This is the story of Krishna. He isn’t special in the conventional sense of the term, and has not received any distinctions in the way society describes them. But there is something which attracted me towards knowing more of the person who has been cooking meals for me for the past two months. He’s the cook at the paying guest house where I’ve been staying since my summer internship began a couple of months ago.
Krishna is from Nepal, the only Hindu kingdom in the world today (and his name is so apt, isn’t it?). He has an elder brother who runs his own restaurant in the closest big town near his home. He says he always has an option to go back and work there. In fact, his family and his brother keep asking him to come back to Nepal and work with him.
Krishna says he wanted to join the army. He applied for Nepal army and cleared all the tests, he tells me proudly. But he was left out in the written exam. Not left out exactly, but they were willing to secure his seat only if he gave them six months of his salary. Yes, I know you read that statement again. It’s true, though. They asked him for a bribe, shamelessly hidden in a verbal cloak of “salary”! I guess the obvious irony escaped them that they are asking him money so that they can give him money for his services. “I had gone there with only money enough for travel expenses, so I did not have that kind of money on me then. So I called my dad. But we lived far off, and by the time dad arrived, they had given the seat to someone else”.
His chest automatically juts out slightly and chin turns upwards when he says that his dad was in the Indian Army, and bravely served in the Assam Rifles regiment until retirement. Krishna’s application and interest in the Indian army meant that he dropped out of school after 10th standard – he looks down and admits this with a slightly ashamed laughter, enough to put across the impression that he regrets it somewhat, but not so much that he dislikes his life right now. Oh yes, he likes it here.
Though he misses home and nostalgia floats up to the surface of his eyes when he says that he had not been home for one year now. He normally visits home every 5 to 6 months for atleast a month at a time, but this time Dilip, Krishna’s deputy cook and cleaner in this apartment, wanted to go home as he had not been there since long. So Krishna skipped a trip home and decided to be magnanimous and endure the hot summers of Indore. “I’m at home during this time every year. I always spend summers at home, where it is cool and nice”. Krishna speaks in an understandable Hindi, and seems quite comfortable with it. “I did not know any Hindi when I first started working in Noida, but learned it within 2 weeks. It’s almost same as Nepali, not very different”.
When I ask him if there’s any sort of problem while crossing the border, Krishna answers, “No absolutely not! Even you can go there any time you want”. He says his younger brother is studying commerce in a college in Nepal. “He shall be easily able to get a good job somewhere,” he says quite confidently. Then Krishna goes on to explain me the process through which “big” companies located out of India normally conduct their interviews of Nepali candidates. “It mostly happens over the phone. And if they select you, you can easily go across the border to work”.
I ask him if he was always good at cooking. He looks meditatively towards the now blackish bulb of Brinjal that simmered, enveloped by the flames of the cooking gas, before answering: “I used to wash dishes for a 5-star hotel in Nepal when I was 18. I washed those dishes from morning 9 to evening 9, without halting. I did it for six months, before one day I was promoted in the same hotel as deputy cook. I spent some time at that place, but I had some misunderstanding with my employers. But I walked out because I did not want to make a scene out of it. My father is a very reputed man in that area, and I did not want to let down his name by being involved with something unsavoury and worthless. So I left that place myself before the situation got out of hand”.
He regretfully says that he could have joined Indian army too, but it’s a bit late now, since he’s 24. He plans to go back to Nepal after working here for 18 more months. It would be good then. He earns Rs 8500 each month here, and it’s enough as he gets to save almost all of it, considering he has a place to live and eat. He plans to go back and do “bijiness”, like his elder brother. To go home he has to go to Kanpur first, from where he gets a ride to the border. It takes a total of almost 24 hours to get to the border. From there he can ride a taxi or a bus to his place.
His is a simple and uncomplicated life. Or seemingly so. I don’t know why I wrote about him. I just have a feeling there’s something special in his simplicity, something that I’m not yet able to put my finger on. I just thought his story needed to be told. If we look closer, maybe there are lessons to be learned from Krishna’s life, like there are from everything and everybody around us. We need to be humble enough to not just look, but take notice.