Last month I participated in Times of India’s #writeindia contest. I wrote an article titled “Asha”, many of my blogger friends gave aa thumbs up for that article.
Many participating writers expressed their opinion that this month’s paragraph was hard. Indeed it was even for me.. Not in terms of jugglery of words, but, I could relate it to a real life incident that took place in my life since twenty years ago.
I attempted to reproduce the chain of events and have submitted my entry for this month. The article is as follows :
May 30th, 1995
Some days are different, they are reasoned to be different, such days brings a sea of emotions in you, for reasons and sometimes even without it, you become sentimental. Memories flood you in such state. Today was one of those days. I had, however, reasons to be emotional on this particular day. Today was the day some twenty years ago one of my dreams had fulfilled. It won’t be apt to call it a dream, for the word dream comes with the luxury of having an option of not actually materialising. In my case, it was a necessity, a dire one.
To keep away from sad memories I have found out an old tested way out. I decided to keep myself busy. It was Sunday, so, was not having much work to do. I decided to sort out my cupboard, throw away old papers. The cupboard was at its messier best. Being sentimental comes with cost. A sentimental person don’t wish to part away with any thing remotely associated with it. Same applies in my case, resulting in dumps of items which others call as junk. Today, I decided to sort out things, it was a messy thing and I was already confused looking at the whole lot,which was now lying on the floor. There were some old books, diaries, which I used to write in my pre blogging days. Diaries that were my best friend, diaries where I could express my feelings openly, diaries which would give me inspiration to carry on, give me hope that days would change for better. I used to scribble positive notes at the end of each such entry. Notes like good days will come soon, I will change things etc sounded so stupid and innocuous now, but, looking back now, I realise that these very words played role of silent motivator and benefactor in my life. There were many greeting cards, paper cuttings, collection of photographs and other assorted collectables now not seen in the Internet age. Like an impish impatient child one envelope was waving its presence almost trying to seek my attention. It perhaps wanted me to take to the journey from where it all changed, changed for good. Not that only the envelope was waving, there were some other loose papers too. The fan was the culprit. So, I ignored that envelope. I decided to keep all the items in a synchronised fashion and dump loose papers in one bag. So, after setting all the books and diaries I turned my attention to these loose papers. Each book that I kept had played an important role in my being and the stories connected to it simply would crop up. As is said, big things come last, the impatient envelope came in my hand, and it took me some twenty years back in a jiffy. I became more emotional, the very reason for doing the cupboard was defeated. Memories of those days are still alive in me and will be alive till I am around..
Those were very hard days, days of acute hardship and poverty. Being a son of a lowly paid but an upright honest defence employee had its drawbacks on my upbringing. I had to long for very basic things many a times. Toys and expensive clothing and gifts were simply out of question. My dad had to look after his family here and had to fight court cases inherited from his father in my native place. So we had to do a balancing act economically. We were off balanced many a times though.
To add to our woes, dad retired and our family income halved, my education was going on and with each rising standard the cost associated with it grew as well. We struggled, I studied on secondhand and borrowed books most of the years.
Dad was now tiring, he was a diabetic and his body was not supporting him anymore. He had only one dream remaining, the dream was to see me settled. He wanted to see me employed in government sector, for the security it offers. Being a government employee all his life he had a very myopic view of changing world. Yes, he had no resources too to wish something dramatic for me then.
So, when I turned eighteen he started bringing forms of competitive examinations. He wanted me to appear those and get employed. So, I appeared for various exams, ranging from railways to banks to staff selection commission. I was in my first year commerce and wanted to complete my graduation first before seriously thinking of job. May be dad had an intuition that he did not have many years more, he wanted me to appear for these exams and secure a job. I appeared quite a few, passed written exams, but, for some reasons would not make it in interviews, even after clearing those interviews easily.. Some would say that corruption was the reason. May be they were right.
Dad was now sick, he was admitted in a government municipal hospital and discharged after a week or so, but, he remained frail and would require support to walk. At this point of time I panicked, fearing for the worse. What if something bad happens was the worry.
In the meantime I received the call for written exam from staff selection commission. I thought of taking it seriously now, I brought a book and studied, with a focussed attention that I had no second option now, I have to get this job. To make things worse, at the examination centre the supervisor told that there were around eleven lakh candidates appearing in whole country for one thousand odd jobs. It made eleven hundred guys vie for one job. There were four set of papers to be solved in two hours flat. I solved them. Somehow, I had confidence that I have solved it properly and would succeed.
For six odd months, there was no reply, I used to wait for the postman every afternoon for that elusive letter. The postman was a regular feature in our chawl. Sometimes I feel, Postman are people who sometimes I feel have reached their level of consciousness, for the kind of aloofness they show while delivering the dak, it may contain good news or bad news, but, the postman maintains his stoic composure all the way through.
Dad had given up hope, he thought that I must have failed to crack the exam. Somewhere I too had become tentative and stopped waiting for the postal guy. One such afternoon while we were taking nap something hit the door, it sounded like the postman had thrown the letter. I woke up and frantically reached the brown envelope. Mom dad too woke up in expectation of something good. Expectation was only that they could afford. Indeed it was a letter from staff selection commission, indeed, I had passed the exam, out of eleven lakh odd candidates, it was later understood that some forty thousand were selected for second round of exam. So it was much easier I thought, earlier it was eleven hundred to one, now it was forty to one. I studied with renewed passion. The result this time was to be declared in three months time.
My dad was now bed ridden, he was having erratic diabetes with old age asthma aggravating his health all the more. The results were out within a couple of months, it was put up on the notice board of staff selection commission that if we meet all required criteria we would receive call letter from respective departments. I was thrilled to no end. It was the happiest moments of my life.
I rushed to my home to break the good news, dad wept like a child. Tears rolled freely from our eyes that evening. May be dad had only that much patience remaining. Maybe, he had loaned few more days from God to hear this news. Within few days, dad passed away. He created a void in my life, which I could never fill..
Again the wait for the postman began, with almost zero source of income it was a very bad scene. Survival was at stake, I was working on part time in an academic institution. It somehow supported my education cost which I was now doing by correspondence. The money I was getting was could not have helped much. My wait for the postman was more intense as days passed.
Ultimately my mom after three months, one fine day took me to our family astrologer. She being a God fearing lady thought that some divine intervention was required. Perhaps, she had sensed my tentativeness correctly. I went to the staff selection commission office two three times, but, was given standard bureaucratic reply. If you meet all requirements, you will get call letter, you need not come again. The people replying did not have a feel of troubles I have been through. The astrologer did some calculations, looked lost with himself, and finally spoke, breaking the silence after good three four minutes. Time really is a relative term after all, when you are happy, time simply flies away. When you are sad or nervous the time is at its slowest best. Those three four minutes of silence seemed like eternity to me. I was desperately seeking some words of encouragement and reassurance from a third person, for, my confidence was now shaking. I knew, I met all criteria, but, was worried given the past experiences with competitive exams. A doubt that had creeped in my mind had now taken a solid look. What if they gave some stupid technical reason and rejected my claim? I was worrying, worrying like never before. The astrologer reassured me saying good things will start happening soon. He said that I would get the letter within next forty five days i.e before 3.00 pm of May 30th, as the stars were favourable. I am not a votary to astrology as such. There is a very faint and almost an invisible line between faith and superstition. Too much faith makes you superstitious, I believe. But, I required the word of encouragement that day, and I needed it badly. The astrologer had brought smiles on our face, it renewed the hope that the end of the tunnel was near.
So again, with more renewed zest I sat waiting for the postman. To avoid suspicion of neighbours that I was waiting for the postman I would have a book with me, people would think that I was studying. The postman would come, I would see him coming, coming nearer and nearer and just pass away. At times, out of sheer frustration, I would ask postman to check whether he carried any mails for me. Sometimes, the postman would, sometimes he won’t.
The forty five days deadline was nearing and I began growing sceptical I had thought that it was a hard struggle for me after all. Forty second, forty third, forty fourth day passed and I consoled that I have failed to meet the ‘criteria ‘.
It was May 30th, forty fifth day and I was not much enthused, I had given up, still there was an ounce of positivity that may be the letter would come today. I took my meals and stood by the door waiting for the postman. Usually, he would reach our area by 1.30. Today, he as not in sight, it was already two forty five, the sun was in its full glory, perhaps, laughing at my helplessness. I was feeling the heat, heat of the sun and of the pathetic condition that I would have been, if I didn’t get that elusive letter.i had given up hope thinking that even the three pm deadline was nearing end. I was about to get up and close the door was when I saw that man coming. I observed him carefully as he walked to the door. I knew that time was running out but suppressed the urge to check my watch I took a deep breath and started counting in reverse under my breath “ten, nine, eight, seven…” The Postman looked like an angel today. He never showed emotions before. But that day he was smiling as he handed over the brown envelope to me. It seems looking back today,, that the postman too was aware of my predicament and wished me good. He handed over the envelop and said he wanted party and vanished as swiftly as he arrived. Years of experience in delivering the letters make the postman recognise the content of the letter by looking at the envelope it seemed.
Yes, it was a call letter to join for government job, a mere clerical job in a central government office. But, I needed it like anything then. It was a kind of a dream job then, the job that my dad always wanted for me.. I had earned it. I could sense my dad smiling from heaven above.
May 30th, 2015
Twenty years passed in a zippy. Times changed, world changed upside down, but the envelope was lying there in my cupboard I took it in my hands, once again read it with same anxiety, joy and happiness, kissed the letter and kept it in the shelf.
May be someday when I won’t exist anymore, , my son would simply tear away this envelope thinking it to be useless junk. Or may be after reading this he may too treasure it as a sweet memory of his dad.