He was sweating profusely from the hot May sun of Delhi. He was dark with a hard lean body and working hands with age touching forties. He had a pair of common leather chappals on his feet; dark tan and dusty, but strong. He was in a pair of indeterminate coloured trousers. I couldnt tell whether it was beige or white gone dirty. I think it was chocolate coloured! In his right hand was a slip of paper with my address on it. With his left hard he was carrying a tool case – patent leather, quite old though, but again quite strong. His eyes were bloodshot. I wondered if he had been drinking or if he was ill.
I heard his name – \”Shrivastav\”. Well, I thought, he looks like a \’Shrivastav\’ enough, a north Indian Hindu. Later, I was quite shocked to know that it was actually \’Sylvester\’. I could not imagine a Christian electrician working in Kotla Mubarakpur. But he was! Guess I did not know enough about socio-economic demographics in such commercial areas. And guess what, I was also quite surprised to know that the previous electrician\’s name was \’Aslam\’ But I could imagine a Muslim working in Kotla Mubarakpur.
I am a die hard secularist and multiculturalist. So I felt strange and in some ways guilty about my feeling surprised. Was it sub conscious bias or pure statistical evidence that was behind my finding Sylvester and Aslam odd in their contexts? Maybe a bit of both.
I could not place Sylvester. I mean I could not tell whether he was a North Indian Christian or a South Indian one. They differ a lot actually, though they all look purely Indian. I revel in the variety of India and love coming across someone who is so far removed from me and yet swears allegiance to the same Constitution.
Sylvester looked like quite a serious kind of person with no smile on his face and a droning voice. But once he started working I found him quite talkative. And I joined him with my \’Ahans\’, \’Ohs\’ and \’OKs\’. He was not intrusive or curious, he just liked to talk – to speak, not speak with. I felt a shade of sadness leaving him alone to work. But he was ok with that – he talked to himself.