Friday, April 15, 2016

WHY HAS THE CHILD NOT COME HOME?








Pic.: Anima D'Cunha

Some memories always stay. In my case, an incident that took place when I was about nine-ten year old – some forty-eight years ago – has stayed still.

My maternal grandfather had passed away. The house of my grandfather was located at the foothills of old Mangalore airport… The place is known as Karambar. The church was situated at least five-six kilometers away… We had to climb the steep hill, through a dense forest, where the path was rough and rustic… It took more than two kilometers to reach the top of the hill and, from there, we had to walk another three-four kilometers to reach the church…

I and my cousin Nevil, who was of my age, had accompanied the funeral procession of our grandfather. By the time we left the cemetery, the darkness had fallen… In a while, I and my cousin realized that we were lost in the darkness!

Only men had been to the cemetery. There was no way to contact anyone… We began to panic. Nevil was more scared than I was. I tried to pacify him and began to walk towards the direction of the airport hill, which I did by seeking help from the strangers… Once we reached the hill top, we had to face the real challenge: to climb down the hill… through the wild, dark forest. The moment we came close to it, we both froze. The next thing I remember doing was to run back – run fast – to a small shop, dimly lit with a kerosene-lamp, a kilometer away from the hill. The shop owner was a kind soul… Seeing us cry with panic, he calmed us down. Those days, as a few families lived in the village, they knew about each other. When the shop owner realized to which household we kids belonged, he arranged to reach us to our grandpa’s place through a person. In those days, they would keep ready in every house torches made out of dry coconut-tree leaves. The person carried a torch and we two kids followed him through the dark forest…

Almost halfway, we could see someone approaching from the opposite direction holding aloft a torch. Soon, when we intercepted, we realized that our worried parents had dispatched a team of two men to search for us… The kind shop-owner’s man ran his hand over our heads and handed us to the men who had been sent to find us….

I can never forget the reaction of people at my grandpa’s home – particularly the tears of relief on the faces of my mom and Nevil’s!

We both were terrified expecting a harsh treatment from the elders for being irresponsible. But, it was the opposite kind of treatment that awaited us… We both were cuddled, pacified, and cared for by everyone at home!

I don’t know if Nevil remembers this episode as much as I do, today!

By the way, what makes me remember this, today?

At about 8 in the morning today, the mother of one of our PD students, twelve-year old Parth*, called up. I was at home. “Sir, has Parth reached the class?”

The class was at 4 pm today and not at 8 am. When I conveyed this to Parth’s mother, she began to panic. “Ma’am, don’t worry… I will ask someone to talk to Parth and revert to you.”

Thus, I called two of my friends, who lived near my classes, and asked them to inform Parth to go back and come at 4. But, in next ten minutes, Parth’s mother called me twice and she sounded really worried. Before the third call came to me, one of my friends had arranged Parth to talk to me… The boy was chilled… “No problem sir, I will go back and come at 4!”

I called up Parth’s mother and reported… “Ma’am, I just spoke to Parth… and, he is fine… He will be home in a while.”

“Thank you so much sir,” Parth’s mother said with a huge sigh of relief, “I am sorry for bothering you so much.”

“Ma’am, are you feeling okay, now?” I asked Parth’s mother.

“Yes sir,” the mother said with quite an embarrassment, “I don’t know why I get so much panicked!”

“Don’t worry ma’am… some of us panic more, some of us panic less,” I consoled Parth’s mother… Then, I teased us: “Ma’am, want to join the PD course? It will be fun!”

“I think, I need it more than my son does,” the mother did not wait to confess.

* Name changed

GERALD D’CUNHA


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