It was well past midnight when the train came to a screeching halt where the second and longest leg of the break journey came to an end. The next bus to Kalimpong was at dawn and my patience that I had held onto thus far, too gave way as I let out a deep cry with the thought of how I would miss my parents for the many many months ahead.
Sobbing in the comfort of my father’s laps whilst he sat on the bed sheet spread out by him on the platform of New Jalpaiguri railway station, he arranged our alimunium boxes on the side to ensure my brother slept comfortably beside us as well.
“Why are you crying, my little girl?” he asked.
“I will miss you papa,” I replied further breaking down.
“Look at me!” my father lifted my chin with his right hand to meet his eyes.
“You are daddy’s good girl!”
“If you come first again in your class, I will come for your Prize Distribution Day and
bring your mummy along as well just like last year.”
“Don’t you want us to be present when you receive your award?” he went on to ask.
I nodded my head in consent.
“Yes papa!” I replied hugging my father tightly, my heart swelling with pride. Being amongst the very few who got those extra few hours with their parents a day prior to our holidays meant the world to me.
For that one extra day, I worked and waited for nine months.
Concentrating on my studies, most of my free time went in the library reading biographies of great men and women. I would close my eyes with the Atlas in one hand pointing randomly with my index finger of the other, at any place on the Political map of the world. My eyes opened to visualising myself in the attire of a new country, savouring their favourite cuisine, dancing their moves to their favourite tunes. Lip smacking Penne Pasta was relished with an intense Italian gaze, kilt clad bagpiper bands of Scotland watched me sip on Irn-Bru as I swayed in their Hebrides. Tsars offered me their famous Russian tea and I ran around Swahili carved wooden doors of Kenya playing hide and seek as the taste of freshly cooked Ugali tickled my tongue. Drooling over Dim sums I admired the letters of Chinese poetry depicted in exquisite, oriental calligraphy.
Everywhere I traveled in my Dreams, all had one thing in common…Love. There was a smile on people’s faces around me and each country welcomed me with wide open arms. Amongst them stood their great men and women. Abraham Lincoln, Madam Curie, Florence Nightingale, Nelson Mandela, William Shakespeare, Albert Einstein, Confucius, Mahatma Gandhi, Buddha and many more all standing up for what was right!
Being attentive in class came naturally, as I felt privileged to learn. Reading and writing was not destined for all. Extremely fortunate, I flipped through pictures of the fascinating pyramids of Egypt and thoroughly enjoyed my lessons with equal gratitude when I learnt about David, the famous work of art by Michelangelo in the Renaissance period of Europe. The white cranes spread over a red Kimono robe made me yearn for a visit to Japan.
The tall Himalayan Range stood witness to the meadows of Dr. Graham’s Homes, my school that cradled me each time I looked up at the sky after learning something new, thanking God with the opportunity to be able to do so.
On 18th July, 2016 I hopped onto a flight with a kindle in my hand to spend some quality time with my parents for a few days. Nothing was stopping me now, from meeting them in person, when I decided to stand up for what was right. To be with the two people I love the most in the world is my birth right and no demon or negative force possessed the power to break my vows with the people who gave birth to me nor stop me from reading and writing.
The view outside the plane resonated with my inner being as the fluffy, scattered pink clouds awakened my dreams to travel the world to witness more Love…
Getting back to reading gave me that sense of joy that I had experienced as a little girl. Pain and illnesses gave way to a fresh zest for life. A life where I could make my parents proud for who I am.
We are made wise not by the recollection of our past, but by the responsibility of our future- George Bernard Shaw
How many of us are ready to put behind our past and take responsibility to build a bright future for ourselves?
Today is a Sum of our past,
And tomorrow will be a Sum of our today,
Make your present worthwhile,
So our future is bright in every possible way!
The shift to a broad gauge train from Patna to New Jalpaiguri, the second leg of the break journey to Kalimpong widened our insight to a broader mindset. Most of us aboard the train carried a strong belief within ourselves that Mother Ganges the gigantic river of the plains of northern India could perform miracles for us. Watching the numerous people bathe by its banks chanting their prayers, the same belief instilled in me over the years travelling back and forth between school and home.
With coins in tight clenched fists, passengers whispered their prayers as we approached the fascinating Farakka Bridge to make a wish by dropping the coins in the holy river. The deafening sound of the barrage and the grandeur of the Ganges made me request my father for my wishing coin. His childlike smile endorsing his daughter’s belief, made him dig one of those coins and place it in my palms. The bulging lotus on the shining twenty paise brass round coin went into hiding from the silvery moonlight as I closed my fist to make a wish. I let go of the coin to watch it all the way down, delve into a little splash and looked up at my father.
He kissed my forehead and waved his hand on my head as if to bless me with all the happiness in the world. His eyes conveyed his hope and belief in us. His touch, a deep sense of satisfaction for the sacrifices he made only to educate my elder brother and me to rise above all superstitions. I wished for many such moments with my father, when his unconditional love and giving nature engulfed me with joy.
My father patted his lap and directed me to rest my head there. Lying in my father’s lap I looked out at the glorious moon that shone in full from a distance. Every few seconds, the huge railings of the Farakka Bridge intercepted the view as though life was awaiting me with wide open arms and it were these interceptions that I had to surpass to reach there.
Though I would be bereft of seeing my parents or hearing their voices for the next nine months, I took to believing that good things were in store for me and began to look forward to my next stay at the Dr. Graham’s Homes. It wasn’t going to be easy but I would definitely learn to manage and find my way, anyhow.
On 29th April, 2016 I drove to Marine Drive, the Queen’s Necklace of Mumbai and stepped out at Nariman Point to get on to the pavement for the very first time in over two decades of my stay here. The golden view of the spectacular sunset overlooking the Arabian Sea was breathtaking. The lingering Sun did go down in the crimson soft sky but alongside that, shone the silvery moon.
Looking up to the full moon that evening, I recalled the view of it from the Farakka Bridge lying in my father’s lap. A sudden sense of hope began to creep into me. I could feel my father stroking my head once again, his eyes full of aspirations and desires shone at me through the glorious moonlight. It was then revealed to me that the miracles we sought after dropping those coins in the Mother Ganga was all about letting go of our bitterness into the holy river. Just as our mothers who give us birth are always there for us taking us under their wings, similarly the holy Mother Ganga absorbed all our venom, washing away any kind of hatred that dwelled in us and sweetened us with its purity of the Himalayas.
I began to believe in myself again and broadened my outlook towards life. A miracle was awaiting within me. All the interceptions that had cut across my path for over the last two decades didn’t seem worthy enough to give up my quest for life!
Awakening to this awareness, I let go of my bitterness and allowed it to delve into the darkness around me. Choosing to get better here on, I absorbed the brilliance of the moon and rose to myself and my life ahead of me.
When life knocks you down, try to land on your back. Because if you can look up, you can get up. Let your reason get you back up – Les Brown!
How many of us have our reasons to look up again? Look up to a beautiful life awaiting us with wide open arms….
The shuttle train ride to Patna city, about two hours from Arrah was the first leg of the break journey to Kalimpong. My father guided me through villagers thronging the compartments, occupying the seats, the floor as well as the toilets. In the local Bhojpuri language he requested for the window seat as he lifted me and placed me there, hoping to comfort me with his assuring smile. Settling, I tidied my yellow frock, adjusted the buckle of my shoe and tightened the clip that fell loose on my hair.
Mustard oil infused with garlic rang louder from the face of the wailing kohl eyed baby in her mother’s arms, a milkman who sat on his canister was drenched in the smell of buttermilk and the man perched on the berth opposite mine desperately rubbed and clapped on chewing tobacco, releasing clouds of pungent powder that made me sneeze incessantly. Excusing myself, I noticed the woman sitting next to me who had covered her face more than half with her saree was just a little girl probably in her early teens. Vermilion lined parting from the centre of her head right up till her nose revealed that she was married. She was only a couple of years older than me. Just then to add to my dismay, a boy about my age began howling at the top of his voice. His father was beating him black and blue, cursing and abusing him as though he was an extra terrestrial beast. My father handed me his handkerchief that carried the fragrance of his after shave, and rescued me from that ordeal.
The train chugged further, and this journey back to school taught me more than what I learnt there. The undaunted belief of my parents to see their daughter read, write and speak with conviction was invigorating. Their sacrifices were moulding me to build a strong foundation for myself. I began to respect and value their decision to send me away to understand the nuances of life.
I was able to overcome all this in hope of another enriching experience awaiting me at Dr. Graham’s Homes. I chose to stop studying the fallacies around me and instead looked out of the window to breathe in some fresh air and explore what destiny had in store for me.
Happy to be going back to school again, I smiled reminiscing The Himalayan Range that stood sturdy the test of time. Whenever I felt low, I visualised my parents’ faces in the Kanchenjunga Peak watching over me. Each time I faced an obstacle, I hoped to overcome it just as the Sun would shine with fragrant hues of the majestic valley after days of pouring rain. The meadows that overlooked the meandering Tista river down below, made me mould myself to situations that were beyond my control with dignity and pride.
Similarly, on 8th April 2016, I took a toy train ride on my trip to Ooty and placed my head out of the window, recalling the shuttle ride to Patna with my father on way to school.
After more than two decades of being directionless and lost, hope began to creep in slowly. I began to aspire for a new life, a life full of dreams. I hoped of a life with the desire to experience love in abundance and in its purest forms. I began respecting and loving myself looking forward to building and living a life that spelt dignity and pride for me.
“Many people feel they are powerless to do anything effective with their lives. It takes courage to break out of the settled mould, but most find conformity more comfortable. This is why the opposite of courage in our society is not cowardice, its conformity” – Rollo May
Are you ready to breakout of your settled mould and live a life ignited by hope and love?
The bright pink trinkets on the three cycled rickshaw, urged me to hop on to it. My father lifted me as I gave the fancy coloured hangings a twirl. It always mused me, how the tricycle riders at Arrah my village, painstakingly hung small mirrors, plastic flowers, beads and decorated their polished steel carriages no less than a bride.
We were leaving for the railway station. Three months of pampering with favourite hand-cooked recipes by my mother, running around trees at our ancestral mango orchard and sitting beside my father every morning and evening filling him up with questions, had all come to an end.
It was that day of the year which made me feel stronger than ever before. The purdah system prevalent at my native withheld my mother from stepping out of the large wooden gate to my house. She stood behind peeping ajar a smaller door to the large one and covered her face with the Palla of her Saree. All I could see were her eyes, red with indignation, determination and grit.
Petrified, never to see her daughter face the adversities she was manoevering, my mother held her calm to bid us farewell. It would be nine months since we’d see her again, outgrown our clothes, our shoes and probably with a better understanding.
The clinking sound of the rickshaw deafened the cry in my heart as it picked up speed. I waved back at my mother drowning the squeal that gave way, with a smile. Turning towards my father, I caught hold of his hand with one and began twirling the pink trinkets on the rickshaw sides with the other.
We were leaving the village to educate ourselves and bring accolades to our family by being the first children to go to a co-ed boarding school. All norms had been broken, only to gift my elder brother and me with a brighter future. There was abundant hope on my father’s face and his eyes sparkled with fire as he patted my head gently. His little girl was his immense pride.
This was a ride to victory, a ride to freedom and a ride to a new revolution. I was determined to live my parents’ dream and left my village with hope to live up to their belief in me.
On 26th March 2016, exactly one year ago I hopped onto my car wearing bright pink and recalled the rickshaw ride to the railway station with my father. The shades blocked me from seeing around me and envisioned me to seeing what all was in store for me.
My heart was heavy with the mishaps i had faced, but as I flashed my smile I regained my composure and set out to constructing a new life for myself again!
I felt Strong and Ready To Go!!
“You have to be willing to allow the person you are today to DIE, so that you can give birth to the person you are meant to become”- Les Brown
How many of us are ready to undergo this transformation?
Snow clad, glittering Himalayan peaks, peeked at me through the window panes. Sun kissed Gladioli swayed in the cool breeze in various hues. Mulberry bushes sang the Song of Sixpence. The pomelo tree was laden with ripe fruit.
My school Dr. Graham’s Homes in Kalimpong, Darjeeling is the most beautiful place one could have been brought up in.
It was our Sunday afternoon break. We got time to spend on our beds without falling asleep. Here, I developed my habit to read.
Sitting with an Enid Blyton I would imagine the pixies and fairies. Goblins making funny faces in the woods. My dream world would be enriched, dancing to the majestic aura of Alice in Wonderland knocking at Snow White’s door. Rapunzel letting her hair down to Hansel and Gretel and the wolf blowing down Baby Bear’s cottage. There were no limitations to my dreams and no one possessed the powers to intrude them.
After days of pouring rain, and awful food at the hospital, the shining Sun brought with it a ray of hope.
Flu had got the better of me and the stew at the hospital made me crave for the Sunday Special samosa, the most popular Indian snack and a piece of cake that was served to us only once a week at our Central Kitchen.
I was happy to be back to Mc’Gregor, my cottage, refreshed, rejuvenated and looked forward to the sumptuous Sunday Dinner.
The Sun, with its sunshine elevated me to my higher self where I could dream.
On 21st February 2016, I submitted myself to the Sun again. Soaking in its powers. Believing in its strength to heal me and elevate me back to my higher self.
As I closed my eyes to absorb the Sun, all chaos left my mind. I felt at peace and became mindful to the world around me.
I began to dream again. Dream of a healthier, happier life.
“We Become, What We Think About ” – Earl Nightingale
Let’s get back to our Dreams. Dreams with no intrusions and without any limitations.
Dreams Possess The Powers To Heal!
Celebrate the victory of Good over Evil,
Celebrate the arrival of Spring,
Spread colors of Joy and Love,
Forget, Forgive, Dance and Sing!
HAPPY HOLI !
Holi is the second largest Festival of India 🇮🇳
There are many stories as to why we celebrate Holi! One of them depicts the Love of Lord Krishna for his beloved Radha!
When my father was asked to spell my name in English while filling my registration form at the boarding school, he asked the village doctor to spell it for him. The doctor gave him several choices, Shraddha, Shradha, Sharda and so on.
My father told me later, I chose S-Radha .. Shradha as your spelling because it has The Lord’s beloved Radha in it! May your life be full of Love!
Shradha means Faith and with Radha in Shradha, may you always have Faith in the Power of Love!
How many of us Believe in The Power of Love and Go on Loving, irrespective of our circumstances, irrespective of our shortcomings?
A smile was there, happiness was missing.. how many of us can relate to .. smiling from our outer appearance and crying from within?
Life is hard, things happen.. with/to all of us! What really matters are the things that happen within us.
Luckily my inner being was intact, I was weeping, bleeding, broken and shattered but each time I was alone in any situation and my inner being was challenged, the Leopard in me.. took the leap!
Will be sharing with you many such instances on “My Story posts” where in, my inner being gave me strength each time my outer self was torn to bits and pieces.
All thanks to my childhood love with books.
Being born in a village in Bihar, my parents sent me to a boarding school at the age of 4. Till date they can’t read, write or understand English.
Each vacation I came home which was once a year for eight years I would be treated like a celebrity. My father would gather the so called Eminent men from the village, and give me an English newspaper to read out loud.
The newspaper was actually fetched from Patna City which was about 20km away from my village on a bullock cart then.
My mother would prepare homemade hot snacks and tea for the audience. My father would beam with pride while serving, as he was more interested in watching their expressions on hearing his little girl flow in a foreign language.
Aspirin! Aspirin! Aspirin, they clapped which meant that they wanted to hear more as the most educated amongst them, a doctor, his knowledge of words in English was restricted to the names of the medicines he prescribed.
My voice seemed like music to their ears and their exhilaration like an encouragement to me to go bringing a smile on so many faces!
Each time I went back to my boarding school I would feel fortunate for the sacrifice my parents made to get me educated. I was loyal towards my books and studies, more so to see the joy on my parents faces.
I owe this transition of getting back in connect to my inner self… to Books. My first love.📚❤
For someone who later in life was banned from reading and writing for almost thirteen years.
It took a while, infact many more years, to even realise that My life.. lied in Books.
Am happy to confess now, that I spend most of my time reading, writing and journaling.
Do What You Love, To Love What You Do!
How many of You, Love what you do?