Monday, December 20, 2010

Remembering Dorothy

By Manuwant Choudhary

I know most will say Dorothy Who? But this post is dedicated to a special person whom I knew very briefly and most of us hostelites knew as Sean Plant's cousin. Dorothy passed away a few days ago.

My aquaintance with Dorothy happened because one day I found a deodrant on my hostel table with a nice label on it..`This is for Manu' From Dorothy.

Dorothy Who?

I was then reminded of her as being Sean Plant's cousin who lives somewhere in England. And in those days before economic liberalisation if anyone got you a deo from abroad or Nepal it meant the world.

Dorothy had got a Deo for all of Sean's friends (we were many btw)

I thanked her.

She used to make annual visits to India and we would hear about her from Anurag Sharma. He would say,"You Know what Dorothy does all day at Churchgate station?"

I asked, what..."She stands and gives Rs.100 to every street child."

Dorothy was to us hostelites a mobile ATM!

Anurag ofcourse was desperate. He dreamt of how many cigarettes he could buy with Dorothy's hundred rupees.

We hostelites from elite St. Xavier's College - Bombay - were beggars and now most have made it in their lives - actors, oil sheikhs, corporate lobbyists you name it...- Anurag and myself I think still won't mind Dorothy's Rs.100!

I think I was only a cub reporter when my freind Rajesh had a dream - a dream to visit England - but his father had no such dream. So his freinds chipped in and somehow he could manage an airline ticket (cheapest fares).

At Heathrow airport Rajesh was struck by the size of the airport and all the glitz around him but then he saw a white man cleaning the floors. He told me, "I just stood and watched the angrez for 20 minutes."

As he stepped out onto the streets he found another saheb playing the guitar, the guitar case lay open on the floor and Rajesh soon realised he was actually what we in India call a beggar. So Rajesh took out his wallet and put in a few pounds into the case.

What Rajesh was not prepared for was that there was no Dorothy to receive him.

Instead he received an envelope with a message is my car keys..the car no. is XXXX ...its at the Heathrow parking take a left and a right and left and a right....again till you reach the motorway and then you drive straight to Darlington.

Rajesh drove around in circles and only God knows how and when he reached Darlington.

Dorothy was his hostess and her journalist husband Paul.

Rajesh spent the next few weeks travelling around the United Kingdom. At Cardiff he entered a bed and breakfast place and asked how much. The Lady said 25 pounds. Rajesh taking out 10 pounds, "But this is all I have."

The lady let him stay for ten pounds, breakfast included.

Rajesh actually did not want to leave the UK so he missed his flight and at Heathrow airport he did not have a single penny.

He called up Dorothy and she took a train from Darlington, gave Rajesh some SOS money, and found a place for him to spend the next few days till the UK government deported him. :)

I was thankful because otheriwse Bihar would not have even a single factory.

I do not know what but when I was studying in the UK I made that train journey to Durham to meet Dorothy. She was doing some research at Durham University.

At Durham train station I took a taxi to the University. As we drove past the amazing town...the taxi driver suddenly pulled out his visiting card and said, "Sir, will you have dinner at my home tonight?"

I asked him, "But why me?"

He replied, "I am a Pakistani and I can see you are from India and it will be my pleasure to invite you for dinner. I hate our two countries making nuclear bombs."

Ofcourse, I could not make it for dinner because I had to return but I still have his card.

Dorothy was happy to see me. Grey hairs and a brown coat if I recall and we went down to a pub for a large lunch.

I think we debated for two hours over lunch and Dorothy said she will never give up her Indian passport even if she has to pay visa fees every time she visits Paris or Europe.

Dorothy suffered a heart stroke and passed away at Auroville (Tamil Nadu) - the ashram built by Mother - a French lady disciple of the great Indian seer revolutionary - Sri Aurobindo.

Aurobindo believed one day India and Pakistan will unite.

Looking back its because of Dorothy I met this Pakistani taxi driver who like Aurobindo also believed in unity and in the greatness of this ancient land.

So this post I dedicate to Dorothy and to all those who help complete strangers and don't care too much about money.

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