Father of a Firefighter

It has been 1 month, 7 days and 2 hours since that day. I still remember the picture of it. Every image, every second was like a knife pierced into my heart. I couldn’t bear it. I gaped for fresh air. I wouldn’t necessarily expect you to understand how it felt, the heart wrenching pain. Maybe you’ll listen to it like another one of the tragedies you hear during the course of your life and then forget. I won’t blame you. But even as I type with these trembling old fingers of mine, I still think my son deserves this. He deserves to be heard. He deserves to be known. People need to listen to his story. And if while finishing the last line you’re filled with remorse, I wouldn’t blame you either. I still shiver at the thought.

 

Back in 1968, we lived in the bustling town of Estbush, a small town with a welcoming air. We had our home just a few miles away from the street market. A small cottage with a comforting essence, it was the shade of red. Red because my wife, Holly loved it. And during the construction I had made sure that it was a perfect present for her, furnishing every detail about her choices and reflecting every little thing she loved. Jim was born in this very cottage. It feels like yesterday when I used to watch him play in the backyard. The sounds still echo my head when Holly used to thunder on Jim for covering the floor with prints of his muddy feet. I used to sparkle when I saw him play. I waited anxiously to come home from work to get embraced by his eager felicity to see me.

 

Funny how I abhor the sight of the backyard now. How the once blooming daffodils are a pile of dried petals. How during the bleak winters the ground is enveloped in a cascade of snow and there’s no one to take care of it.

 

Time flapped its wings too fast. I couldn’t tell when I was watching him toss his toy-firefighter he adored, and the next day he’s standing in the church, watching his wife come down the aisle. Janet was a very sweet, loving and a respectful daughter-in-law. I couldn’t ask for a better wife for my Jim. She understood him way more than I did. Jim grew up to be a handsome young man. Tall, well-built, and of course, the exceptionally unique emerald eyes he got from his mother. Janet was equally beautiful. The people in town often called it a match made in heaven and tried to be as modest as I could.

 

I take a glance of the empty room I’m sitting in. In the corner of the room, there’s a dusty piano covered in white cloth. My room is dark and dingy most of the time. Except for the daily hour when Janet comes to draw the shades for some sunlight to sneak in. Rest of the day, the room is dark, rather it always has an air of staleness.

 

Jim was an ambitious man, right from the beginning. He was good at everything he did. Whether it was helping Holly and Janet in the kitchen or fixing the old rusty second hand truck he had bought. Whether it was fishing or a game of cards, he was the best among us. We sure didn’t have a sumptuous lifestyle, or wealth to be pompous about, but what we did have was happiness, contentment and peace. And of course, a family which is a privilege denied to many. One specific thing that Jim was always passionate about, since childhood, was becoming a firefighter. He had something in him that always urged him to help people. Get them out of hopeless situations. Bravery and valor was always his forte. But unfortunately, he couldn’t become one. He did not tell us the exact reason and never really talked about it. And we never raised the topic.

 

In the summer of 1994, the weather conditions went really bad. There was a thunderstorm almost every alternate day. A tornado had hit close to our town. The weather reports claimed that it was the most violent of tornadoes in the past 5 years. At the time the tornado hit the outskirts of our town we were returning from a local carnival. Jim was driving. We were aware of the unrest and complete disorientation that prevailed all around by the news on the radio. It was raining heavily. We were passing by the town hospital when there was a blast behind us. It shook our car and it went screeching in every direction. The window had broken and rain entered our car blocking Jim’s vision. Fortunately, we were safe, as Jim had hit the brakes on time.

 

We stepped out of the car and witnessed a blazing and luminous ball of fire emerging from the hospital building. We could see several fire trucks and police cars. Numerous jets of water being injected in the building, but the fire seemed inevitable. Sounds of sirens and wailing could be heard. Ambulances carrying people away. I had not seen a more deadly and horrifying sight in my life. Suddenly, Jim started telling us to leave. He ordered us to get back in the car. Since Estbush was a small town there were less firemen and the situation demanded more. He had decided to help. We cried and pleaded him not to go. But he had made his decision. I wonder if he had even heard me in the constant claps of thunder and the loud noise of rainfall and the utter confusion.

 

I dropped Holly and Janet home, and made my way back to the hospital. I saw Jim gearing up in a yellow suit and without wasting any minute he went inside the building. My heart leaped and beat rigorously against my chest. He was assumed to be an official as he wore the uniform. In the absolute chaos, no one got to know he was a civilian. Black smoke came out of the fiery building. Every second was like an year. Despite the rain the fire was ablaze. The smoke was choking and the air around was damp but it hurt the lungs like needles piercing through.

 

Jim came out with a man half-burnt on his shoulders. He was screaming with pain. The sight was terrifying. He handed the man carefully to the officials and again went inside. I almost felt like pulling him back but I was helpless. As soon as Jim went in, there was another blast. A strong wave of heat swept the area. I was appalled. I swear to God, I couldn’t have been more frightened. More fire trucks came. More jets of water. Another man was rescued from the second floor. The Head of the team ordered the firefighter’s to recede. Several of them came out. But the one who rescued the man from the second floor could not come out. The building was going down. People shouted for him to jump, but he couldn’t. There was no escape. The building collapsed. The fire was brought under control. It had finally extinguished. I ran further too see where Jim was. But I couldn’t see him. I was blanched with fear.

 

I ran up to every face. Questioned every person. Yelled. Cried, and almost died out of remorse. I was unwilling to accept what had happened, still incredulous. I hoped he would be among the countless firemen I saw. But he wasn’t. I fell down on my knees, almost out of breath. I wailed at the top of my lungs, his image in my mind. People came running towards me, helping me to regain my posture, trying to comfort me. But where was comfort now? They didn’t even know the man that was inside.

 

When the storm passed and situations normalized, every firefighter that died was given a proper, respectable funeral. But there was no grave for my son. Jim. My Jim, who didn’t even have second thoughts before risking his life for others. He who could have easily gone home and watch the scenario on television, chose to fight and help people. No one came to know about the sacrifice of my son. No one recognized it.

 

You may now understand the pain I have residing inside me. This intense lump in my throat. Janet, who was once the Goddess of cheer, barely speaks now. She has lost all her spark. And sometimes, I hear her quiet sobs as she weeps at night. I’m writing this for the local newspaper as I need the people of Estbush to know this story. I need them to know, that my son was a brave man, who saved the lives of many. Whose death deserves to be respected or at least be known.

 

It’s almost dusk, and the crickets can be heard now. My tired eyes and old fingers have done their job of telling you the story. I don’t ask you to drop by flowers on his grave everyday but I can only pray now, and hope that when you hear of Jim, you realize his worth or at least have a small notion of the pain and anguish of this helpless, hopeless and proud Father of a Firefighter.

Incredible India

“Jai! Did you call the electrician in the morning? If you haven’t then do it this instant, there’s work to be done for God’s sake!!” said the broad shouldered, handsome and brown eyed dad of two talented teenagers. Ma could be seen working in the kitchen with the maid. So many delicacies had to be prepared. One could hear the slow crackling of Jeera in the vessel and the white washed walls of the house were consumed by the ravishing smell of Indian spices.

The halwai was comfortably seated in the backyard, simmering ghee for the preparation of sweets-to be offered to the God’s and Goddesses. Ganesh and Laxmi to be precise.

DIWALI was around the corner. In the mornings almost every house was showered with paint and white-wash, cleaning each and every corner of their homes, dusting and wiping off the dirt for the ‘Grand Festival.’ And the evenings comprised of electricians embellishing the houses with fancy lights, making them scintillate and glimmer, vibrant colors like that of a newly wed Indian bride.

It’s festivities like these that make me sit back and marvel at how amazing my country truly is. How much love and celebration we have. How each and every occasion is celebrated with love and colors! In this mundane and monotonous lifestyle of humans, it is imperative to have a break. It is absolutely necessary to lay down and be jubilant! And what is better than festivals to do so?

Since I’m incredibly fortunate to have followers from so many different countries, I feel it is my job to let them know where I come from and what extraordinary surprises my country dwells. So I’m going to take you all down this ride, and try my best to make you see and experience things from my eyes.

So above I just gave a brief introduction of the innumerable preparations that precede one of the countless festivals in India called- Diwali. Why I’m emphasizing on Diwali?

Because, my dear followers, it is my absolute favorite festival and has managed to retain this position since the day the four year old me saw those electric lights festoon the walls of my house, blinking towards me, on-off-on-off, I still remember I gazed at them like they were a miracle created by man. And I confess that even after 18 years I still am the first person to scamper to the terrace and proudly switch ‘ON’ those beautiful, glistening LIGHTS and just stare at them with wonder.

To give you all a slight idea, this is how a house looks on the eve of Diwali, after the complete decoration. 🙂

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Lovely, right?

And now the question pops up, why am I writing about a festival all of a sudden? Answer is, because the first week of October marks the beginning of our festivals. With Dussehra on October 4th following Durga Puja which precedes the majestic Diwali on October 23rd.

And because of the absolutely amazing blog friend that I am, for you all, I will be posting pictures from all the carnivals that I visit, all the rides I scream on, all the various places I go, all the shopping I do, and all the preparations that will be made at my own home and then will give you snapshots of the whole procedure of the worship of our deities.

1 week before Diwali I will tell you the story of why Diwali is actually celebrated (unless you google it-please don’t, I really want to narrate).

And on the final evening of Diwali, the sky is studded with lights making the stars seem pale. The night sky is ornamented with golden jewellry and it feels like the night is dancing and twirling, seemingly happy from looking irrevocably beautiful that particular night. The houses are decorated with the finest centerpieces and lamps, diyas and chandeliers. Candles are lit at every nook and corner of the house. So many lights, isn’t it? Did I tell you that it is also called ‘The Festival of Lights?’ Anyway, I’ll talk vividly about that 1 week before Diwali. 🙂

One can hear the low whistle of a rocket someone launched somewhere far, and countless people get to relish its sparks and luminescence. The slow rumble of a cracker or just the laughter of friends and family celebrating and spreading the joy.

 

An example of how the sky looks that one night on October:

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Magnificent isn’t it?

Every year I do not fail to go on my terrace alone-in the rush hour of  Diwali-and just stare at the sky and somewhere inside silently thank the almighty for making me witness such a breathtaking view. Definitely for making me an Indian and most important of all, for these exuberant festivals he has blessed us with, which restore my faith in humanity and sometimes a soft wind brushes my hair-that’s God saying ‘You’re Welcome.’

Nominated for: Sisterhood of the World Bloggers Award.

Okay, so blogging couldn’t get any more awesome for me! Nominated for yet another award “Booyeah!” 😀 So firstly, thank you so much Alicia for nominating me, I’m heartily grateful. Do check out her blog as well, she’s an amazing photographer. 🙂

http://motleyprints.wordpress.com/

Honestly, it’s little things and encouragements like these that keep us bloggers motivated and going. I always feel giddy whenever I get some recognition for my work, and this time is no different. So, ‘Yaayy Me!’

 

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The Guidelines:

Thank and link the person who nominated you. Add the award to your post and site. Answer 10 questions provided to by the person nominating you. Provide 10 questions of your own to be answered by those you nominate. Nominate your bloggers for the award. (AND comment on their blogs to inform them.)

10 Questions I’m required to answer-:

1.)What is your favorite color and why?

Well, I have to say Black. I know you might think of it as ominous or dark or well .. ghastly. But c’mon, black is like the king of colors. Be it a sumptuous Gala dinner or a funeral-it goes well with all the occasions plus, it suits me a lot.

2.) What is your happiest childhood memory?

I have to say every moment spent with my best friend is a happy memory. 🙂 (We are BFF’s since childhood)

3.)If you could travel anywhere where would it be and why?

You know, I don’t want to limit myself to one place. I want to travel the whole wold, from the packed streets of New York to the serene sidewalk of Paris. Every nook and corner.

4.)What hobbies do you enjoy?

*Hands Up* I confess I’m a pretty versatile person when it comes to hobby. Which means that I LOVE SINGING AND MUSIC-I would practically die without my playlist and also love art and craft. I enjoy watching football and also READING. I would quietly spend my whole life in a library.

5.)What is your least favorite food?

Hmm. *LEAST* favorite food, well, I hate broccoli, Ridged gourd and Bitter Gourd. *Tries not to throw up*

6.)If you were given $10,000 today, what would you do with it?

Pack my bags, take my best friend and go on a vacation. Somewhere remote and peaceful.

7.)Which flower do you feel best describes you?

Orchids. They are colorful and lively.

8.)Puppies or kittens?

Puppies any day!

9.)Which season is your favorite and why?

WINTER! WINTER! WINTER! Why? Well, I published an entire post about this! There’s something eerily magical and tempting about the smoothness of the snow and the soft chilly winds. *Drools*

10.)If you could swap lives with a celebrity, who would it be and why?

Danneel Harris Ackles. WHY? Because she’s the wife of the hottest man on Earth-Jensen Ackles.

 

10 QUESTIONS FOR MY NOMINEES:

1) What is the one thing that you would or would not want to change about yourself.

2)Confess something daring about yourself.

3)What superpower would you want to have?

4)If you ever got the chance to meet me, would you?

5)Who inspires you the most?

6)What is your favorite ice-cream flavor?

7)Where do you see yourself 10 years from now?

8)Mountains or Plains?

9)What is that one particular thing you’re scared of the most? (Be Honest)

10)What do you think about my blog and why do you follow it?

Will be looking forward to your answers! 🙂

 

And now with great pleasure I nominate:

Debi Rotmil of http://orderofthegoodwrite.wordpress.com/ 🙂

Lena Bitare of http://lenanoid.wordpress.com/ 🙂

and,

booksiedasie of http://booksiedaisie.wordpress.com/

Have Fun! 😀

 

Carpe diem.

For the first time in my life, I found myself tremendously shaken and effected to my very bones by a movie. I love watching movies, but they come and leave like stars at nightfall. None of them manages to cast such an ample amount of effect or rather magic on me like this one did. The last time I felt this emotionally rich was when I finished reading One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez. I just sat there, with my book on my lap, staring at the wall. And after a long time the incident recurred, but this time to my own surprise, by a movie.

I sometimes feel incredibly sad for today’s generation. Being a part of it has brought me many perks, of course, but I couldn’t be more glad to the sheer wisdom of these beautiful rectangular friends called books who saved me from turning into a robot of flesh and bones. The reason I express my sadness and disappointment is I no more find young generation reading Poetry. They don’t see any beauty in it. They don’t see the grace and art, the intense emotions, they don’t understand love, romanticism, nature. To my horror, some of my friends also think of poetry as boring. I feel so privileged to be a part of an era THIS ignorant and still being intensely and strongly connected to words.

The movie DEAD POETS SOCIETY is an American Drama film released in 1989 starring Robin Williams (Bless His Soul). The story is a very moving tale of how an English teacher at a very rigid, conservative and aristocratic school called Welton Academy inspires students through poetry. He teaches them to extract lessons from each and every verse. Asks them to live life as ‘freethinkers’ and to always look at life from their perspective. He implores the students to read poetry and not understand it from the poet’s mindset, but from their own young, invincible minds.

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I kept taking notes the entire movie. What a brilliant way it has connected poetry with life. How artistically the movie has exhumed the beauty that got buried as time passed, under pillars of rigid and passionless education.The message conveyed is remarkable. In the very first class that John Keating (Robin Williams) takes, he introduces  the students with the verse:

‘Gather ye rosebuds while ye may: Old time is still a-flying; And this same flower that smiles today: Tomorrow will be dying.’

and then tells about the Latin term for these sentiments, ‘Carpe Diem’ or ‘Seize The Day.’ He further asks “Why does the writer use these lines?” and then explains, “Because we are food for worms lads, because believe it or not each and every one of us in this room is one day gonna stop breathing, turn cold and die.” And so he asks everyone to make the best of what they have, live life and find their deepest passions. He quotes Walt Whitman,

“That you are here—that life exists and identity,
That the powerful play goes on, and you may contribute a verse.”

and asks the students,

“What would your verse be?”

The students become so moved by his teachings that they decide to revive the ‘Dead Poets Society’ to which Keating formerly belonged when he was a student at Welton Academy. They begin to understand poetry. To drink and fill up their souls with verses pure and wise. Keating tells them that they didn’t just read poetry, they let it drip from their tongues like honey.

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Through him the students at Welton Academy started daring. Daring to follow their passions and to accomplish something more than just grades. To not exist but to live! And lastly Keating taught each one of us that we didn’t read and write poetry because it was cute, we  read and write poetry because we were members of the human race, and the human race is filled with passion. I won’t disclose the ending, but I would say this movie made my heart brim with emotions so intense that the heaven peeked down on Earth to see what it was that made my soul so powerfully shaken: leaving me in a pool of warm, happy tears.

So my one request to all those who read this, to all those who may or may not appreciate poetry, to all those bodies where there lies that little spark of passion waiting to ignite, watch this movie. It may change your perspective about life.

So don’t you sit upon the shore line and say you’re satisfied, choose to chance the rapids and dare  to dance the tide.

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Carpe Diem my friends. Seize The Day! Make your life extraordinary!

Superheroes.

There’s this band called ‘The Script’ I don’t know if you all have heard of it, but please do listen to their songs, they’re incredible. So last night, I came to know about the new album they are launching this month. As I had been following them for a while , I couldn’t stop myself from listening to their very first single from this album- ‘Superheroes.’

Wait! Stop right there! NO! Stop thinking of Spiderman or Superman!  Better. Reason why I’m specifically writing about this song is that finally, after what feels like centuries and in this alarmingly increasing era of ‘twerk’ and ‘swag’ there is a song that is euphonious and makes sense. Both the video and the song are intertwined, leading the listener and the viewer towards the beautiful conclusion it carries.

I’ll explain the message of the song (or at least what I took out from it) in the form of a story-:

Yet another morning, my alarm clock blazed a neon 4:00 am. I woke up hearing the fresh chatter of birds. Still sluggish and tired I crawled out of my sheets. Opening my cupboard I made the choice of what to wear between the only two suits I possessed. I went for the grey one and was about to leave but stopped mid-way after seeing that he was awake. “Hey Brandon.” I said to my 7 year old son “I’m going to work, take care of yourself and be the good boy you are.”

He nodded. Brandon never really knew what I did for a living. I guess he only knew that I worked hard and with insurmountable honesty. I saw it in his eyes and in the gleam of pride he felt every time I brought a toy for him from work (if I found one). He traced my steps outside and waved once, I smiled.

And then everything was the same. I reached my area of work. Found a clean spot and changed to a plastic suit. The last thing I wanted was my few possessions getting spoilt. I jolted my way to the heap I was assigned to. And after a few minutes, I was there. Between large stacks of garbage. I was not exactly a garbage collector, my job was even worse. I had to find all the re-usable objects from that stinking pile of trash. Everyday in the early morning the cranes unloaded their filth on us, and we worked till evening, trying to procure the most, after all the garbage was where the bread came from.

I sometimes find something that my son would love. Perhaps a toy soldier with a broken arm or a missing head. That’s all I could manage for a present. And every evening while returning home I find my son waiting for me on the bridge and I sway him up in the air. We laugh and we giggle and talk about how each of our days went. For awhile we forget about everything and walk our way home. Sometimes even buy an ice-cream. It’s always the same. And every night when I crawl in my bed I’m once again struck by the realization of things that lie ahead. What lies for my son. But I close eyes with the final thought that I’m not giving up. Not until I’m alive.

This is exactly what the song explains. A superhero doesn’t necessarily require a red cape or a flying car, he can be anyone. He can be a little girl who helps someone cross the road. He can be a friend who helps tutor you. He can be your teacher who’s chidings make you tough as a marble. He can be a brother protecting his sister or a grandfather teaching his granddaughter to ride a bike.

A superhero can be YOU yourself. When you rescue yourself from something hopeless or you learn to  find a way. You become a hero. You teach yourself and you understand your soul, your very existence. You find your true self and start living with a new zeal. You give a present to yourself.

And lastly, the superheroes who brought you to this world. The people who’s soul existence lies in your happiness and the people who’d work their best to give you the life you want and deserve- your parents. They are the real superheroes. The ones truly worthy of claiming the title. The one who deserve WAY more than they get.

“When you’ve been fighting for it all your life,
You’ve been struggling to make things right,
That’s how a superhero learns to fly.”

Ladies and Gentlemen, presenting the song ‘Superheroes’ by The Script.

Meditation On Wheels.

Dreaming of Riding High In The Skies - Painting by Gallery of Dreams & Colors.
Black color with thin streaks of grey. Not a single bump (obliged to myself) still carries the grace and esteem of a newly bought, fibre bodied, irrevocably loved two-wheeler. Though I don’t quite look back to the day it arrived at my front porch in the summer of 2009 , all shining and immaculately polished, like a knight in shining armor, ready to barge on the short-noticed wars of life, okay, maybe a quick run to the grocery store. (I LOVE cheese and nachos, so … you get the drill?) The reason being, it was initially bought for my brother. So he was the one who got to ride it. (Perks of being the elder sibling).

We needed to carpool to school. Although dad was always willing to give us a ride (we did it for 6-7 years, surely we could manage another 2?) but considering the responsible kids our parents had, we decided to switch to ‘self-dependent-broad shouldered-two awesome kids on a scooter-ready to take down the world’ version of us.

While my brother rode that amazing thing, I gazed greedily everyday weaving day-dreams of the day I get to ride it myself. When my brother left for college, I was officially handed over the keys with the huge responsibility of always protecting the scooter, riding it safely and dutifully, and not letting IT affect my grades. It’s been almost 3 years since I’ve been riding my exceptionally suave Honda Dio and apart from a minor displacement on my number-plate, I can say I carried on my duties well.

What it took me a while to realize was that my scooter had very slowly and surreptitiously become an  imperative part of my life. As it is I didn’t go anywhere without it, reason being I had no other option (not a rich girl with a chauffeur-Gah!) and second, more important reason being that I preferred being independent and third of course, I love to ride my scooter.

As and when I got more practiced and efficient as a driver, I started .. well ..how to put it ..being more reluctant. Not in a reckless eccentric way, but more as ‘I know the gig’ way.

Speaking of now, the only place where I find my cogitative meter booming and sometimes breaking the limit and lashing in the sky is when I’m driving. My mind is literally thinking in the most poetic and thoughtful way. It observes and reacts, concludes and takes obscure notes of all the various activities passing by me like a whirlwind, storing them in some remote corner of my mind. I see everything differently. The wind brushing ferociously against my skin suddenly becomes a career of messages, laughs and sobs of people from distant lands. The rigid, charcoal road becomes a pathway of life, a stairway to heaven. I see station-guards, still drowsing from the insatiable slumber ready to take their morning shift, cycling their way to the railway station.

I see little kids laughing and marching their way to the local schools, jubilant and oblivious of anything but them. I see leaves swaying in a haphazard motion, as if shedding off their sleep and asking the mortal man to rise, waggling and shaking themselves along with the wind.

I confess I’ve been very close to accidents, though nothing harmful ‘worth mentioning’ has happened to me. I guess mother nature has taken up the job to protect me.

Sometimes I cannot help but wonder-Why do I have to be so weird? Why can’t I relate the gentle falling of a leaf with gravity? Why do I have to find hidden, deeper meanings in everything and lead myself into the unfathomable universe of poetry? Or maybe, just maybe, those hidden meanings come to me. Without me realizing it? Reserving answers to be useful in the fickle future. Whatsoever the reason may be, I don’t mind being the way I am, be it having a permanent craving for Chinese food or reflecting over the wonders of life – On Wheels.

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“So I guess we are who we are for a lot of reasons, and maybe we’ll never know most of them.”

– Stephen Chbosky.