Miracles Do Happen

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A sudden noise of glass splintering after a thud made Malti wake up with a start.

‘Now what?’ she thought switching on the light. It was 3 a.m. She looked around. Her bedroom looked okay.

She opened the living room door and stood shell shocked. A chunk of the ceiling of this old house, her haven,  had fallen on the showcase, smithering the glass to pieces.

She surveyed the scene and decided it could wait till morning and went back to bed. She tossed and turned. Should she leave this place and go to a Senior citizens’ home? Each day presented problems in this seventy-year-old building. How long could she stay here? Till something fell and killed her?

But her mind rebelled. This was her dear home where every nook and corner had a memory, mostly happy ones. And she did not want to leave this cosy place.

Next morning as she was supervising the cleaning up, she noticed three well-dressed people on her doorsteps. They were total strangers.

‘Hello. Malti Raoji,’ said the middle-aged man entering and extending his hand as if he was an old friend.

Seeing her face he continued, ‘Shailesh Rathod,’ he introduced.

The name did not ring a bell but she reluctantly asked them to enter, indicating to the cleaning woman to leave.

The trio entered, looking around them and sat on her dilapidated but clean and cosy sofas.

‘You were in Nagpur thirty years back, isn’t it,’ said Rathod.

She nodded. Malti’s mind winged back. She and her husband Ravi knew so many people in  Nagpur where they had gone on his transfer some thirty-two years back. Were this family their friends? Maybe Ravi’s colleagues? Or someone who was a customer in the bank she had worked?

‘We searched for you in Nagpur. When did you shift here to Mumbai?” asked the lady.

‘A year back,’ said Malti, memories bringing sadness with them. ‘My husband had a life-threatening illness and we came here for his treatment.’

‘Here?’ asked the lady casting an eye on the surroundings. The house was obviously on its last legs.

‘We shifted suddenly,’ replied Malti, ‘This is the house I came to as a bride. We were a joint family. My parents in law, their elder son and his family and we lived here very happily.’

Memories again brought nostalgia in its wake and her eyes softened as she reminisced those happy carefree days.

‘Then Ravi was transferred to Nagpur. Meanwhile, my parents in law left this world and my brother in law shifted to the US with his children. The house was locked up for nearly fifteen years when we came here.’

‘And your husband”? questioned Rathod gently fearing the worst.

‘He left me three months back and I am all alone.  But I know almost everyone in the neighbourhood and they know me so there is no problem.’

‘Oh, just a minute. I will get tea and biscuits,’ continued Malti, her hospitable nature surfacing. After all, if they knew her, they must be old friends or acquaintances.

As she returned with the tray, she noticed that the three were in a deep conference. The third member, their son, had not said a word earlier but was now talking and insisting on some point.

Malti confessed to them that she had not still placed them.

‘Remember I had come to your office urgently one afternoon in July?’ said Rathod, ‘You were very busy and thought I was a bank customer but I had come for a very urgent matter. My wife had just delivered this boy and the newborn baby had blood issues and needed a blood transfusion. We were desperate and approached blood banks and people we knew. Then someone told us about a list of donors and their blood group. Your name was on top of the list of O Rh-negative people and I rushed to your office. You left your work, followed me and donated your blood. And he is now in front of you,’ said Rathod while his wife surreptitiously wiped her eyes turning gratefully towards Malti.

Now she remembered. Her blood group was rare and she had donated to over twenty or thirty people in those thirty years. She had been woken up at midnight in emergency cases,  she had been recalled from picnics and parties when someone needed blood. And she never refused. For her, it was an honour which God had bestowed on her.

‘Oh, yes,’ said Malti now, ‘And two months later both of you came to my office with this child and presented me a marble Taj Mahal and sweet pethas’.

They all laughed. ‘What you did can never be forgotten. You gave Adarsh his life.’

Adarsh bent and touched her feet.

‘We lived here in Mumbai and I had gone to Nagpur to my maika for the delivery’ explained Mrs Rathod, ‘Our only child, we were so happy and when the doctor told us his condition and the necessity for blood, we were shocked and worried. We ran from pillar to post. And then you came as an angel, a saviour.’

Malti protested. She was doing what she felt was right. Donating blood was a noble deed.

‘Fifteen years back we decided to migrate to the US,’ said Rathod, ‘We live in New York and are now citizens of the country. Adarsh is soon getting married to a girl of Indian origin but settled in the US. So we have no relatives here to come back and are winding up.’

‘We thought of you and wanted to meet you before we left for good,’ said Mrs Rathod, ‘So we went to your office and got this address. We do not know how to thank you for making my son live.’

‘God has given me the privilege of helping others,’ said Malti.

Putting down his cup, Rathod now searched for words.

‘Madam,’  he began, ‘We have a humble request. If you don’t mind, we would like to give you our flat, here in Mumbai,’ and as she began to protest, he continued, ‘Madam, we are not giving out of pity having seen this house. Frankly, we were about to sell it as we are not coming back. But now we feel that giving it to you is a better idea.’

Adarsh and his mother nodded vehemently.

‘Please, don’t say no,’ they pleaded.

Still, Malti hesitated. Was it right to accept a house from strangers? But, she could not continue living here and though she had adequate money, she could not afford renovations. The beloved house was a white elephant.

‘Since your blood runs in my veins, you are like my mother,’ said Adarsh clinching the deal, ‘So please accept it.’

Put that way, Malti could not refuse and a fortnight later, the Rathod family helped her shift to a small two-bedroom flat, where she could live comfortably without fearing that the ceiling would fall on her.

‘A miracle indeed,’ she thought. Who would have thought that her act of duty done thirty years back would solve her problems?

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