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Alex Hamiltons phone call changed my life

By Asmath Sabira Amina Azmath Mohammad Faiz Ali SMASHWORDS EDITION *****

PUBLISHED BY: Mohammad Faiz Ali & Amina Azmath

Copyright 2013 by Mohammad Faiz Ali & Amina Azmath

Thank you for downloading this free ebook. Although this is a free book, it remains the copyrighted property of the author and may not be reproduced, scanned, or distributed for any commercial or noncommercial use without permission from the author. Quotes used in reviews are the exception. No alteration of content is allowed. If you enjoyed this book, then encourage your friends to download their own free copy. Your support and respect for the property of this author is appreciated. This book is a work of fiction and any resemblance to persons, living or dead, or places, events or locales is purely coincidental. The characters are productions of the authors imagination and used fictitiously. We hope you enjoy the story as much as we enjoyed writing it.

***** Many thanks to Mohammed Sabir Ali & Sajid Ali who helped us edit and revise this story. Also, thank you to Ayaan and Arhaan who have offered their support and have allowed us to practise our writing skills on them.

Your task is not to seek for love, but merely to seek and find all the barriers within yourself that you have built against it. Rumi

How do some people live such self less lives? How and when do they accept others pain as theirs? When and how does this transition happen? In our traditions, they say, you should know you are a chosen one of God, when every moment, in your heart is rising a sea of kindness and love and desire to love and help everyone around you. How does this sea come to be? What pushes them to decide to make a difference? To make a difference to the lives of others? The others that people like me dont even think about! The others we see around but do not recognize! We see the same world that these people do. The difference is in the way we see it. We see it like what we could gain from the world. They see it like what the world could gain from them. Dec 11th 2006 I have never been this restless ever in my life. The suspense is killing me. I cant wait for 4 pm. I am shivering in excitement and anticipation, a bit of anxiety too. My heart is pounding faster than ever. Innumerable thoughts are crowding in my mind. The mere mention of my mother on a phone is making me anxious, How can anybody know my mother? Here in England, in a land so far away from her own. A land she never visited. How can anybody have belongings of my mother?? How?? What can they be? Was it really a British ascent??? No doubt it was?? he said his name was Alexander Hamilton. A string of endless questions are arising within me. Human mind can be tricky some times. At times when time is the only solution, it behaves as if; it is in race with the time itself. Such is the state of my mind, A unique feeling, very strange to me, something of this nature that I have never felt before. Knowing time will unveil my answers, which is at least an hour from now; my restlessness is increasing even more with each passing second.

Not long ago did I receive a phone call. A phone call from a complete stranger asking for me. His words are still buzzing in my head.. At first I was puzzled at this bold, unfamiliar, British voice asking whereabouts of my mother. What startled me even more was the tone in which it was delivered, with such an intense respect and honour, the owner of that voice certainly seemed to know my mother. I have wondered enough how could it be, because my mother had never visited this part of the world. I can do nothing else but wait. And it isnt easy. ............................................................................. It is a cold, gloomy Sunday morning outside. There is nothing uncommon about the weather for this part of the year. Plus it is drizzling making it the perfect December in London. it is a weekend and I woke up late, lazily. Last night, my daughter Ayra was not in a mood to sleep early at all, she never is. Her innocent questions after every story telling session will make you wonder how she comes up with them! Plus it also means you arent sleeping early at all. So I woke up groggy, and now, this phone call shakes me up. In my cosy east London apartment Ayra is busy with her toys scattered all over. And I am waiting for the mysterious caller who spoke not much more than asking me my details and address, and the mention of my mother of course. These wide Victorian windows with these netted curtains have definitely been built on a purpose. I think I know it now. My eyes peep through these windows scanning every passing car. My wife , who is always tidyin up something has been tiding up the guestroom today, after a while she walks up to me and makes sit down in the comfy sofa holding my hand sensing my anxiety says ... "Hello??He has our postcode and number... Im sure he will ring you as soon as he is here. I do not feel like turning or answering her now. I feel she cannot understand my state of mind. She pauses for a second and adds as if convincing me. "This is not India... my dear, People reach here in given time. Deep down I know she understands me very well. She is as puzzeled as I am and is eagerly waiting for the moment, but is keeping calm as usual so unlike me.. Sometimes I wish I could acquire that quality of hers. There is a storm in my head right now. It has been more than 25 years since my mother passed away. I was just 2 years old, since then my grandma has been my world. I call her Mimmi, I dont know how but it has always been that way.. But in spite of never seeing my mother (apart from infancy), I almost know all about her, its almost like I have known her intimately all my life. It is through Mimmi that If know her. My mother had a heart of gold, soft spoken, a woman of few, very few words. She never hurt anyone, always read peoples needs from the look of their eyes. My mother was Mimmis only child.

Ours is a very remote fishing village on the southern coast of the subcontinent, a few hours drive from the much known metropolitan city of madras now known as Chennai. There is nothing extraordinarily special about my village, except that I love it for what it is.

If I go back generations, It is here that my entire family tree my mother ,my grandfather and his father were born...there is almost everything I know of my place and almost everything about my mother.. I was only a baby when my mother left this world for ever leaving me in the hands of her mother..." my Mimmi"..... Since then Mimmi is everything for me, my mother my father my world.... Ever since, Mimmi lost her daughter. Mimmi shared every incident of my mother with me, though I must agree not in the most direct form. But I could always read through her heart. And I knew for sure her daughter was an essential part of her and Mimmi made it a point that I know my mother well myself. Every incident of my mother, from her childhood until her last hour, Mimmi made it a point to mention them all to me. There could hardly be a son who knew of his mother's yester years as well as I did. They are all printed in my mind, like how you remember every scene of your favourite movie you have seen many times. I can say I have lived my moments with my mother in my Mimmi's stories. And I am very proud of them. The picture of my mother, I have in my heart is of that of a humble human with the heart of a saint. And as for Mimmi her daughter will always remain the most " adorable darling with a very beautiful heart, a mother could ever cherish". And that is the reason why my Mimmi wanted me to introduce me to this cherished jewel of her heart, years after she had left this world for ever. the mention of my mother from a stranger here in UK, has got me thinking about the little stories of mother mimmi would often tell me. One such incident is when my mother was 8years old. Mimmi had packed the lunch for her daughter. But my mother demanded for 2 boxes saying this was for her friend. So Mimmi packed for two without a question. Then the days followed with similar demands. In those days, most of the population of subcontinent was below the breadline. One more portion of food everyday meant a great deal. Thus this demand had soon to come to an end. There was no other go left for Mimmi but to discipline her by packing just one box. My mum agreed for that without any objection. She was not of a demanding kind at all, meekest of all; she couldnt hurt a fly. Two such months passed by, my mother started looking weak, almost anorexic, what then came to light didnt amuse mimmi much my mother had started skipping her lunches and feeding a very poor child who lived just in front of the school. Each time Mimmi has mentioned this incidence to me she adds this proudly of her daughter

"My daughter, your mother was a little lilly, who lives only for a a day but pleases many an eye with its beauty. A kindly woman was your mother " So she was..there is no doubt about it. Serving people selflessly ,realizing their pain as her own, finding happiness in other people's happiness and doing good for them as much as she could, were inbuilt in her. There is this one more incident Mimmi never gets tired mentioning. By now Mimmi was very familiar with my mothers nature. It might have been a year after the previous one It was geometry class, there was this boy, my mums classmate, he was dull and never good at academics. In fact he never showed any interest in studies. He would never get a geometry box in spite of the teacher asking him many times to get one. This was the last ultimatum from the teacher today. The teacher shouted at him and then warned the entire class saying, today is the last day of excuse for not getting the geometry box, if you do not get the geometry box, there was a pause for some time then the teacher continued tomorrow you will only only yourself to blame for what punishment I give you. The next day, my mum slowly slipped her geometry box into his bag without anyone noticing it. And she had to take the beatings on her hand. What she didnt realize was that the boy had seen her slip it in his bag silently and take the beatings. For my mum, she had always been this way, but it changed the boys life forever. For the first time in his life he could think from a different perspective. His mother was a domestic worker who earned meagre, her greatest desire was, her son should never have to face the hardship that she was facing hence with great difficulty she had managed to get his admission in the school but The boy had failed to understand this, he always cursed his faith for being poor and never took any interest in studies. He could never understand the feelings of his mother nor could he ever feel how hard it was for his mother even to pay for the books while she struggled to pay for his school fees. He simply felt it was her fault for not earning good money like the other parents in the school. Today my mother had changed his perspective, he could get into the heart of his mother and could realise how hard did his mother work, how difficult it was for her to make ends meet but she was doing all this for him, for her son to get a better life. For the first time he could understand the true meaning of his mothers struggle and for the first time instead of cursing her for not being rich he made a determination that he would work hard, study well and will make his Mothers dream come true .he realised life is much more than just thinking about self ,he realised life is not about cursing others for not having the things the way we want, he realised being rich or poor is nothing when there is determination and desire to achieve things, he realised with his hard work he can achieve the unachievable. And that was it, no turning back from then. He worked hard, studied in the street lights and never complained about the things he never had but worked hard to get them. He had got the essence of life through hard work. Soon he was the top ranked student in the class and the best student the school praised of and gave examples of... That was the day the kid took to his books like moth to flame, he studied with unusual interest, unusual grads followed. Sometimes in life we are looking, but we really dont understand, the kid was looking at his mom pay his school fees under difficult circumstances. She worked doubly hard just to make sure her son too went to that good school. Today he realised the gravity of it all. Hed got a new sense of direction in his life.

__ The rain moved on, time moved on, a few months later I was born. As I started breathing in this world, my mothers lungs perhaps starting growing tired. Her immune system was always weak, pneumonia happened. She fell sick with pneumonia , frustrated at being and feeling tired. Wanting to hold me, but she wouldnt be able to to. She would have to satisfy herself by looking at me sit in my grand mas lap. That is what was meant to be, me growing up in grand mas lap.

My mother wanted to get well, she knew she absolutely had to. She couldnt. One cold and cloudy night the moon would hide and unhide behind clouds, just as my mother slipped in and out of consciousness. The moon eventually must have come out of the cloud cover, my mother didnt though. It was a soft death. Peaceful. My mothers eyes were teary, moist when she breathed her last. It started drizzling later that night, heavy rains followed. it was as if the sky was crying that night is what my grand ma would often say. She would also say your mother has become a start and is watching over you. I didnt know if that was meant to make me feel better, but it didnt. but what must also be said that it didnt make me sad either. I was too young to know of my mothers absence perhaps. Because for me, my grand ma was what to most other kids their mother is. For this, I will be forever thankful to her. My grand father didnt live much long after that, I dint remember much of him, grand ma never told me. He died in a month from my mother, mimmi had lost her husband. My father was a farmer, a hard working farmer. Its a tough job being a farmer in india. One morning he set out to his field for another days work. It was biting cold and misty. Very misty. He must have been lost in thoughts, for he could neither hear nor see the speeding truck as he was walking towards his fields. His death came to light later that day when sun penetrated the mist enough for people to see. People saw, and people talked. 3 years into this world, this boy has costed 3 lives in his family. People called me names as I grew up, unpleasant names. Some called me a dreadful omen, some even called me a curse. Grandma called me neither. For her, I was a reason to live. Whatever hiccups she came across. However dark her future looked to her, how many ever winds she had to bear, she never showed it out to me. To me, she was a tree, in whose roots I would find strength and support, in whose branches I found shade and shelter, In whose fruits I found the mothers love I had missed. The door bell suddenly came to life, bringing me back to my present, dragging me away from the past I had dreamily been thinking about. Like I was in a trance, in another world, another time. The door bel rang again, I hurriedly opened the door to see an elegant man, immaculately well dressed,looking rich, oopulant, but anxious, almost tensed! He stood at the door and looked at me intently without looking away for a second , as if searching in me, someone he had lost eons ago.

He was a tall man with broad shoulders holding a large bouquet of fragrant white lilies. His silver Porsche parked in front of my house. after inspecting me questioningly, he smiled. hello ! Im Alexander Hamilton he said, offering his hand for a hand shake. I was a little apprehensive at first but then His deep blue eyes penetrated mine assuring a wealth of warmth and a homely feeling, added with a firm friendly handshake making me invite a complete stranger whole heartedly into my house. There was something about his smile, it overwhelmed my heart, erasing all the jigsaws my mind was playing around. They say first impression is the best impression. In this case It held true for me through out. The mild fragrance of lilies filled the passage way and well through into the living room while they hung their coats and mufflers onto the coat hanger. Alexander was wearing a beige and brown cashmere jumper with a electric blue shirt collars popping out. He looked a gentleman. His blond hair had gone grey at the sides, perfectly suiting his broad face. Clearly he was in his early 60s. Looking at him a thought occurred to me, "If alive, my mum would have been almost the same age.

He was accompanied by an equally tall boy with blond hair and deep blue eyes. The boy might have been in his early 20s. At the first glance anyone would say they are father and son. The boy was holding a large object covered in a Christmassy gift wrap. The coats were on coat hangers, and after having made themselves comfortable in my living room Alexander started to speak. He was Alexander Hamilton, with him was his son Harris (Harry) Hamilton. He was a big businessman who owned several boats used for punting on the Cambridge river and hired several students for a part time work. His son Jamie was a student himself in Cambridge University pursuing his degree in chemical engineering; He added this with a fathers pride. I was still surprised and was still unable to figure out how such a person knew my mother. To my biggest surprise apart from my name, he knew I worked for a big firm in central London. Later to my relief I realised the credit went to my face book page and my personal website. He looked completely at home at my place, like he has come back to his own house after a long journey. Alex looked around my little house, pleased. He saw my little daughter standing at a distance, bemused, shy. He called her over and made small talk. He greeted my wife broadly and looked at each of our expectant faces. Unable to control my anxiety anymore I asked have you met my mother? and then added, How do you know my mother?

He smiled and said we wil come to that, but first I have brought something for you. I hope you like it. His son than unpacked the Christmassy wrap for his dad and pulled out a big portrait and gave it to his dad who looked at for a moment before smiling and passing it on to me. Confused, I rose and picked the portrait from him and stared. Just stared. A beautiful woman sat there looking serene, tranquil, she was the only one in the picture looking at the camera,and she looked exactly like me, Alex didnt have to tell me it was my mother. He rose and stood next to me awkwardly, I do not remember when I had started to cry silently. He then passed on an old hand bag to me, with utmost respect, reverence, It was my mothers . it had my mothers handwriting, pen, her comb, kaajal, a thin little gold chain, few one rupee and five rupee bills & some loose change. Words failed me, I couldnt believe I was holding my mothers belongings. I ran my fingers over her comb and I could see her combing her long tresses. The touch of her pen inciting in me, memories of her writing, stooping on the paper, like I do. But memories? It was almost like I was living my memories, although I had never seen my mother to have memories of her using the pen or comb or the hand bag. It was unreal. I felt light, I felt thankful towards the surprise visit of the kind stranger who stood there nodding his head. I was witnessing a strange afternoon indeed. The kindly stranger wasnt a stranger anymore, in fact to me, he wasnt human anymore. He was an angel,his person looked gigantic to me, I felt him towering over me, his head touching the ceiling, he filled up the room. Country, race, religion matter little to great humans. What matters to them is humanity, the brotherhood that comes with it, these men & women are champions of compassion.

I looked again at the picture, of all the people, only my mother stared back at me.She looked so pretty; with one of her lovely curls just falling on her eyes and her face slightly tilted towards the photographer. Dad and Grandpa looked so young .I wonder what my life would be growing up with them. And then my Mimmi looked so beautiful as always but a lot more younger.

Thinking of Mimmi brought a smile on my face. A childish smile of pride, an innocent joy you feel as a child when you achieve something and are waiting to show-off, this was the smile on my lips now and my eyes were filled with tears. I was unable to hide my emotions any more tears rolled of my eyes. I would have gazed and gazed at the photo but with great difficulty I lifted my head away from the photograph and uttered these words to my guest Do you have any Idea what have you done Alex; you have returned my lost world back to me. I can never thank you enough for this. The mention of the word returned had a worried expression on Alexs face. Eye brows raised, and with a grave voice he asked me how my mother was. Apparently he wasnt aware of her death while I was still a baby.

How is your mother doing? I want to present this to her in person and thank her for saving me, in my most critical moment of my life. I was not prepared for this question, I replied him saying, she is no more, I lost her to destiny while was little more than two years old. He looked devastated. I could see, he had come with great expectations to meet my mother. We both were battling with different emotions when my wife and Harry helped us settle down a bit. My wife had us all seated and served us tea with some other snacks to go with it. Alex didnt speak for a while and then, while we sipped our teas silently he spoke suddenly breaking the silence. Gaze fixed on the portrait now resting on the sofa, Your mother was having tea the first and only time I saw her said Alex.

It was 1970, four kids form Britain had just finished their GCSE. All their peers were excited, many were travelling, some to spain, some to America. These bunch of kids, not from the most gifted of families but still wanting to tour some fantastic place, chose india. It was to be a youthful vacation, I was one of them four kids. It was that age of carelessness. Where the world, for no apparent reason, seemed to be at our feet. We were spirited young men, loving the ancient Indian country side and amused by the busy burstling roads of Bombay. We kept city hopping from the dusty sand dunes of jodhpur to the crowded gallis of delhi. We had left bag packing. Days passed, things went fine as per the plan and our money lasted us better than expected. Until the night we boarded the train to Chennai, then Madras. A misfortune struck when we were fast asleep in midnight..... It was morning, by the time we were out of unconsciousness and realised we had been pick pocketed. All the money was gone and wallets missing, including many other valuables except my camera that was hidden deep inside clothes in my suitcase. A possession I prized and admired more than anything else. It was easily the costliest thing I possessed, and being from a humble background I valued it so much more. All my memories hidden in it to be unveiled some time later. Anyways, we had lost all of our money and nothing much could be done in those days except complaining at the police station and reporting the Embassy. Help was definitely certain days away from us until then only the survival tricks could save us. We were scared, our forst reaction was we were terrified. For the first time in our lives we felt utterly scared, felt lonely. The reality of the situation hit us almost immediately. We were poor, no we were broke, in a foreign land. No friends to turn to, we didnt even know a word of any Indian language. That wasnt all, we were hungry, and shelterless.

The next 24 hours went by quickly, with every passing hour our tension increased, hunger pangs reminded us of our pitiable situation. The childish, adolescent energy and enthusiasm deserted us almost immediately. We were like a ship caught in a tempest, not knowing which shore it would land up in, not knowing if it would even see a shore again. We missed England like we never missed before. We wanted nothing more to get back to our country. We would do anything for that. In our land, where even if lost, we could seek help and seek direction in our language. We all tried our best to arrange money as a group first. That didnt work. Realizing finding work wasnt easy in foreign land, few sold their little belongings they were left with. Salesmanship is not every ones cup of tea and to meit was even tougher contributed to his shy nature and the mere idea of departing with his precious camera was not as easy as thought. Unable to decide, I sat frustrated on a pavement with my camera in my hands adjacent to park lane hotel. People, busses trucks passed by on the busy road. On that morning, the madras skies were unusually wet, time was running away fast, as was my patience and courage. Next to where I sat was a small tea shop. My eye caught a young girl sipping tea with her family. That was the first time I saw your mother. They looked as if they had come for site seeing. She was drinking tea with her family. While sipping her tea her long curly braids fell on her face which she cleared, and as she did it her eyes caught mine, my eyes worried, me sitting there in all my despair. Maybe be she read my mind in that one glance. She was a beautiful woman, your mother. She appeared serene and relaxed to me, and looked like someone I could talk to of all the people around. And she somehow appeared to be reading my mind. I gathered courage and clicked a picture of the family when she looked towards me again. I was not a very confident person by nature back them. I still dont know how I did it. Maybe because there were many things jumbling in my mind that very moment, may be if it caught their eye, perhaps I could sell my camera to them, the only worthy possession of mine. Or I could tell them about my predicament, maybe they could help me with shelter? I could develop and send the photos later? or perhaps maybe explain the whole situation to them so that they can understand and get some help.

Or perhaps depending how shy I was nothing could happen at all. But one thing did happen she did really read my mind, they had finished their tea by then and before they left, you mother walked upto where I sat, and deliberately left her bag near me. Our eyes met again, mine said, are you really doing this? hers said I know you need some help, I know you are too scared to ask, so take this, it may relieve you of your miseries. I was stunned, my eyes welled up at this gesture from a God sent stranger. I looked down, and couldnt even muster a customary thank you.

When I looked up they were going away. I realised, she had gone a long way and about take a turn at the corner. She had definitely seen me taking the pouch and turned satisfyingly. I took the money and made some more by selling the anklets and reached back to my home town. But a desire remained hidden deep inside me to meet this saint once again, if life gives me a chance to. Saintly is often how Mimmi describes my mom, it felt very different to hear a Caucasian white man who wasnt known to me just 3 hours back also used the very same words. I felt glad, and smiled looking at the portrait again. When he got back to England Alex was a changed man. In his own words .. the feelings I felt when I got on the flight and when I got to Britain cannot be described. I gave my mom and dad the biggest hug I had given them. Having exoerienced a time of distress and a miracle of Gods help reached in the most unsusoecting of all circumstances, I seemed to have realised the importance and beauty of Life and love. I started my life with a new sense of direction. Valuing life, valuing people and valuing money. All this helped me in ways in couldnt imagine. With the money I had , I decided to start my life with a new sense of direction, with renewed vigour. I started off by buying a boat, I myself was the boatman of my boat. So that was the start, ferrying tourists. God was kind, I made some money, got married, started my family. With time I saved enough money to buy another boat. Because of the treatment I received from a stranger in foreign land, I consciously hired college kids who had come far away from their place to study and tried finding a part time job to supplement their college fees, as my boatmen. Slowly but steadily my boats increased, I hired more boatmen. More foreign kids would come to me looking for work and I gained popularity as the boatman with big boats and a bigger heart. Life went on, things happened, most of them pleasant. Some things I remembered some I did not, we moved to a bigger house. Furniture changed, car changed, everything changed except my camera, which I had almost lost. Which I was almost about to sell. I kept that camera with me always and clicked an occasional picture with it, some spectacles which captured my heart. A friend of mine once saw my pictures and thought they ought to be exhibited. I dindt think much of my snaps but he went ahead and displayed my photos in a small exhibition once, and to my surprise my photos were sold off within a day. So another source of income came into the equation. If I was oppulant before this, I was rich now. He fell silent after telling his story, which frankly, I was super impressed with. Rags to Riches, well, almost!! Then he resumed speaking, I always wished to visit that place again, which changed me so much, tought me so much. Meet that stranger, get to know her better.

That never happened though. . He sighed before continuing. My trip to india was a life changing one. I was filled with zeal with energy, with extreme positivity. I was filled with, for the first time in my life..with intent. I wanted to be someone important in someone elses life. Make money, help people. I wanted to make life changing contributions to people in need just as that angel made to mine. Years later, when my son asked me if angels exist? I said they do, I had seen one. I had always heard grandma speak about how my mother influenced some lives, but to me it was like folklore. Having met one such person whos life she had touched through her kindness, I was witnessing the truth of that statement.

It was getting late, Alex and Harry rose to depart. I know it sounds silly, maybe almost queer how may tear glands worked overtime that day, but when you have lived a life like mine, never seen your mother, only heard about her and when you suddenly meet someone who knows her, you tend to get a little emotional. Same was the case with me. I felt an unknown connect with him. I saw in him, the family I had lost. I started internally respecting my guest and wanted him to be with me forever, we had developed this unique bond between us, it was like the instant bond between two like minded people. I had this father figure, if yet all I could imagine what a father could be. I dont know how he sensed it, or maybe he was needing it too, but he held his arms wide open and we hugged. A storm contained for too long broke free in my heart while he stood strong, fatherly. For the first time I felt, this country is MY country too. I had my people here too. I realized the sillyness of manmade boundaries. No two boundaries can separate two contries, no two skin tones can separate human race. Nations are made, so we know one another and we share, and we love and we learn. One more formal thank you, facebook exchangeslater I helped Alex and Harry into the car and helping Jamie with the initial directions to reach the motorway. My family stood there, waving goodbye to the father and son in the drizzle. It was an emotionally draining day, I was tired, but I didnt wish to sleep.

Such a thing has happened today, two people from east and west, from different generation, one departed long ago and one still alive did reciprocate to a good deed done long back.

The events unfolded today came has a complete surprise to me. . I could never have imagined them even in my weirdest dream. A complete rollercoaster ride of past and present. Mimmi is the only person I want to share them with. I am eager to see the pride for me in her eyes. I can imagine, it will be a joy of reuniting and flash back by 30 years in memory lane.

I can make a single Skype call and inform my Mimmi, but I do not want to do this. What is the point in seeing the expression when not in person? Also it will lose its true essence. I wish I had wings, I want to be teleported to India immediately, I want to meet my Mimmi and place this invaluable gift on her lap. Who can possibly know the importance of this gift better than me?

My Mimmi is 78 now living in my fishing village. She might be ageing for others but for me she is becoming more and more younger and demanding with each passing year. . She carries that charm and that level of self dignity that nobody dare say no to her words. For her a right is always right and wrong is always wrong there is nothing in-between. I have always seen Mimmi this way and I love her for what she is. My heart is at peace and mind even more peaceful when she is around. All the worries around me vanish away on merely listening to her comforting voice do not be worried my dear, I am always with you." Today is one such day. I miss her incredibly much, particularly since Alexs visit. Christmas holidays are not far away, I have a surprise visit planned in a fortnight. I was all very excited about it until today; now it looks like my patience is being tested. I no longer want to waste even a single second. With all my might, heart and soul I am eagerly waiting for the moment to meet Mimmi and present this invaluable gift photograph of my family to her.

It was the summer of 71. 7 such summers passed since my parents were married without me. With each passing year the desire and hope for want of a kid increased and increased. That is when my grandfather decided to take them to madras for their treatment. With tickets booked what started as couple of appointments was fruitful after 3 months. With the good news of me on its way there was a joy in atmosphere. Mimmi says mother was very happy. Your mother was on seventh heaven on that day. The imagination of having you in her arms brought a sparkle in her eyes. A constant smile on her face left a dimple on her cheek. Her long wait was finally over. " I loved the way Mimmi presented them to me. These incidents, in their finite details. After few days I felt I am a part of them. Mimmi took a short breath in between and continued "It was her idea to take a picture at the famous madras studio ... So shy was she, she kept whispering in my ears the whole day. Mimmi looked at me and said

"She was scared!!! Your mother!!! " I had asked why Mimmi?? Mimmi said tickling my tummy making me asleep "That we might forget and return home without taking a snap ". Then we both laughed. It was then the treasured photo was taken, and it made its eminent way in our living room. Exactly the same era my guest had clicked his own copy.

My cell rang, it is my sister. She says Mimmi is serious, had an attack, she is admitted in hospital. I am shocked my hands have gone numb I could not speak for a second. In less than 4 hours we were in Heathrow rushing from security check to terminal 5. Innumerable lifts, long distances to walk and a train trip to the boarding room. By the time we reached the boarding room my wife was short of breath and sweating profusely. I literally ran halfway carrying my daughter on my shoulders and pushing the pram with other hand. We were the last passengers to board the flight. The air hostess was kind enough to get us some water. Place our handbags in the shutter. I put the frame at the bottom of my seat. British Airways took off to Chennai. A long ten hours by plane then three more hours drive by bus to my home. orrrrr to the hospital ???

We boarded the flight, but it is different, it was not like how we planned it out to be. I seem lost. My wife and my little daughter try breaking me into small talk, but my monosyllabic replies hardly help them carry forward the conversation. I feel bad about snubbing them but it isnt something I can help. My mind is occupied, it is busy pointing out my recklessness. Last time I met mimmi was when she was here almost 25 months ago. She was 78! What was I thinking not meeting her for so long?

The distance and the time are killing me. The very fact that, I am not with my Mimmi now, when she needs me the most, is grieving me.

Why am I not with her?? Why did I leave her?? At least why did I not leave to meet her the moment Alex gave my mothers photo ?? Oh god! In which state will my Mimmi be!! Is she lying on the bed now ?? Is she struggling to breath?? Does she need me beside her?? Is she calling me her usual way? My heart wanted to listen to her sweet voice once again but it feared it may not be so. My mind was preparing me for a difficult situation that my heart retaliated to accept it. My sister sounded grieved and worried on phone, she was crying and kept repeating me to leave atonce. She wanted me to be there with her. She needed me there. I have to be the support, the big brother she needs. In this world where so much happens in the blink of an eye, i had taken some huge risks. Such thoughts started clouding my head as if slipped into my past, just as my little daughter slipped into her sleep in my lap, and her mother on my shoulder. November 1977

I still remember the stormy night, what seemed as a windy day at first slowly started changing as the noon approached. The temperature kept falling which is very unusual for this place and then it suddenly became cloudy and it started raining by dusk. And with the rain came the whistling sound of the wind and slowly as the night approached speed of the wind increased further and further. I still remember the radio broadcast since morning alerting all fishermen to stay away from sea. Flash news predicting winds to be blowing at 40 to 50 miles per hour. There were heavy cautions being issued everywhere about a great storm and the messages for the people on coastline to evict as soon as possible and leave to highlands. Generally winds and storms are common in this area but this one was nothing like before. This was a typhoon. Later we came to know the speed of wind was 125 miles per hour. It had washed out every belongings of our and with it went the only photo my Mimmi had of her dear lost ones. It might have been two nights or perhaps three nights after the storm had passed. People were still not out of the shock at the number of causalities, the life stock losses, the washed away houses. The houses which once provided them with shelter. Now just heaps of muddy water. We were back from the village heads house to see a roofless house of ours and the fencing wall broken halfway and many cracks on the walls. Broken walls with water till the knee level. Left over vessels clothes iron trunks cots were floating in it. I was clinging on to Mimmi holding her tightly. Mimmi had tied me on to her stomach with a tight piece of cloth keeping me safe from the dirty water. We were happy as we were only two of us in the family but news started pouring in of many life losses from the village. I remember Mimmis face on that day. A still face with tears falling of her cheek. There was no way anybody could stop them. She let go off all the tears on that day.

After that my Mimmi was tougher than ever. She stood strong for herself, me and for the neighbours around us. We waited a week at the village school, for the water to be absorbed in the land or to drain off but she would go every day until then to save what was left off.

but a broken home and dead cattle (we had two buffaloes) werent the only things that resulted from the storm. One morning we found a little baby crying next to our makeshift home. No one around her to take care of her. Mimmi picked the crying infant up and fed her some milk and put her to sleep. For 2 days no one came to pick the girl inspite of our announcements. They kept recovering innumerable bodies from the canals of our coastal town. Canals which were meant to irrigate our fields, only braought forward more and more dead bodies, stinking, dreadful ugly dead bodies. Some more lifeless bodies were to be found electrocuted under fallen electric poles. Majority of the village sang the mourning song. So many deaths, plus the fact that no one came forward to claim the girl. That is when mimmi adopted her and came to have a little sister. I was happy, I got to be her big brother ever since. There were about 60 families living at the school. We lived very friendly and helpful and sharing food and clothes and radio news. There were huge discussions among the elderly about the aftermath of storm, how big this storm was, how lucky we were to be saved to be alive.

When we returned home with the adopted baby, my sister, we slowly started to rearrange our house and tried hard to get our life back to normal.

Sometimes I would catch Mimmi off guard, looking in some direction aimlessly, quietly crying. This would make me really sad. The 7 year old me would fight tears and try talking to Mimmi. My little mind would try to think why she mught be crying. dont cry Mimm I would say. when I grow up I will make you a very strong house, made of bricks, like the village head has itll be strong even in storms, so please dont cry. I would talk to cheer her up, fighting my own tears, but failing in both my attempts. Cheering her up and fighting my tears. We had 2 buffaloes, both died in the storm. I thought maybe shes crying for the buffaloes. dont cry mimmi, when I grow up, I will buy you lots of buffaloes, I will buy 10,00,000 buffaloes. I was in grade 2 and couldnt count that far, but I had recently learnt in school that it was a huge number. What I later came to realise was that mimmi cried neither for the house, not the buffaloes. She had cried because the photo of Mimmi, grandpa, my father and my mother, which hung in our living room, framed in the glass was now destroyed. Glass broken, photo unrecognizable. Mimmi would look at it and sob. I made a third quick resolution to cheer her up. When I build that strong house, I will fill it with your photos I said, which made her cry more.

Unable to cheer, I would stand there crying, and my baby sister would start crying in her cradle taking mimmis attention towards herself. I loved her for this. Everytime Mimmi would sob, she would cry loud and Mimmi would get busy with handling her. In fact, my little sisters entry meant a new playing companion for me. It filled the house with her crying and baby laughters. I so loved her. School was closed for almost 4 months and I spent my days playing with her. I slowly forgot all about the cyclone and quickly found happiness in Fathima, Mimmi and my home. __ As I grew, Mimmi told me she didnt need the buffaloes, she had busied herself with her school, teaching etc. I did build her the big house I promised, The only dream I didnt know how to fulfil was of filling the new house with bright cheerful photos of grand ma. But I wasnt at fault here. Everytime I brought up the topic of clicking a picture, my otherwise strong mimmis expression would change. She would look weaker. Shed feel sad enough to not talk for over an hour atlease. So I would avoid the topic myself. I didnt know what to do about the photo of mom which shed lost to the storm. My wife woke me up from my trip down the memory lane when the flight reached Chennai. Im feeling weak, like someone is draining away my body fluids. My mind isnt in my control, as is always the case when you are utterly tensed. I am beginning to fear the worst. Dreadful thoughts are crowding my mind. Each thought more dreadful than the previous one. I imagine mimmis still body kept on the cot, laying still, dead. People coming to respects, to the old lady teacher of the primary school. I try to shut down all my negative thoughts.

My wife gently tapped on my shoulder to wake me from the nightmare I was having in the day, in tha taxi. My wife told me softly that wed reached our home. I jumped from my stupor and looked around in complete delusion. Half expecting to see a funeral being carried, and half expecting to see my sister running upto me, tears rolling down her cheeks. I saw neither of those dreadful sights. I didnt see a funeral, but it didnt relieve me, the village seemed unusually quite. Whats wrong? I thought. There was no one in front of my house, no crowd. Is everything over? I thought, did they take the body off?

I was praying to Almighty God that he gives me a chance to just share with Mimmi what she had lost to the storm, what she missed all her life. Her daughters face captured in a photo. The house arrived, the front gate was open there was silence in the veranda my heart stopped beating for a second. Ayra ran inside leaving my wifes hand there were shrieks of happiness i could here my sisters voice i ran inside my sister ran towards us bubbling holding ayra. I crossed the room into the backyard. I saw my Mimmi sitting weak on the cot below the palm tree. I ran and hugged my Mimmi rested my head on her lap and could not move nor speak for some time nor could i stop the tears falling off my cheeks. i heard the same voice " Why do you cry? You have come to Mimmi, now stop crying. It will all be alright Exactly the same words as the cyclone in 1977, same reassurance. But never before had her words meant more to me, never had they sounded more apt. Her relaxed reassurance almost sounded like a mockery of my sceptical mindset, my fears, my lack of faith.

I looked up to her old face. I was satisfied seeing her, but she was lot more weaker, weaker like never before but I thanked God to show me this moment, a moment where i wanted my Mimmi the most and i got her back. As I sat there looking at her, my little sister came and hugged me from behind. I chatted her 2 kids up who were just back from school. It was very refreshing and relieving to see my Mimmi lying down and talking to Ayra it was as if a huge weight had been lifted off my shoulders. But there was still the gift to be given out. I thought the time was right, called out to Mimmi.

I said " Mimmi i have a surprise for you" and waited for some time. I was longing for this moment for more than a fortnight ,Mimmi looked at me little surprised and smiling at the same time as if saying, give away the surprise please. Unpacking the big frame, smiling, I said.. Mimmi, I said, close your eyes !!! Atleast give me a hint, what is it about? Mimmi said protesting.. still not closing her eyes. I said " Mimmi I am giving you something so precious, you can never forget this moment. I am giving you our lost world" there was a pride in my words Mimmi was still smiling but was little surprised this time. " Tell me bachchey, dont make poor Mimmi wait" i turned the frame towards her and gave the frame in her hands. Mimmi was shocked she never expected it coming. The first reaction was she held the frame to her chest saying " my darling daughter" and cried loudly, sometimes pressing it close to her and some times holding the frame at a distance and seeing it.

It was as if she found her lost daughter, it was like a reunion. Like her daughter was alive all these days and now came to see her mother. It was an overwhelming moment for all of us to see. In the middle of all of us looking at her, she continued hugging, kissing and crying to the picture frame, as if there was no one around but her, and the lost family caught in that frame. Having spent enough time with it she looked at me as if asking how? From where did I get this?? She hugged me smiling and kissed on my forehead. She looked at me with pride, I was yearning for that look, but her look was more than just the look of pride. She saw me with thankfulness, and a sense of peace. Mimmi thanking me? I absolutely never ever saw that coming. I couldnt believe how much of a difference that phone call a fortnight ago from Alex had made. Alex probably was unaware how many lives hed touched by just choosing to honour the woman who helped instead of forgetting about that incident and moving on. I was overwhelmed with many an emotion. I thanked God, for giving me this life. For helping me understand it when I was too busy not understanding it. I thanked Mimmi, Mom, Alex, My wife, sister, daughter, for everyone who was ever a part of my life, good or bad. For being a part of my life. I now am wise enough to know there is bad, these lives of ours are mysteriously perfect. But only when we are open enough to realize this divine perfection.

July 13 2013, London

It is 2013 now, Mimmi is 85 and still as active as ever at heart, although her movements have slowed down. Her school is gaining reputation as a top school for kids in that area. When I got back home from that visit, I had plenty of food for thought. Lots of things to reflect on. Sometimes we are so busy living our lives that we dont understand it. Sometimes we undersestimate the beauty of life by being too busy running through it. It is amazing how we have made it a habit to fall into routine. Life, is a beautiful picture we paint. Each color of it we have the freedom to choose, each stroke of it, we have the freedom to make. While we paint, we do not realise what our lifes picture is becoming because we are too close to the canvas. We do not reflect enough on our life. We do not step backand observe what it is becoming.

Had we had the time, we would have seen what a master piece each of our lives is. If we do take time to observe, we will notice that it is painted not only by us, but also by the people we live with. Each person happy with us adds a color, each person we have hurt, or did not care for adds another color. No 2 colors are the same. It is painted not only by us, but by the people whose lives we touch. But we are ignorant of all this. We do not look, and when we ourselves refuse to stop and look, God sends us a surprise. He sends a surprise in the form of a person, or a situation, or a memory, or anything appropriate for us at that time. No one can when that time arrives, it will take you by surprise when you least expect it. This surprise ,akes you aware of the perfection of it all. It makes you learn, it makes you love better, live better. Dont ever get too caught up to not realize these surprises which come your way. Keep your eyes open for them. You never know when that surprise comes. For it arrives when you are least expecting it. I woke up lazily one Saturday morning and an angel called Alex called me and changed my life forever. Alex was lost and desperate and hopeless on a main road in Madras & my mom was his angel who changed his life for the better, giving him perspective. I thank you if you have read this far, if you like what you read, please take a minute off and think about all the people in your life, whom you love. Spare a minute for them and let them know how glad you are to have them. Do contemplate on life, love and generosity Generosity is not in giving me that which I need more than you do, but it is in giving me that which you need more than I do. Khalil Gibran Your task is not to seek for love, but merely to seek and find all the barriers within yourself that you have built against it. Rumi Moments. This is one. This right here, right now, is definitely a moment. Peace!

END

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