An Ode To Upendra : My Field Buddy

by | Dec 5, 2016

My most favourite movie of all time is It’s a Wonderful Life (1946). It’s a movie starring James Stewart as the protagonist George Bailey. George Bailey harboured the dreams of travelling the world one day right from his childhood. As he grew up, his life took a different course altogether. He had given up his dreams to help others. On the day when he is to kill himself, his guardian angel Clarence intervenes and shows him how different his community would have been without him. All the people whose lives were touched by George, without George knowing come out to help him in his times of distress.

This movie is a Christmas classic and is viewed all over the world during the festival. As Christmas is nearing, the days are getting shorter and the nights, longer. These days, the last certain outbound transport from my village where I work is at about 2pm. If I miss this, I will have to wait for the mercy of the drivers going in the direction else, request my buddy Upendra for a drop about 15km away from where I can take another vehicle for about 15kms away to reach my final destination.

He has been with me like my shadow ever since I’ve joined as an India Fellow at PRAYOG and works with me. He also takes me around the village and introduces me to the people he knows. Everyone asks him for a favour of one kind or another and he never says ‘no’. He says “even if 5 different people give me 5 different things to do at the same time, I will do it”. I used to be so baffled by this and used to ask him why he would take such pains to help people. He does it just because “it makes me happy when I help them out in their difficult times” and “what will I spend other than my time? for someone else, it’d mean so much relief with a helping hand”.

These days when the day is getting shorter, he manages to stop someone going in my direction whom he had helped perviously and requests them for a drop. A regular occurrence this. When I thank him and ride behind the biker, he tells me how helpful Upender to them when they need him. They tell me that they would even drop me till my place because he requested them for it. Some tempo drivers don’t charge me when they see him dropping me to their vehicle. Doctors agree to see me in between their appointments (one doctor also came home to see me, and didn’t charge). Fruit vendors charge me lesser than usual and egg stalls give me an extra egg when he’s around. Jeep drivers reserve a seat for me next to them just because he told them I’m coming in 5 minutes. The currency here is not money, but goodwill. The friendship is more valuable than any form of monetary benefit. Every small thing that you did to someone is remembered by that person and will help you at times of your distress.

I have seen this much more frequently when I’m living here in Bihar. This most certainly isn’t a phenomena contained only to this place, but also exists elsewhere in the world. This is what this fellowship does to you – makes you look at the small things around you with much more patience, analyse and also appreciate them.

“Help someone whenever you can and have an opportunity, and don’t expect anything in return. Along with others’, it will light up your day as well”. As my buddy is applying for a new job elsewhere and is almost certain of bagging it, he might leave our organisation. I write this and dedicate it to him. In my 4 months with him here, this is one of my biggest learning from him.

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