Stories of Kindness from Around the World

Lesson From A Janitor


--by Raksha, posted Nov 27, 2007
It was five in the morning. The room smelt weird. I saw him, next to me, deep in slumber. I went up to the bathroom and got my answer to the stench. He had had a few extra drinks last night, must have puked all over the wash basin. The basin was clogged and the stench inside was unbearable. A little angry I came back in the room with half a mind to wake him up and ask him to clean up. I could hear his soft snores and knew that he needs that sleep to be normal the next morning.

This happened when we were vacationing in Dubai during Diwali holidays. I called up the reception and in an embarrassed tone explained my problem. It was a five star property and the receptionist promised to send someone over within a minute. Before hanging up, I requested him to send the person with a pump to clear the basin out.

I went and sat on the bed, dreading facing the person who will be cleaning my husband’s puke at 5 in the morning.

He rang the bell. Asian surely….looked Indian, could have been a Bangladeshi. His curt ‘Good morning’ settled my doubts, he was surely from India, perhaps a Kerelaite. I signaled him to the bathroom door. All he said in his perfect English was, “Just give me a few minutes maám”. Since I did not see him carrying any tool to clear the blockage I said, “Do you want to go and fetch a pump to clear the mess?” He answered, as politely, “I have done this before mam, a pump is not what is required”.

I went and sat on the bed and waited for him to clean up.  I could hear him, though through the closed door too. He emptied out the dustbin, took the plastic cover off and used the bin to drain out the filth from the basin into the pot with his hands. After which he cleaned the bin, stuffed the plastic in again, perhaps washed his hands and then opened the bathroom door.

He said, “It is done ma’m, perhaps you should ring up the housekeeping to send someone with a room freshener”.

I asked him to wait, made the call to the housekeeping and came back to him and extended a 100 Dhirmas (which is about 1100 Rs in our currency). I said, “I am sorry”.

He said, “Ma’m I do this at least ten times a month. It does not hurt so much now”. I requested him to wait till the housekeeping man arrived. Many questions circled my mind. Why did he opt for such an unpleasant job, is money everything? Surely with Indian shining decent jobs are available in India too. Besides, I felt that I still needed to do something more to make up for what I made him do. 

We chatted for about fifteen minutes and those minutes will be etched on my mind forever. R. Ramesh, was indeed from Kerela. He had been in Dubai since the past 18 years, before which he was in Kuwait on a similar job. He worked as a janitor in night shifts for six days a week, eleven months a year. The twelth month was what kept him going for the entire year. It was his official paid leave, which he spent in his small village with his wife, children and parents. Doing night shifts, he earned about thirty percent more, though there was more mess to be cleaned up like this.

I asked him, “Why do you do this and that too so far away from your people, family…?”

He replied with as much dignity, “My son just got admission in an Engineering college and my daughter passed her tenth Boards with a distinction. I can provide my mother with her daily medicines as she suffers from severe arthritis and my father who has cleaned toilets all his life can finally sit back and enjoy his cup of strong South Indian coffee with a newspaper. My job here in Dubai, amidst people alien to me means my son will not be forced to do this for a living. He will be an engineer in a respectable company. My daughter who aspires to be a doctor will at least not be required to suppress her ambitions for a lack of funds. Tell me Maám can you think of one reason why I should not do this job? Besides, you cared enough to speak to me about myself…I have already forgotten what I did and remember only a fellow Indian who showed empathy.”

Thank you sir, for teaching me my most valuable lesson at five in the morning…so far away from my country, yet with my people!
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Readers Comments

Rose wrote: My grandfather was a janitor and i just knew him as papa and a wonderful man who was funny and full of fun and loved me and loved to fish. He was not his 'job' and it's too bad we label people as if that had anything to do with anything.
yesdee wrote: Excellent deed,heart just bleeds
joan marie yu wrote: one should never underestimate the importance of a janitor..

we should call them "invisible man" cause we can't see their significance. We compare them to rugs ang maps which sweep the floor.

giving them a simple "smile" can make them realize that they also belong to this world.

joan marie yu
sadanand wrote: thanks for this story! i will remember it every day in my life.
Kater wrote: the question for me arises...why do I work? Is it to survive, to buy a better bigger toy, or for something noble like this man....It is not so much the humility of the job as the choice of goals that impress me...though, truly both do impress me, greatly.
dsj wrote: the lesson is also from you - on how to treat others and taking the time to ask another about themselves and listening
Jaya wrote: Thanks for sharing. I just ended up with tears for his reply.
treeflowerpuzzle wrote: There is always more to people than what we see. People are all equally valuable.It's just that if you have a lowly job people treat you as less of a human being sometimes.I'm glad you were kind to this man.It was nice of you to care.
MJ wrote: So good I just cant tell it all...Blessed.
siggy wrote: I am amazed at how many people just bypass those in this line/type of work as though they are no-one or nothing. They are human just like you and I. They speak, have families, bathe, eat, sleep, love, and heavens...have feelings!! They are many!! They Are!!

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