October 22nd 1956. A date that changed my life completely.
I know it’s hard to believe, that a simple date can have such a huge impact on someone. But if it was not for one incident on that day, I may have nothing special to share today, neither would I have had the amazing life I am living.
It was 22nd October 2016. I was just instructing my daughter in law to add more mirchi to the curry she was making for us. It was around 1 pm, usually the time when I am busy with daily soaps on television. But since today was a Saturday, I was free to surf the channels haphazardly.
We had close to 150 channels on our TV! What a huge jump that from only two channels that we used to have during my middle aged years of life. Rohan, my grandson, had come early from school that day, and as usual, like the television obsessed children in today’s world, he was trying to figure ways to assume control over the TV remote, to watch his favorite cartoon. During our small little fight for the remote, I somewhere chuckled at the perfect title of the device – Remote Control.
Indeed in large families, since everyone wants to watch television, there is a huge fight as always over who gets the remote in the house. My son Nikhil too was home for the weekend. After observing our arguments, he called for Rohan in an authoritative way and asked him to use his laptop to view cartoons on something called “YouTube” on the “internet”. Rohan shouted happily, handed me the remote and sped his way to Nikhil’s bedroom to gain access to his father’s laptop, before his father changed his mind.
I went back to surfing the channels once again. Since I couldn’t find anything to watch on the news channels, I decided to surf the movie channels, something which I normally don’t do , but I was really glad that I choose to do so that day.
My eyes glanced through the channels pretty quickly, till the time it finally got struck on one. They were showing my all-time favorite film, Mother India. This moment started to make me nostalgic and unknowingly my mind had already booked its ticket to a journey through my wonderful past.
The next day was Diwali. No one at home seemed to care about it. My daughter in law Seema said that she would cook some sweets, do a little bit of puja at home, go to the temple and that’s all. I was pretty dismayed that today’s generation didn’t bother to maintain the traditions and culture of our rich and diverse country. Just as I was thinking all these, I was oblivious of my daughter in law shouting for the past 10 minutes, that lunch had been served. I had paid absolutely no attention to her. As I said, my mind was stuck in the past. My daughter in law quickly coaxed me into an answer, asking where my mind was wandering. I told her that I was thinking about my golden past, and the film- Mother India being played on TV had a huge role to play in it. She was surprised, and pat came her second question, “How a movie influence your past? What exactly were you thinking?” I smiled. “Beta, coincidentally this is the same day, in a different year of course, that I had the first ever glimpse of my husband.” Seema’s eyes grew wider as I continued. “It was Diwali during that time, and all our relatives had come to our house. I used to stay in Chiplun in the Konkan belt of Maharashtra at that time. Our whole house was filled with the excitement of the imminent arrival of the festival of lights.”
“I was very competitive by nature, and always had the zeal to win and excel in everything I did. This was something my grandfather liked in me very much and hence he was very supportive. During those days the aarti of Laxmi Devi was a very important part of the Diwali Celebrations, and the person who got first access to the Prasad of this aarti was considered to be very lucky. So in order to create a healthy competition among all the kids in my family, we were around 30 of them, my uncle decided that whosoever will wake up first, wear traditional clothing and light the first cracker of the day, will have first access to the Prasad.”
“I was very excited when I heard about this competition. I decided that come what may, I will win this and gain first access to the auspicious Prasad. So I woke up at 4 am that day , went rushing to my grandfather, confided in him about my urge to win the competition. I asked him to help me out by keeping the lamp lit, so that once I am ready, all I need to do is to run down and burn the cracker to win the competition. I took a shower and then started to glance through my wardrobe. I knew since it was Diwali, I had to wear something good; at the same time it should be traditional. My eyes fell on my favorite yellow dress gifted to me by my grandmother for securing the first position in the matriculation exam.”
“I still remember that day fondly. I was elated on seeing that gift and decided to wear that dress on all auspicious occasions to follow. After wearing it, I went down towards the lamp that my grandfather had lit for me. I lit my fire stick and took it towards my cracker to light it. I slowly lit up the fire cracker and boom!! It exploded into wonderful colors. I was elated and started to express my joy by jumping up and down shouting Hurray!! I won… I won… I kept gushing. Little had I known that I had jumped so hard in my little celebration for victory that my dress had caught fire from the sparks of the fire-work.”
“As soon as I realized this mishap, I shouted for help. Hearing my cries, my whole family came down running. Amidst all this, a young boy, a year or two older to me rushed towards me and wrapped himself around me and threw me quickly in the small pit of water nearby. My family followed us till the pit, as they saw me falling in there. My Mother started sobbing. She slowly took me in her arms and asked me if I was okay. ”Why did you wake up so early and light crackers on your own?” I told her I was fine and that I had only suffered minor burns which would heal in a week or two. That night all I could think was, had it not been for that boy, I may have not survived and the fact that I was forever indebted to him for having saved my life by risking his own.”
“Six months had passed, much had changed in India’s film Industry! India saw a movie that had changed its cinema completely for the good. I am of course taking about the Mother India, which was my favorite movie of all time, because it had both my favorite actor Sunil Dutt as well as my favorite actress Nargis. The story about Dutt Sahab saving Nargis from fire by wrapping a blanket around the actress during the shoot of the film had spread like wild fire. I too was reminded of my own incident a few months back. The very fact that the boy who saved my life had risked his own, had made me have a special place for him in my heart. I also had a favorite doll, which was my best friend, someone in whom I confided all my secrets. I used to go the temple daily, with my favorite doll, with the hope that one day I will once again meet the mysterious boy.”
“As I returned home one evening from college, I saw my mother speaking with my dad about a particular boy. As I overheard their conversation, I got to know they were speaking about my marriage proposal with a boy they had chosen for me. I was heartbroken, but then I decided that I won’t dismay my parent’s decision and said yes for the marriage with a strong but shattered heart. It was a day before the marriage, I was allowed to meet the bridegroom for a few minutes. It was during this interaction that I got to know that my proposed fiancé was none other but the same person who had saved my life a few years ago. My joy grew no bounds and I hugged him in excitement. He was taken aback a bit, but then he too hugged me. It was the happiest moment of my life.”
“They say life is not like a movie, it is a way different. But my life proved a complete contrary to this saying. I had wished for nothing more in life. I went into my room, picked up my doll, looked into its eyes and started to shed tears of joy. It’s been 58 years since that day has gone by, but every day of my life I still relive these memories with the same amount of intensity that I had lived them with.”
My daughter in-law on hearing this story started to cry, but at the same time she was smiling, wondering how small things in life making such a lasting impact over a lifetime. Rohan was still watching his show on computer, Nikhil was busy packing his bag for his business trip on Monday. Seema went back to cooking desert for Rohan. I switched off the TV, leaving my viewing of Mother India for the hundredth time half way. I went into my room, picked up my doll, like I had 58 years ago, looked into its eye once again and started to weep, reminiscing all the wonderful moments I had with my husband in my life. Though my savior is no more, his memories will forever be attached to me, and my favorite doll will always serve as a wonderful reminder of the bond we shared that will never cease to exist till my last breath. So for all youngsters out there, life is all about these moments. Grab them when they are there and live them to the fullest, and like the actor Shah Rukh Khan (he is nowhere close to Sunil Dutt) says Kya Pata Kal Ho Na Ho. Wishing everyone a warm and joyous Diwali.