A Birthday Celebration …

February 26, 2000

 It was past noon on a Saturday in early spring. There was a buzz around the Bhatt household.  It was Rohan’s 3rd birthday and we had invited some friends that evening. Finally, Rohan was old enough to understand what a birthday party is and had been looking forward to the evening.  Decorations seemed to get him in to the mood for the evening. My parents were visiting from India and like most grand parents, spared no efforts to make it a special day for him. I had been running around all morning. Tasks were many, I had to get the balloons and the cake and the drinks and finally pick up the food.

Everything seemed set – but for the yard work. Our lawn care person, Pedro, who is normally ever so reliable, had not shown up for two weeks.  Our yard needed work! I decided to cut the lawn in the evening.  Soon enough, I heard a lawnmower humming in my front yard. I rushed to the door. I saw a truck and a trailer parked outside. Finally!  – I declared. With all the impetuousness, I ran out of the door and located Pedro mowing our lawn. Pedro is probably in his mid forties and looks his age. I went up to him. Pedro stopped his lawnmower and smiled at me.  His smile disarmed me. After remembering that I was to be upset at him – I asked him: “Where have you been for last two weeks? I must have called you a zillion times!”

Pedro smiled at me again.  He said: “I am sorry Senor”. Then, pointing to his truck he said:  “My truck was stolen.”

“Oh my god!” I said. I asked him how this happened.

Pedro told me his story: His truck was stolen two weeks ago on a Monday night. Pedro keeps all his lawn care equipment on a trailer attached to his truck. The truck, I found out, was the only mode of transportation for his family. Also, since all his tools were on the trailer, for the two weeks, said Pedro, he could not go to work. Finally, it seems that he got a call from the Police past Thursday.  They had located his truck and trailer. Unfortunately, all his equipment was stolen. On top of that, the insane laws of the Dallas city, required him to pay a $50 a day fine for the time his truck was sitting at a garage. His truck, it seems was found abandoned last Friday, however, nobody got around to calling him up until the following Thursday.

I could not help but feel sorry for him.

Trying to analyze the financial impact of this ordeal on him, I asked him how much his equipment cost.

“$2,500. I had to buy everything – the mower, the blower, the edger, the trimmer, …”

“Did you have any insurance?” I asked. Soon after asking that, I felt like the queen of France who had advised peasants to eat cake if they could not find bread.

Pedro, works 20 lawns on a Saturday. At $25 per lawn – he will end up working six weekends to recover the money for the new equipment and the parking fees. Still, during our entire conversation, Pedro never once appeared sullen. I admired him for that.

After talking to him I went inside to grab my wallet. On my way back, I noticed a small boy – around 6/7 years old sitting in Pedro’s truck.

Out of curiosity I asked Pedro who he was. 

“He is my younger son” said Pedro.  “It is chico’s birthday today, senor, and he wanted to spend the day with me”. Pedro said with a smile. 

I wished chico a very happy birthday.

For the remainder of the evening, I strived to spend as much time as possible with Rohan. In the final analysis – that was our true celebration.

© Himanshu Bhatt


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