GRATITUDE – Rebirth of My Princess
Author – Hiral Kaup
It was 6 pm on the 26th of July 2005. I was drowned in my laptop completely lost in preparing a presentation. I had to complete this presentation before I left for the day. We were all busy preparing for a meeting with some delegates who were to fly down to Mumbai the next day. I was completely oblivious to my surroundings as I had told all my team members that I do not want to be disturbed at all. Suddenly my mobile rang. I decided not to look at it as I did not want to take any call. A little voice inside me said “look” and I looked at the mobile. The display read “Home”. I suddenly realised that my daughter who usually is home from kindergarten by 4 pm and calls me up had not called. I was so busy in my work that I had not realised that she had not called. What a lousy irresponsible mother I was. But wait its 6 pm now. And the call is from home. I answered the call. It was my mother in law. Her “Hello” was shaky. My heart sank. Her next statement made me numb. My daughter had not reached home!!!!
My mother in law who is otherwise a strong woman capable of handling any crisis was visibly nervous as she narrated to me how it had started raining heavily post noon and in less than three hours Mumbai was flooded. I had no clue it was so bad as we all were in a closed office with no view outside and heavy rains keep happening in Mumbai. But today, she told me was different. My father in law who goes to the bus stop to pick up my daughter was waiting since 3.30 pm at the bus stop and there was no sign of the school bus. There was thunderstorm and lightening. Roads were flooded so vehicles could not move. The school phone was dead. The teacher’s mobile was not reachable. It was an era of no android phones, limited mobiles, no WhatsApp, only SMS and calls. I started visualising the entire scenario as she kept describing the sight outside and how it was impossible to reach my daughter’s school as angry rains lashed Mumbai. Suburbs were already flooded and we, sitting at Nariman Point were not aware of the gravity of the upcoming disaster.
My five-year-old daughter had reached kindergarten by 12 noon and would have ideally left by school bus at 3.15 pm. Where on earth was her school bus stuck. My poor baby would be scared. I had to reach her come what may. I could not think. My brains stopped functioning. I felt myself go numb. I decided to come early next morning and finish the presentation. I packed up and rushed down 15 floors not wanting to waste time waiting for the lift. I came out of my office building and it was pitch dark like it was 9 pm already. Street lights were off. Roads were flooded and people were wading in the water. I joined the gang. Travelling by road was ruled out as traffic was not moving because of the water. With great difficulty I started walking and wading towards Churchgate station. I saw abandoned vehicles and broken-down buses as I reached Churchgate station. And Oh My God!!! I could not enter the station. It was crammed with people. Every platform had a train which was overcrowded with people inside and outside. There were people on the roof of the trains. The trains were not moving and indicators were blank. I heard some people say it has been like this since the last one hour. My heart sank. I called up home. My mother in law had sent a neighbour to check on my 70-year-old father in law at the bus stop. It was 6.45 pm. Time was ticking and there was no news of my baby. All ways to reach out to her seemed to have shut down. The irony was that I did not know where was she and by now most landlines and mobiles were off. Electricity had been shut off at a lot of places. I could see fear in everyone’s eyes. It was 7.30 now and I was still at Churchgate surrounded by panic stricken stranded office goers who had to reach home. My mother in law called to say the neighbour had come back as my father in law refuses to leave the bus stop. Somewhere deep down in my heart I was glad he was still at the bus stop because we were all waiting for the bus to arrive. I requested the neighbour to go back and wait with him, as my father in law did not carry a mobile and when the bus would arrive with my daughter he definitely would not be able to carry my daughter and walk in this rain. Yes, my daughter would definitely come home. I started contemplating what to do.
I felt helpless and hopeless. I couldn’t imagine the trauma my little baby would be in. When in crisis the mind gets negative thoughts first. Surely the bus would not take four hours to travel a distance which it otherwise covers in 30 minutes. What if the bus has broken down? What if the driver decides to abandon the bus and look for his own safety? What if someone kidnaps the little children in the bus? What if the bus has……….no know what am I thinking. At that moment I just looked up into the sky and with folded hands I cried “Oh God just protect my little princess.”. The next moment there was a Beep in my Nokia mobile. The SMS from an unknown number read “All children are safe in school”. What a relief!!! I was sure God heard my prayers and sent the SMS. Next my mother in law called to say that another mother whose child had also not come home received an SMS saying all children are safe in school. I told her that even I just received the SMS. I checked the time it was 8.30 pm. In my entire life I had never felt as grateful to the universe to the Almighty for answering my prayers and protecting my baby. Yes, GRATITUDE it is!!!