When you start walking on a path, you do not know how things might turn out to be later in the journey. All you can possibly do is to take some precautions after talking to those who walked similar journey in the past. While you walk that path, you do things that make you feel proud, and then there are things that leave you with regrets. However, there is always a lesson to be learnt for the future adventures. The point is, there always is a journey, and there always is a destination. It is upon us to decide what turns to make and how to long to hold on. But once you start a journey, you need to end it.
There she was! Young 8-year-old girl, whose world was the green forests, sunrise to give the light and moon to take it away. Day would pass in three phases – morning milk, afternoon lunch, and a dinner having limited variety that would vary only when the seasons changed and so did the crops on her farm. Life packaged with three other girls, living in the neighbourhood, a shrewd uncle with sons who shall later on carry on the legacy and her dear cows. Her grandmother lived it, her mother lived it and so shall she live it, as this was thought. Who knew she would play with her fate and reach into a city which would carry her in auto-rickshaws, where fruits came for money, where dal-chawal would come in so many variations, even without having the planets to change their orbital locations to change the crop seasons. The 8-year-old learnt how to cook, how to walk kilometers up and down in the mountains without carrying a water bottle around the neck and how to take out milk out of cow, cream out of milk and the ghee out of cream. It was the 3300 meters high land in the mountains that taught her how to live on ground. Forests were her schools and friends were the teachers. Soon the numbers started running faster. From 8 it reached to 16, when a 18-year-old young man, lean body, soft yet fixed eyes, green and black attire with a rifle around the waist entered the village after a vigilance mission-cum-training task over the mountain ranges. Little did she know that not only the army man entered the village, it was her life that was going to change too. Soon she saw herself in tears with mixed emotions of sadness and yet happiness seeping into her. Was it abnormal? To be happy to leave her only world? To leave her only parents, thought that’s the a common fact with most of the people?
Yes it was abnormal. But abnormal would soon become a normal life. For the first time, she climbed down the mountains in a Jeep that she would once wish to just sit in. For the first time she felt the mountains were getting bigger over her head and the wind not cold at all. For the first time she not only left her parents, and village but it was the first time she entered a place where there no cows, no girls, no mountains. Usually when a girl would get married in her village, the boy would be at least 20 years elder. But how could Kadambari have a younger, smarter, and no doubt a more handsome husband?
Delhi. They said this village was Delhi. She thought it after spending 5 days in the new home. But what kind of village was this? Where you had to pay for the raw materials which YOU would cook, for YOURSELF to feed YOUR family? Why was the family not having it own cow for pur milk rather than asking some other man for just a jar full of milk that was clearly mixed with water? And for god’s sake what was this man wearing on his wrists and put on the wall? 3 black coloured needles, and a weird sort of key that needed to be rotated till the time it would refuse to rotate further, and then magically the needles would start racing each other? The smallest one was the big fat guy who couldn’t run fast, and the tall lean needle was just like her husband always active and running.
He saw her one day staring at the instrument and told her it was a watch. She would ask what would it do, so he told our village is not as good as yours. We can not figure out how time flies and it is rather deceiving. The night would just not come as soon as it would in the mountains.
Soon she learnt how to read the time from this device for the imperfect villagers.
As time passed, they raised their first child. It was a daughter. Poor Kadambari turned dead blue. Girl. She gave birth to a girl. Her journey was going to end. She heard from her parents that in their village, one of the mothers was burnt alive for this crime. She started staying distant. Soon the family knocked on her door. Her time was now. the end. But was it?
“What happened to you? Were you not ready for a baby?”Asked her mother-in-law. Confused Kadambari mumbled a yes.
“Then why do you stay so depressed? Its your baby. She needs you. Why do you stay locked up the whole time?”
“Are you not going to kill me? Or burn me?”
Soon Kadambari thanked her God for being grateful for having a family that was not from her village. That forgave her and let her live.
Later that night, her husband explained her.
“Our village might be imperfect compared to yours, but it still lets people live! So because it is different, we call it sheher.” She mumbled the new word sheher and he started roaring in laughter seeing the innocent Kadambari.
The walk she made for her journey turned out to be a pleasant one. She took the right turn at the right point of time.
Everything went smoothly and she gave birth to a boy and three girls.
One day while rushing towards home, she hurriedly jumped off the bus. It turned out to be her wrong turn in life. For the rest of her life, her leg was mutated into a one that carried an iron rod and no piece of bone at all.
In those years, people with the iron rods were not believed to live longer because of the danger of infection. Myth of course, but Kadambari believed it. Believing that there were only few days or weeks or just months left in her life, she got the eldest daughter married hastily. Another wrong turn. The son-in-law turned out to be a drunkard with no permanent job to pay family bills. Although this made the eldest daughter strong enough to face the world and pick up a job independently, the lack of family life reduced her into a depression patient within 40 years of life.
There were younger sisters waiting in line, but their brother was still pursuing education. He wanted to pursue medical field, but it was a 6 year course. So the parents suppressed his interests and made him pursue a course that would take just 3 years and bring him field for helping his father run the family. Another wrong turn. The family turned out to be dysfunctional. The son stopped talking to the family for the rest of his life.
Around the same time, it so happened that fate decided to leave the family alone. News was there was new rods available that reduced the chances of any kind of infection for those who were operated for it. Though Kadambari lived through it, but the decisions she took, were already taken. There was no looking back.
So instead of looking back and cry her hearts out, she started mending things.
She would see her husband sit in the morning listening to BBC radio for news in an alien language. Soon she knew basic words and sentences in angrezi that was gifted by gorey angrez.
As time passed, Kadambari and her young army man husband turned old. She was with him when he had his second heart attack. He was taken to AIIMS hospital where the reapers were already ready to carry him to heavens. Well, they made it look like an accident, gave him a third attack, “unfortunately” the equipments had “suddenly” jammed and but by then it was time for the old yet strong army man to take his last walk, but on other people’s shoulders.
During his last years, he had turned extremely romantic and flirt with his old yet young and beautiful Kadambari. He would love milk, so when Kadambari would bring 2 glasses, he would quickly drink both glasses while she was away for changing, and when she would come he would say the parrot drank it or her glass fell off the table and he was loving enough to save her the trouble of cleaning the floor and did it himself!
As soon as he passes away, Kadambari lost a part of her. If he was gone, then what would she do in the world? But time healed some of the grief and made her believe that he was somewhere missing her too and very soon she would get to meet him.
On 8th October 2012, along with my birthday, it was her birthday too. Kadambari. My nani, maternal grandmother. 84 years complete, no memory loss, wakes up at 4 am, takes a morning walk, wakes up others, cooks herself when she feels like, keeps a track of time and news around the country, switches TV channels herself and dials phone numbers on her mobile phones. Sheher probably changed the way of her living, but gaon taught her living.
Last week my nani bought a new Samsung phone and called me telling about the new phone. Then she asked me to hand over the phone to my mother.
What she said was, “beta, my time is coming around soon. Visit your mother as frequent as you can. I want to be surrounded with as many people as I can. And bring the photographs of Pokhari (in Uttarakhand) which you clicked the last month. The ones that had my birthplace and the ladies you met. They were my childhood friends.”
I visited her today. She seemed much weaker than ever before. You know when a person is low on the life juice right? I know it too.
But somewhere I also know she doesn’t need it anymore either. Her army man is waiting in the skies somewhere, to play pranks on her again, and even though she would love them still she would fake an anger and make him love her even more!
Her journey is about to reach its final destination. She lived through it. Rather sailed through it. But one thing I learnt, just when you start thinking there is an end to your story, you will find one more ride, until it finally is your end.
Pride and regret. Part and parcel of the journey. So make your journey the way you want it to be.
P.S. Pray for Kadambari to be better off in her heaven.