Behind the curtain…

I am 20 years old, about to turn 21 in a few months. My life till now has been Preschool, School and College, of which I am currently in the last year. I have always thought about my student life in terms of my parents, my teachers and my friends. This is all that came to my mind when I started thinking about progressing to the next stage of my life i.e. getting a JOB. Placements are going on in college right now and I have been preparing for them since the last two months.

On the day before my first interview I was preparing a checklist of all the things required and I realised that I needed a display folder for my CV and rushed to Pyramid Stationery with Mumma. Everybody, who has ever lived in Vasant Kunj, has been to Pyramid because it’s the oldest stationery shop here. So I walked in at 7 in the evening and said hello to Uncle and told him what I needed, he just smiled and asked Chotu (his helper) to get the folder. While he was looking for the folder, I was perusing the various colourful shelves around me and that’s when my gaze fell on the counter. I noticed that Mumma was talking to Uncle and they were both looking at me and smiling gently so I asked them why and the reply threw me off completely.

Uncle said, “Beta, I remember when you first came to my shop to buy things for your 1st Grade and I’m so grateful to God that you have grown up so beautifully. It still amazes me to see all my kids graduating from school, moving to college and then getting jobs. It just makes me very happy and sad at the same time…”

This got me thinking of all the people who have helped me immensely during various stages of my student life and have always been there no matter what. These people are usually the ones we fail to appreciate and forget their value as soon as we move on into the real world. The Uncle at the stationery shop, the Tailor Uncle who stitched our very first uniforms, the Dhobi Uncle who visited every Sunday and Wednesday so that we always had a fresh and crisp uniform to wear, the Maid Aunty who kept our rooms clean for us, the Guard Uncle who wished us ‘Good Morning’ and ‘Welcome Back’ everyday. Have we really thought about them and been grateful for their existence in our lives?

I was sitting and doing an assignment for college on my laptop one day and Hazra Aunty, the maid at my house, was doing her daily chores. She was dusting the house and when she came to the spot where I was sitting, she gently asked me to lift the laptop and I got really annoyed because I was trying to concentrate but did it anyway. She proceeded with her work and I noticed that she was trying to be very quiet for my sake. This made me smile and I got up and asked her if she wanted a glass of water as I was going to get some for myself as well, she said she’d love some but she’ll get it for me and herself so I can continue working and then went to the kitchen without a moment of hesitation to get it.

A lot of people don’t have the privileges that we have and that should make us even more grateful for all that we have but we’re mostly ignorant. I really respect people who take out time from their busy lives everyday just to give back to these people for all that they provide for us. The people who tutor their maid’s kids, the people who make tea and meals for their guards or take them to the doctor whenever they feel even a little ill, the people who help out the daughters and sons of their dhobi with their college applications, and so many other wonderful ways in which they help out those who help us. I wish that one day I’m one of these amazing human beings, able to give back whatever I have got.

In this fast paced world, we sometimes need to slow down and appreciate the people around us however small their role.

Thank you for reading!  

Magic? I Agree.

Me – “Please Mumma! Please! I really want a dog!”

Mom – “I’m already taking care of one, I don’t want another.”

Me – “I promise I will take care of it… You won’t have to do a thing!”

Mom – “No.”

This was a frequent argument/dead-end discussion in my house till 29th May, 2014, the day my Class XIIth Board Result came out. I still remember how high I jumped when I saw that 92% on the screen and my parents hugging me and calling my grandparents to tell them the news. When everybody calmed down, I casually reminded my parents how they had promised to let me get a dog if I scored well in my exams. I could see that Mumma was happy but I could see the doubt in her eyes about her promise. It was because she hated dogs. Hate is a very small word though; a better word would be DESPISED. When she was a kid, a stray dog once tried to bite her in a dark alley near her house while she was walking back home from school. The fear of dogs was deeply rooted in her mind, body and soul. My dad, on the other hand, was and is an avid dog lover.

I was volunteering at PAWS, a dog-shelter in Vasant Kunj, at that time and had decided that if I ever got the chance I would adopt a dog. The day after the result came out, my dad and I drove over to PAWS and started looking around for a puppy that we could adopt. During my time volunteering at PAWS, there was a small enclosure where there were two puppies with their mother that I was told to be careful around, as they were critical. That day, however, the caretaker approached me because he heard we were there to adopt and told us that one of the puppies in that kennel is going to die very soon because of an illness and that we should adopt the other one. I walked to the kennel and stood there watching the family of three cosily sleeping together in a huddle and put my hand near the nose of the black and white puppy. It smelt my hand and put its head on it but then he woke up and got scared and shrank back to his mom. The other one which was sick was completely black and was trying to get up now to drink water. The mom sensed it and nudged him forward to help him reach the water bowl. She looked at me and I could see so much sadness in her eyes, she blinked at me as if in agreement. It was as if she was telling me to save her babies and if that isn’t possible then please save my other son, at least.

I picked up the black and white puppy and he looked so scared and sad that I decided that I was going to make him happy. My dad agreed with my choice. We brought him home and tried to make him comfortable. In the car, he peed in my lap because he was terrified of the noises around us and I had to hug him so tight to give him a sense of security. I wanted to tell him everything would be okay but talking to him only confused him so I just hugged him. Mumma had to be at a conference that day so she got home late but when she saw his skinny little body she was disgusted. He was yellow rather than white and his legs were like matchsticks. She scolded me that I shouldn’t have gotten such a fragile and helpless puppy home because he might not survive looking at his condition. I didn’t want to think about that because I was already in love with him. A very close friend of mine suggested that I should name him Snoopy because he looks a little like him and I loved the idea. My little brother was now “Snoopy”.

Snoopy took almost a week to get used to me. I restricted interaction of other people with him because of his fragile state. Mumma hated looking at him at first but she slowly started accepting that he was going to be there so she didn’t say much. Rescued dogs need to be handled very carefully or it could affect their mental or emotional health. On the first day, I set up a small bed for Snoopy in my room and just let him lay there. He got up and crawled under the bed and slept in a corner so I carefully and gently put him back on his bed after an hour. I had to do this several times a day because he was used to sleeping on a hard floor and every time I put him back he would realise after a while that something was off and go back under the bed. It took me three days to get him used to it and a week for him to get used to me petting him while sleeping. He would flinch and get scared every time I would put a hand on him and just try to get away. It took a lot of time and effort for him to actually open up to me. He started playing with me and sleeping near my leg after two weeks.

While I was getting Snoopy used to me, I didn’t notice how Mumma had completely stopped getting scared or disgusted by him. I used to make Cerelac for him every day because he wasn’t allowed to eat anything else and I never asked my mom for help because I didn’t want to annoy her. One day, however, I woke up a little later than usual and freaked out because Snoopy’s breakfast time had passed so I jumped out of bed and rushed to the kitchen and in the living room I saw both of them. Mumma was sitting on the sofa drinking her tea while Snoopy was slurping at his food bowl peacefully and I was left standing there, surprised at what I was looking. I asked Mumma why she gave him food and she casually replied, “He was hungry and you were sleeping.” I went to the washroom and cried my eyes out because I was so happy! The woman who hated dogs and thought they were the biggest mistake on Earth was now very casually feeding Snoopy because he was hungry. That day I actually realised how much my mom had changed over the past few weeks.

I started to notice some little things then; how Snoopy would follow Mumma around like a lover-boy, how Mumma would sit on the sofa while Snoopy was lying near her feet in such a relaxed manner and how she would get worried if she couldn’t spot him. Soon, he refused to eat from the bowl unless Mumma would touch it. He would sit or lie down at the door of kitchen when she was making food and I was busy studying. I didn’t say anything and just noticed all of this quietly. She would keep reading articles on dogs and their care, asked all her friends who owned dogs about them, kept tabs on Snoopy’s Vet appointments and fed him his daily vitamins. Once, we had to go to my Badimamma’s (Grandmother) place to stay the night and when it came to who would take care of Snoopy, she immediately said, “Kyu? Mera beta bhi saath jayega! Usko kyu chorr ke jaun main?” (Why? My son will go with me. Why should I leave him with somebody else?) It was the first time she called him her son.

It’s been two years since we brought Snoopy home. He is now a complete spoilt brat who loves Mumma more than anybody and she loves him the same way. I believe that dogs have magical powers and they can make anybody love them without making much effort. Don’t you agree?

I have a lot of Snoopy stories and would love to share them if you’d be interested in reading them! Let me know!

 

Home Away From Home?

I’ve descended from a family of Refugees. My grandparents came to Delhi from Lahore, Pakistan during the Partition. I always knew this, never really gave it much thought. This Independence Day we had a family get-together, as always. My Badimamma(Nani) cooked for us, Badepapa(Nana) watched the news and made us listen to various speeches, my aunts and uncles chatted and my cousins and I hung out and had fun. We decided to make this Independence Day a little different so we all sat down in a circle and asked Badepapa what the Partition was really like since he was 11 years old at that time and remembers parts of it very clearly. Badimamma was just 5 years old at that time, she doesn’t remember much.

Badepapa explained to us his journey from Lahore to a small village in Punjab (he doesn’t remember the name) to Amritsar to Delhi. A Muslim man who knew them helped his family get to the border from where they continued to a relative’s house and then ended up in Amritsar in search of livelihood. They didn’t get any luck in Amritsar so one of their well-wishers in Delhi called them to the city to manage a small grocery store. So they moved to Delhi immediately but they had nowhere to live because all their belongings and money had been left behind in Lahore. Badepapa’s father decided that the family will take shelter in the Refugee Camps set up in Anand Parbat till they earn enough to buy their own place. The conditions were bad, the work was hard, the travel was tiresome but this didn’t coax his father into putting the children to work too. Badepapa and his siblings went to school every day with the motive to learn and one day be able to earn so much money so as to get all the comfort of a home that they longed for. I really admire this quality of my Great-Badepapa, the fact that even though times were tough and money was tight he didn’t succumb to the pressure and force his children to work.

Soon after, they purchased an apartment in Patel Nagar and all his children got married and had kids. The importance of education was ingrained in their brains, they made sure that their kids went to the best schools that they could afford and were good human beings. My Mom, has two siblings, a sister and a brother. She heads Muskaan, an NGO for differently-abled adults and my Masi(her sister) was a Hindi teacher before she left her job to look after her children’s education a few years ago. My Mamaji(Mom’s brother) is a Laparoscopic Surgeon, one of the best in Delhi. I’m not stating all of this to brag about my family but to show that the roots of their success actually lie in the fact that my Great-Badepapa stressed so much about the importance of education. Had he not done that, I wonder if my family would be the way it is right now.

Education is important for all of us but some of us need to work hard to get it. My Badepapa worked hard all those years with the support of my Great-Badepapa to get to the point where he could educate his own children. I consider myself very lucky, I was born in a family of literates and this enables me to enjoy the comforts that come with a good education. Everybody, however, is not that lucky. There are wars waging all over the world, emotional, physical, political, civil, etc, etc. People everywhere are being displaced from their homes all the time. There are tens of hundreds of Refugee Camps in and around Delhi at the present moment. With this huge amount of Refugees constantly moving and settling, there needs to be in place a better system for their education.

I believe that if you educate the woman of the family, you educate the whole family. I remember my Mom telling me stories about how my Badimamma would always help her and her sister and brother with their homework so that they never had to pay for extra tuition which saved them a lot of money. It was possible only because Badimamma had been enabled to study rather than work for money in her childhood. With all the money that they saved, they were all able to go to college and earn respectable degrees and also do further studies. Most of the Refugee families get sucked into the vicious cycle of earning money rather than educating their children. This is mainly because it’s an expensive world and survival is given more importance than living. If only they would understand that when they educate a child, the next generation of the family would be better off and live well.

The whole purpose for me to write this was to get through to people that education in emergency situations should be given utmost importance. It makes the world a little better place. It’s because giving education to even one child creates a ripple which keeps expanding. Just because my Great-Badepapa believed in the importance of children’s education, I sit here now with a laptop in my hand trying to make people understand why they should educate their children even in the hardest of times because it will help them evolve and bring them better times. I am so grateful to him and his elders that taught him these values and made it possible for me to sit and actually think about important issues.

I want to emphasise that it is possible to create a better world only if we educate our children and youth and teach them values that propagate positivity and curiosity.

Thank you for reading!