I was travelling by ST (State Transport) bus with my Mom in the summer heat of May. The heat was so severe. I could feel the heat thrashing on my skin from the small gap in that closed window. My Mom was tired and had decided to sleep resting her head on my shoulders.
Isn’t it a proud moment? When your parents put their heads on your shoulders. I was feeling that joyous pride. Only for this short bus ride, but I was glad that I was able to do something for my Mom. While my mom on the other side had changed all our lives completely within a span of a day.
Ticket checker came and I took two tickets to Madhapur. Ahmedabad to Madhapur. We were coming back from the longest trip that I had ever had; But it had been a satisfying trip nonetheless. Mumbai to Ahmedabad in train and now a road trip to my village.
I didn’t know how far my village still was. I was feeling sleepy now. I took a sip of water from a plastic bottle that read “BISLERI”. For the first time in my life we had purchased a mineral water bottle. And let me tell you- it tastes like heaven.
I wanted to sleep but I didn’t want to miss our stop. So I tried to stay awake. On my right side was an old man. He too wasn’t able to sleep in this extreme heat. He was reading a book named India after Gandhi. This book took me to the trip of my memories.
At my home, there are three of us. My mom, my dad and me. My dad is a farmer and has been working hard on the field his whole life. My mom didn’t work. But she was the most educated person in our family. She had studied till 11th standard. She wanted to study more but her wedding happened and she had to drop out. Still, she didn’t let her curiosity die. Whenever she was free, she would read a book. She used to read till late in the night and I could never understand why she used to do that.
In fact, she was the one who had pushed the Sarpanch of our village to build a library. And I wouldn’t be lying if I say that she was the only person who used to visit it on a consistent basis.
Every night, she would cook for us and serve us dinner. And after dinner, I would clean all the utensils while my mom would be sitting by my side reading. I hated this. I checked the name of the book. She was reading “India after Gandhi”.
Well had anyone asked me how India was after Gandhi, I wouldn’t have had any positive opinion to share. It was all bad. Look at us I would say. We aren’t getting enough food to survive and there was no light visible at the end of the tunnel.
Every day we would think that this would be the worst day of our life and nothing could be worse than this. But then guess what- tomorrow will come and I will have to change my stand.
I was irritated. I couldn’t control the urge to ask. So I did.
“Why are you reading this?”
“Well, I found this book from our village library and just wanted to see what it was about.”
I guessed she didn’t get my question correctly. I asked again. This time I emphasized on why.
“WHY are you reading, Mom? It’s not like it is going to change our lives. You aren’t going for work. Even if you read or not, we are bound to be here where we are right now.”, and I slapped the plate on the floor and kept moving my hands to clean the leftovers on it.
She understood my question finally and replied.
“Well, I am not reading so that I can go for work someday. It’s just that I feel that we should be aware of what is happening in the world. It gives me a hope to a possibility of a better world for you. For us. It helps me see better dreams about your future when I am sleeping at night.”
That answer didn’t help me at all. I hastily looked away from her. And saw a firewood was still burning.
I wondered whether this firewood would be happy knowing that it was burning to feed a family of three? Would knowing it make that firewood happy? Would knowing that help it be satisfied? If it knew it- would it burn even longer? Even brighter?
Did that wood know that burning itself now was of no use and it should rather stop than hurting itself.
She continued. “Whenever I get some free time, I open a book and learn something new about our culture, our nation and our world. Do you want to know something interesting about the history of our Gujarat?”
“NOOO.”, I shouted. The utensils were done and I was not a fan of the ongoing conversation. I just stood up and went inside our one-room-one-kitchen home.
The bus had crossed the highway and had entered the internal parts of Kutch district. The uneven roads were kind in helping me move out of my memories. I took the kerchief out of my pocket to wipe the sweat of my face. Truly speaking, I knew it wasn’t only sweat. My eyes were leaking too.
TC passed by. I called him and requested him to let us know when we reach Madhapur. He looked at my Mom and then me. He nodded and left from there.
Knowing that TC was going to wake us up, I decided to close my eyes and sleep. I took another sip from my bottle and was about to sleep when I saw TC looking at us from three rows ahead.
In usual case, it would have felt awkward. But this case- it wasn’t honestly. He was switching his look from me and my mom. Seeing a visible confusion on his face, I smiled.
He put his bag aside and walked towards me.
“Isn’t she….?”, he stuttered pointing at my Mom. My wonderful Mom.
I was smiling. I took out my kerchief again to wipe my eyes.
I knew what it was. But sometimes it is good to play along when your time is right. And for someone like me or my family, such opportunities didn’t come every now and then. So I kept a confused look on. My mom was still sleeping. He kept looking at her and then me and then back to her.
“Isn’t she the one who won 1 Crore on Kaun Banega Crorepati last week?”
“Yes. She is.”, a proud daughter said.
I looked up at the sky and silently thanked the God for what he did for my family.
When I think now, India after Gandhi is not that bad either.
-Arjuna@War (Parth Shah)