It was a Monday morning, yet Nidhi woke up with a palpable sense of excitement. The sun-rays that streamed through her slightly open window appeared brighter and warmer. Even the birds seemed to chirp in harmony to her exuberance. Nidhi felt proud of herself. She was nominated for the Godfrey Phillips National Award (championed by none other than Preity Zinta) under the Mind of Steel category!
When her memory flashed back she thought, was it a fluke?
No, it wasn’t. She had acted upon directions from her heart and mind. She couldn't accord it to chance or serendipity. It happened naturally. Although, considering her encumbrances, what she did was unnatural, almost impossible....
That day was a Monday morning too, but a Monday sans the blues. Her husband Sushil was abroad for his official tour and Ayush, her nine-year-old son, had a holiday from school as their Principal had kicked the bucket. This meant she was free to laze around for some leisure.
Jamshedpur was hosting its 7th annual Canvas Fair at the sprawling grounds of the Gopal Maidan. She decided to visit it with Ayush. It was the right day as there would be no maddening crowd on a Monday morning, no rush no panic. So it was that mother and son drove to the fair.
They ambled at the stalls lingering here pausing there looking at the vast display of an array of items. Ayush was looking for a stall with Ben Ten toys, while Nidhi was not particularly looking for anything. She paused at one which displayed ceramic items, terracotta, bone-china and other curios. Picking up an idol of Lord Ganesha in a Vinayak posture reclined on pillows in a stately grandeur, Nidhi was struck by the majesty of its simplicity. She marveled at this artifact with veneration-filled-eyes. But her intuition immediately informed her that Ayush’s tug at her sari was missing. After carefully replacing Ganesha, she spun around. For the moment she would forget Ganesha.
People had begun to pour at the fair much to her consternation. She had forgotten it was the 1st of May, a bank holiday, which gave opportunity for visitors galore!
Her roving eyes stopped at every stall specially the ones selling toys. Then she did spot Ayush. He was standing in front of a stall, wondrously gazing at a Ben Ten toy. No sooner did he see his mother than he rushed towards her imploring her to buy it for him. It was a fancy watch which was supposed to transform Ben Tennyson into an alien to fight monsters. Nidhi did buy it for him after haggling with the pricey item, for nothing in the world is more gratifying to a mother than her son’s guileless smile.
But the fair, by now, had become fairly crowded. A surging fear began to grip her. How could she dare to visit such a public place swarming with people ALONE, when she never did so even when Sushil was there to protect her? She never visited any crowded places, NEVER. There fore she had chosen this day.
Nor did she ever use fire except lighting incense sticks or candles, that too with much effort and after more cajoling from Sushil . For cooking she used her heater, a microwave and the cooking- range, not the gas cylinder.
Without wasting any more seconds, she held Ayush tightly and jostled her way out of the fair, almost frantically. Suddenly a scream tore through the air. It was a child’s voice. It was not Ayush’s though it had the same tonality. There was a cry of pain. The scream came from one of the stalls, a persistent hairsplitting scream of despair.
Nidhi gave one lingering look at her son and turned back. Again shoving aside the rabble, fixing her mind at that voice that could so easily have been her son’s, she briskly headed towards the crisis, Ayush's hand clutched in hers. Finally she reached him. His body was on fire. He too was standing before the same toy stall from where she had bought the toy-watch for Ayush. The electrical wires of the stall had burst into flames and engulfed the child who had sauntered there, away from his parents. The people were behaving hysterically and dumbly. Nidhi closed her eyes for the fraction of a second, remembered the Ganesha that she had held in her hands, and with great effort leapt inside the flames. She dropped the child on the ground, covered his eyes and rolled over and over the terrain, clasping the helpless child in her enclosed arms.
Ayush stood powerless in the crowd whimpering at the sight of his mother and the strange child. But what shocked him was his mother’s behavior which was stranger. For who on earth knew better than Ayush and Sushil that Nidhi had a dual handicap. She was pyrophobic and agoraphobic. Rare but true. Emboldened by her pluck, someone in the crowd managed to find a thick cloth and wrapped both of them till the flames were doused off. A few even got buckets of water splashed on them….
Not too long back did these incidents take place. Nidhi smiled. She particularly remembered her journey to the hospital with a good Samaritan at the wheels of her car, Ayush giving her all comfort and solace that was apt for a nine-year old, clutching his toy while the image of the Ganesha flitted in her mind. She had desolated Him but He hadn't. And what more? He had cured her disability once and for all !
Looking back on that propitious Monday Nidhi thought to herself, "You have definitely arrived".