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Yusuf the bearer

Shabbir Aariz

There are a number of things that cross one’s way and leave an impact. It is either an event or an incident and at some point in time, an act of an individual. All have the potential of influencing the life, thinking and the attitude of a person or even create such impressions that last long and even stay there all life depending on how one responds to such observations and experiences.
The acts, gestures (read performances) or works of the individuals in limelight easily arrest one’s attention. What comes out as quite amazing is when you are influenced by someone ordinary, less known and less privileged; someone who really deserves your attention more than the ones who otherwise claim a copyright over it.
It has also been observed that the people in power and position, of whatever brand, claim and seek entitlement to their profile getting penned down and printed. But here I am reminded of an American lawyer-writer, Russell Herman Conwell, who says: The really great man is plain, straightforward, everyday, commonsense man.
And I agree.
It has been over three decades since I shifted my practice to the High Court at Srinagar. So then did a young man Yusuf from a remote village in north Kashmir, who joined the canteen of the court as a bearer and ever since has dwarfed the men of wealth, position and prominence.
Yusuf, in his fifties, tempts one to believe that it is never necessary to be rich or powerful to be noticed and felt. With every passing day, his attributes unfold not only surprising you but also make him a darling of everyone coming in touch with him. Brimming with positive energy while serving the table, Yusuf in essence is the backbone of the canteen management. Indefatigable, he caters to any size of visitors at any given time of the day, manages official parties and sudden rush hours with calm and courtesy that hardly leaves any room for complaints.
Yusuf is the go-to man in times of distress, for any kind of support be it monetary accommodation, recommending poor litigants to lawyers for free legal assistance etc. In the morning, particularly during winters, before the start of the office work, Yusuf greets you with a cup of traditional cup of kehwa or lemon tea even without asking.
He also has fantastic grasp and sense of the taste of his customers, whom he always caters to with a smile on his face. These not-so-common qualities have endeared him to the extent that he has, inconspicuously, created a class of his admirers.
There are, no doubt, also among them those who address to his comforts to an extent. From his behaviour, one can always feel that his dominant feeling seems not so much to serve the table or please his customer as not to offend his dignity without taking himself so seriously. It is amazing that for him no situation is hopeless. He does not seem to keep up his appearances out of compulsion but as part of his DNA.
Despair to him is a pastime for those who actually want to do nothing worthwhile. Hope and expectation of a better tomorrow remains a tonic for him to keep going. Sometimes, it has been bothering my mind to see him so contented with the position of an ordinary table boy even after more than three decades of relentless service as such without any sign of tediousness on his face. And it is usual that such people are described as idiots, having less desire to grow in life but my feeling is quite different and I seriously have discovered him as someone with all the qualities of a positive thinking person.
Out of curiosity and also driven by genuine feeling of compassion for him, I revealed my concerns to him once and in a way sought details of any progress that he has made by sticking to the position of a canteen bearer against some paltry sum. More amazed was I when in all seriousness, he told me that he had no complaints about his destiny and God has been kind to him that being a man of small but honest means, has he been able to raise the family and educate his children which include two of his sons of whom one is a PSC qualified government lecturer and another a law graduate now, who could be rubbing his shoulders with me. He thinks himself to have succeeded in life without suffering any moral decay. That takes him to the next level of admiration. Let us wish him well and also all likes of him.
Author is a Lawyer. Feedback at: [email protected]