Dared to fly when I was unable to walk…
Bauji, with his glasses on his eyes, would hunch over big ledgers, sitting in the sunlit verandah, on Sundays. These big sized ledgers were of Cooperative association of the Post-office employees. Bauji held some post in that and, perhaps, got some honorariam for this service. When tired, he would call me, ” Saroj Singh…chai peela do.” I would prepare tea and both of us would sit together, each immersed in a world of its own over the cup of tea. Never did he reproach me for my failure. The only remark which he ever made was, “the hard-earned money of Postoffice employees never goes in vain, then how could ….?”
Perhaps he was struggling with managing his own expectations that had tumbled down and I was managing my own emotions to handle this turmoil. Those days there was nothing like depression, anxiety or panic attacks.. Instead I was focussed on what to do…and how? I had silently put the syllabus of the IAS in my cluttered cupboard. Hiding it from my; as well as Bauji’s sight.
With Amma in a Government job, miles away, my elder sister married off, two younger brothers too small, I had no one to talk to. I thought of the little piece of sponge that I held so precious during my childhood. It would absorb water and I would clean my slate with it….what I liked the most was it would regain its shape, once released, even when I would squeeze it hard. I loved it for it…coming back to its original shape!! I, too, had to! But how!
During that very time an advertisement caught my attention in the Tribune…Indian Airlines inviting applications for Airhostess…Tall, smart and fluent in English…I thought that this is the godsent signal to me and my life. I would fly if I cannot walk. But Bauji….would he allow me for it, was the moot question. I had broken his dreams. And during those days, in 1975, this kind of job for a girl from middle-class was not imaginable, at least in my acquaintances.
One sunny Sunday when we sat together, I asked Bauji’s permission to send my form along with two passport sized photographs and a postal order. He looked at me, from behind the thick lenses of his glasses, making it hard for me to read expressions in his eyes, but he moved his head upside down…signalling his ascent!
This post is not about my dreaming of becoming an airhostess, a glamorous job, by the standards about that period, but about Bauji standing rocklike behind me, with me, even during this strange turnabout in my aspirations and dreams, and afterwards as well!
From Simla to Delhi and from Delhi to Hyderabad for the preliminary interview and from Hyderabad to Madras for the final interview ..a long journey it was both physically as well as psychologically. It was a very long journey for a girl from the Lower Bazaar neighborhood as I had never travelled beyond Solan before that and my journey by train was from Simla to Taradevi only, till then. And here I was aiming to fly!!! Saw the airplanes from such close quarters, first time in my life, as I had only seen them flying past the Simla skyline and that too Jets perhaps!!
Looking back I find that there were a few factors, dormant may be, in my persona, that directed my desire to fly. One was that having listened to Kali..Kalo…Kalo over the years, my inner-self was in revolt. And here was a chance to prove about my presentable self. The role played by Roshan Studio acted as a catalyst…this photo studio would make any girl look beautiful. A plane Jane would look like a star material. Amma had asked me to get a portrait clicked at Roshan Studio which she wanted to use to find a matrimonial alliance for me. One picture and two objects aimed at!! This picture had opened up new hopes in my little mind…dreams to fly high as I could not walk….and opened up different dreams in Amma’s…
To cut the story short…I was selected but Amma put her foot down…not allowing me to join and the picture sent to the prospective alliance got approved and I was to be married!!
This was the best thing to have happened as my life, once again, took another turn. Simply a graduate, I married and created a peaceful life with my husband, a Veterinarian, in a small village. K. S., my husband, took up the role of Bauji as he could see my potential and with love, care and a rare alchemist’s touch, he transformed me….giving a filip to my self-worth that I had lost after the painful and traumatic experience in the office of the Principal at Sanjauli college. As a vet, trained to look after the animals who cannot speak he has the special ability to find out the cause of pain in anyone and find a cure for that. He could see my hurt and pain and provide a healing touch to that as well. Like the sponge, I was full of life to take on any challenge, with K.S. with my side.
Destiny still had to test my perseverance, perhaps.
Married in the year 1978, as a simple graduate, I had little choice to give a direction to my life. K.S. gave me full freedom to do what I wanted to and always was/still in the wind beneath my wings. And Bauji’s dream of Administrative services for me started to take strong shape in my mind. From 1978 to 1984…. Seven years in a row, I would compete, without fail, in HAS examination. I qualified the written part six times and was disqualified in the interview all the times, breaking my heart even more. It was painful for me as once when I was fourth in the written examination, I was given 80/200 marks in interview whereas another candidate was given 140 or 160 marks (bumping of his marks more than mind in total for written and interview) as he was alleged to be a relative of someone influential! Every year with renewed energy , I would start afresh to come to a painful culmination, every March or April, when the results would be declared.
During these seven years, I had become a mother to three beautiful kids who knew that their mother prefers books more than anything else. My kids would put any reading material in my hands whenever I would be sitting idle. I had completed my Masters in English literature getting second position in HPU and had earned M.Phil. in English literature as well. Destiny had carved me for this role….of being a teacher!
I would ask myself….if I had to be a teacher, why so many dreams found a place in my heart and eyes…and nurtured, I could not find an answer to it.
This answer I found much later in the words of Paul Coelho…With each passing obstacle and hurdle that I encountered, there was a lesson to learn. Every single endeavour of mine made me stronger…physically as well as mentally. And when my destiny found me fully prepared to take up the challenge of transforming lives of young students, I became a teacher….as I was destined to be a teacher, nothing else!!! Nothing more beautiful could have happened to me professionally!
I came to teaching in 1984 and joined National Institute of Technology Hamirpur, the then REC, in 1986 and am here ever since, except for some break which is my latest story of fighting against unscrupulous practices!!! My most challenging and painful memory of my life is of these four years…..would write sometime after my retirement about it!
My destiny has always been testing me for strength and rewarding me at the same time. Looking back at a life spent, I have no regrets at all. When I started sharing my dream, destiny and reality, the biggest compliment I got was from my daughter, who along with her comments, sent me this song of Frank Sinatra, by Robbie Williams – My Way (Live at the Royal Albert Hall) saying, ” Maa this is your retirement song!” Enjoy!!!
And now, the end is near
And so I face the final curtain
My friends, I’ll say it clear
I’ll state my case of which I’m certain
I’ve lived a life that’s full
I traveled each and every highway
But more, much more than this
I did it my way
Regrets, I’ve had a few
But then again, too few to mention
I did what I had to do
And saw it through without exemption
I planned each chartered course
Each careful step along the byway
But more, much more than this
I did it my way
Yes, there were times, I’m sure you knew
When I bit off more than I could chew
But through it all, when there was doubt
I ate it up and spit it out
I faced it all and I stood tall
And did it my way
I’ve loved, laughed and cried
I’ve had my fill, my share of losing
And now, as…