Col DS Cheema (Retd)
The greatest tragedy to have visited united India was partition, which uprooted millions of families like ours. The invisible hand of destiny brought us to a small border town Qadian in Gurdaspur, known as the religious headquarters of the Ahmadiyas. While fleeing to Pakistan, Muslims had left their huge houses. My father had purchased one such house with a lawn in front, at the princely sum of Rs 4,000 in 1948. (One multi-storeyed building was known by the name of its famous owner, Sir Zafarullah Khan, who rose to become the Chief Justice of International Court of Justice.)
My father liked to use the front lawn, with a few chairs, for his small darbar. I started recognising the faces of all the regular visitors, and even interacting with some of them.
One of the visitors was a polite, stocky man in his thirties, who would continue sitting in one of the chairs for hours, even when everyone had left. I later learnt that he was one of the three LIC agents in the town who thought my father could give him some business. He would park his bicycle near the gate, smilingly greet everyone, including us, the children, with a polite ‘Sat Sri Akal’ and kept standing until someone told him to sit.
My father was too decent a man and would never be rude by refusing to meet anyone who came, but my mother would often ask me to tell him that father was not at home, even when he was gardening in the backyard. The man wouldn’t budge and kept smiling sheepishly, because he knew that he was being fed lies. He had a fund of anecdotes and proverbs which he would narrate to anyone who cared to listen, especially in the absence of senior members of the family. Ultimately, when my father would emerge, he would get up to touch his feet and settle down again in the same chair.
Speaking to my father, he gave an impression of mingled fascination. Patience is an underrated virtue in the modern world, but this man was astute to know that nothing could be created suddenly, and to be able to eat a ripe fruit one needed time for the plant to blossom into a tree and bear fruit which must ripen before one could have it. He understood that he was an unwelcome guest, but even all the obvious indication of indifferent behaviour made no difference to him. He would reappear the next day.
He also had the least understood quality of success, humility. By using this rare quality, he sold three policies: one of Rs 15,000 to my father and two of Rs 10,000 each to my elder sisters. He later shifted to Jalandhar and retired as a senior agent. I had the opportunity to visit him; he had not lost any of his old charms of politeness, courtesy and humility.
During the later years, when I worked as a professional educator and motivator after retirement, I would often share the experience of this unique man, while emphasising the need of being patient and dheeth to succeed in any field.
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