No Fortress is Good Enough

It was a damp, humid and clammy Saturday- a perfect day for the germs to claim their hapless victim. I was suffering from a terrible headache and thought of falling flat on my bed with warm coffee and blankets. But did I ever get what I wanted!

Just when my bed was luring me towards its warmth, I heard my phone ring.

“Anurupa, could you please come to the office within half an hour? We are having some issues with the new code that has to be solved on priority”, chimed in my boss over the call; the polite question seemed more like a firm command.

“Of course Sir, I will be right there within no time”.I belted out a lot of profanities while getting dressed for office and quickly tucked the hot tiffin box, which my Mom prepared in a jiffy, into my bag. Pity I couldn’t have my lunch with my family.

I was in such a hurry that I tripped on something lying on the pavement and fell flat on my face! Yeah! God had finally fulfilled my wish of falling flat; just not on bed but on the cold hard pavement.

Bad headache, office on Saturday and then Humpty had a great fall; could my day have been any worse! It was like God was mocking at me and remarking, ‘Anurupa, it’s just not your day today, so don’t even try.

As I was picking up my file, my eyes caught sight of a captivating view- no, it wasn’t the scintillating chocolate cakes displayed on the bakery counter, neither  was it the good looking guy sitting and sipping his coffee in the Café Coffee Shop.

It was the magnificent yet emaciated old lady sitting on the pavement selling an assortment of edible items under the hot humid sun.

What a sight that was! She was stooped with age but not dignity. Her eyesight might be failing but not the steely resolve which I could see reflected in her eyes. She had wrinkles running from everywhere to everywhere, which showed that she had years of experience tucked under her mind and body. A dirty white saree wrapped her timid body but the aura of confidence and resolve that she radiated dimmed the ugliness of her dirty cloth. Something attracted me towards her to know her story behind her staunch resolve.  She seemed to have a magnetic personality which made me forget my office chores and drew me towards her. I bought some potato chips and other edible items from her, and then couldn’t help but ask something out of concern and sympathy.

Dadiji, why did you set up your stall today? It’s pretty hot and you might fall sick.”

To which she replied in a croaking but firm voice, “I have no one to look after me. No family memberto fall back on. My son had left me because he didn’t want to bear my expenses. I have to fend for myself in order to stay alive.”

I was shell shocked, looking at the old lady with eyes full of pity and sympathy. But the small pair of eyes which returned my gaze, did not want any of those abstract emotions to be thrown at her.

I went ahead and told her that there were quite a few old age homes in the city where she could have a comfortable, if not a luxurious life. But what she replied next, perplexed me to no end. She said that she didn’t want to go to any free old age homes and while away her time. Neither did she want to beg for help. She is a woman armed with dignity and so decided to take matters into her hands and rely on her culinary skills to sustain her for the rest of her life.

This small brush with reality taught me a great lesson. Humans are enigmatic creations. They are capable of pushing their boundaries and achieving great heights. When faced with the storms of life, quitting is not an option. You stand tall and brave the storm. There is no guarantee that you will come out unscathed but the metamorphosis you will undergo after every painful experience will make you a tougher nut to crack. When you are faced with the storms of life, then no fortress is good enough to withhold reality.

And to think that I was cribbing about going to office with a cold on a Saturday! God save the likes of me!

Anurupa Ghosh| PGDM 2018-20

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