We are living in a time when ordinary is not exciting. Everything has to be accompanied by a tinge of that thing called ‘celebrity’. If it’s a product, it has to be endorsed by a celebrity. Otherwise, it’s a loss for the brand. Lalitaji of Surf is passé. After all, she was just an ordinary homemaker or in those days housewife. It has to be either Big B or King Khan.
But this blog is a tribute to ordinary people who have extraordinary tales to tell. Stories of hope, courage and elegance. Some I met during the course of my work, some I met at work and some are from my extended family. In the first part, I am writing about a lady who lost her husband, two young kids and her home during the 2001 killer earthquake that shattered many a home, lives and dreams in Gujarat. I met Kalpana Gupta in 2006 when I was doing a story for the fifth anniversary of the earthquake. I hope, it will give courage and hope to many people in this world as it gave me on that slightly chill winter evening.
RISING FROM THE ASHES
When I had called up Kalpana Gupta for an interview, the deadline of the story was all that there in my mind. There was little bit of confusion as she was coming from the other end of the city to Mansi apartment where all her dreams were crushed on the fateful morning of January 26, 2001. She arrived there with her 3 year old young daughter for the interview. And I just asked her to tell her story in her own words. These are the stories for which one doesn’t take notes. The poignancy of the story is so overwhelming that it stays in your mind. I always feel taking notes in case of these stories is somewhat insensitive. It’s a story that stays in your heart long after the narrator has finished it. It’s a story that you carry on for days together within you.
Here goes Kalpana Gupta’s story in her own words…..
“I had a loving husband, two bright kids and a job. I couldn’t have asked for more. The memories of January 26 are still so very fresh. Due to the last minute change in plans, Gautam (my husband) didn’t go to Anand and we had plans for a leisurely breakfast. When the tremors started, we rushed down the staircase. Before I could realise anything, I found myself under the debris with severe injuries. I was admitted to the V S Hospital. Later that day while being shifted to another private hospital, I asked the ambulance to stop at my father-in-law’s house to check about my family. It was a gut wrenching moment when I discovered I had lost my entire family. Suddenly I felt so desolate.
After four weeks in hospital, I recovered physical injury but the emotional scars wouldn’t heal. I went to London to be with my sister where I also went through counselling sessions. It feels strange suddenly when you are all alone after 17 years of marriage. I had no home of my own. Tragedy also changes equations within family. But I was determined to bounce back. With the support of my family and colleagues, I decided to pick up the threads of life.
I got married again to Amar Gupta who also had lost his entire family in the earthquake. Tragedy was the common link between us. Call it destiny, I once became a mother of a young girl at the age of 44.”
Today, she’s bought the same flat which shattered all her dreams. I asked her what made her buy the same flat? At that moment, she broke down and with tears rolling down her cheeks, she said, “Many find it strange but I feel a sense of comfort when I come here. Gautam and my two kids suddenly come alive and it’s like coming back to those lovely days.”
There was so much of poignancy in the statement that suddenly the neon-lit streets looked totally dark. But amid that darkness and my own tear-filled eyes, I saw a glimmer of hope in that thing called life and human spirit.