In the late eighties when I was in grade 9, we used to live in a 150 sq ft pagdi house, which did not include the toilet. Nine tenant families had to share one toilet. Pagdi is a pre-existing rental model where the tenant becomes a part owner of the house (not the land). The roofing was of asbestos sheets, which used to increase the room temperature at times to unbearable heights during summer. This made our summer sometimes a nightmare to live in this room. Even though we were trying to find a better home, living paycheck to paycheck hardly gave us an option to find a better home.
As we maintained a good relationship with our landlord, one day, he provided Uncle with an option to move to a better and bigger pagdi house, which included the toilet. Since Uncle had an existing pagdi house on which he had already paid a deposit, the landlord asked for Rs. 150,000 (CAD 3,000 in today’s value) as an additional deposit within a weeks time. In those days, this was a large sum of money and Uncle and Mai started discussions on how to make this arrangement within such a short amount of time. I joined the discussion and we started identifying everyone in the family who were in a position to help us and more so those ones who kept telling us offhand to let them know if we ever needed help with anything. After a lot of discussions, we could not arrive at the conclusion as to whom to approach for help as we knew that many of the individuals did not mean what they said. Even though we were eager to get out of the current situation, it seemed impossible at that time and we slept over this situation that night.
The next morning, we woke up at our usual time and started going through our daily chores. When we sat down for breakfast, Mai slowly said that there is one person who might be able to really help us through and that she would fold her hands and request him for help. Sunny Uncle and I looked up from our plates at her and asked in unison, “Who?”
She replied, “Victor”. Victor was Mai’s eldest son-in-law but uncle was not in favour of asking as he found it inappropriate. Mai explained to him that Victor was her best chance to find a better home. So, she instructed Uncle to call his sister and let her know that we would visit her husband, Victor Uncle, this evening. Even though unwilling, Sunny Uncle followed her instructions diligently and Mai, Uncle and I landed at their home that evening.
Victor Uncle was waiting for us and asked us if everything was okay, as we decided to see him in the evening. Mai started the conversation and told Victor Uncle that the landlord had an offer for a better home and this was their best chance to move to a better place in life. She joined her hands and said that only he could help us through this phase. He immediately reached out to her and said, “You don’t have to fold your hands because I am just like your son.”
Mai wept and replied, “That’s right.”
He asked, “How much do you need tonight?” and she replied, “Twenty thousand.”
He immediately called out to his wife and asked her to bring the money. Then, he asked how much more do you need and Sunny Uncle told him the amount and the due date.
He replied, “You will have it by that date.”
Mai thanked him and said, “We will pay you monthly and when we can, we will pay you a lump sum money and settle the loan.
He said, “I understand.”
I walked up to him and hugged him.
He said, “Don’t worry, everything will be fine.” Then, he continued, “Let’s eat dinner together before you leave in celebration for a better future.”
On our way back home, Sunny Uncle explained that I would come across many people in this world who say that they will offer their help and be there for me. But in reality, only a select few will actually be there for me in your times of need and despair.
A year later, we were in a position to repay the loan and this move helped us to progress to a better future.
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