The author of this blog stopped writing here long time back. The posts published here embarrass her now. And hence, there is very little chance that she is going to write here again.

This blog is hence declared to be in a state of COMA.

Love, Miracle and Adventure: Three life changing experiences

      Love, adventure and miracle: can there be anyone sans experiences of three such fantastic realms of life? Following are three priceless anecdotes that I saw flashing in my mind when these words came in front of my eyes. Needless to say, they are true and in fact, marked as fond remembrances in the form of pictures clicked by our first camera—the conventional "reel-wala" camera—an invaluable commodity for us in those days.
      I hope, this post turns out to be as enjoyable for you as it is for me. The photos are products of the same old camera. Not very clear here though, as I didn't have a scanner.
1. LOVE: Mum, me and the Fancy-Dress competition

I was in the second standard then. A fancy-dress competition was announced as part of an important school function. Important, because it wasn't the regular stuff where one could simply volunteer and participate—rather, a teacher was doing the rounds of various classes looking for new interested 'talent', auditioning them and then selecting the ones who would get to take the stage in front of the whole school.

I have fancied the stage ever since I was a kid. So when I saw this opportunity coming my way, I couldn't resist. When the teacher came and asked who was interested in taking part, I was among the first (actually the only) one(s) to raise a hand. That felt good.

But when it came down to the auditions, I failed to impress. I don't remember a lot but she probably asked me to say a few lines, confidently. I fumbled; I was nervous as hell and clueless on how to go about it. Unconvinced, she politely asked me to go back to my classroom.

I was a shy child, a very shy child. But that didn't deter my wish to not let go of the chance that I saw coming. Sad and upset, I shared my grief with mum. The next day, she was in school, pleading to that teacher to guide me a little bit but let participate. "Bachche ka dil toot jayega," was her point. I think it is very embarrassing to be standing next to the one who is asking someone to do a, umm, favor to you. The teacher tried to say no, but mum asked her to give me another chance. (So Indian Idol-ish, I know!) As goes any fairy-tale, I did much better this time. My delivery of the lines—with mum's support and advice—turned out to be much better and convincing this one time. The teacher agreed and included my name in the list of participants.

With each practice—at school as well as home—I became better at it. By the way, it wasn't any rocket science that I was aiming at (a kid's fancy-dress competition, what else do you expect?) As decided by mummy dearest, I was going to "essay" the role of a TOMATO (can you imagine!) in the competition.

To make my entry the winning entry, mum came up with an excellent idea. Students of 2nd children actually had to just walk about the stage like, err, models. But mum wanted me to say a few lines. What were they? I still remember that funny little doublet. DO NOT laugh: लाल लाल टमाटर हूँ मैं, हर सब्ज़ी में डलता हूँ| जो भी मुझको खायेगा, लाल लाल हो जायेगा! On the D-Day, shit happened. Mum was to bring from home the costume. She wanted to dress me up herself and so was going to take a half-day's off from work to pay me a generous visit. Unexpectedly, that didn't happen. Not soon enough.        

I kept waiting at the backstage, anxiously looking at other students—all decked up in the most hilarious costumes ever—going on the stage to give their "performance". First standard students and then of second standard, all went and came back. While I stood here, still waiting. My teacher told me that my turn was over and I couldn't participate now. I was shattered. (God, kids take a wind's blow to get hurt, don't they!)
By the time mum came, fifth standard (the 'big' students of those days) children were at it. Had it been today, when I am twenty years old, I'd have fought with mum. But in those days I was a very quiet kid. I just silently told mum that my turn was over. <insert sad face> Unaffected, she dressed me up as if the competition was still yet to begin and went to the teacher, again. 

They had a little discussion/argument/whatever again and finally, this was the conclusion: Sugandha can go on the stage and give her "performance" along with the 5th standard kiddos (as suggested by mum) but she will not be eligible for the prize. I can't even explain how odd it was, going there after the "big kids". I mean, here I was, barely a few feet above the ground, walking in unexpectedly after the 5th standard "big kids". Before entering, there was another source of fret. I was to be the sole contestant who would be going on the stage alone. The advantage was that since the fifth standard participants were to use a mic, I got one too—unlike my fellows. So I went there, walked about and around and came in front of the mic, delivering my lines smooth as ever—forgetful of the fact that there was a huge audience sitting in the front and I was a late entry.  

I heard the loud sound of applause cheering me from everywhere. My teacher appreciated me saying that I actually deserve the first prize. I don't know if it was really said to mean so or it was just another encouraging gesture for a little child; nevertheless, it was a proud moment. Elated and flying high in the glory of the moment, I looked up to that lady who had taken all the pain and made all the effort for this one moment. Standing in one corner, smiling and waiting for me, she planted a nice wet kiss on my reddened, tomato-ish cheeks. And I was, once again, reminded of the purest form of love(r) I have been endowed with. Who else, but this lady, could know what mattered to me more—the prize or the joy of seeing a dream come true in front of my eyes. She taught me how to be confident as long as you are doing your job right, she fought for me where it was a matter of her darling's dreams. The encouragement—actually the push—I got from her in the initial years of my making, helped me become confident enough to face an audience and/or speak my mind, forever in life. She was, and still is so, my most lovely mother

2. MIRACLE: My brother who could walk again

"Miracle", I feel, is a hard-to-define term. What's miracle for me could be mere co-incidence for someone else. Having said that, I still believe miracles should keep happening. Just when we begin to think we have known enough and our logic and rationale can very well interpret and/or predict anything, something totally unexpected happens, shaking us to the coarse reality—there still exists a power more powerful that can twist things in a manner that'll leave us gazing in total awe and astonishment. Today when I see my brother—who is four years younger to me—go crazy playing cricket, I am reminded of a very difficult and testing phase of his and our life—especially so for my parents who have seen their first daughter pass away right in front of their eyes. 

He was all of 6 years when doctors declared that he wouldn't be able to walk again. Disasters strike unwarranted and unpredictably. That night, he suddenly felt his legs becoming numb. On being asked to walk, he couldn't even stand up. He cried in pain and helplessly groaned. Mom and dad could hardly understand what to do. In the meanwhile, my maternal uncle came to the rescue to take him to the hospital—at 2 in the midnight. That night and for days ahead on stretch, my little brother and parents had begun to lose hope of seeing him walk again. I remember the times when that little child who was yet to know the meaning of life would say innocently, with a few tears of pain wetting his supple skin, "बहुत दर्द होता है| इससे अच्छा तो मैं मर ही जाऊं!" That broke our hearts. Seeing mom and dad break into tears he would then try to cheer them up. "Look ma! See, I am fine!" he would say while trying to stand up with support of the wall behind. Everytime he tried doing that, he would fall down miserably. Nothing pains more than seeing your dearest ones in pain; that too the youngest child of the house—this beautiful, innocent and an absolutely pure soul (and believe me when I say that) who had a heart of gold. Nothing pains more. Many days passed by in this suffering.

We lived in a rented house in those days. One day, the landlord's wife came upstairs to meet mom. She told her about a particular lady doctor in a particular hospital—Dr. Kulkarni of Kalavati Hospital's orthopedic department, as mom informs me. Apparently, the doctor had successfully rendered a relative of our landlady to absolute fitness. My parents visited this doctor with my brother in their arms. The doctor could do what nobody had been able to do till now—she detected the problem area, the disease. Few days before this calamity struck, my brother had gone down with a normal viral fever. New in that area, my dad had then taken him to the nearest clinic that was running inside the doctor's residence. One can hardly imagine the harm that a bad doctor can do unless one has actually faced the outcome. We surely did, especially my little brother. Dr. Kulkarni informed us that the 5-day course necessary to fight away viral fever had not been rendered effectively. The bad doctor had instead given my brother normal tablets used to get rid of a temporary fever. In the next few days following that, the viral fever—untreated and alive—attacked the lower part of his body, right where the legs meet the abdomen, thus crippling him. 

It was a rare case. Thanks to the diagnosis, effective treatment could be meted out over the next few weeks—FINALLY. Some months later when my brother could walk again, he couldn't stop running and jumping about excitedly. It became a challenge to explain to him that he needs a few days' rest still. For the next some years, in fact, he was weaker than kids his age. Low appetite, weak muscles and easily tiresome. But by god's generous grace, all passed well. My father touched the doctor's feet that day. A benign lifesaver, she had been. It still sends shivers down my spine to remember that the doctor had said then, "Don't thank me, it is my job. Thank the one who you pray to. We are just the medium, he is the real doer."
Mr brother, on our first vacation after
he regained his health: Manali
Man can do wonders with his sciences and inventions. But without belief in that eternal guiding force, all innovation, all discoveries can fall flat. The next day, we paid a visit to the Gurudwara Bangla Sahib. Tears couldn't stop rolling out once again. This time, they were tears of joy and gratitude. Miracles happen. 

3. ADVENTURE: "God save us from the Bheels", en route to Mount Abu

We were on one of our most beautiful trips of all time—to Rajasthan. Jaipur, Ajmer, Pushkar, Udaipur and Chittor had already been checked off on the list. The next and final destination on our itinerary was: Mount Abu. I was excited, as I had always wondered what a hill station in the desert land of Rajasthan would feel like. But there was a lot that fellows at our hotel told (read SCARED) us of. A lot.

The road route to the hill station is resided almost entirely by Bheels—a very prominent tribal community of our country. The first thing we did was cancel plans to cover the journey at night-time. There were several instances about tourists being robbed off money, jewelry and even clothes by tribesmen at night-time. Although if you ask me, traveling in the afternoon was no stress-buster either.

Every big rock that we saw on the roadside gave us the heebie-jeebies. We were told, these rocks are used to block the road at night so if a car comes by, the driver will have to get down. And that is how robberies took place. In day-time these rocks weren't used for this purpose so they just stayed there on the side to be used again at night. Some even had ropes attached, to be thrown from hilltops. Spooky much.

Every milestone that we passed made us heave a sigh of relief. The entire road was deserted. Somewhere you could see little kids of the Bheel tribe going to school. That was a soothing sight, making us think that these people were also humans like us. Such things were a good change as they let the elders change the topic. Both my parents being government employees, wondered whoever gets posted in such a lonely place would be smitten by bad luck for sure. "Can't be women," mom said. I agreed. Just for the heck of it. Like I cared, as long as the talks weren't Bheel-ish!

Just when things seemed to be getting normal, something happened, forcing us to fear the adventure turning into misadventure. On the road ahead we saw a huge rock placed right in the middle of the road. 

So that dumb old rock squatting in the middle of nowhere freaked us out like hell, heaven everything. It felt a little stupid, shivering at the sight of something as un-alive as that. But the oh-so-unpopular fables couldn't be so easily ignored either. You won't believe it but for half an hour, we stood there. Goddamn stood there. Windows up, doors locked, eyes blank and staring at the rock. Discussions between my parents, my elder cousin who was accompanying us and the driver went on—to do or not to do. 

Just then, four locals came by from the opposite direction. I saw them coming towards our car and informed the elders about it. Expressions changed all of a sudden from fear to... err... more fear.  Secretly, I had wanted to see these much talked-about people—the Bheels. I imagined they'd look like the tribal people one saw on television—dressed up all colorfully and singing aloud jhingalalahoo. But no, I wasn't ever game for a robbery or... or... maybe something worse. Besides, these looked quite uninteresting. (Uninteresting—>Normal) Normal pant-shirt and stuff. Sheh! 

They came and gathered around our car. Two on one side and two on another. One of them knocked at the driver's window. He said something too—obviously in their local language, Bhili. I so wish we could decipher what he was saying, because without that it all sounded like hololulu. Or maybe a dangerous warning to take out all our money and things! So here was this dark-colored (please don't think I'm a racist) man with three other similar looking people peeping inside our car with wide eyes, one of them knocking on the window as if it were made of wood, not glass and shouting out hololulu. Err, something like that. God, scary, was it!

With each passing minute, the knocks became louder, the eyes wider and the hololulu wilder. We sat still as that rock, transfixed in our position—as the driver instructed us to. Soon enough the Bheels got tired and began to move away. Talk about relief at its best! The driver finally muttered, "dekha dekha, kaam kar raha hai!". But lo! Those men didn't move away, instead they moved closer, to the rock. Holy mother of Jesus, what were they getting at!!!

All four of them joined hands in picking up that rock. Once they were able to do so, we freaked out a trillionth time! Were they going to throw it upon us/our car? Were they going to break open the car doors with it? What were they going to do with it??!! We were on the verge of jumping out of our skin!

Guess what they did. They... placed it back. Yes. On the roadside this time. You know what that means? That means they cleared the road for us. What the... ???

Before we could know what had happened, they were dusting their soiled hands with their clothes and beginning to walk away. OKAY. So had they just helped us? Is that what they had been trying to do till now, for SO long?? I suddenly felt the hololulu translating into, "kya hua ji?"
A picture of the Sunset-Point at
Mt. Abu that reminded me of
this incident. Love the fact that
I had the eye for it quite young. :)
Dumb-asses we. STILL didn't dare to go out and thank them. What if it is another trick? I am sure that was the question bugging everybody. We kept looking at them as they walked away, till they were no more visible. Only when the horizon seemed clear, we came back to our senses. WHAT THE HELL HAD JUST HAPPENED?!

As we started driving to Mount Abu again, I went into a perpetual thought process. So, are these people not bad actually? Are those stories mere rumours? If not, what could make people kinder than the "normal" people commit such crimes?

THAT LAST QUESTION there gave me the answer. "Poverty is the mother of crime", as someone rightly said. Yeah. Rightly said.

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Confused Soul January 23, 2012 at 11:14 AM  

Wow your stories are simply written, but yet beautiful.. I love the way you've given a detailed explanation. Great job Sugandha.. Love it totally :)

Sugandha January 23, 2012 at 5:57 PM  

@Confused Soul,

thanks a lot for dropping by and leaving a comment here. I'm glad you liked my stories. Thanks again. :)

Interesting blog there! Quite love-ly. :D

Akshay Khokhar January 28, 2012 at 4:10 PM  

No big deal for you ma'am, but yeah I nominated you for the versatile blogger award :)

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