Tuesday, 28 June 2016

Walking along side

The big volvo bus of the Uttarkhand Transport Corporation eases out of the Interstate Bus Terminus in Delhi.  Asha is sitting next to me as the cool of the AC gradually wicks away the sweat of muggy pre-monsoonal Delhi.  

Over the next 8.5 hours the bus will ease out through the urban sprawl of Delhi and its satellite cities, squeezing past various roads and other public and private construction sites.  We pick up a bit of speed once we get past the urban areas, and finally get out to fields of sugar cane and poplar plantations.  The road is wider than it was 31 years ago when I took a similar bus trip, but not as clustered with eateries and temporary fruit and curio stalls that seem to clot this lifeline like a sclerotic artery.

In August of 85 I took a bus the same distance and for a similar purpose.  It was a monsoonal August day and my father was sitting next to me as our bus left the Centaur Hotel outside New Delhi airport.  An hour earlier I had my first contact with my future Woodstock fellow students.  I was starting boarding school for the first time in 11th grade, and we were the ‘new students’ – and most of us had parents with us.  The school had chartered a bus for all the newbies and we were told to report 3 days before the main school started.  And so with my Dad next to me I was looking at fellow newcomers to boarding and wondering who of them I would be friends with as the greenness of the unfamiliar countryside passed outside our grinding non-AC bus.

Yesterday it was I who was the father.  And next to me is this amazing 15 year old who got a miraculous admission into Wynberg almost in the middle of their school-year.  As she dozes a bit on the long bus journey I have to wonder at who she is becoming.  Where has time gone?  Can it really be that Asha will be away from us for the next 5 months as she burns through her 10th grade?

The bus to Woodstock ended up with us tumbling out to the greyness and dampness of monsoonal Mussoorie.  Yesterday’s trip had us in the back seat of a taxi up from Dehra Dun, driving through the misty darkness with the headlights swiping by the blessed dark green trees and past more garish advertisements for hotels than you can shake a stick at.  Asha is dozing, curled up to my lap, and then the sudden sweetness of the Raat-ki-rani flower pierces the darkness.

A mobile call when we pass the Landour bazar means that we are met at the top of the hill by Vickey who helps carry bags down to Shanti Kunj.   I came up with my Dad as a stranger in a strange land.  Asha’s situation is of a different shade, she has come to Shanti Kunj every year since she was 2.  And it is from Shanti Kunj that she leaves this afternoon to go into boarding for this 5 month spell till the end of November.

Before she goes down today, I have another task to do.  This time it is me who is accompanying Dad and not the other way round.  We are being driven down to his palliative care doctor at the pain clinic of SMI hospital in Dehra Dun.   Dad had gone with me into a new territory as I stepped into Woodstock School – while today I have the joy of taking Dad’s special prescription paper and being driven around Dehra Dun trying to find sustained-release morphine-sulphate tablets.  It takes quite some time and we ultimately do not find exactly what we want, but I leave the main medical distributer with 30 tablets of morphine in my pocket.  That is the easy part, the harder one is accompanying Dad on his path of pain.  After supper tonight he has a sharp pain in his chest and so we give him another 5 mg between his regular doses.  It’s all very very new territory for us.

As I write this Asha is in her dorm.  One big room.  40 odd girls from the 9th and 10th standards.   We left just after 3 for the quick drive down to WAS.  Except that is wasn’t quick.  One index of our nation’s wealth is the width of the SUVs that her prosperous citizens drive.  Mussoorie is a wonderful place to be, but Landour’s road (notice the singular) is narrow with a steep drop off.  This means that many places are too narrow for 2 large vehicles to pass.  Most of the time you or the other vehicle back up a bit and then the two cars squeeze by.  Not so this afternoon.  There was a traffic clog of epic proportions.  We waited for 20 mins basically stationary.  Then a few vehicles slipped by us.  A gain of 30 odd meters saw us stuck again – along with at least 30 other vehicles both ways.  

Asha had to report to her dorm by 4 PM.  We made a snap decision.  Walk it out.  Oma stayed with the small suitcase and violin in the vehicle along with Bhagat who was driving us.  Asha and I clutched umbrellas and set off at a brisk walk to do the 2+ kms to WAS.  We huffed and puffed and made it to the dorm and signed Asha in on time with seconds to spare.  Oma and the luggage followed later.

And so another two days in the beautiful and selectively messy parts of our lives conclude.  Our roles change and shift with us taking on responsibilities and experiences previously limited to our parents.  Likewise, we see our kids living out some of the steps we have taken earlier - as well as moving into some paths we have not trodden. And we see our parents walking into areas of their lives, and experiences that we have no living memory of.  

It is such a true comfort to know that we do have a Father who loves us very much, and allows us to mirror and reflect His love to each other.  Whatever part of our journey, He has gone before and is walking alongside us, like Aslan walking beside Sashta all through dark night journey along a mountain path.

Time, like an ever rolling stream,
Bears all its sons away;
They fly, forgotten, as a dream
Dies at the opening day.

Our God, our help in ages past,
Our hope for years to come,
Be Thou our guard while troubles last,
And our eternal home.

(Isaac Watts)

1 comment:

  1. Thinking of you and praying for your family Andi. You know Chris is dropping his son Andrew off at Woodstock for this year in a few weeks?