It was early spring, 1997. Shiva was delighted that his father would come to take him home for Easters. He was looking forward to meet his mother and little sister during Easter Vacation.
All the boarders of St. Augustine’s School, Kalimpong, whose families were not too far away had packed their luggage on the previous night, before the last day of school.
That afternoon parents had come to take away their wards, except Shiva’s. He kept staring at the gate till dusk, but in vain. Though heart-broken, he put up a brave front in front of his friends and told them that his father might be busy.
Shiva was seven years old then, studying in class II. His father was a rich businessman in Siliguri, who had come up the hard way in life. His parents were uneducated, and they wanted him to learn well and become an reputed person in life. So they had admitted him in a boarding school, away from the distracting hustles and bustles at home.
At school he was often found kneeling down outside his classroom or standing on his bench holding his ears. He was often punished, not because he was poor in studies, but because he was very naughty and mischievous. Yet he was loved by his teachers for being the most intelligent and bright boy of his class. He topped in studies and his friends loved him for his helpful nature and kind heart.
That night, Shiva had a bad dream. He saw that his father was riding a bus, leaving for somewhere very far away. Next morning he woke up crying. His friends tried to console him but he wouldn’t even play with them. He sat in a corner, dejected and scared. Some of his friends started making fun of him for crying over a dream. But Shiva had an intuition that something was not right.
And so it was! After two days, the news arrived that Shiva’s father was dead, killed in rivalry.
Everywhere there were blossoms of spring; just Shiva felt a vast emptiness even in that tender age. Being the eldest son of the house, he knew things won’t be easy. His sister was only five years old then. Back at home, nobody came forward to help. His mother too had started behaving abnormally. The shock had turned her insane. All their properties and valuables had been looted. Though Shiva was too small to interpret the financial impact of this loss, his little brain did identify the sudden lack of security. He didn’t know what to do; his concentration was shaken up and every moment he started living in a strange fear and uncertainty. His performance in studies dwindled. A happy face was suddenly depressed; a noisy soul quietened. Everything had changed almost overnight. Nobody was there to pay his fees or buy him things he loved. People, affluence and childhood – everything seemed to have disowned him overnight.
Life was too harsh for the family. It took a while to regain normalcy. Shiva looked at his bereft mother and sister, and realised that he could not surrender so easily. He gathered all his strength and courage to plunge into this war called life The church helped him and supported him with finances. With hard-work and dedication, he was again back on track, at first position by the time he was in class IV.
Next year he was shifted to St. Xavier’s School, Pedong, and was looked after by the church. His performance improved. His teachers were amazed with his achievements. So easily he had learned two new languages, Nepali and Hindi, and scored the highest even in those subjects!
Time flew rapidly, keeping pace with Shiva’s haste to grow up.
By the time young Shiva was seventeen, he refused to study further with aids from the church and opted to stay with his mother, helping her earn for his family. He joined a local college for a Bachelor’s degree; at home he earned some money from tuitions. But the amount gathered was too small for sustenance. Soon he started working in a company. His job was to give demonstrations of a few products to customers. He was working well but had to give it up too because it involved lots of travelling. Finally he sought a job as a pastime bouncer in a local nightclub. During the day he would attend college and at night he worked. He earned enough to look after his family and self.
And then one day, some scuffle took place at their club. A boy died due to an accident. The blame was put onto the club. Shiva along with a few other staff was jailed for three months. He was in his third year of graduation then, barely twenty years. His mother came to see him one of those days. Both mother and son looked at each other with the bars in between. They didn’t say a word. Yet, they spoke much more than they did in the last seventeen years. Their fingers touched each other, entangling between themselves, lamenting over the time that ruined so much and still left behind with them an obstinate desire to move ahead. Such is life.
Shiva came out of the bars eventually. And plunged back to things like he always did. Life had taught him not to halt at temporary stoppages. Life had also taught him to understand his father, whom he now faintly remembered; but the journey he must have taken years back to rise to success seemed familiar.
Shiva too had started from scratch once again, like his father did before Shiva was born. The path, however obscure and difficult it promised to be, seemed worthy to be braved. Its one thing to hold grudges towards life; it’s yet another to prioritise happiness without looking back. After all when everything else fails, life bestows wisdom at its most rugged form. Survival strategies that emerge from there enables even the blind to foresee what waited ahead.
Shiva was destined to learn it the hard way! He started walking again, with the faith that Life, which has taken so much away will one day return all their dues. Waiting for that day, is just another kind of learning.