The Fiery Night
by Anjana Negi
Our father hailed from a very small village of Basauli in Uttarakhand,the divine land of gods, also called devbhoomi. This is the hilly area and the village is located in the foothills of the Himalayas. He had very exciting stories to tell us when we were small. My brother and I were very fond of village stories and our father would be most interested to narrate to us,as this used to remind him of his most cherished childhood days!
His stories used to be quite inspiring and loaded with moral endings. They used to be mostly about my grandmother,Radha Devi who was a very courageous and virtuous woman. She had immense presence of mind and would never lose patience, be it any complex situation. My father had imbibed the same values from his mother and was also brave and wise like her.
Our grandmother whom we used to call 'amma' was living with her husband and four children in their two-storey house of Basauli. My grandfather had a transferable job and would not stay with his family for most of the times. He used to pay monthly visits and check if everything was alright with his family, as there was no phone convenience in those olden days. He had requested his cousin sister Sheela, who was staying close by, to pay timely visits to my amma and check up with the family.
Sheela Devi was her favourite and she too would adore my amma. She used to often drop in at noon, have lunch and spend the whole day with the family and leave by evening, before it was dark. Though she was staying quite close to my amma, she dreaded to venture out into the dark as the village was terrorized by man-eater tigers and dacoits. Many villagers had already fallen victim to this nuisance.
One afternoon, Sheela, as usual came over to amma's place. They prepared lunch together and talked over many issues. They and the children had a good time together. By then, it was already evening and it was getting dark, when Sheela said,"Ok, then, didi(as addressed to elder sister), I will leave now and do not open the door whatever may come, you know how dangerous it is outside when dark!" "Yes, Sheela", amma replied and assured her that she would be careful.
After Sheela left, amma started her dinner preparations. The children needed food by eight at night and went off to sleep early. She had already prepared vegetable dish. When she started making chapatis, she heard a knock on the kitchen door. The kitchen was separately connected to the courtyard by a couple of steps and the rest of the house was connected with a separate entrance to the courtyard. The kitchen was connected to the rest of the house of six rooms via a door inside. Again, there was a knock, this time a firm one. Oh God, amma thought,"who could it be? Sheela had told me not to open the door, what should I do, hope it is not Sheela herself."
Amma was is in a fix when she heard a feminine-like voice from outside, "Didi, open the door." The voice was quite like Sheela's but something was different in that tone. Amma was slightly scared
and was wondering what to do now! Again the same voice was heard but it was a little stern this time. This time amma was scared to death, her children had already started asking for food, and she did not know what awaited her as her sixth sense was strongly against opening of the door!
But amma kept her calm and prayed to God. After sometime when there was no sound, amma quietly slipped into the adjoining room which was immediately connected to the kitchen. This room had a small window like a ventilator towards the top and gave a view of the kitchen steps. She slowly crawled towards the window with the help of a ladder, kept near the kitchen door, and bent slightly forward to take a quick look at the kitchen doorstep. Amma was shocked on what she saw! A tall and dreadful dacoit with a big moustache was bent forward with a hatchet in his hand,as though he would chop off amma's head as soon as she opened the door! Alas, amma was shocked and almost fell down. But she did not lose her calm and remembering God,ran towards the rear end of the house. The rear part of the house had a window which was facing Sheela's house, but would be usually closed as it was quite cold then. Amma opened the door of the window slowly and shouted loudly, "Help me,help me, a dacoit has come! Please somebody help me!"
Sheela and her family people heard the alarm and ran towards amma's house with a couple of villagers. Seeing the crowd, the dacoit fled away fearing for his life and thus amma was saved! A police complaint was lodged at the police station. That day Sheela slept at amma's place. After some days, based on the description given by amma, the dacoit was arrested by the cops and taken to a bigger jail as he was charged with murder of some people.
In this way, with her sole presence of mind and bravery, my grandmother saved herself and her kids from the fiery dacoit, who was planning to murder her as he had killed other villagers. I am really proud of my amma and wish I too will act in this way if at all such a situation ever comes in my life! Amma was later felicitated by the villagers as she had helped the police to catch a dacoit who was on a looting and murdering spree for quite some days.
So folks, have patience in life and never lose your calm in any situation of life, be alert and have that presence of mind to act bravely in any worst situation of life as sometimes a small alertness can make a big difference in life!
My grandmother died a natural death and enjoyed ninety long years of life without any disease such as blood pressure or diabetes, because she had great faith in God and belief in herself that she can do anything in life which may seem impossible, be it saving her life from a dacoit with her sole presence of mind and alertness. So believe in the Almighty and have faith in oneself to achieve the impossible, and then see how life becomes easy and simple! ***