Home Feature The Stalwart Tale of Baldev Kaur, Sweeper

The Stalwart Tale of Baldev Kaur, Sweeper


By Hugh and Colleen Gantzer

We are indebted to Chandigarh’s Tribune of Sunday 13th March for this story.

Baldev Kaur is 50 years old and lives in Ugoke village in Barnala District of Punjab. Her husband can no longer work because of weak eyesight. Her son, Labh Singh, runs a cell-phone repair shop in their village. He has two young sons. For many years, Baldev Kaur was the main support of her family, working as a Sweeper-on-Contract in the village school.

The day after her son was declared elected as an MLA of the Aam Admi Party, the school was surprised to see Baldev Kaur back at work, plying her long-handled broom. When asked why she was still working as a sweeper after her son had become an MLA, her reply was: “I am proud of what I have been doing. My job has been a crucial source of income all this while when our family was struggling to make ends meet. We have lived in penury all our lives and seen the worst of days. I have told Labh not to forget where we belong. He must fight for the down-trodden.”

There are many rags to riches stories in politics, all over the world, all through history. But, of late in our ancient land, there is an increasing tendency to spin-doctor such tales as blazing sagas of personal achievement. Deliberately underplayed, too often, are the cruel stepping stones that the individual used to rise to the top, This is so common that there is a proverb to express it: “Put a Devil on horseback, and he’ll ride to Hell!”

Baldev Kaur’s tale is refreshingly free of such hubris.
This brings us to the main point of this column. Netaji, when your fawning chamchas try to convince you that you are entitled to your expensive toys and status symbols, remember Baldev Kaur’s words to her son: “Not to forget where we belong.”

In fact, Netas are not the Masters of their voters: they are their servants.
Our votes give netas employment for five years during which we pay them and finance all their perks including their (often ostentatious) security.

In return for all this, their job is simple. It is to make certain that the civic services run smoothly. Netas are not employed to massage their own ego, ensure privileges for their family or add to their personal fortune.
Netas are not above the law.
The fable of the crow who decked himself in a peacock’s fallen plumes, until his masquerade was discovered and he was killed, is typical of the wisdom enshrined in those ancient tales. Don’t pretend to be what you are not because, sooner or later, your own flock will reject you.

There is a strange belief growing among politicians that they can spin-doctor uncomfortable facts. This shows a depth of ignorance that is remarkable. This is the Age of Information Technology. Satellites ensure that sounds and images from distant places span the world at the speed of light. Silver locks and an avuncular fore-finger no longer ensure obedience. Logic and debate prevail over adherence to proverbs and ancient shibboleths. Everything is open to discussion.

It is no longer enough for netas to work in secrecy for most of their professional lives, and then wax eloquent about their achievements just before the next elections. They need to keep their constituents constantly informed about what they are doing about the welfare of their voters. They should give more frequent press conferences. Increasingly, many of our leaders and political parties, seem to be relying on diversionary tamashas. They appear to have forgotten what a great circus impresario said “You can fool some of the people all the time, and you can fool all the people some of the time. But you cannot fool all the people all the time!”

Finally, we must repeat what the very down-to-earth Baldev Kaur said to her son:” I have told Labh not to forget where we belong. He must fight for the down-trodden.”
It is dangerous for any neta to forget the needs of the poor. Many despots lost their lives because of this. Many more will follow. ……

(Hugh & Colleen Gantzer hold the National Lifetime Achievement Award for Tourism among other National and International awards. Their credits include over 52 halfhour documentaries on national TV under their joint names, 26 published books in 6 genres, and over 1,500 first-person articles, about every Indian state, UT and 34 other countries. Hugh was a Commander in the Indian Navy and the Judge Advocate, Southern Naval Command. Colleen is the only travel writer who was a member of the Travel Agents Association of India.)