When You Know Your Worth No One Can Make You Feel Worthless – Because You Really Do Matter.

Archive for April, 2011

Unsung Hero

 

I have been driving to and from my daughter’s elementary school for the past 5 years. The school isn’t in a walking distance, so I never happened to walk to the school.

All these years, twice a day, I received a grand salute and a toothless grin from the crossing guard, Ivan.  Ivan, a septuagenarian, enjoyed his job a great deal and I heard that he had been a crossing guard most of his life.  He was posted at the exit and did his most and the best in keeping the children and families safer at the cross walk. 

He never forgot or missed flashing that lovable smile and the hearty salute to every passerby –even if they were in a car or strangers to him.

I didn’t even know his name until two weeks ago. I referred him to my daughter as “thatha” for grandpa in my mother tongue. My daughter found out his name from her friend and told me.  Rain or shine, Ivan was always there with stop sign in one hand and an umbrella in the other. When his hands were full he raised the stop sign and gave that grand salute.

For the past few days, I didn’t see Ivan at the cross walk. Instead, everyday there was a new person helping people cross the road.  Initially I didn’t pay much attention to Ivan’s absence. When he continued to be absent, I thought maybe he was on a vacation or unwell.  Almost 3 weeks passed by and I started to feel his absence. At one point my normal missing feeling turned into a concern. I asked my daughter but she had no information to share with me.

I couldn’t wait anymore. I grew anxious and wanted to ask someone about Ivan.  One day, I went to the school early and parked my car and walked to the lady posted in Ivan’s place.  Upon talking to her I found that Ivan passed away a week ago due to some illness.  She also told me that Ivan had no family or relatives and he shared an apartment with another crossing guard.  Last month he developed some congestion which grew into some serious health condition. No medicines would work and one fine morning he didn’t see the sun. While I was listening to her, my heart tightened and a strange feeling churned in my stomach and I couldn’t stand there for another moment. I thanked the lady and walked to my car and picked up my daughter. Tears trickled down my cheeks and I felt as though I lost my own Thatha. I had to explain to my daughter why I was sad and crying. 

My daughter said, “We have to pray for him for helping everybody cross the street.”

Absolutely. Ivan, I miss you so much forever remembering your pure smile, your hearty salute, and care for the children and families.  My prayers are with you every minute and forever. Thanks for everything you did for us, Ivan.

Ivan was a real soldier who spent his whole life protecting our children from dangers and accidents. Indeed, service was joy for him. Now, it’s my turn to salute him every day, twice a day, imagining him standing in the same place flashing that lovable toothless grin.


Language Of Courage

To begin my blog,  I thought of sharing a small story with you all.  It happened to me more than three decades ago but I still have wonder and regret for what and why I did so, instead of what I should have done.

I was a third grader in a small private school in Hyderabad, India.  I always kept to myself and focused on studies, as my parents’ bar was very high with regards to my scoring standards.  There was a girl in my class – let’s name her Ms. Richly Spoilt and address her throughout this story as RS – whom I can’t forget even today. She was the oldest and tallest in the whole class. Probably, these characteristics gave her more edge to be bossy and overbearing toward other kids.  Every day she had an agenda to target somebody in the class and put that kid through a frightful day.  I want to skip narrating what she did each day to terrify the kids, otherwise the list is so long that  I might forget what I wanted to say.

She used to wear mostly new and expensive looking clothes everyday to school. She also brought lots of fancy items and showed off to everyone how superior she was. There were several jaw dropping moments in the class and many kids tried to please her so that she could let them touch and use those fancy items.  Once I heard her saying that her dad worked with an oil company in one of the Gulf countries and sent lot of money and gifts.  Okay, that was the matter. She had vitamin M in abundance, and studies were her last priority. She just came to school to show it off and have fun.

One day, she brought an indescribably fancy pencil. The triangular pencil had three-dimensional effects and glowed heavenly when twisted. I didn’t know that my stars were traveling in a bad direction and my doomsday was nearing.  That day, I guess, my teacher was absent and the class had nothing much to do. My bad luck drew my attention toward RS who was playing with her fancy pencil.  I went and stood next to RS ogling the pencil.

She handed over the pencil to me in an unusually friendly manner and asked, “Do you want to write your name with this pencil?”

I nodded. She immediately thrust the pencil into my hand.  Momentarily I forgot that she was the meanest kid and a bully and there was some plan brewing in her mind.  I was so fascinated with the pencil that I fled to my seat and wrote my name.  I think, around 10 times. I was all dreamy.  As I was drawing a flower next to my name, RS came to me and grabbed the pencil and opened her mouth to hurl an abuse. But she grabbed so hard that it flew away from her hand and hit the wall and fell down. The result was a broken pencil.   Just then the school bell rang and everyone rushed out of the class. RS caught me alone in the class and blamed me that I was responsible for her broken pencil. She threatened me that if I didn’t bring some Five Rupees to school the next day to repay for the loss, she would bring her brothers and uncles and take me to the principal’s office. I was so terrified that I clung to myself like a lizard on the wall.  I froze.  I didn’t even have the courage to fall down even though I had a feeling that I was going to faint.  What am I going to do now? What if she really brings her family and takes me to the principal’s office?  Five Rupees was big money and how was I going to pay?  I never had a provision for allowance and my mother, if she was very happy with me, gave me 50 paise once in a while.  Maybe once in a month or two.( With five children going to school, that was all my mom could afford. She gave us a lot of love, though.) How was I going to answer to my parents?  Was I going to return to school? Questions and quandaries hovered in my head.

For the next few months I worked hard at home and in studies to make my mom happy so that she gave me money often.  Whatever change I got from my mom I turned it to RS. I did all her homework secretly. I lugged her school bag whenever she ordered me to do so. It was a disguised slavery. I didn’t even sigh about this at home fearing that I might get into trouble.  Finally, one day, God showered mercy on me and RS left the school for unknown reasons.

Now, I’m a forty-year old woman treasuring a lot of pleasures, pains, experiences, exposures, combats, convincing, within my heart and outside, but I could never forget this incident. I incessantly questioned myself: Why did I not stand up for myself? I could have gone and told my parents or teachers; after all, they knew me very well.  I should have nipped the bully in the bud because I wasn’t at fault.  I was punished albeit innocent. Maybe  the fear of facing my parents, the fear of being bullied, the fear of being answerable, standing in front of the principal,  losing privileges, being harassed, and many other  unexplainable fear psychosis  eclipsed my inner strength  leaving me  helpless.

This one incident paved a path of courage and articulation for me. I discovered the strength of speaking up and standing up for myself. Every time I had to face a situation wherein  I was snubbed or became a subject to humiliation or  instances that took me for granted, I reminisced this grave situation and my failure to prove my innocence.  I instantly reincarnated into an invincible force against the wrong and did what I was supposed to do and spoke the truth outright. 

Believe me, we play several roles in our lives to impress and satisfy others and in that process we either forget or let go our right to speak, right to defend, and the most important, right to live.  To live holding heads high, one has to protect oneself, and to protect oneself one has to speak.

That’s what I’m going to do through my blog, to speak the language of my mind, heart, and my thoughts. Yes, I’m going to speak the language of courage.

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