May 19, 2009
There are many persons in our society who suffer from the delusion that they are the most hardworking, thereby making a decent living. There are others who have cushy jobs and live good lives, with assured benefits of retirement until death. Yet, they never look happy, but keep on grumbling about cost of living and fight for more and more dearness allowances lifelong.
In far contrast, we come across a person, who has stuck to the same trade, literally single-handedly, for well over 50 long years. There could be hundreds of others leading similar lives of hard work and surviving in pitiable conditions in different corners of our country.
Seventy-eight-year-old Gopala Golla, from Shaktinagar, Mangalore, stands out among others as an example of dedication and dignity of labour, without any hope or possibility of support from his immediate family and friends. His sole source of income is from the buttermilk he prepares and caters to his clients of long standing, mainly at the wharf at the old Mangalore port everyday. As said already, he has been doing it for over five decades. And his mode of transport? An old bicycle, which he so faithfully rides over the ups and downs across the city of Mangalore every day.
Gopala's humble home, located in a long-winding by-lane off the Shaktinagar bus-stop, does not have any mechanized equipment to 'churn' out the buttermilk. But regular buyers are always assured of hygiene and good taste. After covering about eight kilometers on his bicycle and reaching the open auction-yard at the wharf at the old port, he helps scores of his regular clients quench their thirst. The buttermilk that he serves at a modest price, laced with a right blend of ginger and salt, provides relief to all parched tongues and dry throats around, in right time and at the right place. By afternoon, after selling his 100-plus glasses of buttermilk, starts he return journey home on his bicycle.
Gopala's frail body has borne the brunt in every respect - the merciless monsoons, chill, heat, the mad traffic and many obstacles in transit. One just shudders to think of how he goes on his daily routines and pedals his way through the traffic at Kulshekar, Kadri, Bunts Hostel, Hampankatta and Bunder, and of the hazards he is exposed to on his way to and fro, all the 365 days of the year.
His daily routine begins in the morning when he prepares the buttermilk good enough to serve about 100 buyers. Around 10.30 am, he starts pedalling his way. Asked about the changes in the city road network and increase in the traffic over the past fifty years, he says he needs to watch out at certain points like the Bunts Hostel Circle.
But he has his compulsion. He has to earn his bread and butter. His wife is chronically ill and bed-ridden. His two surviving children - a son and a daughter - could not afford the high school level education. While the son has a small-time job in a nearby cashew processing factory, the daughter rolls bidis.
Until some years ago, they stayed in a small rented house in Alvares Road in Mallikatta-Kadri. When they were displaced to make way for an apartment complex, they moved to a government land in Shaktinagar. It was only three years ago that Gopala managed to get the ownership record for the 6-cent piece of land.
His story no doubts generates sympathy. Even if someone helps him set up an advanced kind of manufacturing unit, he, at his age, would still need a helping hand in production and marketing.
With no other source of income, Gopala still pedals his way for a living. He has no alternative, until someone thinks of a way to help him out. Will that day dawn?