When I set the room on Fire Rameshinder Singh Sandhu

The recent appeal by our PM Narendra Modi to light up balconies and doorsteps with candles, lamps and flashlights to challenge the darkness, spread by the Coronavirus crisis took me on a nostalgic childhood trip to that very historic day –as I always call it.

It comes from one of the summer holidays –when I was in grade four or five. I had joyfully joined my grandmother with our guests to the terrace room which she was getting white washed to turn it into a prayer room. She ebulliently explained how it will be set up that my ears zestfully absorbed. Within days, it was fully dressed up –adorning freshly bought curtains for its many windows.However, as it stood vacant for many days –may be because of the fresh paint –I stepped in, armed with all my creativity. Keeping it hidden from all elders at home, pulling along my younger brother and friends from the neighbourhood –we decided to transform it into a temple on our own, even before its official use. Instantly, the idea bathed everyone in excitement and the same evening, we commenced our play –authentically imitating the priests and worshippers in a Hindu temple of our village, we frequented.

Not forgetting to bring in the real vibes of a temple, my Hindu friends secretly also brought pictures of some Hindu gods, and I fetched candles and matchbox from the kitchen for Aarti scene. As everyone gathered, we took turns as priests and worshippers –uttering along prayers, our tongues could handle.

As we were ardently soaked in swinging the lit candles, my eyes suddenly caught, the disaster we had invited. It was fire, which had just begun to jump over the curtains as we had left about two candles so close to the windows, oblivious to how their fire can roll into an incident. Terrified, I raised the alarm and we managed to race out safely but as it caused commotion, my grandmother taking note of it –vomited out all her anger. While for our friends, all roads led straight back to their homes; my brother and I rushed to our room and got under the bed.

With hearts racing like never before, we heard labour being called from the farm, right at back of the house –who became our fire fighters of the day. Though they successfully managed to douse the fire, but the room from sparkling white was almost the opposite. The curtains on which exotic flowers danced also vanished, like smile on grandmother’s face for several days. We too remained enveloped in regret, shock and fear but looking back today, I laugh over that unexpected childhood adventure.

Most importantly, I feel glad and thankful to god for having saved all of us from the fire. And for now, prayers to god for helping us pass through the fearful Coronavirus times that have sprinkled fear on many of us –across the globe.

If an American Philosopher Ralph Waldo Emerson is to be believed, “Fear defeats more people than any one other thing in the world.”

(The writer is a former Staff Correspondent of Hindustan Times and currently a freelance writer based in Amritsar, Punjab).