Sunday, April 17, 2011

The Angels

We had been waiting for them. All preparations had been made by my team of very fine teachers and officers. Our effort was to make arrangements with all sensitivity as to make our tiny little young guests feel comfortable as a matter of course and not for the asking. I was wondering how would they -being in age group of 6-14 manage away from home but I was told that their parents/ teachers would be there in ratio of 1:1 on an average and it was comforting. While overseeing arrangements for their arrival was shocked to find the whole system utterly unfriendly to my esteemed guests with little or no provision of ramps, unruly stair cases, distant bathrooms and high headed drinking water posts. Even our schools were not found to be equipped to make comfortable our special guest children coming to participate in the third tournaments for the children with special needs. They were to come from all over the state so our first and foremost priority was that they should have neat,clean, safe and healthy stay and hygienic, tasty food while with us. And lo! they arrived descending from the buses in twosome, threesome and I saw, in a row of over ten students each one holding the other one from the back shoulder led and followed by a guardian/ teacher. They were spirited, beaming,excited to be in a strange land.
Some of them were using plain sticks as crutches to move, some just hand on the knee but their speed was amazing, their zeal to quickly do things something to marvel at.
Sadly, we had not anticipated that the tables we had laid for them would not be a friendly serving either. At the spur of the moment, mats on floor were laid to seat them, plates brought from gurudwara and we all were there serving in langar/bhandara mode!! My angels were so disciplined, standing in rows and taking seats quietly when available.
Soon a circle of mutual appreciation seemed to have built up and a group of children came with a notebook in their hands with questions scribbled: what's your name? What's your job?
Where do you live?
My heart went out to them on seeing their mute questions. we were soon getting photographed together !
During the time of serving of meals while I was standing there awed by the hundreds of live symbols of fortitude and resilience, suddenly a row of children of Bhiwani started bending to touch my feet much to my discomfiture and I was unable to hold back my tears -neither could I stop them nor let them, I struggled but hugged each of them blessing.
In one out of four venues where activities were being organised, a child was crying miserably , I went near her, hugged her and wanted to make her comfortable. Offered her some sweets and I was about to leave and saw her crying again gesturing she wanted me to be sitting with her!!
And how they ran on the track-with sticks as crutches, on wheel chairs or spreading their hands in front and running ! I wish all the children ,wherever such sports events take place, must watch for only seeing is believing what 'we shall overcome' means literally despite odds, barriers, disabilities!!
The two days that the angels were with us were different from the rest of the days. Most of the time my eyes were tear soaked -no..not out of any sense of bechargi, sympathy but out of overflowing admiration and appreciation for what my angels showed unknowingly, without a sense of 'display'.We may thank our stars on seeing them that we are not them but I realised in those two days of the Special Sports for the Children With Special Needs that we often miss out on something which they possess abundantly- that there is no choice except to succeed,the never-say-die spirit to overcome, to prove, to be despite anything and everything and above all the ability to smile simply, purely the divine smile. They are angels of hope for sure.
Jai Ho.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Hamara Abohar

'Country roads, take me home, to the place I belong…country roads'  (John Denever)

After a span of twenty one long years I happened to be in my home town for eleven days (shagun element unintended) as my Ma had a 'sankalpa' for performing an 'anushthan' there at the place has always been so much a part of us all not just because its our 'janmbhoomi' but also because of the all pervasive ' fitartan ikhlaq' that makes Abohar a very special place. Till 1989 that I was in F.C.College, Hisar and the summer vacations were spent with Ma in Abohar but after joining the services it was for the first time that I had taken earned leave to be in Abohar by my Ma's side and partake in preparations for the prestigious Srimad Bhagwat Katha by renowned Swami Avdheshanad Ji.

It was amazing to see the growth, the prosperity of the people if the number of four wheeler luxury vehicles and congestion on main road is any indication. The ever increasing number of shops swarming the narrow street lanes was shocking but bespoke of 'samriddhi' nevertheless.

While walking through the streets, I could not resist the temptation of peeping into Arya Putri Pathshala premises where I studied upto fifth class and I found myself literally feeling the earth we trod. I was reminded of how I had been punished with a stick on the back because I had scored much less than my sister Archana used to in General Science. The painful memory of the day when result was announced for fourth class also flashed before my eyes and I was bracketed first with Saroj having scored 165/200 yet half a mark from my aggregate was deducted as I played 'kanchas' with boys-a taboo for students of Putri Pathshala. I was so hurt because it was openly announced in the assembly. That was perhaps the day when I had resolved not to ever play again 'kanchas' or 'gilli danda'.

Ms Ajinder, our Punjabi teacher in Govt. Girls School, Abohar met me one day after the Katha session. She taught us Farid, Bulle Shah, Shah Hussain and Amrita Pritam with such passion !! Her recital of : ‘ajj aakhan waris shah nu, kite kabran wichon bol’ still reverberates. I touched her feet, she hugged me and reminded me of my maiden speech on stage that I had forgotten midway but she quoted from it and said : Sumedha, 'yadi asantosh na hota to pragti na hoti'. I enquired from her about her sister Balwinder who had scribbled once on my notebook a line: 'mukk jandi e samen de naal dil di khalbali' and how I wanted to tell that she was wrong.

Had an opportunity to meet a number of my teachers and class mates in school or college that I had studied in. It was very kind and generous of them to have cared to come and meet me-Rajbala, Neelima, Renu, Urvashi, Sarita, Madam Usha Kiran, Shashi Bala-all are so very pious, full of affection, pure hearted. They are the people who belonged to the golden era. Meeting them again at the same place was so very blissful and overwhelming. I visited a friend (Manju)'s parents in Anar gali-the place that was frequented by us daily for playing table tennis as her Papa had put TT table at home to encourage his children learn and practice the game earnestly. Manju's mom hugged me and during the span of the hug what was melting was the intervening years, all their pains and agonies and ensuing joy of meeting once again in this very life time. Uncle also showed me the family tree they had made to introduce all siblings with their photos and names scribbled therein.

My Abohar has always been epitome of the purest joy-simple, plain, filling, unconditional affection and love. The route that takes me to Abohar has indescribable healing power. My Ma was on dias to thank everybody.She said: we have always got so much of love and respect from Abohar; we also love Abohar. True, we now live in Kurukshetra ‘par hum jahan bhee hain, khush hain kyunki saara hindustan hamara hai'.