Another day at office was threatening to turn into a really hard one when Mr Singh materialized in front of me, a sheaf of papers in his hands and that gentle smile plastered on his face as always. He is a simple, easy going man, rare virtues which most of us lack. I have known him for the last seven years and have hardly found him complaining about anything or anyone. And his collection of jokes is simply amazing, every one of them will make you laugh riotously, even though sometimes there are repetitions. So when I saw him this morning, I started getting ready for a refreshing break, albeit for a few minutes.
He sat down in front me, made some small talk. I ordered tea and waited eagerly for the joke of the day. He seemed withdrawn, may be he is not in the mood today—I thought. Then he started abruptly-
“You know what my son told me yesterday?”—he asked, the smile in his face seemed distant.
I was all ears. He said—“Let me tell you from the beginning. Actually my son’s B. Tech final year result is out. He has done pretty well. He scored 46 out of 50 in control systems. They tell me it is the toughest subject. Is it so?”
I smiled. “Singhda, for me all subjects were equally tough. But yes, as far as my memory goes, electrical guys were afraid of this subject.”
“Right. I was pleased, you see. Only son and all that. So I asked him-what do you want? You know what he said?”
Mr. Singh covered his face with both hands and his body started shaking. I was stunned. The man was laughing like crazy, but where was the joke?
Then he lifted his face and I saw tears streaming down his cheeks. He was sobbing and in a choked voice gave the answer to his earlier question—“My son said--please cure my mother.”
He told me about his bedridden wife and the diabetes, which had eaten up her eyes and livers, about the sleepless nights when he and his son stood helplessly while his wife writhed in unbearable pain and the agony reflected in the weathered face.
He calmed down after a few minutes, apologized needlessly, and started discussing about the papers he brought with him. I glanced at his face, and surprisingly, the smile was back. He took another cup of tea, lit a cigarette, and then started, this time with a mischievous expression in his face—
“Did I tell you this joke about the RPF man trying to catch a smoker in a running train?”