Whenever I see an elephant on the road, I feel like giving it a banana or an orange. And I am reminded of a particular episode with an elephant when I was five years old. The schools were closed and my cousins had come to Allahabad for their vacations from Patna. Our daily routine would be a visit to Sangam with grandpa and eat jalebis on our way back home at Hira Halwai which is a sweet shop in Allahabad. Of course, there would be visits to Wheelers or Universal bookshop, Nagars stationery shop or El Chico for pastries, later in the day.
So one day when we had returned from our Sangam visit, I was sitting with my grandmother and my cousin sister was engrossed in one of her Enid Blyton books. The doorbell rang and we were asked to go out to the verandah.
Grandpa had seen an elephant wallah on the road and had asked him to give me and my cousin a ride. I clearly remember, the elephant was not very old and was not huge. It had a nice padded cushion on its back and a small brass bell tied around its neck. There was a rope around the cushion to ensure it wouldn’t divert from its place and I was very excited for the ride.
My excitement ensured that I was fearless in touching the elephant for the first time. As I was small, my grandfather’s assistant accompanied me for the ride which was from one gate to the other. And on getting down, I was given an orange by grandpa to feed the elephant which was all the more fun to me.
After me, it was my cousin’s turn. She was sceptical about the elephants’ behaviour and was trying to excuse herself from riding it. Probably, grandpa had sensed that she was afraid, so he asked her to feed the elephant and as the elephant reached out to get the orange, my cousin shrieked and ran inside. It seemed silly to me, as to how one could miss a chance of feeding or riding an elephant. However, She kept peeping from behind the curtains.
In order to make her fear go, my grandfather asked her to come and feed the elephant or else he would send the elephant inside the house. At first, my cousin thought it to be a hoax and refused to come out. Then, the elephant wallah was asked to bring the elephant to the verandah. It was fun for me but for my cousin, it was torture.
Anyhow, after much persuasion and lots of surety, my grandpa brought my cousin and made her feed the elephant. She, having fed the elephant with the orange, hesitated to take the ride. I offered to go with her again and got my second ride. After our second ride, the elephant wallah was given some money and rice, and both of them went away. As I bid goodbye to the elephant, I waited in the verandah not only until the elephant was invisible but also till its bell’s tinkle got inaudible.
This experience has been redrafted by R. S. Chintalapati & Vaidurya Pratap Sahi into a short story titled “The Killing Bow”. Check out the story online and support our community by ordering a paperback.
Exactly two months before I was getting ready to leave to Germany for my masters, my elder brother told me, “Everything changes once you step out of your home to achieve something. It is like breaking out of the cocoon, wanting to enjoy the colorful world around you but only when you fly will you understand that home was a lot better. Mark my words beauty isn’t about the color or elements around you but the self-discipline and inner peace within you.”
As I listened very keenly, he continued, “I might not have traveled around the world but I have been in a hostel for many years now. Always remember no matter how worse things get around you never give up and never change yourself because wherever you go, you are always someone special and always try learning the best from everything.”
Two months passed by and I packed my bags. Brought jeans for the first time in my life. Twenty-one years in India and I never needed the thick bottoms that would take away so much of my pleasure of winds tickling my legs even though they were most common in his country. Hugging my parents as they embraced me back, I left with my sister who is pursuing her Ph.D. to Germany.
Everything was new, right from the cold climate to the new language and never in his life did I wear so many clothes to just stop shivering in the cold winds. In India, most say the summer season is worse only because they haven’t felt the winter for real. The first two days I did do nothing but stay indoors enjoying the warmth from the heaters and on the third day, something curious happened.
On my walk to the city center of Leipzig looking at the magnificent stone sculptured churches that were beautifully crafted and enjoying the cold winds tickling me under my thick black coat while watching cute babies running around. The best thing I liked was their smile as cute and sweet as a baked cake creamed all over and I knew well enough that innocence is what gifts them such beauty.
On the roads beside the footpath, there was a path for the bicycles, besides the bicycles path was the path for the cars and beside the car’s path was the path for the trams in the main streets.
The wide roads helped all of the vehicles share the space and as I walked with my sister to the city center to buy the winter collection of shoes and jacket before it got even colder and December was just three months away, I could see not even a handful people in the street.
I didn’t like the atmosphere. Maybe because I was new to it and I couldn’t imagine staying in Freiburg where I’ve secured an admission. Though my sister tried to make it sound as amazing as possible mentioning the black forest and the ideal location of the city since it’s close to both France and Switzerland, I’ve had my reservations.
On our way, I could see shops on both sides of the street alike India but the surprising aspect was that I could see a few buildings built with stone.
One of the best buildings I’ve seen as soon as we reached the city center was the Deutsche Bank. I couldn’t help but feel that it resembled Gringotts. I’ve even mentioned, “Perhaps Rowling admired them too."
As we entered “Peek and Cloppenburg” only because they had a winter sale going on, I heard a woman singing as she sat before the store. Her voice was as sweet as the honey and as she played the piano as well.
Honestly, what she sang made no sense but I could admire it for its beauty. I’ve loved listening to her so much that I stood in the small crowd that stood before her.
I could see a hat in which coppers were being dropped by people who loved her singing. I’ve waited a while to see if she would end and then I could place some money but neither did she stop or did she take a moment to peek at the coppers she had earned.
All she did was to enjoy the cold wind and sing the songs that meant many different things to many of her audience. I felt she was lost in her own paradise and I was pleased as to how much she enjoyed her work. She was in a blissful state.
I felt like through her smile, voice and the voices of the piano were whispering the truth of life. That night I could still listen to her before I fell asleep.
Until we started our journey to Freiburg, I did visit the city center as many times as I could and a few times, I could listen to her. It was the winter whispering the mysterious beauty of a noble soul.
I believe that of all the men in the world, to daughters fathers are the sweetest. When I think of my childhood, the first and the freshest memory I cherish till date is of how my dad persuaded me to be a strong... a very strong girl. When I was four-year-old kid, the bone in my thumb finger gave me a lot of trouble. It seems that the doctors said that there was some minor distortion internally and it must get operated for anything better. Upon hearing this, I reckon my daddy must have lost all his good senses.
Everyone knows how childish men suddenly become after they become fathers to daughters; my father very well epitomized this. It was hard for him to decide what to do. To let his little daughter know the smell of medicines and the pain of toxins, Nah... I remember one day like as usual I went to him complaining about the pain in the thumb finger and he gently made me sit on his lap and said: “Sweetheart, the more you pay attention to the pain, the stronger it would become, so stop thinking about it and one day it will leave you.” Turns out he was right as known he always is.
My mother is also a true incarnation of love; for me, she is the most lovable person ever. When I asked my daddy whom he loved more, me or mummy, he said: “He loved me more.” And I admit that all fathers are like that...
I grew up admiring every aspect of my daddy. He is an energy ball; no matter what happened, I never saw his confidence levels drop even an inch down. Now that two decades passed by since I was born. I realise that the love these fathers have for daughters is far greater than what we think. As he walks, sleeps, rests my father’s mind and thoughts always orbit around his two daughters, at the envy of my mother... hahaha...
Even today, when he wakes up at intervals in the night to see me and my little sister sleep, he comes to us and runs his warm hands over our foreheads. He checks the fans and the blankets... and then stands to a corner glaring at both his daughters, his most worthy possessions and feels contented that he is able to provide us with the comfort of a sound sleep. For a fifty-year-old father of two daughters, that is what means to be a man and that is what makes them feel like a hero. A hero he truly is! But these fathers aren’t as strong and content as they seem to be. They too have problems, unlike us; they have real-serious concerns. So let’s not trouble them on little things.
As we grow, we slowly develop differences with that of fathers. We start complaining... that he checks on us, that he’s hesitant to give us pocket money for our expenses, that he is a disinterested person and that they don’t really understand us. Each time these thoughts strike you, you should know you are wrong. They understand us to the core. It’s their unflinching love for us that sometimes make their actions put us to huge misconceptions. Do not develop hatred for your fathers just because you think they are objecting to few of your pleasures. They’ve walked on the planet for half of their lives; they know how things work better than us.
Now that they are growing old day-by-day, year-by-year they need their daughters the most. When else can we reward our fathers better than now and how better can we say thank you to the sacrifices they’ve made for us every single day than by taking care of them.
If you live with your father right in the same house, then remove your headphones off your ears, switch the apps off your eyes and go sit next to him... pat him on his shoulder... talk to him about your day’s work... ask him if he’s taking his medicines sincerely... give him glasses of water at regular intervals, just like how he gave to you when you were a child... Become your father’s mother, my friend, for tomorrow when his little girl goes her way away from him, to lead her own family. It’ll be the poor old father who would feel the greatest void in every breath of his life, more than anyone else.