Beardyman smiled at me today, for the first time in years.
The short story? At our last meeting, he was a first rate jerk. Something seems to have changed - which is always nice to see. Especially when coming home increasingly implies seeing all the nice things have gone away.
The long story?
Well if you insist!! Settle down with a cup of chocolate and listen -
Beardyman started out by being rather nice, actually. But even the Orcs were Elves once, so apparently one's beginnings are never indicative of anything.
Beardyman used to drive my dad to and fro between his chores. Bank work, to market to market, to friends houses, to haircuts, to hospital, to doctors visits and back home. He worked with Stalwart Chowkidaar, and the two of them used to sit outside the gate on the watchman's bench and read the paper. In between his to and fro-ing, he'd sit by the neem tree and smoke, or talk to the doggies or burp his way through his tiffin lunch. He loved to spray the lawn and mow it and water it. The gardener and him nudged each other past the flowerbeds every day, trying to claim a piece of the earth to tend.
Beardyman liked it when I straightened my hair and told me good Indian girls would rather die than have curly hair like mine (what crap).
He hated my temper, which he thought I should quell by eating less spice (I hate spicy food) and talking to Brahmins more often (what the fuck about, he never said).
Beardyman drove my mother up the wall asking for Diwali Bonusses the size of his Mangaal Pandey mucchi (Which, confusingly, he grew right after Lagaan. The picture up there is a tribute of sorts.)
Beardyman was also:
1. A raging alchoholic;
2. A raging religious fundamentalist. Hindutva first last and inbetween.
Things got out of hand when Beardyman began giving me lectures about how Brahmins should rule the world (this coming from a gentleman with 'OBC' on an ID card in his pocket - flashed at regular intervals to all and sundry). When he told the Stalwart Chowkidaar (a devoted Muslim) how only Marathas should be allowed to get jobs in and around the city. When he started getting Stalwart into trouble. When he started taking his shirt off and sprawling, drunk, by my mother's car every afternoon, and lying there until 4 and 5 and 6pm. He always looked pissed off. He snapped at me if I asked him to drive me to a store. I snapped back. That didn't end well for me that evening :) The temper he was always telling me to get rid of was no match for his.
One day, Beardyman crossed the line and we decided to put his touching fiddling around in the garden, his conversations with the doggies, his ability to get one to a meeting fifteen minutes away within five breathless gear-shifts and his wife's excellent (spicy) pickles aside.
We sacked Beardyman for being bitchy beyond belief to the rest of the staff about his whole Hindutva agenda. No place for that in a civilized household, we decided.
Either you stop this at once, or you go.
I thought him reprehensible: "If that's how it is here, then I'd better go, because I will not work with anyone of (*insert execrable religious taunt here)'s jaat. Fuck you, I thought. That's going to mean that you don't work here any more then.
A few months later, he resurfaced. Poisoned with drink, with a liver and kidneys that had had enough of him and his afternoon bottle.
We took pity on Beardyman and assisted as much as we could through his hospital. My father delivered his SternDoctor lecture: ONE MORE DROP OF THIS STUFF, and you WILL die.
Ji Sahib, ji, sahib, trembled Beardyman, drugged to his gills and taking no notice of the caste or creed of the staff around him (at last count, one Parsi, two Muslim residents and one Hindu nurse helped to save his life).
But Beardyman cannot drive any more. He used to have two jobs to be able to afford to keep his family going (and his drink no doubt). He came over today - to collect my father's shirts. He's started a laundry shop and has hired someone to do the ironing. Rs. 15 a shirt.
But something has changed again: he no longer has that angry scowl all the time. I said hello to him as he stood in the kitchen, folding a big pile of my dad's shirts. His smile was enchanting. How are you, I said. Oh fine, he replied. I feel so fresh. You know your dad saved my life.
Hm.. I hope you've given up on the stuff now? Finally?
Yes, yes, 100%. More than 100%.
When he left, Stalwart Chowkidaar opened the gate for him, and Beardyman smiled.
I smiled too. Good for him. I'm not saying he's changed his mind completely about hating so much of the world that he has to scowl at it all the time. But a big smile sits in place of the scowl now. However that happened, I don't care. I'm glad for him. I can count on the fingers of one hand the people I know who genuinely feel "Fresh!!" How fantastic :)