Sunday, 29 November 2009

A man of substance

Meet Sadashiv Chandrakanth Khodke. His life was turned upside down, exactly one year ago, when the despicable scum called terrorists attacked Mumbai. I heard his tale on a BBC podcast and it touched me – and it’s the subject of this Sunday’s non business post.

Sadashiv was a waiter in a restaurant, holding a steady job. His misfortune was that he was in VT station at exactly the wrong time. He was injured in the shooting and his life turned in an instant. He was taken to a hospital and operated upon to remove shrapnel lodged in his chest. The operation was successful, but he had to spend a long time in hospital and then in recuperation.

It is usual to blame the government for apathy when it comes to disaster victims. I actually think this is often a completely erroneous accusation. The government does do a lot – many a time its just that the scale of the tragedy is simply too big. In Sadashiv’s case, they did all they could. They didn’t charge him for the treatment. Even when he was in the hospital, the Railways and the Maharashtra Government came and gave him Rs 50,000 each in compensation. No red tape, no running around.

But then what happened is the real tragedy. One of his relatives, from whom he had borrowed money earlier, came to the hospital, while he was still there and took away the money that was due to him from the compensation amount. Consider for a moment, how crassly insensitive this was. Here was a man in a hospital bed recovering from being shot by a terrorist and what does his so called relative do ? Take away some of his money.

This is unfortunately not atypical behaviour. I have heard of appalling acts of callousness, motivated by money, even in the face of disasters. It makes you sometimes wonder whether humanity is a rare quality in human beings .

Sadashiv’s misery did not end there. He was in hospital for a month and was fit to go back to work only after six months. When he went back to his restaurant, he was told he had no job. In his absence, the restaurant owner had taken somebody else. Tough luck !

While I can understand the business logic of not being able to wait 6 months for somebody to come back, where is the heart of a businessman, however small he may be, who sacks a guy because he couldn’t come to work after being shot by a terrorist. Public opinion often criticizes the rich and successful businessmen. I submit that insensitivity is not the monopoly of big business. There are inhuman human beings across every spectrum of life.

Sadashiv is now running his own tea stall on the pavement somewhere in Mumbai. He has lost his home – so sleeps on the footpath like thousands of Mumbaikars. He is in debt. He is not able to send much money to his family back in the village.

But listen about Sadashiv on this brief BBC podcast. There doesn’t seem to be much bitterness. He lays his faith in God. He does not complain about his ill fortune. He says God saved him and is thankful for this blessing. He is working hard to earn a living. Its tough to make ends meet running a tea stall on the pavement. But he is giving it his best shot. He serves with a smile.

Sadashiv Chandrakanth Khodke – you are truly a human being to be admired. To my mind, you are the Businessman of the Year. If I ever get to find you on the streets of Mumbai, it shall be my privilege to be your customer and have a cup of tea from you. The fates dealt you a cruel blow on that day a year ago. I pray that they also deal you a kind hand in the future.

22 comments:

  1. touching.. and i really hope your last line comes true.. (on second thoughts, I think it will eventually, for all the trust this man is currently functioning with)

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  2. I never expected to shed tears at a business blog but the plight of the kind Mr Khodke moved me. I am touched by your sensitivity in bringing to light not just his misery but also the good that the Government did. I salute the spirit with which Khodke carries on - it is a clear glimpse of Mumbai standing up and moving on despite the horrendous tragedy it faced last year. I too join you in praying for a kind hand in the future for the likes of Khodke - may they prosper and thrive!

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  3. savitha29/11/09

    Wonder the faith in him, even in an instant like this, to be thankful for life. Some people teach life in the most simple language!! Salute his spirit!!Let men of his genre abound!!!

    I fail to understand what went through the 'relative's' mind when he came to settle loans at such a time. I also read of a similar story of a woman who lost her husband in the attacks, her 2yr old child hit by a bullet and underwent surgery, and a few relatives, who showed their empathy by claiming the compensation offered. INSENSITIVITY!!

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  4. I read a story yesterday about female children in Amhara district of Ethiopia who are forced to get married at the age of 5 itself. i felt very sad.

    then i thought - my grandfather's sister (whom we used to call attai pati) got married at the age of 11 and widowed at the age of 13 and had to shave her head and wear a white saree and all that and thats how she lived till she died at the age of 80. No one ever felt anything strange about her even though at school we were being thought about the how bad this system was.

    I think we as humans get emotional when we see things at a distance. but when things come closer, we are so bothered with our personal priorities that we just don't see beyond.

    and i think the money which BBC would have spent on shooting this podcast and the footage they have claimed on sensationalizing this, if they decide to share a % of it with him as venture capital, a person of his zeal will go a long way.

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  5. savitha29/11/09

    //I think we as humans get emotional when we see things at a distance. but when things come closer, we are so bothered with our personal priorities that we just don't see beyond.//
    I completely agree on this!

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  6. @A - Yes, I know life doesn't even out for everybody, but how nice it would be if it did.

    @thoughtful train - Yes, a good break is deserved for the spirit alone.

    @savitha - Its amazing to see the strength in people who have undergone hard knocks. There's a lot to learn from such people. The greed for money is unbelievable. Such people - can they ever find happiness with 'blood money" ?

    @sandhya - very true - somehow distance seems to breed empathy.
    And you point about the BBC - media does its job by highlighting such things. Its then upto all of us to pitch in. I'm sure some Mumbaikar would help, when cases such as these are brought out.

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  7. Thanks for bringing such a surreal story to light Ramesh ...bravo !!

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  8. Nice one. This is just a sample when compared to lots n lots of unheard stories in the remote parts of India. I guess - comparatively, these things are on the rise in India (than developed countries). There's fundamentally went something wrong - right from education. Strongly HOPE that next generation of people will be matured enough. May god bless us!

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  9. Very touching story of a common man. A commom man really faces lots of difficulties silently.

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  10. Salute to the spirit of the common man!

    It is really unfortunate that life does not even out for everybody, though it does even out ultimately for only those people who rise upto the challenge and eventually emerge as a role model just like Mr. Khodke. I too join you in praying for the prosperity of hundreds of people like Sadashiv...

    And hope that sensitivity finds a place in the life of every human being!

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  11. His tale is indeed moving. He is a hero.

    I have a friend (whom i really admire) about whom i plan to write sometime.This story reminds me of what I told her once-- That there are some people to whom life gives several beatings--yet they refuse to take even a single one.

    Sadashiv and my friend are indeed among those rare few.

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  12. @blogueur - Thank you

    @LG - There are many such stories indeed and its not unique to India at all - everywhere people seem to exhibit both amazing and appalling insensitivity.

    @Chandrika - Thanks for visiting and your comment.

    @VA - Salute indeed. Life is not fair, unfortunately.

    @Preeti - Yes, such people are amazing role models. Would like to read about your friend and draw inspiration.

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  13. One can't do much except sympathise with Mr. Khodke and express their solidarity with him. But we cannot ignore his spirit of life. When I read your post, the first and only thing that came to my mind is Rudyard Kipling's poem, "If...". Mr. Khodke is the "Man" who has so truly lived his life as one ought to. Each one of us have a lesson to be learnt from his "human spirit". God bless Mr. Khodke!

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  14. //Sadashiv Chandrakanth Khodke – you are truly a human being to be admired. To my mind, you are the Businessman of the Year. If I ever get to find you on the streets of Mumbai, it shall be my privilege to be your customer and have a cup of tea from you. The fates dealt you a cruel blow on that day a year ago. I pray that they also deal you a kind hand in the future.//

    After forgoing the lump in my throat I am writing this, I am completely moved by this story , more so by your words. More often humanity is nothing but appreciating and encouraging people like Mr.Khodke. May I join you for the tea in the same tea stall please ?

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  15. On the lighter side, When I read the title I thought its about you LOL

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  16. just got off the link ramesh, that podcast says some other story about a british guy from the same attack who is not getting compensated by the goverment.

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  17. !!! enakenamo citizen journalist program patha mathiri iruku.!! very hard hitting and sensitive post!! ndtv profit mathiri irukara unga blogla..sun seithigal rangekum post varuma!! nice nice :)

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  18. on second thots..can u understand tamil???!!!! without knowing tht me blabbing on and on :) scene blog u've got. feels like economic times..and btw are u already contributing to tht ??

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  19. People like Mr. Khodke who could have justifiably given up fighting long ago are such an inspiration and make me feel like my own problems are so trivial. But what is sad is that I am not sure if I would recognize all the Mr. Khodkes I encounter on a day-to-day basis and "have a cup of tea" with them. This post is a reminder that there are many people who struggle silently and we should feel honored to support them.

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  20. Amen to your last line! He is a living lesson for anyone who fails to count his blessings and cribs about everything wrong around him/ her! There are so many people who would, give excuses (and plausible ones) for losing faith and taking up a wrong course in life after something like this. But bless this man's soul that he is determined, hopeful and ready to build everything back from the scratch.

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  21. @Durga - Thanks for the warm sentiments

    @Sri - Yes - it would be a double pleasure to go and have chai together. And Sri - I have a long way to go to be deserving of the accolade of "substance" ! Sorry for the wrong link - corrected it now; hopefully.

    @Gils - Mikka nanri - I just write whatever comes to mind. The exalting heights os Sun seithigal are beyond my grasp. Yes, I speak Tamil, but since most of my readers are not Tamil speakers, I ask your permissions to respond in English. But please do comment in your unique Tamil - oru thani rasam saar onga Tamizh commentsula.

    @J - Yes we can hardly recognise such people, but in our midst many heroes silently live. Perhaps we can get energised by their spirit.

    @Deepa - Yes, people who don't crib and honestly toil every day are amazing people and worthy of emulation.

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  22. //rasam saar onga Tamizh commentsula./

    avvvvvv...knighthood for gils!! :D

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