Sunday, June 6, 2010

Lost and Found

Sometimes during a slow day when nothing seems to be happening. One single event can be so touching that it can put a smile on your face for the rest of the day. Where a series of unrelated, improbable events can combine together to change someone's life for ever, but might not affect you at all. Today turned out to be one of days for me.

Being a Saturday I was at home, relaxing watching some or the other movie as usual. Now I am a member of the EMS Kochi Library here which i visit once a month or so. I had borrowed a book from the library about 2 months ago (The Inscrutable Americans) . Suddenly I decided that its high time I returned the book and at around 2:00 PM in noon left for the library.

I have been in Kochi for the past 2.5 years and have been a member of this library for almost 2 years I would assume. I have been in and out of this place numerous times, issuing and returning the books. So as would be assumed my only interaction in this place would have to be with the Librarian. But since I don't speak Malayalam and the Librarian does not speak English/Hindi we never interact, we have never even smiled or greeted each other out of courtesy.

So as usual I went up to his table, gave him the book I wanted to return and without a word went in to search for a new book, after around 5 minutes when I returned with another book, I was asked by the Librarian to pay fine of 72 Rupees as my last book was overdue. Now this conversation to me according to my understanding happens like.

Librarian: "....... ....... .......... FINE ......... ........... ........... 72 Rupees". The rest of the words alas I cant understand as they were in Malayalam. So gathering that he wanted me to clear my dues I paid him the amount.

While he was making the bill for the fine, he suddenly stopped on looking at my name-surname in his records and asked me with a worried look on his face, "....... ....... .......... .......... HINDI.......... .......... ......... ??" Now I again assumed that he wanted to know if I can speak Hindi so I nodded my head in affirmation.

At this he pointed me to come with him into another large reading room which was empty and had a few Table Chairs in it. He pointed me to sit on a chair and went out again closing the door behind him.
Now at this I was obviously very speculative as to what was happening here, as I had no idea why I was made to sit in a separate room. After some time the Librarian returned with another one of his colleagues who spoke a spatter of English.

Now the next 30 minutes turned out to be some of the strangest of my life. What I am writing here is of what I understood from the spattering of English, Hindi and Malayalam combined in the conversation we three had in that room.

The Librarian took out a sheet of paper from his pocket which was a copy of a letter in Malayalam and also his phone. Then they had most unexpected request for me.

His colleague explained to me that the Librarian's Uncle has been missing for the past 23 years when he ran away from home leaving his family behind. His Uncle was supposed to be a man of 68 years now.
After 23 years they had finally received a letter about him from a small village in Gujarat. Now I don't even remember the name of the place from the letter. They showed me the postage stamp on that letter which contained the name of that place.
Now this small village is supposed to have some famous temple where people from far and near come and stay for years and years serving the visiting devotees. This letter was written in Malayalam by a visitor there who had found the Uncle in the Temple and after some conversation with the Uncle had sent out this letter.

I have no idea what the content of this letter was, and I am taking a wild guess that it said Mr.Krishna Kumar (The Uncle) is in the temple at this place in not a stable mental condition asking his family members to come and collect him.

Now the librarian had managed to acquire the phone number of the Sub-Inspector of the police station in Gujarat (I have no idea how) and he had called the SI , Mr Bavaria in the morning, but since Mr Bavaria did not speak Malayalam the conversation didnt make any sense to both of them.

The Librarian wanted to me to call up Mr. Bavaria and enquire about his Uncle.

Now the above conversation seems simple enough but it took all of 15 Minutes using the little bit of English that the colleague spoke for me to gather this.

So I called up Mr Bavaria, a Sub Inspector in a small village in Gujarat and asked about Mr Krishna Kumar (Uncle).

I explained to him from where I was calling and why and told him about the letter. The SI informed me that the gentleman who had wrote that letter had brought the Uncle to the police station and he was there with them as of now.
Now very happily I informed this to the Librarian who as expected also got very excited and ran out of the room again. After a few minutes he came back and asked me to tell Mr. Bavaria that the Librarian and his family would be coming to Gujarat in the next few days to take his uncle and if the SI can then meet with them as they don't speak Hindi/English/Gujarati.

After getting a confirmation from the SI that the family members are most welcome to come and take the uncle away with him, I finally kept the phone.

Got some very enthusiastic thanks from the Librarian (Whose name I still don't know).

UPDATE: No, I still had to pay the fine for the book.

I would be editing this post over a period of time as I am not at all happy with the way I wrote it. I just wanted to jot everything down before I forget it