As you grow older, there are several occasions in your life that make you appreciate the power of the Force or whatever it is that comes to your rescue when you are down or in trouble and it becomes hard to choose one as the most memorable of them all. However, there is one day which I can never forget – my twenty-first birthday.
My mother used to have a scrapbook of recipes which she used to collect and once as a four-year-old glancing through the book, came across the picture of a birthday cake for a twenty-first birthday – a gorgeous looking chocolate cake with pale, yellow frosting and a gold key on the top. In my mind’s eye, I always fantasized that this was the way I’d celebrate this momentous day, but fate as always had something else in store. By the time I grew up, my mother had evolved from a stay at home mom to a working mother and baking was relegated to the occasional fish pie or weekend sponge cakes. I did have a party, however, and did get my key, not the golden one of my dreams, but the key to a valuable lesson – the power of positive thought.
In her usual fashion, my mother had planned the day for me and asked me to get up quickly so that we could go to the temple before starting the day. The rest of her plans included a simple breakfast followed by a lunch at a restaurant close by and then while she was on her way to Goa to join my father who was posted there, I would be having my party with my friends and cake, balloons and whatever else it was that would make me happy.
Just a few minutes into the day, dressed in my new clothes my mother and I were walking down to the temple when suddenly I felt the person next to me was whisked off her feet. No, it wasn’t magic at work, but a young girl who had lost control of the car she was learning to drive. Somehow she had managed to bump into my mother, lift her off her feet and drag her under the car for a good two yards or so before she managed to brake to a halt.I couldn’t figure out if the screams I heard were mine or my mother’s or someone else’s as I felt a cold film come over me. I stood rooted to the spot, watching in horror as my mother’s feet fluttered desperately from under the car. I didn’t know what to expect next. Was she alive still or were these just the last few fluttering movements of a dying moth?
Somehow she managed to wiggle out and she sat by the side of the pavement like a crumpled piece of paper, hair dishevelled, clothes all over the place, forehead blackened with the dirt from the road and her arms sticking grotesquely limp on the sides of her body.I ran to her side and she whispered ” Pick me up and put me in the car and take me home.” Strange as it may sound now, despite her injuries, my mother still had her wits about her and knew that if she didn’t put up a brave front, I’d probably crack. I did as she directed, right from finding her purse that had scattered, picking up her mangalsutra, getting her into the car and bringing down our neighbour Shyam who was the only other person we knew in the building. I told my brother who was just about getting up to get ready and accompany Shyam and the girl to the police station to lodge a complaint (again on instructions from my mother!)
The rest of the day passed in a whirl of activity with me rushing my mother to the hospital at the other end of town. My mother’s presence of mind never failed to amaze me when she instructed which doctor she wanted to attend to her and even got out of the taxi and sat on the stretcher all by herself ,a task made difficult by the fact that she had dislocated one arm and fractured the other. But when she asked if she would be fit enough to fly to Goa that afternoon, I realised that even her optimism wouldn’t take her there and she seriously needed to be hospitalised.
Indeed she had fractured all her ribs, cracked her pelvis and had bruises all over that were slowly turning an ugly black. A few hours later, after she was settled in her room all patched and sedated, Shyam and my brother came back to check in on her and report on the progress with the FIR. I went back with them to carry on with the party as per her last instructions before she was knocked out with the anaesthesetic.
I was really in no mood to have the party, but my mother was right – it helped keep my mind off the horrific accident and get on with things. My friends came as planned but with a slight change in plans: one of them had to get the cake while the others picked up the samosas and chips and my brother the coke. When they reached home they found me mopping up the water from the refrigerator which had somehow managed to defrost itself while we were away. They immediately got down on their knees to help me clean up the mess and within minutes we were munching on cake! It was a surreal experience – eating chocolate cake and chips, chattering with my friends, feeling it wasn’t me laughing at the silly jokes but when I saw my brother sitting close by, I knew that everything was very real, as real as the dull ache that made my left arm throb, reminding me of my mother lying injured in the hospital all alone.
That night as my brother and I slept in the familiar comfort of my Uncle’s home ( he’d come to fetch us after the party) I re-lived the events of the day. It was an unusual birthday celebration which made me grow up faster than I did all those twenty-one years. I also learned a valuable lesson that has always stood me in good stead – God really does see the little sparrow fall.
Family and friends help us through good days and bad #together we can overcome it all!
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