He was always a happy, jovial kind, cracking away with his characteristic kutchhi sense of humour! Sarojbhai was our family priest at Bhuj, one of the many belonging to nagar-brahmin samaj, the community.
Conducting thread ceremonies, marriages et al constituted Sarojbhai’s livelihood. He lived a very simple, austere life. However, there was a touch of idiosyncrasy in him; charging rickshaw return fare apart from his regular fee – so much so, that even if we give him a to-n’-fro lift out of sheer reverence for our priest, he would still ask for that ‘rickshaw fare’. I remember my late brother getting into an argument with him once; surely, quite a few others must have fought this rather irritating habit of a priest.
In his last days in 2015-16, Sarojbhai used to plonk himself on a bed outside his large, one-room abode on the ground floor, ostensibly not allowing anyone to enter his home; good Samaritans would pass by to greet, even give him some money. The good man’s austere life ended soon; his wife had already preceded him; and, he had no children, and no relatives – at least in Bhuj.
In October 2017, I was invited for a wedding and accommodated in a beautiful ground + one uttara or guest house that pleasantly surprised me; it had great interiors, fully loaded rooms and a dorm, all air-conditioned, chilled RO water machines, solar heated water supply and clean modern toilets; there was a manager and a cleaner too, with round the clock service. Impressive.
As I slowly craned my neck up towards the top of the entry façade, I saw the sign embossed in concrete: ‘Saroj D’Villa’!
And the surprise turned to shock! WHAT? Good old Sarojbhai? Our kindly, laugh-a-minute, austere priest??
And the story unfolded; his livelihood (including the xtra rickshaw charges over a life-time!) had yielded nearly Rs. 20 lacs, all cash; intriguingly, the cash was discovered right there in his one-room house, stored in various nook and corners, utensils and even a disused commode; it was a wonderful gesture of his community – to take charge of the money and construct a beautiful guest house in his memory, and even manage the same with token charges and some more donations.
For us all now, ‘Saroj D’Villa’ is meant to enjoy even as Sarojbhai must be laughing away to glory in the heavens and mocking a blow to our collective chin, “Cribbing about my charges eh,?? Take that!”