The Storm and the Calm
Seven-year-old Raj was jumping around in the water. The sky was filled with menacing dark clouds, and the wind seemed to be strong enough to blow away all the skyscrapers standing in front of the riverside. The trees were swaying and bending down almost to the ground, and the sound was deafening. According to the meteorological department’s prediction, cyclone ‘Amphan’ was on its way to hit the coast in the next two hours. A warning had been issued in the morning itself, for all the fishermen to be out of the river. Hence there was no one out, except for boatman Laalu, Raj’s father.
Laalu was a boatman and he loved to make nice, sturdy boats. He had just finished making a big boat for himself, barely a couple of days back. Cyclone ‘Amphan’ had put a break to his plans of taking his new boat into the river. Now, his boat was so big, that he was struggling to bring it out of the river, all alone. It was chained to its anchor and somehow the chain had got entangled and could not be taken off the hook. The little boat that had taken the father and son to the anchor, was rocking crazily on the turbulent water. Laalu was shouting out to Raj to be careful, when he suddenly realised that his shouting was useless. Raj was hearing and speech impaired. All the howling of the winds had no effect on him. Laalu was desperate to take his new boat out of the waters and carry it to a safer place, but he was unable to do so. In order to keep Raj safe he tied him nicely to the small boat, so that he could pay all his attention towards his efforts in getting his new boat free. He had put his heart and soul, as well as all his money, into making it.
Laalu’s desperate efforts bore no fruits and ‘Amphan’ arrived with full fury and force. The cyclone was so intense that nothing could stand in front of it and it simply washed away all the big as well as the small boats to somewhere far, far away. Raj, tied in the small boat, could feel nothing as he lost all consciousness. The big brand new boat broke into pieces, leaving no traces of Laalu any more. There was destruction and devastation everywhere, both to life and property. The city looked desolate. The grey, black river flew on its normal course again, offering no explanation for the havoc that had been created a few hours back.
Raj opened his eyes and looked around, to see where exactly he was. He found himself atop a tree, nestled into its branches. The tree was half bent; many of its branches had fallen onto the ground. Raj managed to come down, but the place was totally alien to him. He had no idea of his location and, as far as he could see, there was no one in sight. He was exhausted, badly bruised, and hungry. He started walking and, after a while, reached a small village. He couldn't sustain himself any more and fell down, and fainted, in front of a hut.
Gopal, with his family, lived in that hut. He lived there with his wife and three children. He found Raj lying at the door and brought him in. His wife tended to him and gave him food. After having something to eat and drink, Raj felt slightly better. Soon the family realised that he was hearing and speech impaired. Gopal and his wife looked at each other and then affectionately told him through signs that, henceforth, he would be staying with them. Raj had no choice. Tears streamed down his eyes at the thought of losing his own family forever. From then onwards, that house became his home.
Times were tough everywhere. As it is, because of the Covid-19 pandemic, the world had almost come to a halt. The economy was at its rock bottom; people had no work, no money, and no food. The cyclone ‘Amphan’ had chosen to arrive in such difficult times, and had made things even worse for the people in that area. Houses were swept away, small settlements blown away, and crops totally destroyed. Gopal had a small patch of land to grow crops and he also worked as a carpenter. Raj always used to see his father make boats, and work with wood. Seeing Gopal too working with similar tools, struck a chord with him and made him immensely happy. He would keep helping Gopal all day. He would work with him on the fields and then work at home as well, when he would sit with his tools to make stuff out of wood. In a very short time he became totally at ease with the family, and soon he became a part of it too, in every sense.
Gopal was very hard working and with the help of little Raj and his own two sons, he managed to stabilise things a little bit. His land gave good yield and, after keeping for the family, he could sell the produce that was left, and got decent money. Raj always remembered his father, and his love for making boats. He specially remembered his father’s new boat and the joy and pride on his father’s face when he first set it on the water. As he always would be around while his father made the boats, he had ideas in his subconscious mind. He would take small pieces of wood and try to make a small boat. Gopal recognised his sharp mind and always tried to feed it with his own knowledge. Like a hungry wolf, Raj kept gobbling it all up and soon he became very good at working with wood.
Gopal sent all the four children to the school in the village. Raj excelled there as well. He had this knack of absorbing everything from his surroundings. Years rolled by and, in time, Raj became a graduate. Making boats had become a passion for him now. He could now make many types of boats, on his own. He had been working part-time in the city too, and had picked up a lot of worldly wisdom. Once he saw an advertisement from a shipping company, about a competition; the participants had to make a boat with the specifications given by the company, and the top three winners would get well-paid jobs in their designing section. Raj was very excited. He registered his name. The boat had to be big, and yet light, and sturdy. The specifications were a bit tricky; it was difficult to keep to the required weight, and yet build a boat as big as the specified size. Raj set his heart and mind on building it. Even after all these years, he remembered some things his father would speak about, while making his boat light, yet strong, and big. The final day arrived. Raj was among the few who had been shortlisted. They were supposed to assemble their boat there, in front of the judges. Raj, with all his focus and concentration, managed to finish first and his boat was in fact the only one that met all the specifications, accurately. He was declared the winner and was offered a good position in the designing section.
Now, for Raj, his vocation became his avocation. His passion got expressed in his work and he was very easily noticed by his seniors. His hard work paid rich dividends and he jumped positions and there was no stopping him. His designs were unbeatable and soon he became the most prominent figure in the industry. Many wondered as to how his limitations of hearing and speech, never proved to be a deterrent, in any way. In a short span of just ten years in the industry, he became a shipping tycoon. He had also transformed his village into a modern, developed township, with all amenities like good schools, hospitals, roads etc.
Raj was being felicitated as ‘The Businessman Of The Year’. He generally shied away from awards and honours, but could not get away this time. He was sitting with his family in the front row, when his name was called out. He stood up and turned to look at Gopal, sitting by his side. He held his hand and gently took a surprised Gopal on to the stage. He was given the mike to say a few words and, with his sign language, Raj said,
“This is the selfless man, who had given home to a homeless boy and had loved him equally, like his own children. This unconditional acceptance and love helped me overcome the huge tragedy of losing my own biological family, during the awfully difficult times that we faced in the year 2020, due to Covid-19 pandemic and the cyclone ‘Amphan’. I have been extremely blessed to be fortunate to have not one but two sets of amazing human beings, as my parents. I can only bow down humbly in gratitude to the God Almighty.”
Unstoppable tears streamed down Gopal’s eyes as he hugged and blessed his son, Raj.