people who clean are considered themselves unclean. It is considered to be a job of indignity. Of course, Gandhiji used to emphasize the dignity of labour; but attitudes have not greatly changed. History continues to rule our minds with all its infamy!
Only yesterday I experienced something illuminating at the homeopath’s.
It was eleven o’ clock in the forenoon when I reached there. The doctor had already arrived, but not started his work. I saw him sweeping the floor of his cramped clinic. There was hardly any space to call it floor, yet he did a good job. Presently, a lady came for doing the mopping and, before being asked, I shifted to a corner to allow her doing her job. It was inconvenient; nevertheless I co-operated. The doctor noted this with approbation.
‘Sir, I’ll tell you a small event in my life—how my father once praised me for a good reason,’ the doctor happily opened the talk. I could feel he had a feeling of elation recollecting the happy memory of his dead father.
A father praising a son for a good reason? On other occasion I would have just glossed over a statement like this, but now the mood was different. His tone, the expression in his face made me attentive. I had no doubt that the gentleman would be narrating something useful, straight from his heart.
‘Once I was voluntarily sweeping my father’s clinic at this spot, some thirty years ago. Somebody affectionate present then began to discourage me as if I was doing something sacrilegious, but my father encouraged me to continue,’ the doctor took a pause.
‘So, your dad must have done that for a reason,’ I meant buttressing him.
‘Yes, you’re right, sir. My father had a reason. He said by doing this supposedly small work I was unknowingly sweeping the dust that came from, maybe, some great men’s feet. And I keep doing this as a pious work to start my day’s routine.’
It was something really profound that I heard from the gentleman homeopath. Agreed, he earns his livelihood selling those placebos, yet he is a person of spiritual realization. I was reminded of the gestures people in India show while approaching a highway. It is a usual scene to find them taking dabs of dust from the road to put them on, on their forehead before setting their feet on a highway. What does this imply? And what does this accentuate? All roads lead to god’s abode and holy is the road that great men and women tread on, on their way to spiritual attainments.
Today is Diwali, the festival of lights. India will burn tonnes of crackers and streets will be full of scraps of paper and burnt chemicals. Tomorrow, only a few cleaning personnel will perspire to make streets clean.
Nothing has changed since the days of yore. There are still more people to make things dirty than those who sweep them clean.
A. N. Nanda