Michhami Dukkadam – a phrase used by Jains to apologise to all creatures. It is a phrase that means “I apologise to you for having offended you knowingly or unknowingly, in thought or deed.” On the last day of Paryushan, called Samvatsari, after pratikraman (means introspection in Sanskrit to my knowledge), Jains greet everyone they know with the phrase ‘Michhami Dukkadam’ asking for forgiveness and apologising for all they may have done wrong knowingly or unknowingly. My best friend, K, happens to be a Jain and she taught me this phrase. And she greets me with a Michhami Dukkadam every year on Samvatsari. And I greet her back with the same humble feeling. But today I want to apologise to someone else.
Many months ago, I booked a cab to take me to a restaurant where I was meeting a friend. It was a half an hour drive or more to get there. the cab driver was chatty. I generally don’t reveal too much about myself or indulge in conversations with them because I worry for my safety. And I was trying to answer as briefly as possible to this guy too. I didn’t want to offend him but I didn’t want to encourage a personal conversation either. Here’s how it went..(to the best of my memory…and where my memory fails to recollect the exact conversation, I have put in some dialogues that sum up what must have actually been said).
“Where are you from? You don’t look Gujarati!” he said to me.
“I am from the south but have lived here all my life.”
“Your Gujarati is perfect! Do you work here?”
“No, I am visiting my parents.”
“Where do you live?”
I was getting a bit wary at this point. I didn’t want to share too many details. I kept it vague.
“I live abroad.” – I didn’t at that point, I still had a few months before I flew to Edinburgh.
“Abroad! You must earn well.”
“The opportunities are decent. I earn enough. I am studying.”
I smiled. “I am a biologist. I am pursuing my PhD.” – I was still to begin the course but well…another small lie very close to the truth.
“US or UK?” These seemed to be the only two countries abroad that he knew of.
This time he smiled. “I have two daughters too. They study well. My elder daughter is physically very fit too. She wants to join the police. Younger one is too small to think of careers still but I want her to do well. Will you speak to them and encourage them to study well? It will make a huge difference coming from you.”
I couldn’t say no. He wasn’t asking for too much. He asked for my phone number. I am always wary about sharing my phone number with anyone I don’t know. I thought for a second about lying or giving a wrong number. But my heart said I shouldn’t trick this guy. My brain said it’s not exactly the safest thing to do. I followed my heart.
Before getting off, I said to him, “I am very glad your daughters are studying well. All the struggles that you have been through must end with your generation and education is the only way to do that. I wish your daughters luck and hope they do exceedingly well. I am very happy to hear about them.”
He said with great enthusiasm, “I will ask my elder daughter to call you. Say this to her. Tell her how important education is.”
I smiled and nodded.
A few days later, I got a call from an unknown number. I didn’t pick up. I usually don’t. I received a message a few hours later saying she was the daughter of the cab driver and her father had asked her to call me. I said Hi and that I was glad she had called but it was a slightly inconvenient hour to talk to her; that I would prefer if she dropped me an email (I shared the ID with her) and I would help her in whatever way I could. She never wrote to me. I lost her number too eventually.
I wish I had picked up her call. I wish I had said to her what I had said to him. That she should really focus on studying hard for that would end all their troubles. That her father worked so hard for her future and was so supporting of her. If speaking to me would have given her some motivation to do better, I wish I had contributed to her lfie in that small way.
K says to me that with Michhami Dukkadam one apologises for all the sins. I want to say to that girl through this post today – “Michhami Dukkadam! With folded hands and a heart full of sorrow. I hope you accept my apology. Whenever I pass a police woman that is close to her age, I will hope it is you. I will hope that you achieved your goal.”