Spandan - Rhythm of My Heart
by Tanuja Chatterjee
Every individual is highly precious. Each child is a store house of ideas. They can make impossible happen. The fact that such thoughts come to them quite easily and spontaneously, actually amazes me! Children love to fantasize and I knew that; but to what extent, was unknown to me, till I encountered it myself when my son just stepped out from being a toddler.
Since the time he was an infant, he was obsessed by 'space'. I had to cook up 'Journey into space' stories, to feed him, to soothe his tired nerves, while helping him to sleep, to make him obey when he turned extremely boisterous and at bed time I would tell him how angles filled the space and stars were nothing but the glitters of their stafts. In all my stories, I borrowed thoughts from 'Star Trek' and 'Star Wars' and made them interesting for him by bringing in aliens, how we encountered them and enlightened them, it kept him elated. Every day story telling meant a lot of home work for me and a serious session for my child. Soon he began to fantasize himself to be an astronaut. If any one asked him what he would like to be when he grows up, he would instantly say 'ASTRONAUT'.At first, I was quite surprised but when I began to feel his determination, I made it my purpose in life as well.
He loved the pictures of space shuttles and knew about the different parts it comprised of. Once he even caught hold of a book which gave detailed explanation on space suites. He knew it by heart as well. Being fond of reading himself he would always make us buy him such books, which we did gladly. In no time, the picture books got replaced by books in print, but they too were sci-fic ones. Since my husband is also interested in science fiction, he would take him along to watch movies like 'Aliens', 'Star Wars',' Apollo 13','Journey into space' and many more. His fantacies gained flight. Soon he was hugely interested in this rather than in his text- books, which he found boring. In spite of his falling grades he wasn't disturbed a bit, but we were alarmed.
He was hardly six when one night while reading him a 'Bed-Time Story' he asked me if I knew what 'Milky Way' was. I casually answered saying that it was the path where angles tread. He was surprised to find that I didn't know. He sat up wide awake trying to enlighten me. I was dumb struck by his efforts to clear my doubts. He made things easier by saying that there are millions of milky ways in the universe and we are a part of 'Akash Ganga'. Jumping out of the bed he brought a book and handed it over to me with the instruction to read it carefully as it had all elementary details. I followed his instructions obediently. Next day, after returning from school the first thing he enquired was whether I had read the book or not. When told that I had he was satisfied and happy.
This was around that time when Kalpana Chawla was in news.She happened to be the first Indian woman astronaut who would go into space once more. India means a lot to my son and an Indian astronaut! He was mad about the whole thing. Every day he would paste her pictures and articles on her in his scrap book and read slowly all the news in the papers about her. While she prepared her trip to space, my son kindled the fondness of his trip to Mars one day! He remained almost glued to the television set on the day she took off. Then on, every day my son would be the first person to read her news in the news papers the first thing in the morning as if reading newspaper was his way of life.
There are many turning points in one's life and such a moment was fast approaching for him as well. A day prior to Coulumbia's return to earth, he was highly excited. I even heard him say - "I have to meet Kalpana Chawla. I too will go to NASA one day. I'll visit Mars and meet the Martians." We all were excited about Kalpana's home coming. The next day, when I some
how got up early in the morning, I didn't find him in bed. Thinking that he hadn't slept the whole night in excitement, I hurriedly left the bed to look for him in the other rooms. I was surprised to find him sitting with the crushed newspaper in his hands, in our sitting room and crying profously. I had never ever seen him in such a state before.
On seeing me he held the paper in front and said "Maa, Kalpana did not come home. She has become the star of the Milky Way." At first, I didn't understand what he said in his full throat sobbing voice and asked him what had happened.
He answered, "She did not come home to her mother. Coulumbia got burnt just before landing. She is dead."
Oh my god, seeing him break out in a loud cry I too broke down. It was an inconsoleable moment for us. How could I possibly console him with my limited knowledge! I fell short. He was in deep grief that I had to hold him back from going to school for almost two days. Slowly he became quieter and detached. I felt miserable for my baby but felt more miserable at the thought of losing such a promising young sincere woman pioneer.
We are all ordinary people but it's our dare devil courage, stand alone spirit, patience, perseverance and our rock solid determination that makes us extra ordinary. When we rise above our ordinary selves we are termed a pioneers.
This painful incidence brought a total change in the attitude of my son. He began to distance himself from 'space' and 'space-odesseys'.It pained me to see him suffer. I felt sorry for him but left him to absorb the shock while monitoring him quietly from a distance. After a long period,one day as I sat beside him to ignite his passionate fire for 'space' he answered dejected "I do not want to be an astronaut any more."
I couldn't answer and felt choked with emotions. I even thought "Is he a coward?" and "Is he a day-dreamer?" So poking him again with the same question surprised me - He wanted to be a writer now! I was troubled again. Feeling that he was losing his sense of mission, I became sad. At school, his grades fell miserably. I was alarmed and had to know why he had shifted his objective.
One must live with a purpose in life. It is vital for it gives direction to one in life. Without a focused mission one tends to waver from one's path. Living aimlessly makes one lose one's goal and he/she tends to wander in the wilderness as a vagabond. Life's meaning gets completely lost. Losing sense of mission so early in life could ruin my son's life. I battled this thought day after day and even began to lose my sleep on it especially because he had been a serious thinker till recent past and now his cowardice was getting the better of him. I had to talk to my son.
Carefully reading his mood one day, I sat beside him to have a heart to heart talk. I was awestruck by his honest confession. He said looking into my eyes,"I know there are no aliens or martians. I know we can never go to Mars, it has no atmosphere, no water. I know one has to be excellent in science and I've performed badly always. I also don't want to die so early Maa! So now I think I'll do something on earth and make it more beautiful for you and me. I'll work hard to stop ozone layer from cracking further. I'll work to stop war and terrorism. I'll care for those whom nobody cares. When teachers humiliate me in the class I know how it feels so I'll work to find ways so that no child is humiliated. I'll serve the poor and the needy so that they don't have to beg for food. I'll work to make others happy. I'll take care of Kalpana's mother and tell her not to cry for I'm her son as well. I'll be with those who are lonely. I'll change myself so that others can love me too."
I sat completely speechless beside him. Tears rolled down my eyes. I felt proud to be a mother of such a dignified child.