The ambulance with its sirens blaring, rushed past the road and the other four wheelers making its way to the hospital. Instinctively, I closed my eyes and wished for the good health of the suffering soul locked in that vehicle. This practice brought back memories of my tenth grade teacher, who would halt her class every time we heard an ambulance passing by. With her head bowed and eyes closed, she would pray for the health of those suffering in the ambulance. “It is a way by which we can hope to add a few hours or maybe even a few days to that person’s life,” she would say. A remarkable lady, she is someone I will never forget.
The next day arrived and I had to go for my math class. As luck would have it, the route to the class was blocked by the remains of a withered building and a long queue of automobiles. Compelled to take a cab, I rushed to the other side of the road. My eyes inspected the long line searching for an empty one.
The cab moved at snail’s pace. The driver, probably oblivious to the haste of his passenger, drove with ease. There was no way escaping this, and I knew I would be late. Resigning myself to fate, I slumped in my seat and plugged in my head phones.
I smiled as a wave of nostalgia swept over me a when I passed by a magnificent stone building. My old school. I laughed at the memory of staining our pink little frocks when we played in the mud as toddlers. It had been two years since I had entered this grand institution and I missed it dearly. That building held a lot of memories locked within those twelve years I had spent there.
I missed the smell of the wet earth as it wafted towards the gate as the gardener watered the exotic plants. I missed those lunch time brawls and the swings and the slides. I missed counting numbers, dissecting tiny animals, mixing chemicals and weighing objects on the sensitive weighing pans. Most of all, I missed the teachers.
My eyes brimmed with tears and I looked over to the other side of the road. Voila! I saw my tenth grade teacher walking down the slope, with bag and books in hand. Pulling out a wad of notes, I stuffed a couple into the cab driver’s hand and rushed out of the cab almost tripping over in my haste. I couldn’t believe it! I was happy beyond measure.
Her eyes shone with recognition as I pulled her into a bone crushing hug and squealed with delight.
Exchanging pleasantries, we proceeded to talk about school and it’s on goings. I listened with rapt attention, as I clung on to every last detail. She spoke about the new teachers who couldn’t spell for peanuts, her students who gave her a hard time everyday with their raucous behavior and the kind old principal.
I was so absorbed in the conversation that I barely noticed when her expression changed. Her face had turned grave and her eyes watered with emotion as she spoke about the hardships she had faced the previous year. Her daughter in Australia had met with an accident and the doctors had said that the pain in her calf would stay forever unless operated upon.
My teacher had rushed to Australia and had gotten her daughter’s surgery done. Sighing with relief, she had made her way out of the hospital when she got a phone call. “Your son met with a bike accident. He has a broken jaw and multiple injuries,” the caller said.
Hurrying back to India, she rushed to her son’s side as he lay in the operation theatre. All the while, her head was bowed. “Grace my son with good health, oh Lord,” she prayed.
Soon after, school reopened and she had to return. She was astonished on open house day as every parent came forward and inquired about her children’s health and offered their prayers. She hadn’t expected this and was overwhelmed.
Weeks later, her son recovered, and she got a call from her daughter saying that she was alright and was able to walk again.
“He works in wondrous ways,” she said pointing heavenward. She pulled out a chocolate from her purse and handed it to me. “Keep it,” she said as I opened my mouth to protest. It was her way of showing love. Showering me with her blessings, she walked away and continued her journey home.
I stood there stunned, unable to process my surroundings. It had been an amazing encounter and I felt something changing. Something felt different.
I wasn’t so sure about being an atheist anymore.