chottey lal.. the larger than life toy man


When you think nothing can touch or move you, that your heart is safe and well guarded, beware: someone may have other plans for you. It happened to me this morning. This is how:

What made me decide to go fetch K and mr P, I do not know.. what made me say 'yes' to their desire to stop by a children's park, I cannot say.. nevertheless I found myself in the GK II Park and that is when Chottey Lal came into my life..

Many of you have seen the khilona wallah, our very own toy vendor who ambulates in residential areas selling a medley of plastic toys.. or at least heard the strident whistle that often jars a lazy afternoon.. and most of our kids have, in spite of all the Mattels in the house, egged you on to buy the plastic wonders.. well as we got off our radheyMobile, a khilone wallah pased by and my bacchas wanted one.. I looked up and saw and old man and thought I would make his day by purchasing toys for 100 rs. As the kids were chosing want they wanted, I hear a rasping sound and discovered it was the old man who could barely breathe..

I helped him steady his toypole and would have fallen had Radhey not steadied me... the pole weighed a good 50 kilos far more than the frail man who lugged it.. what would make a man do this..

As Chottey Lal shared his story, I could not stop the tears from falling.. Chottey Lal was born in Lahore, his father was a kotwal. The family moved to Aligarh.. he reminisces coming delhi at 15 when the angrez left and worked for 15 years in Teen Murti House, in the times of Panditji.. I listen to him but my mind kept wondering what would make a man like him cart a 50 kilo burden walking miles to eek a few rupees..

My heart went out to him as I saw his wrinkle ridden face, emanciated body covered in layers of non-descript clothing, a whistle hanging on his chest.. we sat over a cup of tea as he shared his life: his son had job but not enough to feed the little family and he did what he felt he should.. for his grandchildren and others. He made 40 rupees on a good day, enough to meet the evening meal... I sensed his whole being straighten up when he rasped that he had never asked for help.. and I did believe him.. honesty oozed out of every pore.. I asked him how I could help, and his answer made my world stop: "just ask the gurdwara to allow me to stand there and sell my wares; a few days back they shunted me away and hit me". He rolled up his trousers and showed me the barely healed wound.. I asked him if he has eaten and whether he carried any food. Chottey Lal proudly fished out a tiny packet of biscuits and a shrivelled orange.

We sat down to share a cup of tea and some bread.. By this time I knew that this morning my good friend the god of lesser beings had probably decided that Chottey lal's days of carrying his burden were over. I had to find a way for him to retain his dignity and get his 40 rs a day!

We took Chottey lal home and met the family.. his son who earns 1500 rs a month as a courier boy - half the minimum wage - told us that his father would not listen to them. Everyone was extremely concerned but I smiled as I understood the stubborn little big man.. we agreed that he would sell his toys comfortably seated close to his home, and that he would get his 40rs a day for coming once a week and telling stories of the past to pwhy kids. Stories so precious and now so rare..

Chottey Lal is the best you can find in India, a man that should be an example to all those who want to live life the easy way..

I salute this larger than life toyMan

Note: I may start a new blog with chottey lal's stories