When I got this topic #RiseAboveFear to write, the first thing that intuitively came to my mind was my dad’s near death escape. This is his story of rising above fear and coming back alive to us. This is a story of a teenager who rose above fear of losing her dad and being with her mom. This is a story of a woman who rose above fear of losing her husband and remained stoic in front of her kids telling them dad will be back soon.
The year was 1996, I was studying in class 11th and my baby sister was too young. Dad, a die-hard religious traveller had left for Amarnath Yatra with a friend. Everything was normal until a neighbour aunty came panting to our house and huddled my mom to come with her. Mom switched off the gas hurriedly, asked me to keep studying and said she will be back in a few minutes. She came back but didn’t utter a word and resumed her cooking. I stood at the kitchen door observing her. It had been almost half an hour she was stirring the vegetable in the pan but the gas wasn’t switched on. She was blankly looking out of the window and tears were rolling down her cheeks. “Mom, what happened?” I asked. She wiped her tears hurriedly before turning her face towards me and said everything is fine.
The next morning on my way to school I came to know from a friend that a big landslide has stalled Amarnath Yatra and Zee TV was continuously showing pictures of dead people and devastation. Back in those days only the privileged few in the neighbourhood had Cable TV and ZEE News was the pioneering news channel. There was no mobile and even landline phone was a luxury. My dad was not carrying a phone so there was no news about his well being. Though he always jokingly said, “No news is good news”, but this time it was different. Zee TV kept on showing images of dead people which horrified us beyong imagination. Relatives started dropping in the house with a long face. Mom was sobbing at every corner wall of the house. I was in a social science class when my teacher loudly scolded me, “Gitanjali where are you looking. I am at chapter 9 and you have opened chapter 16. Where is your attention?” I couldn’t control myself and started crying. My teacher was taken aback for I was not a problem student. She sensed something was terribly wrong. She took me out of the class. I hugged her tight and said, “I think my dad is dead”. 15 days passed by but there was no news about my dad. And, the feeling that we have lost him was about to set in. You know what is worse than death. The fact that you don’t know whether the person is dead or alive. The missing of a person is the worst. You keep dwindling between hope and despair. Your mind says seeing the entire situation he is dead. Your heart says, no he will come back. Finally one evening, around a month later, a tempo halted at our gate shuddering. Bell rang. Mom slowly got up and opened the door. There was a lean bearded man standing. She was transfixed. And then a voice, “Arre mithu (my pet name) pick my bag and take it inside”. It was dad and he was totally unrecognizable. A pot bellied, clean shaven man was transformed into a mere skeleton. But he was alive and back. He was a survivor. I will tell his survival story in my next post for it is a long one. All he said was “I had to come back for you three and every time I felt I was dying I closed my eyes and could see your faces. I would instantly open my eyes and keep moving on”. This was our family’ story of rising above fear for everyone in the family fought with their fear in their own ways. We knew that nothing is stronger than family and no one is stronger than my parents.