When was the last time you smiled at a liftman or returned the morning wish of a watchman? Appreciated the kind people who are at your service even when you don’t notice them? These college students from Delhi did something remarkable for a liftman who had been with their institution for 34 years. And, in the process, sent an important message to the rest of us as well.
The watchman, the peon, the liftman, the gardener – aren’t these some of the very first people one sees on entering a college building? And also the first few people whose smiles mark the beginning of a new day for most students who walk the same paths and corridors every day?
While students enter and leave colleges every four to five years, these people keep doing their jobs silently and perfectly, day in and day out. They play a crucial role in the smooth functioning of a college and also form a special bond of friendship with many students.
Dhaniram, the ex-liftman at the School of Planning and Architecture (SPA) in Delhi, is one such person.
This 60-year-old man, respectfully known as Dhaniram ji, spent 34 years of his life working as the liftman at the college. Be it students, parents, visitors, faculty members, or old students who have now become teachers, Dhaniramji knows one and all.
“He is a really nice guy, a very friendly human being and a very important part of the college family,” says Ayush Kamalia, a fourth year student at SPA.
And so, when it was announced a month ago that the liftman is going to retire on Sept. 30, 2015, students knew they had to do something for the man, something that would help him remember the college and its students forever.
So they got together, pitched in money, and organized a full-fledged, colourful, creative, and memorable farewell party for Dhaniram ji, leaving the old man both overjoyed and teary-eyed at the same time.
On Sept. 23, Dhaniram ji received a very warm and loud welcome by a gathering that had students, faculty members, administrative staff, and just about everyone from the college.
“Everyone wanted to come together to thank him for his service, for his time and for his gleaming smile that brings out more happy wrinkles than the years he has given to the college,” says Ayush.
Being architecture students, everybody tried to contribute with their creative efforts.
Dhaniram ji was pleasantly surprised with a miniature model of a lift, inside which he found a scroll with a personal message thanking him for being his awesome self, and a memento marking his time in the college. Other gifts included a wallet, belt, wrist watch, and some cash. Faculty members gave gifts as well. One of the most incredible gifts was some graffiti – the students had painted Dhaniram ji’s face inside the lift, capturing his memory for years to come.
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Students and teachers also took to the podium to speak about him and thank him – each sharing their own anecdotes and memorable experiences about Dhaniram ji.
The director and heads of departments, who have known Dhaniram ji since they were students, thanked him for understanding the college and contributing to its growth.
This was followed by an event organised by a college society named Gupshup, which usually invites some eminent personalities from outside to come and give inspirational talks to the students.
This month, the chief guest and speaker at the event was none other than Dhaniram ji.
He was overwhelmed and really excited about the respect he was receiving at the place to which he had dedicated a large part of his life.
There was a ‘Wall of Thanks’ as well, and people wrote their messages on it throughout the day.
“On days when we did not have our assignments ready, we would ask Dhaniram ji to speak with the concerned faculty and tell them not to take submissions that day. And he would joke around with us. That was the kind of relationship we had with him. First year students who used to enter the college afraid and anxious, always felt calmer after speaking with him. If you were in any sort of trouble, all you had to do was to speak to him to feel better”, says Ayush, remembering his first days at the college.
The farewell ended with lunch and some tears as everyone got emotional about the fact that a legendary figure of the college was about to leave.
Every college, school, office, and administrative building has a Dhaniram – the man or woman who knows every nook and corner of the place, every face, every emotion, and yet, always remains in the background. The SPA students, who took such a wonderful step for Dhaniram ji, have an important message for all – that people like Dhaniram should be given the respect and love they deserve for their extraordinary service. And once in a while, they should be made to feel as special as they make others feel!