Celebrating The Courage & Bravery of Common Man

5 minutes

It was 26th January, Republic Day. There was compulsory attendance at school for the flag hoisting. The day started like any other day, I got up at 7.30 am on that cold, winter day and lingered for a few minutes in my warm bed before I could get myself to take a shower. After my shower, I wrapped myself in a thin, muslin towel, and pressed my white uniform. My white, canvas shoes, though polished, looked a little brown, so I resorted to the trick almost every student across India pulls – I coloured my shoes with white chalk. I fixed myself a humble breakfast of bread and butter with hot chai (I have always been a very poor eater).


When I left for school, my mother was in the kitchen, peering through the cupboards and wondering what to make for lunch. My brother was sound asleep, oblivious to me and my mum. My dad was actually out of town on business.

I left home, our second-floor apartment, around 8.30 am. It was a 15-minute walk to school. On my way to school, I had the general musings of any 9-year-old boy. Little did I know that today was the day that history would be created and would be a day forever remembered, but remembered for the worst possible reason.

As soon as I went I reached school, I realized that something wasn’t right. A typical school event took place in the playground, with the prefects surrounding the quadrangle, the band on the right corner and the senior, ‘cool’ kids loitering under the basketball hoops. But today there was mayhem. I could see people scattered all around the campus, frantically running around, but I could not figure out what had happened. And then I saw the cracks in my school building.

I don’t know what it was, instinct maybe, but I immediately turned around and ran all the way back home. On the way, I could see people littering out of their houses and staring at the buildings as if noticing them for the first time.

I still didn’t know that it was an earthquake, that I had just witnessed the infamous 2001 Gujarat earthquakes. I just knew something was wrong and I felt this great need to see my brother and my mother and make sure they were alright. When I finally reached, I was breathless and had a stitch on my side.

I could see my mother holding my brother’s hand, standing in front of what can only be described as a pile of rubbish. Our whole apartment complex was destroyed.

All our apartment mates were huddled together, the men discussing something, the women consoling their weeping children. Now, I don’t know if that was what the situation demanded from me, or if I am generally a person who thinks quickly on my feet, but I knew that I needed to get us out of that place as soon as possible.

I took my mother and brother to my father’s friend’s house because that was the only way we could contact my father. My father arranged for us to travel to Delhi and live with some relatives till things settled down back home.

Quite honestly, the rest of the story is a blur. All I remember is the destruction I saw in the city on my way to the railway station. Everything had collapsed, and once where there were tall buildings, now there was just rubble. I remember how scared and helpless my father had felt, being so far away from us at a time when we needed him the most. I will never forget the way my father completely broke down when he saw his, tears running down his face. No child should ever have the misfortune of seeing his parents cry.

It was a time when the whole country doubted whether things would ever go back to normal again, so I think as a 9 year old, my fear was warranted. But you what? Things did get back to normal. And from this incident, I emerged a stronger and wiser child – a stronger and wiser person.

What changed after experiencing the 20o1 earthquakes first hand was that I am no longer scared. Of anything. As a child I had many phobias – of heights, of water – but all that vanished overnight.  I guess when you see an entire city break down and then resurrect in front of your own eyes, things like heights and water seem very trivial.

My message to those reading this does not really have anything to do with calamities. It is about a truth I realized about life – that life, or the World, will go on with or without you. It is just up to you to live the best life you can when you’ve got the chance.

Do you have an inspiring story to share with us? A story where you faced a hardship but emerged stronger? If you have, please do share. As a token of celebration, YourDOST will be sending goodies to the BraveHearts with the most touching stories of struggle and survival!

You could inspire the rest of us, submit your own stories below:

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