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A Smile, A tata and the Man who Mops

Nancy Vijo Thursday, March 10, 2016
A Smile, A tata and the Man who Mops

I always noticed “him” in Muthanna Complex in Salhiya - mop in hand smiling at all the lil kids who come to Muthanna nursery on the 1st floor on the 6th wing. Around 65 years old, Bald headed, dark skinned, 5’10 and plump with a pot belly; he waved and held the door open for lil children to walk through.

I held Eva close (My lil one who just about turned one year old in September) and I walked through the door, trying to shield her from the cold wind that blew. I carried her in my left hand while I somehow managed to carry her bag and mine in the other. “He” held the door open for me as well and smiled at Lil Eva. She tucked her face into the nook of my neck and peeped out to smile at him. As the doors of the lift slowly closed, I noticed that Lil Eva was waving ‘tata’ to him and hiding again in the nook of my neck as he waved back. I smiled.

We continued to see him every day – as I dropped her to the nursery and as I picked her up every day after work. He never once spoke or tried to speak – he only smiled as we walked pass him. And yes he smiled – at all the other lil kids who ran past him.

One morning, as I dropped Lil Eva and was on my way to office, I think back about this “Man”. This man who has silently been part of my daily routine. A part of me wanted to talk to him, to get to know him better – a part of me wanted to knock me back into reality. He’s a stranger. You don’t know him. You have enough challenges and worries in your personal life to get involved in another’s worry. He’s not going to tell you anything about his life that would make you happy. Instead, he would share his troubles. And what can you do? Cry with him? Burden yourself and think about his worries, when you aren’t even wealthy enough to make a difference in his life? As my own thoughts chided me, I brushed them aside and thought about all the meetings and tasks I would have to finish off today.

As I walked in to pick Lil Eva up in the evening – she was in a walking spree. She refused to be carried and wanted to walk to the lift from her nursery on the 1st floor. Now, one thing that really tries my patience at the Muthanna Complex is the lift to the residential apartments. With barely 2 lifts and a huge crowd, you might often have to wait for 3 – 4 minutes all while trying to manage a 1 year old from running around. The lift was taking its own sweet time to arrive and Lil Eva was walking around all excited at the sudden freedom that she just got when I let her be. One second she was walking and the next second I hear a “thud”. I was trying to cajole her to get up and get walking again without crying, when this “man” suddenly came up and helped her up.

As I bend down to carry her, to hug her and to make her feel comforted and loved; my eyes rest upon his legs. I drew my eyes up with a heaviness in my heart that I cannot describe - when I happened to see his right hand as well. I looked up to his eyes. They were filled with concern for Lil Eva. And then he suddenly noticed me looking at him and smiled. I dint know if I could smile. He waved to Lil Eva, turned around and DRAGGED his right leg with him as his right hand hung limp from his shoulders. He rested his mop against his right shoulder, opened the door with his left hand and quickly dragged himself out before the door closed. Lil Eva was shouting ‘Tatatatata’ while waving at him all the while.

I slumped down into the car seat at the back with lil Eva on my lap. As she leaned on to my chest and put her thump into my mouth, I rested my head back against the street and looked out of the window. City lights hazed and blurred in front of my eyes. Was my vision so selfish and focused purely on my family and job that I never noticed that this “man” who held the door open for me almost every day was paralyzed on his right? And what’s more – he was paralyzed and still mopping.

My thoughts went back to my grandmother (God Bless her Soul), my very own grandmother who was paralyzed on the right as well. She was determined soul, who was always too independent. Having lived with and having taken of a partially paralyzed grandma for 18 years, no one would know better of how difficult it was to carry out daily tasks.. about how difficult it was for them to move on every day in life keeping a positive outlook. I know of the pain that can grip them in the cold, of the numbness they feel as they try to drag their “lifeless part of the body” onto bed, the loneliness and the uselessness they feel and of the fear they face every day of being entirely paralyzed and unable to fend for themselves. I drifted off to sleep somehow that night with Lil Eva nuzzling close to my chest in the cold, but dreams of my grandmother kept me awake and forlorn.

Determined, I walked into Muthanna Complex the next day with Lil Eva. I saw him mopping as usual and waving at Eva making her squeal in delight. I walked up to him and he leaned his mop against the wall, confused as to why I was approaching him probably. I let out my hand for a shake. He looked at my hand and said, “ Madamji, my hands dirty. Namaste”. I drew my hand back and said, “Hi. Im Nancy. I work nearby. This is my lil one.. Eva. Whats your name? Where are you from?” He was a little shocked that I asked him about him. With a slurred tone that easily gave away part of a paralyzed tongue, he said, “ Mohammed. Bangladesh. “ I looked at his hands and legs and asked him, “ What happened?” He said, “Don’t know. One day I sleep. Another day like this. Before too much pain. Now ok. Now Mubarak hospital. Good Doctor. Good Kuwait.” He smiled. I smiled. He said “tata”. Lil Eva said, “ Tatatata”.

I could hardly bear my excitement in office that day. I wanted to know more…and more and more. After I picked Lil Eva, we went down and started speaking again. To my questions he said, “In Kuwait 40 years. Family Bangladesh. Wife”. Dreading, I asked, “ Children?” He had a distant expression and smiled. He looked at Eva and said, “tata”. She said, “tatattata”. Mohammed dragged his half lifeless body across, moping the floor again.

Days went on. I never asked him any questions again. We smiled. Eva and Mohammed said “tata” each day. One evening as Eva and I were walking out, I tried to make her hand over some money to Mohammed. He looked at me, smiled at Eva; accepted the money and the next second gave it back to Eva. He smiled and said, “Me children madam. 4 children. Big people. No smile. No me, no maa. Me out, maa out. No problem, madam.” Then he smiled and pointed his finger towards his smile and said,” You Smile. Bas Madam. Me happy. Baby tata. Bas Madam. Me happy. Lil many baby smile. Bas Madam. Me happy. Me no need money. Me one hand. One leg. “He showed me his mop. “Me ok. Me happy.” And looked at Eva, waved and said, “ Tata”. Eva said “ tatatatata”. He looked at me and smiled, “ Smile madam. Baby tata madam. Me happy madam”. As he walked away, I had goosebumps on my arms.

I wasn’t bothered about his children who probably never bothered to take care of him. What goes around will definitely come around. RESPECT was the only word that filled my entire being. He didn’t burden me with his worries or pain. He dint burden me with his problems. He dint want my money. Instead, he shared his strength, his independence, his positive attitude and his courage.

I smiled and walked with Lil Eva towards the car. There are very few people who touch our hearts in very special ways. Very few people whose smile can make a difference to us. Very few for whom a word, “Tatatata” brightens up their world. And I met one such man who will continue to be an inspiration for me and probably for many who might read this.

We still continue to smile. Eva still continues to say ‘Tatatatata”. He still continues to smile, say tata and mop.

Based on a true story.

Nancy is a creative art person,a writer and a motivational speaker. After almost 7 and a half years of her career in HR and Corporate Training in various hierarchical levels; she decided to turn to Applied Behavioral Therapy, trying to make a difference in the life of Autistic kids. She loves designing and choreographing and has anchored various shows in an out of Kuwait and India. She believes in Karma - that what you give is what you get. She writes with the belief that if her writings brings about a positive vibe in the life of a person who reads it - even if it is for a fleeting moment - she would be blessed. Being a vivid observer, she only writes on true experiences.
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