Bahadur stood near the gate to greet us with a Salam Sahib. He was extremely short, just around five feet tall with the beginnings of a paunch that was quite contradictory to the post he held. He was not very fair, but he had long hands, kind brown eyes and straight black hair. He resembled an Indian in his features and was in his late thirties. The first time I met him, I asked my husband who he was though the uniform he had adorned spoke about his occupation.

He said, ‘Bahadur’.

I asked him, ‘Wasn’t Bahadur the tall fair man who managed the office’.

He said, ‘That Bahadur has gone home and this man is a replacement’

I said, ‘Is this one a substitute or a permanent employee’.

My husband was getting annoyed by the volley of questions, yet he said, ’None of them is permanent, and they are all Bahadur’

I said, ‘Are they brave or are they christened ‘Bahadur’ at birth’.

My voice got drowned in the shrill sound of the traffic as my husband walked down the parking to drive the car that we had parked in the office premises.

Bahadur seems to be the name for all the Gurkha men in India. They are the soldiers from Nepal who were recruited in the British Army and they have been in India for years. They are fair, short and are well known for their bravery. Every colony, Government offices, Banks, schools and many others have recruited the Gurkha as security guards. They have also been a part of the Defence forces. They are also a professional group who provide the Gurkha with a livelihood. There have been mutations over the generations. We see tall Gurkha security like the earlier Bahadur in my husband’s office who was almost six feet.

I had met one of the Gurkha men in Paris, he was a part of the French Army. As the group walked across the Eiffel tower, this officer quickly said, ‘Kaise Ho? ( How are you? ) It brought a smile on his face to see a surprise on our countenance. I smiled back to ask him how was he a part of the French Army. He said he had been there for long.

During our childhood, our colony had a Gurkha who would patrol in the night to keep us safe. We would never see him in the daylight but we could hear the thunderous sound of the wooden log hitting the ground as he patrolled. We called him Gurkha in those days. He was renowned for his bravery but the small thefts did occur occasionally.

Bahadur in my husband’s office lived on the premises in a small room next to the Generator. He would begin his day by switching on the Generator and opening the large gates of the office. He would open the sections in the office for the maids and cleaners. Every corner would get cleaned and managed under his supervision. He would keep the visitors book ready for entry, and keep things organised before the office staff arrived. He would greet everyone with pleasantness.

He would also answer queries of the officers and the visitors. Bahadur was an integral part of the office.

With the onset of the Pandemic, the strength of the employees in the office ebbed. There were very few officers working during the lockdown. Bahadur would Sanitise his hands periodically and wear the mask. Visitors were prohibited and few higher officers visited the office. He would get the office sanitised regularly. Every week there was news in the neighbourhood about a rise in the Pandemic, but the office functioned.

The canteen in the office was run by a South-Indian. People called him Anna as a mark of respect. Bahadur would have tea but would cook his food in his room. The canteen was running on a loss as no ate or drank tea out of fear. In the good old days when the office used to brim with people, there were numerous occasions when Bahadur had been offered lunch during get-togethers and farewells. Now it seemed distant. Bahadur used to go to the market to get vegetables and other groceries. During the months of May and June, the car drivers from the Head office often visited the office to bring posts and files. They would often have long chats with Bahadur.

One fine day the Pandemic visited the office. One of the sepoys who carried the files was found to be infected with COVID 19. The car driver who had accompanied him to the Head-office was also found to be sick. The office was quickly shut down for a week for sanitisation and revival. Bahadur stayed on the premises in his room. His friend would visit him occasionally. He was from the Gurkha group. The office reopened again and barely a week later, one of the lady officers was found feverish. She was rushed home. Her husband was also sick and feverish. They were tested for COVID 19. The man was found positive while the lady officer tested negative. The man also had some complications and was admitted to the hospital.

Once again, the strength in the office dwindled to a trickle. It was germane that people would visit the office occasionally and work from home, but Bahadur kept living on the premises. He did not stop cooking food for himself. At times, he would offer food to the staff if they were late.

A few days ago, Bahadur felt a hot glow on his body. He had neglected his fever and kept sleeping lazily. The next morning he was sick and feverish. Still later, he was taken to the hospital. It confirmed people’s fears when he was tested for COVID 19. He remained his cheerful self. His Gurkha friend came and took Bahadur to his home. The officers and staff quickly rushed home as always on hearing the news. The office was isolated once again.

I asked my husband, ‘Who will manage the office now?’

My husband looked at me and said, ‘The agency will send another Bahadur.’



Research Scholar at the University of Pune, write inspiring narratives on named Enthralling Trails

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Jyothi Ramesh Pai

Research Scholar at the University of Pune, write inspiring narratives on named Enthralling Trails