As the day progressed it started to get warmer, while the traffic on the road got denser. However, the vehicle queue at the Delhi-Gurgaon Toll (please add any place according to your current residence) thankfully moved at a good pace. Proceeding on the highway, an unexpected sight caught my attention and took me into a myriad of thoughts, feelings, and questions. I saw an old man sitting by the roadside, embraced by his workmanship – a number of beautifully designed and painted clay pots – yet lonely and lost. His eyes wistfully looked at every passing car and other vehicles hoping they would stop and someone would take a fancy to his clay pots. He looked feeble, fatigued, and forlorn of all hope.
For me it was not the beautiful clay pots, but the potter’s humble and profound demeanor that urged me to stop by. There was something uncanny about his visage and his eyes seemed to speak very strongly about his unfortunate state in life. He looked famished but the swiftness with which he got up to welcome us, filled me with awe. Our halt at his road-side stall certainly reclaimed his hope of some profit. As I started conversing with him I learnt that, day after day he religiously and with great anticipation of some earning, displayed his creation on that dusty side of the road. He had a big happy family and enjoyed the respect and service of the family members towards him, as he was the patriarch of the big clan. But a few years ago his entire house, farm land and all the family members became victims of a devastating earthquake in his village. Fortunately, in a strange way he was the only survivor in his family.
Since there was not much left in the village to make a living out of, he moved to the city for a living. It was not an easy transition for him as it was extremely difficult for him to cope up with the emotional grief and then leave his native place where he had lived his whole life. It was very painful for him to lose his big happy family and to be left alone at this old vulnerable age. As he vividly narrated his tragic story with unspeakable grief and a husky voice, I could actually visualize the tragedy that happened in his life.
My husband and I found ourselves so engrossed in his life story that unintentionally we ignored his lovely creation that he was surrounded by. But my husband took a fancy to one of his beautifully painted clay pots and soon we started talking about how he started this small business. He explained how he and his other friends in the village were a part of this famous trade and art. He said “this art is my savior in times of trouble” and that he was grateful to God for giving him this gift of making beautiful clay pots.
He made pots of all sizes and colors, and it was amazing to see how different in style and painting each one of his pots looked. Most of his paintings were floral designs but some depicted village scenes and daily activities of people there. It was remarkable how he created such lively and moving paintings, full of bright colors and designs, inspite of the gloominess and dullness in his own life. I was really touched and encouraged at the same time, by his optimism which his work reflected. He truly was a man of strength and courage, more so because at this old age he kept himself going strong.
We gladly bought the clay pot my husband took fancy to along with some other smaller pots which we really liked. While making the payment to him my husband lightened up with an idea in his mind. Few blocks away from our house we had a small shop that we had rented out to a florist whose business was flourishing in that area. Outside the shop there was a big open space and my husband offered to give that space to this old potter to sell his beautiful pots. The potter was very pleased and accepted the offer gladly. We planned to send our driver to him the next day so he could bring him to the shop and all was decided and well-planned for.
With joyful hearts we left for our destination and returned home late at night. In the meantime my husband had given the instructions to the driver to pick up the potter at 9am the next morning. The next day I prepared the morning tea and sat down with the newspaper, only to jump out of my seat in shock after reading that a major accident took place on the highway the previous day and a truck ran over the old potter after losing control. Many other people in the traffic also died and suffered injuries. I was speechless for some time and with no strength in my voice, broke the news to my husband. I couldn’t believe that the man who inspired me so much by his optimism and determination to move on with life suddenly was no more alive.