A personal essay on 'a person who influenced you' by Dev Bhartia (admitted to Stanford)!

Every morning, much before I hear the six loud bells of the clock tower and the sun’s rays penetrate through my window, there’s a knock on my door. I hear a shrill and high-pitched voice,” Get up! Get up!”  A slender man in a striped shirt and Khaki pants with a glass of cold water stands tall over me. I suspect the glass of water could be used to drench my shirt rather than quench my thirst lest I fail to wake.

This is Pharash, 45 years old, house helper, sweeper and caretaker and the only person to know where I keep my letters from my girlfriend. He is like a precise robot programmed to keep my life, and that of seventy other boys in my boarding house, in order. For five years, I saw him every day working; cleaning and washing.  It is a mystery to me, how someone who lives such a mundane life still greets me with a flash of his 31 teeth every time I cross his path.

A few months ago, I had a terrible night tossing and turning before my SAT exam. Words swam in my head as I pondered the difference between allusion, illusion and elusion. The next morning Pharash looked more tense than surprised to see me awake. He asked me much like my mother would, “What happened? Why do you look so worried? Has the sun risen from the West?” On filling him in on my war with words he smiled and assured all would be fine. It was the first time I’d heard him speak, and it was a revelation. I didn’t realize that this man, was more than just a ‘come and go’ machine. The fact that he empathized with me like my mother would, convinced me that he would go the extra mile to fulfill my desires.

That afternoon when he came to clean my room, I inserted a Rs. 20 note in his fingers and casually requested him to get me a packet of chips. He frowned and then frowned even more. I snatched back the note and ran to the dining hall for a barely edible breakfast. I felt bad for having crossed the line: I should have respected the school rules. I wished he would not complain about my transgression. To my astonishment, that afternoon, I saw not one but two packets of chips lying neatly on my pillow. He grinned, displayed his 31 teeth, and walked out of the room.

I was taken aback. I couldn’t believe that a man with a large family to support and a meager income to do it with had the generosity to fulfill my petty temptation. Many chips later, I realized that he didn’t grudge me the chips, he was simply against taking  money from me.  He found joy in giving and had great pride in himself. Secretly, I envied him. For he had found the contentment most people spend their lives chasing.  I envied him because he smiled all through the day. I learned from his example, that there are some things money can’t buy. Contentment and friendship are just two of them.

Pharash may not be a Mahatma Gandhi or a Nelson Mandela, but remains someone that has taught me important lessons. I see in him not the ability to do great things, but the greatness to have the ability to do small things. Much before I hear the six loud bells of the clock tower and the sun’s rays penetrate through my window, I shall await the knock on my door by a thin, slender man in a striped shirt and khaki pants.