Last week, we left microwave plastic in our oven by mistake and when we, without looking inside, turned the oven on, we had fumes waiting for us instead of a clean oven for a yummy chocolate cake to be baked.
As I grieved about the fumes, I was reminded of fumes that I had to breathe about 13+ years ago.
I lived in an apartment building in Chinchwad, Pune where my parents still continue to live. I do not remember that particular date but I do remember that the entire state of Maharashtra was without electricity that night.
Since we had nothing to do in the dark, we slept early that night, my mom and me, in my parents’ bedroom and my grandfather in his bedroom.
My father used to work in Mumbai during that time and my sister was here in the United States.
We were fast asleep when suddenly we heard my grandfather shouting and a bunch of more cries from some other people. Now, if you knew my grandfather, you would think he was at it again, shouting or lecturing at someone on the road, for doing something that they should not, like lighting the dry leaves or garbage on fire.
Trust me, you would not want to be a teenager living in my house. The sense of embarrassment during those days still makes me laugh and sometimes gives me goosebumps. Though if I look back now, most of the things he said makes sense to me as an adult, it was just the way he would convey it was not very right. But that is a topic for another day.
As I woke up wondering why my grandfather was shouting at someone in the middle of the night, I realized that I could not breathe. I used to wear lenses and I was not wearing them that day. My mom woke up with me and she realizes she could not breathe either. We both walked in different directions. Someone was banging the door and somehow she found her way to open the door. She was pulled outside.
I had gone to the door of the balcony. I went out and asked what the chaos was all about. Of course, the details are very hazy now but I found out that there was a mention of fire in my house. I remember panicking a little bit but mostly very calmly asking them to figure out how to take me out.
Then as I went back inside the house wondering where the heck the fire exactly was, someone took me by the hand and outside the main door.
As soon as I was out, my whole neighborhood was in front of me. Nearly 60 people were filling vessels of sand from a construction place nearby and throwing it one by one on our washing machine. Someone had called fire brigade twice. So now we had two fire engines working on putting fire out and helping my grandfather out who was trapped on the other side of fire with no outlet.
Lot of people were sitting on our apartment stairs and making sure we are ok, offering us water, a shoulder, etc. That night, we were offered a place to sleep by our front door neighbors which we said yes to.
Next day, when we looked at our house, the whole washing machine was burned down and the entire living room looked like it was painted with black soot. Other than that there was not much damage.
Life went by as usual and as it used to after that. My father and my uncle drove down from Mumbai and started handling the house renovation project. I am trying to remember what I did next day but I definitely think I took the day off from college.
I do not think we really know how the fire started ever, but to this date, I am very thankful to the neighborhood, for not thinking twice about the fire and pulling us out of our house.
This act of kindness is rare in today’s world and I am fortunate to be able to look back upon it and feel nothing else but gratitude.