Verbal darts do not hurt
“My mama always said, ‘Life was like a box of chocolates. You never know what you’re gonna get.’”
“You are my Forrest Gump.”
Roshan could not understand then.
At age nine, such cultural references made no sense, in a tiny town, north of India.
He heard her echo again, the previous day, in the call centre, when a co-worker said, “You remind me of Forrest Gump.”
Roshan/Forrest was stumped. Past rushed back.
Dadri, old home.
Delhi, new home.
How a feisty Ma and Gump had shaped up his forward journey, despite heavy barriers!
That Roshan was marked for life was clear right from school days. Ma once told a crying Roshan, “You need not cry but fight for your dignity. The world is brutal. It always was and will be. Stand up. Fight.”
“How? I do not have your guts. They taunt me endlessly. Call me lame. Abnormal. If polio struck me, is it my fault?”
Ma smiled, “They are cowards. The brave never mock. These brutes ridicule His work. No option but to fight the mean bunch. God will take care of the rest.”
“Does God exist?”
“Yes. He is different.”
Another painful evening, Ma said, “Run, Gump-like.”
Her parting words: “Look life in the eyes. Give it a run.”
Repeated references made Gump mythical. Later on, he realized the man was pure fiction, made real by Tom Hanks and Hollywood money.
How Ma came to know about Gump? A typist with a criminal lawyer; a Christian married to a Hindu Rajput, an alcoholic who ran away with another woman, leaving her with an invalid and no money; the indomitable Ma fighting daily; this plain-looking woman, so amazing. She survived the beatings, the taunts, the insults of in-laws and relatives but never gave up or grew bitter. Once he asked her secret.
“Verbal darts do not hurt me anymore. Sticks and stones can break me but not words flung as missiles. This stoicism defeats enemies.”
Her mantra for survival. His precious legacy.
The day the school opened and he came across Gulu, he hit the smirking bully’s leg with his crutch. The latter howled. The gang ran away.
“See, what my lame leg can do. Next time, it is your head! My leg can split it open.”
Gulu cowered and Roshan successfully completed his education from that Hindi-medium high school without ever being bothered.
All bullies are cowards!
Ma was right.
Roshan knew when to run and stop.
And fight the bullies.
Growing up in a poor and single-parent home was tough. Cousins or strangers laughed at his disability. A recruiter said thoughtlessly, we do not hire cripples!
Roshan had curtly replied, this mindset will lead to your becoming a cripple!
The courier company went bankrupt soon.
As he took a call from USA, he said quietly: Ma, Gump, thank you both, for your valued lessons.
Sunil Sharma, an academic and author-freelance journalist from the suburban Mumbai, India. He has published 19 books so far, some solo and joint.
He edits Setu: