Any person on the verge of retirement imagines a pleasant, well-settled life. For 67-year-old Captain Ravindra Kumar Bali, this remains a distant dream. His current address is the footpath next to officers’ mess in Pune Cantonment. He has been residing there since five years under a small plastic sheet to shield himself from rain and his bed, which he sleeps on in the night.
But, Captain Bali doesn’t have any regret or any complaints. He blames his destiny for his situation along with some wrong decision he made during his career.
Bali, born in Kota, Rajasthan, was the son from the second marriage of a police officer. After completing his school, his athletic ambition prompted him to join the National Defence Academy (NDA) as a cadet in June 1970. He trained hard for four years and spent another four years at the College of Engineering (CME), Pune. Subsequently, he received his first posting at Hussainiwala border museum in Ferozepur district.
However, Bali’s soaring career had some room for discomfort. He was distressed upon receiving letters from his ailing parents, who were evicted from their ancestral house by his six step-siblings. He rushed to take care of his parents and tendered a resignation in 1988.
Upon failing to complete 20 years of his service according to the rule, he was neither entitled for volunteer retirement scheme nor was he eligible for pension scheme. Bali had spent the funds on treating his parents, who did not survive for more than three years after that.
By then, he was unmarriageable and so, he decided to stay single.
Soon, he was engaged in a battle for the ancestral home. But, his siblings evicted him too. Looking at the delays in legal system, Bali decided to withdraw himself from all the disputes and shifted to Prabhas Patan near the famous Somnath Temple in Gujarat. He started a business of dry fish with the help of some locals. Here, he spent ten years, spending all the money on maintaining a lifestyle without saving up. Ennui set in after a decade after which, he decided to come back to Pune to find alternative employment. With the help of some old friends he joined a BPO company in Kalyani Nagar.
Bail said, “I achieved stability in my life while working with a BPO. I decided to buy a 1-BHK in Wagholi. I purchased the same by obtaining home loan. But here too, my destiny decided to siphon me off my new-found peace. Around 2012, the particular unit was shut down and I again become jobless. Unable to pay the monthly EMIs, the bank auctioned the flat and handed over Rs 2 lakh to me. I could not secure another job due to old age. Meanwhile I spent all the savings to survive.”
To search for another job, he left for Kerala in 2013. But, a rainy day wreaked havoc in his life once more. His documents were washed away when he was on cycle.
Bali further said, “Since I did not have any identity, I left Kerala and returned to Pune and started staying on footpath. With the God’s wish I have still survived. The locals are providing me with food and water. In case of heavy rain, I take shelter under porches of nearby bungalows. People give me alms considering my old age and fluency in English. I spend my entire day reading all kinds of English newspapers.”
Bali does not want to join any beggars’ home or old-age home. He does not regret his situation as he is still happy and healthy. “I want to die on this footpath with this destiny,” he said.