I was born Karuna. As I lay fumbling beside my mother on the bed, my tiny eyes tried looking at the small world in the hospital room. I could see many a faces bending upon me and talking to me in their strange languages. At times I would close my eyes tightly, ready to cry and at another, would gape at them, as the animals in a zoo would do, looking at the people.
Amidst the group, I saw a veteran woman, perhaps my grandmother, who filled her eyes with tears from time to time,admiring my animated form. All this appeared quite tiring to my tiny eyes and I turned to my mother for help.
“ Aaw! She looks so divine , so Godly……just look at her face…….she resembles her grandfather. She will be very successful one day.” I could hear my grandmother’s overwhelming and interesting vocabulary, duly approved by a man sitting in a corner of the room, wearing some strange clothes with a long vermilion on his forehead. “He must be the family astrologer”, I guessed.
As they all talked, I wondered in my tiny mind. How could they forecast my future when I was just born!!!!!!!!Meanwhile my sweet mother silently lay on the bed, holding me with one hand as I roved my eyes all over the room.
After a week’s stay in the hospital, I was cradled back home in my mother’s arms. At home it was the celebration time. I travelled through many hands one by one and atlast halted at the hands of my father. He was kind enough not to forward me to anyone else. Couldn’t these people realise, how difficult it is for a new born to get such an exerting welcome at this tender age??????
I kept looking at my father’s eyes without anticipating that in the years to come, he would transform himself to play the role of a mother.
As time passed, I was put in a school where I befriended a girl who was losing her eyesight day by day. She told me that they were hit hard by the degenerating economy in the family which unabled her parents to finance her treatment. I discussed this situation with my father who suggested that I should bring this matter to the class teacher’s notice who would do the needful for the girl, as the latter was very good in studies.
“ That’s very nice of you, Karuna. I will talk to the school authorities. We do have some schemes under which the authorities are able to help the children seeking financial aids as and when required.” My class teacher assured me after I briefed her about my friend Saba.
“InshaAllah ! We are very happy that my daughter has such good friends in school. We are thankful to you for providing fifty thousand rupees for her treatment. May Allah be always with you in all hard times.”Sayeda Bi, Saba’s mother, agreed to receive the monetary help from the school and blessed my class-teacher for her role as that of a good samaritan.
“ There are no differences in people. It’s all man-made. I strongly believe in human beings and humanity. I am ready to even part with my existence if it needs be, to save a soul from the clutches of human-vultures in our society”. Sayeda Bi said to the customers who visited her small tailoring shop, the next day. She was highly inspired and overwhelmed by the compassion displayed by the school authorities for her daughter’s well-being.
The next few days saw Saba’s absence from the class due to her eye-operation. I silently prayed for her everyday until the day when a shocking news sent strong despicable waves across the city. Saba died during the treatment and hell broke loose in the hospital. Needless to say that she became a victim of wrong medication.
Saba’s father stood in a corner, extremely shocked at the revelation, as others vandalized the hospital property. An ambulance and two government vehicles were set ablaze by the furious mob. There was a question in every eye that mobbed there.How could a child, who was getting operated for a minor eye operation, die???
A forty- eight hour bandh was declared and amidst the stormy calm in the vandalizing mob, Saba was rested to peace.
After this deplorable incident, I always felt Saba’s absence in class as well as in personal life. As days passed, the sorrow caused by her death slowly started subsiding but the pain remained in heart. Soon, with another New Year Celebration, I realized that 1988 had dawned and it were almost eight years since Saba left me.
He was born Dev. His new family did not know whether to celebrate or mourn his birth. As he came to know later, when he grew up, that his mother had died soon after his birth. So this was the reason that when he had first looked at the new world , facilitated by his mother, he had actually looked into the eyes of his elder sister, Karuna.
From time to time, he was proved an ill-omen for the family as his father too lost his job and was sent to jail in a case of forgery. His grandmother refused to even look at his face and the entire burden of his upbringing fell on the inexperienced shoulders of his sister.
As he grew, he saw her turning to a grown up woman in each occasion-whether it was his care or the household chores combined with maintaining a good public relation. In between, if time permitted, she would take him to visit the father in the prison. However it were his father’s ever encouraging words that kept the brother and the sister successfully tussling against the tests of time……..and life went on……………
By now he had completely realised that though he was fifteen years younger to his sister, he too owned a responsibility to shoulder her problems. The Judge in the Court had declared some more months of imprisonment for the father which meant that the brother and the sister still had to bear the brunt of destiny , silently, and wait for the father’s release.
Meanwhile during their visits, to and fro,to the prison,whenever they passed through Sayeda Bi’s tailoring shop, Karuna would stop there for a few minutes and enquire about the former’s well-being. Usman uncle had,however, found a new task for himself.
He would buy plenty of saplings from Sayeda Bi’s income and visit various schools and colleges to create an awareness ,among the youth , the significance of afforestation. Soon Usman Uncle became the talk of the town. Everybody wanted to know him and become a member in the mission of this noble man.
Somewhere along with those planted saplings, Usman Uncle had planted the painful death of his only daughter too. He often said, “ Probably Allah wanted me to work ,on His behalf, for the betterment of our Mother Earth.”
Years passed on…………………………
By now, our father had been released and as he joined us in the family, his first and foremost priority was to make his children affirm their stand , in this world.
One day he called Dev and asked, “ Son ! Tell me what are your future plans since you have completed your post graduation?”
“Dad ! I want to join politics as a member of a youth wing. I have already talked to a minister in the ruling party in this regard. I think I would fit here best as I am interested in politics.”Dev confirmed.
For the first time Dad and I were amazed and happy to see the determination in Dev. He knew that he was very popular in his university days as the students’ secretary. Dad immediately permitted him to carry on with his dream and then he turned to me.
“ I know Karuna that you are doing very well as a Pediatrician, but my child, you must move among people, know the problems of a common man and think beyond your profession.” Dad guided me.
“ Yes Dad. I would love to be a part of any social work but I am not able to see the stars in their right perspective. I have thought on many things but I am fizzled in taking a decision due to various options. Can you please help me to make a right choice?” I genuinely elaborated my dilemma to Dad.
“Then do one thing. Talk to Usman Bhai and Sayeda Bi. Tell them that you want to contribute your services to their ‘ Green Living’ Mission and do the needful. It will strengthen their tasks and you will be able to serve people.” Dad explained and I wholeheartedly consented to it.
As Usman Uncle heard my decision, he hugged me and thanked Dad.
“Dear I see my Saba in you. You know, Dev has promised to provide a Service Centre which would also have video-conferencing facility to connect people all over the country to join me in my ‘Green Living’ Mission.”
My eyes moistened with tears of joy at this revelation by Usman Uncle. I thanked Dev and Dad in my heart of hearts who had shared Usman Uncle and Sayeda Bi’s sorrow and turned it into a new leaf.
Dev is contesting the upcoming elections and has already acquired his ticket.
“ Karuna Di(elder sister) ! Get ready fast. We are getting late for the function. Dad has already reached the venue.”Dev’s command jerked me off my memory lane. I almost forgot that today we had to attend an important function. So I started preparing for the evening.
Dev and I reached the venue almost five minutes late. The function had already started. We sat on our seats and clapped the most , seeing Usman Uncle and Sayeda Bi on stage. The Information and Broadcasting Minister of State had consented to be the Chief Guest.
As he was invited to the dais, the claps thundered and amidst the applause, Usman Uncle and Sayeda Bi received felicitations in the form of a Trophy and Shawls, presented to each one, for their noble cause of awareness of ‘GREEN LIVING’ among the younger generation. On this auspicious occasion, the minister also released a book entitled “GREEN ROADS- A BIOGRAPHY OF A GREEN MAN” written by Karuna.
As I climbed the stage, invited to share the dais, I requested the Chief Guest that I wanted Sayeda Bi to receive the first copy of the book. At this announcement, Sayeda Bi hesitated as it was an incredible moment of her life and her ageing hands quivered as she received the first copy.
In his speech, the minister declared Dev’s name as an upcoming, budding star in future politics. He said, “ On the humble request by Dev, I forward the documents of a New Agro Centre to Usman Bhai for his future endeavours and wish him and his wife all the very best.”
The Same Evening, at the small house where Usman Uncle lived, I found him standing in front of Saba’s photo. Sayeda Bi sobbed in another room that was earlier shared by the mother and the daughter. I stood watching them for sometime and then said,
“ It’s getting late to visit the Centre. Dev’s car is waiting. Saba will be very angry if you weep . She is already waiting to congratulate both of you. Come we will move fast.”
Usman Uncle and Sayeda Bi wiped their tears and we joined Dev and Dad in the car. On the way, the car took a turn towards a narrow road that led to a thick folliage confronting a large ground. When the car finally halted, we came out and found ourselves in front of the spot where Saba had been buried.
Usman Uncle went near the location, looked at it for some moments and then took out a sappling from his small bag while Dev brought the water from the car. Usman Uncle placed the sappling at the spot where Saba lay buried.
“ My Dear! Your Ammi (mother) and I will visit this place next year on your birthday and see you grow in our hands once again………………………..”, Uncle said in a heavy, deep ,coarse voice.
The car resumed its journey…………………………………………………………………………………………..