Articles

Tukaram, the ‘Vitthal’ for Vegetable Vendor

by Umang Kumar Bafna

Mr. Sandip Kale, is an old vegetable vendor, who fulfills his family needs by running his vegetable ‘thela’. He sells his vegetables at Ashoka Marg, a prominent area of Nashik. He started selling vegetables 10 years ago. He has two kids and a wife to look after. He has come across one of the hardest times of his life when Covid-19 burst upon his family.

It was the month of June 2019 when Covid-19 was at its peak in Nashik city. Hospitals did not have enough beds. At that time, Sandip Kale’s wife Umatai started experiencing fever and cold. For the first two days, she tried home remedies but it did not work. Further, Mr. Sandip said that no doctor in the locality was ready to treat her. They asked the couple to go to the Government-run Civil Hospital. The hospital authorities said that the treatment and test charge was Rs 10,000 as three tests had to be done. He had only Rs 5,000 at his residence.

Mr. Sandip Kale at his vegetable stall

Mr. Sandip said that after one more day, he informed his neighbor, Mr. Tukaram about the situation. Tukaram was a police havaldar. The financial condition of Tukaram also was not so good. Yet he offered to help him. Talking to me, he had tears in his eyes saying his neighbour gave him Rs five thousand and asked Sandipp to do the test of the wife. Also, he said that at that time police personnel were given only 50 percent of their salary. Yet, he insisted that the money need not be returned. The next day he went to the Civil hospital and found that his wife was Covid-19 positive. She needed to be admitted to the hospital at the earliest but the Civil hospital did not have vacant beds. Then, Mr. Sandip said he was in a deep worry about what to do in such a pathetic situation because he could not afford a private hospital. He informed Mr.Tukaram Jadhav who promised his neighbour not to worry. “I will arrange a bed for you, ” he assured repeatedly.

Mr. Sandip said Tukaram was really ‘Sant’ Tukaram for me. He indeed arranged a bed for his wife. Actually, it was not a hospital but a Police Ground-turned-Covid Centre. And, the charge for the treatment was surprisingly just Rs 5000.

I had literally tears in my eyes as Tukaram’s Rs. 10,000 helped my wife treat covid-19. Mr. Sandip said for me Covid was the biggest challenge for me. He realised that Tukaram turned out to be a god.  When have such a Dev Manus (Tukaram) by your side nothing can happen to you? Moreover, after ten days Tukaram was given a warm welcome by all the neighbours.

Tukaram was only a police havaldar but people like him are true gems.  Sandip offered him free vegetables all his life as gratitude to him. He politely declined. He may be just  Tukaram for the rest of others. “For me, he is my Vitthala. I will worship him for the rest of my life,’ Sandip says with tears in his eyes.

About the Author:

Umang Kumar Bafna is a Journalism & Mass Communication, student at Vishwakarma University Centre of Communication for Development, Pune. His article is the third award-winning entry in the Empowerment Story Competition organised in December 2020 by Vishwakarma University Centre of Communication for Development.

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