“I am Happy Singh”

Dr Navniit Gandhi
Sunday, March 17, 2024

The bus reached the meeting point 15mnts before the designated time.

It was 8th March and a few Indian women in Kuwait had organized a full day picnic for ladies. A prominent public transport company of Kuwait had sponsored a majestic luxury bus for the picnic, along with the services of a driver.

Deftly swerving into the narrow parking area outside the garden, the driver parked expertly and stepped out with a smile.

“Hello ji, myself Happy Singh”, he greeted Shweta who stood outside the garden gate, holding in her hand a list of names and also checking the credentials of the stream of ladies pouring in.

Shweta looked up at the cheerful male voice, though distinctly soft amidst the loud chitter-chatter; pitter-patter of the excited ladies who had already arrived before time. He looked a typical Punju from rural Punjab. His built was robust; the steel kada on his hand was hugely solid and so was his moustache, which he kept twirling every now and then, and quite fondly at that.

“Aha! You are well before time, Happy ji. Thank you so much. I am Shweta. The company had given me your name and number and I was going to call you after a while to find where you had reached.”

“Ohhhhhh ji, it is my habit ji to always reach before time. Every day, I report to work at least ten minutes early. Would not want to be late and then drive rashly and become the ‘late’ Happy Singh. Ha! Ha! Ha!”, and saying so, he laughed whole-heartedly and went back to his driving seat.
He put on his earphones and waited patiently till all the ladies were comfortably seated, and then as Shweta beckoned him to start---the journey began.
The 48 ladies in the 45-seater bus erupted into a musical cacophony from the word go, and without a moment’s pause! There was no trace of any irritation, however, on the face at the steering wheel. He drove calmly, and seemed to be enjoying the sense of responsibility of taking a bus full of ladies to their destination on Women’s Day.

On reaching the Arab-styled chalet overlooking the sea, shrieks and chuckles echoed all around. The view was simply breathtaking. The organizing team had been coordinating with the caterers from the morning and had ensured that a hot and delicious breakfast awaited them at the chalet. After a few reels, selfies, shots and clicks of the surroundings, the ladies lined up for breakfast.

Shweta sat on a chair at one corner, looking at the sprawling view of the glimmering sea. The organizers were waiting for the rest to finish, before queuing up for breakfast. She saw Happy Singh standing there, with a sheepish expression, probably waiting for someone to tell him to have breakfast too. Shweta went up to him and said: “Happy Singh ji, why don’t you too fall in queue and have breakfast. You must have started quite early from home.”

“No ji, it is ok. Let everyone finish and then I shall have at the end.”

Shweta continued talking so that he would not feel awkward standing there all by himself, with all ladies around. “Since how many years are you here in Kuwait?” she asked.

“I came here about eight years ago ji. I have been working in this bus company since then.”

“Do you like it here? And, what about your family there in India? You are from Punjab, isn’t it? You must be missing them. Who all are there in your family?” Shweta fired several questions at once.

Happy Singh looked up and was visibly happy that someone was interesting in knowing about him and talking to him. All excited, he fired back: “My village is Batala in Kapurthala District, Punjab. Have you heard of Kapurthala in Punjab? Have you ever visited Punjab? You must come to see our Golden Temple, ji.”

Shweta was nodding with interest and Happy Singh’s excitement was growing. He had found an eager listener, in a country where there were just a few work-based relationships, and no friends and family. “I had tried to go to Canada ji, but did not succeed. Then I got this job here. Do you know, when I came here, we had a mud house; a kachcha makaan, if you understand. The roof used to leak and our house used to be flooded in monsoon. But I worked very hard after coming here, and worked over-time plus took part-time jobs; worked as much as I could--so that I could make a proper 3-storeyed house there.” He was beaming with pride as he went on. “Our house now has a concrete terrace too,” he added and looked up at the sky with gratification.

“Madam ji, in all these years I have been sleeping for barely 3-4 hours a day. Sometimes, I sleep for less than two hours. I work hard and stay away from all harmful habits. I do not smoke or and nor am I addicted to anything else. You see, that is why I could save and get my sisters nicely married. My mother too is content and relaxed now. I lost my Bau ji though, four years ago. I miss him very much.”

Before he could choke with emotions, Shweta changed the topic a little. “So, what about your own marriage, Happy Singh?”

Blushing profusely, and eyes cast downwards, he replied: “Ji, last year, I got married too.” His happiness just could not be contained.

“You have a strong well-built cement house. I can see you have an i-phone, and you are married too now. What next?” Shweta wanted to know.

She was sure what his answer would be. Everybody; or nearly everybody who arrives to work in the Gulf starts saving from day one. At first, for making a good house or buying a flat in India, and then for one’s own marriage and then for kids and their education, career and then for their marriage… In a flash, 2-3 or even 4 decades thus whizzed past for most expats, and before one could ponder or gauge further, the twilight years of life came knocking. Shweta recalled how they had initially decided, on coming to Kuwait, that they would wind up and return to India in two years. Fifteen years had already passed since then.
She let out a sigh…

Yes, she knew Happy Singh’s answer.

The spate of targets were always the same, for almost all expats. For some, the desires stretched to making two or more properties and then to sending children to UK or USA for higher education. And for some, the aims stretched still further towards settling down in Canada or Australia eventually.
“I have only one aim now, Madam ji.”

Shweta was all smiles expecting the expected answer, only until she heard:
“I will be returning to my village next month.”

Her reverie was broken, and she looked at him quizzically.

“Madam ji, I am 29 years old. I have learnt that any day could be our last day. We may just not get up in the morning. I would want that day to come in my own house. My one aim in life is that I want to be happy in my own house, with my mother and get to know my wife and have my family. I will find some small jobs there too. I have worked hard and saved in order to eat good food, and not get diseases and eat pills for the rest of my life.”
Shweta absorbed this unexpected reply slowly.

“Madam ji, you must surely come to Punjab once and come to my house too. You will like the farms; the fresh air and fresh food.”

Happy Singh is clear about what he wants from life. His desires are innocent; thoughts, deep and smile infectious, thought Shweta and warmly smiled.
She was happy for Happy Singh!

Navniit Gandhi is an academic since 25+ years; a feature writer (300+ articles), and has authored 10 books. Her 10th and most recently authored, published and launched book is titled: NOT MUCH IS AS IT SEEMS Her write-ups can be read at navniitspeaks.wordpress.com For details about her books, visit www.amazon.com/author/gandhinavniit1408
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