By Kunal Arora:
We all have some personal stories which at moments make us realise how valuable life is and how fateful we have been for living with grace and dignity. I have learnt enormously from those subtle avoidable instances which helped me shape my true colours.
Life lessons from my old house help in Ambala working for us for the last 15 years
I was the most loved one in the family, my parents went to every saint and seer in Lahore and asked for blessings to get a child. It was after eight long years they heard the cry of a baby in the house. Before me, all were born dead. I brought good luck and fortune in the house and after me, the family was blessed with four more healthy kids.
I was the pride and honour of the family. There were very few girls in the town who went to the school and I was the one getting the best education. The illiteracy of my parents didn’t stop them from getting their children educated. My father was a gold merchant and one of the richest and respected in the city. I was always surrounded by books which helped me create the world I wanted. By the age of seven, I had studied what people study in their twenties. The wisdom provided by the books is invaluable and most of the decisions I have taken is from books.
People in my family had sensed bad omens and we left the country before bloodshed started in 1947. There was enough money to start a new business and the financial acumen of my learned father helped him establish a business in India. I continued my studies and experiments with the life. I was eight when we escaped the war and at 14, I was asked to marry. The illness of my father and Amma’s kind approach forced me to say yes. I never believed in fate before marriage but life showed me what power it holds over humans.
I didn’t know how to cook and had never even thought of trying it. My parents never asked me to clean the house either. I thought life would be same, my decisions, my books, wisdom, learning. But within a few years, my husband’s great business crashed and we were bankrupt. The big house was taken away by money lenders and we moved to a small hermitage.
There were no nuts for breakfast now, no meals for some days. By some means, we gathered money which helped in feeding ourselves. I decided to pursue a nursing course to have a better future but I couldn’t bear the cutting and killing of animals and that one wrong decision resulted in a big failure. I started working as a maid, washing utensils and cleaning houses. Every penny I earned was filled with my patience to bear the harsh and cuss words.
I am 76 now and I am still working for the betterment of the family. My siblings are rich and happy and I was the one most knowledgeable in the house. I have two sons but if I stop earning the family will fall. I faced domestic violence and still have the marks on my body.
Life never stops, we cannot escape, one can simply smile at every problem to make it powerless. Don’t let your wrong decisions power your fate.
A couple with limited resource and their limitless gaze, a roadside incident in Gurugram
Their eyes showed thirst for the green fountain juice being poured into the glasses. They were old and skinny, maybe in their 60s. The lady looked extremely tired and traumatized, her sunken face and dried lips showed as if she was hungry from days. The man wore scars of hardship on his body and a muddy, ragged white shirt over it. Both gazed at people gulping the chilled liquid and putting empty glasses on the counter. They held on to whatever assets they had in their life, a blanket, some utensils, and a few clothes.
The old man checked his pockets and took out 10 rupees. The couple looked at each other for a while, and the lady broke the silence, “We need to have something for dinner.” They looked around and decided to take a few chapattis and that was all the food they had.
When devotion is just practised inside holy borders, an incident outside the holy shrine
After the holy chants reviving the miracles and beauty of Allah, it was the time to let the seers rest and enjoy the night in the remembrance of divine and putting the requests of devotees upfront. Dressed in glittery sheets and images of Mecca printed on it, surrounded by red roses and millions of devotional threads, hundreds praying at the feet, looks like the door of heaven has opened and there lies the King of happiness showering blessings. A man in a white dress and grey waistcoat, a nicely embroidered prayer cap on his head closed the heavily decorated wooden doors. A huge stand was laden with incense sticks and the ashes appeared like falling stars. People were leaving with a smile on their face, some murmuring the ending prayers, some waiting for the last glimpse of the pir.
The street outside the Dargah saw the breach in devotion. Disfigured creatures waiting outside for the people to show their crippled limbs. A small girl whose face was burned, and had twisted fingers, blocked the way and asked for money. People who were lost inside gave her a ruthless expression, covered their face with a cloth and moved. Some asked Allah to have mercy on her as if they had nothing to give. She spoke nothing and tears came out of her eyes, she looked at the sky as if asking someone ‘are you happy now?’ Does aura of the door to heaven have boundaries? Is he only interested in those who can walk and offer a sheet? Does karma really play or it’s a myth?
Feed the needy, Gods already have enough. A holy tree in my hometown Ambala and a boy living in a small hermitage near it.
Rooted in the most narrow lane and about hundred years old, there was a great fig tree which mesmerized even the animals to stay close to it, embracing a big area with its wide and open figure and giving shelter to hundreds of birds. Considered as the most sacred and home to seven Gods, we were not allowed to plant it at home. It was said to possess a divine power to make any wish come true. The trunk of the mystical tree was covered with red threads which held the wishes of those who visited it. Every day hundreds of devotees surrendered themselves to the tree and placed eatables to charm the Gods, later consumed by stray dogs.
I went there with my wishes rolled in a red thread and a platter to lure the omniscient tree. Chanting mantras to put more power in the thread and thoughts, I saw a small child crying and staring at the food at the foot of the tree. The boy lived in a hermitage close to the tree. I went down on my knees and asked him what he wanted, he pointed to the platter in my hand. I surrendered my wishes to the hunger of a child and fed him with my hands. His smile was much more than what I would have gotten by tying a piece of thread to a tree.
A blind woman helped me find myself near Bangla Sahib Gurudwara in Delhi.
I was waiting for the bus. Cars were moving in and out and making crazy, irritating sounds, senses warmed up and vision illusioned. Weather painted the face of people with sweat. No bird, no creature, only humans moving around with a passive look.
With no voice and utter silence in her appearance she was sitting on the bench alone. A cloth covered her head and a stick guided her steps. The gracious face had a smile whose reason I was looking for. She was touching the seat next to her again and again, may be in order to touch who she was waiting for. I noticed her moving almost fifty times to find no one there but the smile and divinity on her face remained.
Mesmerized by her aura and patience, I was lost in her silence. The world around her was black but she could see it better than me, feel it better than me. I sat inside the bus but still wondered who she was looking for. Patience and tolerance were what I was missing and I found it through the vision of blind eyes.