I had got used to my rickshaw travels by now and started enjoying them too. The wind blowing in my hair and the music in my ears – one of the best ways to forget something unwanted and walk into dreamland. While I was just getting into my dreamland, I recalled that today was the day, when my article was going to feature in one of the leading dailies.I stopped the rickshaw at a paper stall and bought a copy of the paper. I went to the last page of the supplement and did not see my name. My heart sank as I moved from page to page, and finally it skipped a heart beat, when I saw my article on the first page of the supplement. Certainly, this was one of the nicest mornings I’d had in a long time and was convinced that today can’t be a bad day.
We reached the hospital and went to the concerned the department.The guy sitting in the white apron told us that their department was not authorized to give us the certificate and asked us to go to another department for the certification. The reason why I am referring to the guy in the apron as a guy and not a doctor is because he still was not a doctor and did not hold any authority to send people from one department to the other just because he is unsure of his duties
We learnt that the doctor from the ‘other’ department would not issue certificates until 11 a.m and it was just 8.35 a.m. After an hour or so we were asked to move to another ward, dedicated to issuing certificates. I thought better late than never and was hoping that this will pass soon. All I could think of is how I was going to blow up the amount I was going to get. I again got lost in my dreamland while listening to music and was checking the time every now and then. This kept happening, until another family came and sat on a bench in front of us. Although there was something unusual, I decided to keep to myself unlike my mother, whose inquisitive nature could not stop her from starting a conversation with them.
I was getting restless by the minute and I could not resist noticing the charming smile across the bench. I paused the music and started listening to the conversation that my mother was still having with the family. I learnt that the child sitting on the bench in front of me was in an unusual condition where in there were no bones in his body and his muscle growth would be very slow. He also suffered from ‘hydrocephalus’ a condition in which the head looks large in size in comparison to the body, because of excess water in the brain.
I did not feel sympathetic towards him but felt an urge to interact with him. I said a “Hi” and he did not respond. It was not unusual of a kid to not respond to me and I kept trying. Just like us, his family missed their breakfast in an attempt to be on time for the certification and he finally murmured “Ammi,bhook lagi hai”. His mother left him with his aunt and went to the canteen to get something to eat. I too, immediately went and sat next him. This time around I was expecting a smile but was taken aback when he said “Yeh jagaha meri Ammi ki hai.” We all burst out laughing after hearing Udeib’s concern of me grabbing his mother’s seat.
Udeib’s aunt told us stories of how the little child never fails to crack them up even at home and how he listens to nobody but his mother. It was refreshing to know that the family considers him to be a reason to laugh and not a liability, which is was most families think of their differently abled children. It reassuring when his mother mentioned “Aise bachche to bhagwan ki den hote hai. Woh apne family ke liye lucky hote hai” (Such kids are the blessing of God. They prove to be lucky for their family) It was surprising that this statement came from a lady who was not qualified, left school half way and was unable to by heart her husband’s mobile number.
Udeib is five years old and cannot attend school because of his physical condition. However, he doesn’t miss to accompany his cousins for their homework; it is because of these sessions that Udeib can now confidently recite tables of 2, 3, 4 and 5. It was ten past 11 and we went and finally sat in the main hall. By this time Udeib started calling me Didi and we had exchanged a few hand shakes too. Udeib’s mother told us that he is very fond of “Kolaveri Di’ and before his mother could finish the sentence, Ubeid started singing the song. I do regret not recording his performance but his visuals still flash in my mind whenever I think of him.
The doctor came half an hour late. Udeib confidently answered the questions the doc asked him. He seemed to gain Udeib’s confidence as their conversation progressed but I disliked him more than before when my turn came. The doctor was unsure if he was authorized to issue me the certificate and thanks to this confusion, asked us to come again. I was double disappointed because I had to visit the hospital another time and my payment was delayed yet another time.
Udeib’s process would take more long and we had to rush back home. We exchanged a good bye but in my heart I wished I bumped into him again somewhere in the city or my next visit to hospital. The innocent smile I saw that day, has probably given me the strength to sustain in every difficult situation. They say ignorance is bliss and Udeib’s smile stood testimony to this fact. He smiled because he was unaware of his condition; He smiled because he did not compare himself with his cousins who went to school; He smiled because that’s how he had learnt to live and he did not know otherwise; He smiled because his innocent mind chose to ignore the differences.
Three months have gone by but it seems like just yesterday when Udeib smiled at me. I’ve got the certificate to drive, got my vehicle, met with my first accident and lost my confidence to drive ever again. I probably haven’t learnt yet to ride safely on the roads of Pune, but Udeib has certainly influenced the way I would travel on the road of life, the road less traveled..