12 Jul 2009

Khari-Kamai on June 5th

Image reference : Wikimedia Commons

I scribbled this post in June and as usual forgot to post it. At times I pride myself for having this unique ability to conveniently forget things - especially dates (I mean calendar dates ;-). After all, why carry all that numeric baggage in your head when you have all these calendars and widgets nowadays to pop-up alarms and trigger event notifications.

That explains the puzzlement, why on the morning of June 5th I was surprised when I could remember that it was Environment day. But sadly I couldn't remember as to what made me remember in the first place that it was Environment day. It was later in the evening after a sip of hot coffee that my neurons fired away and I remembered the incident that introduced me to environment day for the first time.

The event goes back around two decades in time. Scouts & Guides were a part of the school curriculum then. It was interesting, wearing that outfit which made you look like a mini-soldier and following the code of discipline & activity set by Robert Baden-Powell. During our second year of scouting, we had this activity programme called "Khari-Kamai" which everyone eagerly looked forward to. Literally translated as "Real-Earning", this program's objective was to instill a spirit of earning by working with dignity and self-respect. As a part of this program, students were supposed to work in teams, visit houses, seek some nitty-gritty errands to do and build up a small earning to be pooled in the school charity fund.

Practically when you look at it, most of us used to target friend's houses as we were sure we'd not be shooed away and mostly the work used to be some silly stuff like wiping the dust off TV screens and in return we'd get a 5 or a 10 rupee note. And the policy of give-n-take was often employed. I'd go over to a friend's place for seeking work with the understanding that when he needed work for his khari-kamai he could come over to my place. All such crooked thinking routes were applied to garner more revenue. Also it was a neat way for the guys to visit the houses of some of the cutest girls ;-) and impress em. And never was the work challenging in any way to say so. Compared to the scout drills & rope-knotting activities, this was far more interesting.

We used to stay in a company quarters of sorts. I formed a team with a friend called Mohammed and we used to hunt houses for work during the weekends. That was till Mohammed had a brilliant idea. Why not target the "staff" quarters, he said. At least they'd give something better than a 10 rupee note. Now he had an idea. Staff members were supposed to be officer grade folks and definitely they would tip us better. The only worry was whether they'd shoo us away.

Mohammed was not only brilliant but a daring fellow too. The first door he knocked was in a bungalow apartment usually reserved for the most elite staff. I tiptoed behind him, ready to run away at the slightest blabbering from whoever would open the door, i.e if it did open for us - kids in soiled clothes looking for work ;-).

But the door did open and a well-built man with a stout moustache towered over us. "Whats the matter" - he asked - his voice deep, authorative and resonant. "We want work" - we blabbered simultaneously, the voices hardly coming out.

"What work"- It sounded more like thunder. Panicky, we then showed him our "Khari-Kamai" cards. "Oohh.. this...well come in boys" - there was a big smile and he ushered us in, even gave us some juice to drink. "So... what work would you like to do" - he asked, now pleasantly. "Anything" - we replied - "Clean the fan, tv, fix the faucet, replace the fused bulb - Anything" - we went on. I even volunteered to repair an old tape recorder that didn't seem to work - but Mohammed winked at me to shut up & not be too over-confident.

He smiled and then said "Well today is an interesting day called Nature day. Do you know that?". We didn't need to reply back. The blank look on our faces spoke more. He went on to describe Nature day in great detail, stressing why nature was precious, why it should be nurtured and so on. Then he said "I'll give you some work you guys would be proud of later". He went inside and shortly brought two saplings. "Here" - he said, "Plant these in that chalk marked space in the garden & water it properly". He stood behind us and personally supervised the whole process. Once we were done he handed us a 50 rupee note and said - "You need to come back for the next 5 days after school, water it using that garden hose and check if your sapling is growing properly. Else I'll take this money back from you. Okai". We nodded in unison, quite unsure of that promise, but very happy at this bargain deal. This incident occurred on a June 5th - and I think it was the last job for the "Khari-Kamai" we did. We closed in at around 360 Rupees which we handed over to the school authorities and was (I hope) donated to charity.

Sadly we never went back to check the saplings. But sometime during the end of that year in school, I passed by that place and was happy to find the saplings swaying in the evening breeze. Later during my college days, on a chance encounter, I noticed that one of the saplings wasn't there but the other one had blossomed onto a nice little Gulmohar tree with red-petalled flowers. I don't recollect any of the other jobs we did as a part of "Khari-Kamai", but this one I keep recollecting every time mention of Environment day is made.

Today, I can't help but marvel at the vision of that person, who was aware of the importance of environment consciousness then, cared for this fact and ensured that it was passed on to the next generation by virtue of deed.


  1. Great , really nice blog....


  2. its really a good idea