Ashok is an Epitome of Human Face
Usually, one musters enough courage to step outside of one’s home, when it is 45 or 46 degree Celsius outside and that too when it is urgent only. But, there is a man, about 64 years-old, a diminutive figure, 5.5” maximum, retired from his services, steps every day outside his home, in the middle of the day in the scorching heat, for no purpose, but to serve “aam panha” to the traffic police, who are on their duty at the various cross section of the city of Nagpur.
Ashok Khandelwal retired from Allahabad Bank in July 2015. He lives in the Civil Lines area of Nagpur. One day, when he was returning from somebody’s funeral in the middle of the day of May 2015, and was waiting on his bike at the RBI crossing for a go signal, he noticed that a traffic police woman was on duty at the cross section and was standing in the middle of the road in the scorching heat, and that too without any roof over her head. It was not less than 45 degree at that moment. This made Khandelwal think of something unusual. He was contemplating to someway help all the traffic police men in the city, doing their duty in the middle of the day in April and May. And from next April, in 2016, he was on his mission to serve them chilled ‘aam panha’ at their place of duty at the various cross sections of the city.
He is doing this service since April 2016. He leaves his house at around 11:30 am, loaded with 5/6 litres of chilled ‘aam panha’, freshly home prepared, paper glasses, and covers cross sections at Japanese Garden, Katol Road, Pagalkhana Square, LIC Square, RBI Square, Gowari Square, T Point, Manas Loha Pool Square, Variety Square, Rani Laxmibai Square, Rahate Colony etc, serving this cold drink to all the traffic policemen posted at these places. This takes him about 2 hours of time and he comes back home by 1:30 pm. One Sri E M R Naidu, retired employee of PNB, also helps him, selflessly, in this job.
Khandelwal is often accompanied by his grandchildren, Soham (13 yrs), Saisha (7 yrs), and Ansh (4 yrs) in this job. He encourages them all to participate in the process to inculcate good ‘sanskar’ of the family in them.
Every year, since April 2016, he commences this process from 15th April and continues till 31st May.
The process of preparing “aam panha” begins at his home at 8 am. Purnima Ashok Khandelwal (inset), retired headmaster of Jhunjhunwala High School, Nagpur is the hands behind all the preparations. She manages sufficient raw mangoes, sugar, ice prepared at home, fried cumin powder, mint leaves in advance and keep chilled drinks ready by 11.30 am. Kandelwal bears all the expenses from his monthly meagre pension (about 2500 a month), and refuses to accept any financial assistance from anybody. He does all this in individual capacity and is not associated with any organization.
Khandelwal tells that in the beginning police men were hesitant in accepting his services, but after initial hiccups, they have become very friendly to him. Now, they often nudge him affectionately, if he fails to move in time. Khandelwal tells that this is also a small step in bridging the gaps between the policemen and aam aadmi.
Khandelwal reveals that this sort of human approach to small issues of the society has been taught to him by his late parents and now it has become a habit with his all family members. He further mentions that this gives them all immense satisfaction as human beings.
Usually, we fail to recognize such small good Samaritans of the society, who serve us, but remain away from the limelight of this pompous world.