Summer vacation was about to start and my pocket-sized brain was managing a massive brainstorming session for the holidays. Hitting the ground for an early morning cricket game was a good option while sleeping till 9, was not a bad thought either. My thoughts were in oscillation until a tap on the head broke the momentum; it was my elder brother. Meanwhile, Dad enters and announces that we will be visiting our native place this holiday. Well, to make it more generic and let you feel the moment, his exact words were “Dadi ke ghar jana hai iss chutti”. Hearing that I was so delighted, my heart floated away in the river of ecstasy.
Fast forward 2 weeks as I have a very vague memory of how the time passed amidst thrill and excitement, I remember standing at the railway station. My right hand was clenched in my mother’s while my two elder brothers were standing beside Dad and the whole happy family was waiting to board the Intercity Express for Gaya at 6 in the morning.
The train departed from Dhanbad station and our journey began right on time, Indian railways was not always late. As the train speeded, my excitement turned high but what overtook all that excitement was my hunger. My stomach was growling for food and all I had to do was to give Ma an innocent look. She signaled bhaiya to pull out the green bag which was kept under the berth. Her hand went into the bag and within no time, the orange tiffin box was out on her palm staring at me. She took out two chapatis and some aloo bhujia from the box, made them into rolls and gave them to me, a classic Indian snack . I had the chapatis but those weren’t of much help and the sensation to have something more prevailed.
Half an hour since the journey started, the train came to halt at the Gomoh Junction. My eyes looked through the window and scanned each random person strolling on the platform. It was not more than a minute when the compartment was populated with hawkers. The variety of food and drinks being sold at that moment was much more than any food corner I could think of. Though the one thing which caught my attention and would have satisfied my hunger was samosa. I turned towards Dad, rolling my eyes to make eye contact like a man. He looked at me, and I signaled towards the guy selling samosas. He thought for a second or two and then looked at Ma. The permission was denied, it’s not healthy, was the reason. I made a sad face and that changed the game. Dad ordered two plates which meant 4 samosas. Everyone took some except my eldest brother. I being the hungriest, took half of Ma’s share. It was a good filler. In the meantime, the train left the station and our journey for Gaya continued.
After having two samosas, my stomach was full and the last thing left to do was to grab a good nap as I was also feeling a bit dizzy. I almost fell asleep when my elder brother whispered to Ma that he was having a headache and he too was feeling dizzy and later my dad felt the same. We were sure that our food was drugged only after my mother too felt a bit uncomfortable. This was something normal that used to happen in those times, Ma had told me once.
Well, I was the first to pass out and couldn’t witness the remaining story, the next part is as per my eldest brother as he was the only one who didn’t eat the samosa and was vigilant the whole time.
There were other people in the compartment who were facing the same situation, hence more and more of them got unconscious. Dad was feeling very dizzy, he almost lost his consciousness and so had others. Ma was half dizzy and had water to hold her consciousness. My eldest brother sat awake and aware in the window seat and tried his best to keep Ma awake. This whole situation lasted for almost 30 mins until people regained their senses but some passengers had already lost their baggage in that time. By the time I woke up, everything was over and the train was about to reach Gaya. I got the update of the remaining story later in the evening when all blamed me and my hunger for the mishap. Anyhow, the samosa was really good so I didn’t worry much about anything else.
Wait, wait wait !! The story is not over yet. This trip has more for you because I hadn’t done enough stupidity till now .
Let me take you few days ahead.
We went to a small village in Aurangabad district of Bihar. This place had its own importance in my life as it was the ancestral place of my family. This was the place where my grandfather was born. It had the house where 3 generations of my ancestors lived.
It was a two-day visit. On the first day of our arrival, we were greeted by the people with lots of love and respect, since my great-grandfather used to be a well-known zamindar of his time. I didn’t have much to do while the others were busy in the meet and greet. It was already late in the evening so I just had my dinner and went to bed. However, I did have something exciting waiting for me the next morning.
Dad and Uncle took us to a nearby river for an early morning bath the next day. We were accompanied by local adults and boys. The moment we reached the shore, the first sight of the place took my breath away.. It was not the river but the people who were diving from a significant height. On looking closely, I noticed that these people were of the age group of 10-20 years.
A few moment later, my adrenaline pumped in and I too got excited to jump. Uncle rejected my request as I did not know swimming and additionally, I was too young for this. My brothers requested as well and their requests was passed. I got furious, made a red angry face and sat under a tree. Other villagers felt sad for me and they convinced Uncle to let me jump from a shorter cliff. He was supposed to catch me and my brothers when we jumped from our cliffs.
Bhaiya made the jump, and Uncle caught him as he dived in. My confidence was boosted to another level. When my turn came, I was standing on the edge of the cliff waiting for the signal. “Jump”, shouted someone. I bowed and jumped, screaming my lungs out.
I dived in, felt my arms being rubbed to my Uncle’s palm. He tried to grasp me but I slipped. Deep down, everything was yellow. The sunlight was clearly visible. Someone tried to catch me again but couldn’t. I was inside the water, and was being carried away by the flow of the river. I was going numb with time, feeling suffocated. The last thing I remember was being stuck in some kind of cloth, blue in color.
I woke up after around 15 minutes surrounded by a number of people. I was looking for a known face when a gentle hand touched my forehead, it was my dad who was sitting behind. Uncle was rubbing my legs while my brothers were standing beside, waiting for me. People cheered in a loud voice as they witnessed a miracle. “Raja, you are his savior”, said my father to a middle-aged man who was standing next to him. “This is all God’s grace bhaiya, I haven’t done anything”, replied the man with a genuine smile.
I was told this story a number of times, about how I almost drowned but was luckily saved and Ma scolded me each time for being so stubborn.
I had a story too, the story of my experiences, the story of my journey. The story about the feelings and thoughts that crossed my mind while I was inside water. I had a story but I had no words to express it then. Years passed when I had the words but not that emotion to feel.
Today, I wrote this by feeling all those emotions and using all the words I have to express them.