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Posted at: Jul 17, 2017, 12:10 AM; last updated: Jul 17, 2017, 12:15 AM (IST)

One search, many finds

Upant Sharma
One search, many finds

Upant Sharma

TWO decades ago, we had a butler named Dunichand at our home in Himachal, spinning across rooms offering his indefatigable services to our family. His simple persona swept through the hearts of everyone, and since I was the youngest component, his biased inclination towards me would raise the hackles of my elder sibling. The sudden transfer orders of my father to Punjab swept us apart.

Indelible impression of his unconditional love on my heart would, at times, force those sweet-scented past memories to rush to my mind, egging me on to meet him at least once. On query, I learnt that he would come from a far-flung village in Chamba district on Mondays and would dash back at weekend.

Having ransacked albums, I tossed a wornout photograph of him and me into my duffle and embarked on a journey steeped in nostalgia, anxiety and ecstasy. Somehow, I reached the village where an elderly man pointed to Dunichand’s home atop a hill. Weaving my way through the difficult terrain, I knocked at the door and an old lady answered with a smile. After a volley of sceptical queries about my identity, they offered tea and biscuits till uncle got home. He furrowed his forehead and studying the old photograph (I was now sporting a beard), took me in his arms. He was at a loss for words in expressing his delight.

They were edgy till I assured them that a simple supper would do, without any pretentious gesture to gratify me. A simple dal and chapatis prepared over burning firewood in the hearth warmed my heart. 

I woke up in the morning to the sound of birds drawing me to the window. Flinging it open, I inhaled deeply a gust of fresh air — swinging rows of innumerable trees stretched to the horizon in a wavy pattern catching my eye. The inferences drawn back home about his poverty came to mind. the fore. His life seemed naturally royal in contrast to urban denizens confined to stifling skyscrapers. His house was situated at a commanding position on the hill and the lofty vantage point afforded a pleasing panoramic view of the landscape.  

At some distance, was a long, narrow and deep river between two high cliffs, breaking the silence of the valley. This was his family’s chief source for drinking and washing. Their strenuous routine of walking up and down the mountain slopes kept them agile. Uncle defined his job as a menial worker at a home and spoke of their primary dependence on the sprawling meadows for food and fodder for his livestock. 

Chucking out a truckload of presumptions about him and his family, my return triggered me to jot down a few things in my journal. Gigantic bungalows marked by a luxurious lifestyle might be the first pick for many people, but my heart now hankers for a simple, nondescript life without frills, especially around nature. Undeniably, my meeting with the true servant of nature escalated my thoughts to an unprecedented pedestal.

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