Wednesday 24 February 2010


I am strangely compelled this evening to write.  It is with much sadness that I do because I found out today that, an only recently discovered light in this world, has all to soon been extinguished.

Jodhri's home was the Old Aged People's Home run by my NGO. I first met him not long after I came here when he came to help me move into my flat. He helped me unpack the things I'd bought to set up my home, and to take away all the packaging. He came again to help install the gas cylinder to supply my cooking hob. As I enountered him over the next few weeks he was always doing something, always there to lend a helping hand to Mr G who manages the home.

Physically he was of medium height, white haired, aged somewhere in the late 60s. He told me he originated from Calcutta but how he ended up here in southern Orissa I was never able to establish other than it was for work, but how long ago that was I couldn't understand. Oddly he was a Hindi speaker, with some, very rusty, English learnt in his youth. Every so often in one's live one meets someone who has a special quality about them. Jodhri had it. Let me try to explain.

I've just stared to read The Book Thief by Markus Zusak. Early in that story it tells of the developing realtionship between the young girl Liesel and her adoptive papa, Hans Hubberman, as she settles into life in her new life with her foster parents. There are some tender moments in the book as the two of them "conspire" to teach Leisel to read, but reading together at night when her adoptive mother is not around. Children know when there is something about a person which is inherently good and to be trusted, and a bond is build between them.

When I was a child up to the age of about 6 or 7, my someone was my uncle John. Jodhri reminded me of him a great deal. Not just physically - they actually looked very similar with angular facial features, same built, same hair colour - but also in personality and disposition. John had served at Ypres in the first World War and although I did not realise until much later in my life, this had had a huge and lasting impact on him. He clearly suffered from shell shock. All I remember as a child was I loved his company - he'd take me out in my pram, and later for long walks, we played, we'd potter in the garden, or in the shed, making mud castles with the flowerpots, getting wet in the rain, and returning to see my mother's priceless face as I came home covered in muck. Like Liesel and Hans Hubberman, John and I would wink in conspiratorial delight! John was a very quiet reserved man, a postman and he used to take me to the annual Post Office Christmas party, which I suspect he enjoyed as much as I did. He was clearly very at home with the chidren he never had, he'd never married. All I'm sure because of the effect of his war experience. As with many at that time,  he'd been below sign up age when he enlisted. Behind his eyes was a deep sadness that at that age I did not understand. Eyes that have seen those sort of things look different to eyes which have not.

To me Jodri had those eyes, to me they told of a great loss or great sadness in his life. I have no idea what it was, although I do know that although he had a family he never saw or heard from them. He had no where to go and no one to go to, so he ended up in the Old Aged People's Home. In India, he was one of the lucky ones. I spent more time with Jodhri when my arm broke, he came with me to the hospital and sat with me throughout, looking after my bag, which I couldn't easily carry, just being there. It was so thoughtful.

Some time during the night on Saturday Johdri fell to his death. He'd been sleeping on the roof of the home, his spectacles still lay beside his mat. Mr G thinks he must have woken in the night, was perhaps a bit disorriented, and as he came down he fell. His head cracked open on impact and they found him dead in the morning. Everyone has been shocked as you can imagine. As is normal here, the creation is done very quickly, within the same day and took place on Sunday evening. So he was cremated before I even knew it had happened. Everyone from the home attended, all the Shakti staff of the home and many of Shakti's office staff as well. So at least he had a proper send off.

So Johdri, rest in peace and may your Lord Krishna, Rama or whoever you believed in recognise the person you were and the pleasure others got from your company grant you a better, happier, next life, full this time of lasting family and friends appropriate to the gregarious person I glimpsed in our far too short acquaintance.


  1. Sheila, I am unfamiliar with the book you are reading of course. I myself am now 400 pages into A Suitable Boy by Vikram Seth. Never been too fond of the work of Indian authors to be honest, but this book is captivating. I think of you constantly as I read.

    I am not intending to recommend it to anyone, however, lest I have to listen to all the usual remarks about how huge it is. It is a real chunker. 1,488 pages.

  2. Steve, I read it when it first came out and remember being absolutely enthralled by it and not being able to put the story down, the details escape my memory now, only the overall good impression remains. I tried some of his others and failed to get into them at all. May be a one hit wonder? I do recommend you pick up The Book Thief sometime, hasta leugo amigo

  3. Oh, wonderful! You have read it. It really is a collection of compelling stories, and I read on.