Friday, June 25, 2010

Real Courage


It was yet another cold depressing evening in early December that year. She stood by the kitchen fire in her small two room home, reluctantly cooking some food which was to be her dinner. Reluctantly because she wasn't really interested in eating. For she was all alone - in the house that was small, and empty. She was all alone and lonely and that made her sad...

This winter the whole day was depressing, the evenings even more so. Like during every winter this year too, she sat each day on the cot laid out in the front veranda of her house, right under the bright warm afternoon sun. She sat and did what she had been doing for years. She sat and knitted. She knitted sweaters and dabbled off and on with crochet. Her fingers were old and wrinkled but they moved the needles with such speed that they seemed but a blur...

But there was something missing this winter. Her two sons, both officers in the Army, had not returned home for their regular two month annual leave. When her sons came for their annual leave those two months were the only time when her house seemed to come alive. This year it was not to be...

She had sent three sons into the Army.And had already lost one son many years ago.But she understood the power of faith in the Almighty and devotion to duty towards the Motherland. She was proud to be the mother to two more brave Officers who were now serving the Nation as its devoted soldiers.

Her instincts however told her that something this year was terribly wrong. Something serious enough for her two sons not returning home for their leave.

That evening just as she had begun to settle her tired old frame onto her bed and in between the quilts she heard a knock on her door. It was a violent banging of the door, suggesting a certain sense of urgency. When she opened the door, she saw policemen. Why did she have her lights on? Didn't' she know that there was 'black out' in the entire city of Dehra Dun? War had broken out between India and Pakistan this earlier in the evening.

The realization dawned on her in a few seconds. Her heart sank when she fully understood the implications of the news she had just heard. THIS was the reason why her two sons hadn't returned home for their annual leave. Their leave had been cancelled in view of the developing situation along the frontiers of the Country. And now - it was quite clear that they were in the thick of the war !

An entire life time flashed by, in her mind, as she forgot about her dinner, and just simply got into bed and lay there thinking. She thought about her home in her younger days, a few years after her marriage. She was newly wed but she took care of more than fifty members as the home maker. There were her own children and and her husband's sister and HER family. Those were happy times.

Then her entire World was shattered at the sudden demise of her husband in a road accident. All her children were still young - in their teens, with the exception of one son who had joined the merchant navy and was sailing. From that time, her the only one thing she asked from God, was the welfare of her family.

The tension in her mind was killing. And to top it all, no 'near and dear' one to share her state of mind. So she dealt with it the only way she knew. She prayed. Not that she otherwise didn't. She prayed all the time. Whosoever knew her, saw her always with her rosary in her hand, and her fingers continuously telling the beads, and her lips moving in a silent chant of the verses she remembered from the 'Granth Sahib' Her prayers were completely selfless. She only prayed for the welfare of her children. She wanted nothing else from God. Now, when she prayed, it was for the welfare of her two young brave sons - soldiers who were fighting on the frontiers.

Days went by. She went about her daily life performing all her chores in the best manner and old woman could. All the time, her lips moving with the barely audible chant of the verses. When her hands were free from work, they would normally be busy with knitting. Now, her fingers just moved with her rosary. All the time. Because prayers provided her strength. And helped her keep all depressing, scary thoughts out of her mind. And most importantly, praying meant she could talk to God.

The neighbours poured in all day - every day. They sympathized with her, made small talk and left. All along she maintained a dignified silence, little betraying the fear deep down in her. The fear of the worst. Almost everyone who came to meet her, returned totally awestruck. Here was an old frail woman whose two sons were in the thick of war and she went about her daily life without even a hint of fear or anxiety

In a way the days were moments to look forward to, because there were people around her. The nights were another story. Black out after sunset. No sign of human activity outdoors, with the exception of the occasional whistle from the 'Home Guards' keeping vigil, on those cold winter nights.

It was an endless wait. Every now and then she would be overcome with the horrible sinking feeling that there was bad news on its way. And then her distracted and scared mind would once again turn to prayer....

Finally on the fourteenth day, a caring neighbor ran into her to give her the good news - that the war had come to an end. There seemed to be a certain sense of festivity and celebrations amongst the neighbors. But to her, her prayers had once again been answered by her God.

When the neighbors came to congratulate her - she thanked God wished them well - and that was it ! As far as she was concerned, the recent past was 'trying times' and as usual her God had listened to her prayers.

She now went about her small home trying to catch up on the pending chores. And when work was done and her old wrinkled hands were free, they got busy with the knitting and the crochet. Her fingers moved with the same speed - that seemed like a blur...

And when her fingers got tired, they still moved. Now, slowly telling the beads of her rosary. Her lips moved in silent recitation of the verses from the Granth Sahib.

She prayed and she prayed more. Now she prayed not only for her two sons, but for ALL her children - my mother, my aunts and my uncles.....

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