It was 1993. A few weeks after the infamous Mumbai-Bomb-blasts, we had received a short letter written my Merlyn, a young British-lady. She had seen the gruesome images of mayhem in this city and she had expressed her genuine concern for us and written to my wife, “I hope, all of you are safe.”
Just a few weeks before that, I had taken my wife and our just-a-baby son to the beautiful Keem beach, not very far from Mumbai. MTDC has resorts here; we loved the quietness of this place, the excellent food and, above all, the stay in those close-to-the-Nature tents. We had gone there just for a week-end. But, because we loved this place, we decided to extend our stay for a day more. So, by that Sunday evening, the entire place was empty… The Mumbai revelers go there just for a short week-end to re-charge their batteries…and, they go back to the city so that they can resume to work on Monday.
That Sunday, when night fell, we looked around… We suddenly felt we were in a very deserted place! There were no visitors left now… except this beautiful young-British-lady, Merlyn. And, needless to say, she too was anxious and a bit scared to stay in that lonely place… The night ahead looked really dark and scary. It was too late to return to Mumbai… The last boat had left, and there was no way we could now change our plan. We had to say back, there, through that night.
So, Merlyn, the stranger, became our friend, that night. My wife had a good time with this wonderful lady and my little son had another admirer to pamper! We spent a lot of time talking on various subjects, we ate together, and, finally, when we went to retire, my wife thought it was appropriate to stay in Merlyn’s tent, that night. So, she took our little one and went there, to make this stranger woman feel a lot safer, and cared for.
The next afternoon, we all left for Mumbai together. On reaching Mumbai, we bid good-bye to each other, while our son got some final pampering from his ‘White aunty’… and off we went into our own worlds.
In just a couple of days, we forgot about all this.
And then, after some days, the bombs went off all over the city and people died… The destruction numbed all of us… and, we all here – the Mumbaikars - were still limping back to normalcy. That was the time, one morning, the postman dropped this letter. Merlyn had taken our postal address… and, she had written to my wife enquiring about our safety.
Those were not the days of cell-phones or e-mails. My wife wrote back to Merlyn… Thanking her for the concern… and for the wonderful time we had together, on that lonely night.
Why do I remember this ‘White Aunty’ of my little son,today, after nearly two decades?
Just a week ago, a mentally-disturbed ST bus-driver had unleashed a mayhem of another kind in the heart of the crowded Pune-city. He had gone on a destruction spree… and, the images were being flashed over the TV… Suddenly, we did experience the numbness, again. This time around, our son is a young man and lives in a hostel in Pune. Well, the tragedy happened near Swargate, the heart of the city, and we knew that our son lived far from this place. But, you never know! They do come to the main city, very often… So, you really never know!
We called immediately. Our son and all his friends were safe!
We sent a sigh of relief!
Then, that night, just before going to the bed, I remembered about another young man who lived in his hostel right near that spot. It was too late, but, I could not stop myself from calling his dear ones, here back in Mumbai: “Is Abhinav safe?”
Yes, he was!
I felt relieved, once again!
Sorrow is there in me as I see so many innocents die and such insane destruction is forced upon so many helpless ones. Yet, I feel in my heart this ‘uneasy relief’ when I learn that my dear one is safe. Yes, it is an uneasy relief!
Paradoxical it seems:
even though a trillion stars
shine above us through the night,
we can still feel lonely…
And, on the other hand,
just a letter from the blue,
or a late-night call or a message –
“I hope, you are safe” -
can make our hearts truly feel so!
Our son has come home for his week-end, last night. I just felt very, very safe, this morning. Thought, I will tell the world!
The image used in this Post is by Ashok Ahuja. He is a professional Photographer and a very dear friend of mine. He is also one of the founder members of The Dawn Club, and, along with his gifted-artist wife, Sudha, has been helping me, and the Club, right from its inception.