All Nonfiction Bullying Books Academic Author Interviews Celebrity interviews College Articles College Essays Educator of the Year Heroes Interviews Memoir Personal Experience Sports Travel & CultureAll Opinions Bullying Current Events / Politics Discrimination Drugs / Alcohol / Smoking Entertainment / Celebrities Environment Love / Relationships Movies / Music / TV Pop Culture / Trends School / College Social Issues / Civics Spirituality / Religion Sports / Hobbies
- Summer Guide
- College Guide
- Author Interviews
- Celebrity interviews
- College Articles
- College Essays
- Educator of the Year
- Personal Experience
- Travel & Culture
- Current Events / Politics
- Drugs / Alcohol / Smoking
- Entertainment / Celebrities
- Love / Relationships
- Movies / Music / TV
- Pop Culture / Trends
- School / College
- Social Issues / Civics
- Spirituality / Religion
- Sports / Hobbies
- Community Service
- Letters to the Editor
- Pride & Prejudice
- What Matters
The Aatma (Soul, Spirit)
Author's note: We were learning about India a couple years ago in Social Studies and it absolutely fascinated me! So I sat down and began to come up with the story of Aabha and her life. This piece is a couple years old, but I'd love to hear what you think!
India. The land of dreams. For years, it has captured the imagination of many, with its tales of romance, and its steam engines running smoothly across the tracks.
The year is 1929. Aabha and her parents, the Maharajas, sat in the dining car of Nundini, making their way from Mumbai back to their palace. A waiter by the name of Abhinay, whose zany manner deeply annoyed Aabha, paused at their dinner table, and with a twisted smile, offered more food. Through gritted teeth, Aabha forced a smile, and after declining as politely as she could manage, she abruptly looked away. Why does he bother? Aabha thought, He very well knows that I am sick of him running over to me every minute with some dainty little platter! Tired of the endless fuss and chatter, the royal dress, and the fancy atmosphere, she muttered,
“Be right back.” and escaped out of the car. Finally—away from those nasty, royalty-obsessed parents of mine. If only it could last… Her heart racing, and her feet pounding against the train floor, Aabha finally reached the end car. She slammed her body against the cold, metal door, panting from the speed she was moving at. She pressed her face against the glass window, and watched the tracks go rushing away. Clackety-clack, clackety-clack! Hurry, hurry, hurry! They seemed to say.
Aabha’s heart beat increased. She bravely opened the door and a cool breeze whirled around her. Shhh! Quiet—listen, listen. A shout broke the silence, and Aabha jumped. Spinning around, she saw no one, so she quietly crept to the other side of the train car. Aabha stood silent, against the wall, and she stiffened as the alerted voices continued—shouting loudly.
“Darius, hit the breaks!”
“Whoa, I can’t! She’s moving too fast!”
“Stop the train! Stop the train!” Soon the shouts of frightened passengers also filled Aabha’s ears. Clackety-clack clackety-clack! Hurry, hurry, hurry! Suddenly rocks started to tumble and crack from the tunnel they were about to enter.
“Stop the train!” and that was all. There was a tremendous crash. Terrified, Aabha fled out the open train door and into the night.
She knew she had been the only survivor. She just knew, and she didn’t even look back—not once. She just ran as fast as her feet would allow her to go; the night air cool, but dawn awaited and as the sun came up, the air got warmer and warmer. Finally, Aabha stopped running. She sat down on the mud beside the railroad tracks; she didn’t care that she wasn’t being treated like royalty at the moment, (in fact, she was relieved) but now she was alone, and afraid—a victim waiting for whatever the world held in store. After a while of doing nothing, Aabha picked herself up again, and continued on.
The city of Calcutta; small, primitive shacks dotted the dry, muddy ground. A burning sun shone high in the sky over the hard working people, hardly daring to dream of a better life that most of them would never have.
Realizing another danger, Aabha frantically smeared dirt on her clothing—making sure not to leave any trace of fine linen. She spotted a couple of stones, and began cutting her shoes and rubbing them with dirt as well; making them look as if they were very old, and worn. Morning had arrived, and already hours before, many were starting their day—working long, and hard, with simple, hand made tools.
A faded sign at the edge of the dirt road faintly read Calcutta.
“So that’s where I am!” thought Aabha. The perfect place to hide! By now, news of the tunnel collapse had got to have traveled all over; there had to be people out looking for her.
Aabha walked along the road, passing the sign and making a point of scuffing her shoes as she went. After only a few minutes, little houses began to appear, and people moved around, feeding chickens, splashing dirty water on their faces, collecting plants, etc. What to do…?
Aabha noticed an empty basket on the side of the road. Quickly, she picked it up, and tossed some plants into it. Carefully balancing it on her head, Aabha continued walking. She passed the houses and people, hardly noticed, and just given a happy smile; blending in perfectly with her surroundings! To the others, she was just another one of them, probably gathering food for her family.
It was amazing. These people were so poor, yet their attitudes seemed so friendly, so happy, and their conditions so primitive. Growing up in royalty, she’d never gotten a chance to experience true life—just fake laughter and joy at fancy events. But this, this was life.
Aabha walked for hours, and when she got tired of that, she just ran—and when the sun began to fall from the sky, Aabha headed down a side path. She discovered what seemed to be a small, ramshackle barn, and she quietly sneaked around the side and peered through a crack. It seemed deserted, so she trudged inside, her footsteps muffled by the dusty ground. Without thinking twice, Aabha curled up in a corner, and fell asleep.
As the sun rose over the hills early the next morning, birds began to chatter, and monkeys roused themselves; already running around and scavenging for food. Aabha also awoke, and sleepily rubbed her eyes. No time for feeling tired now, she thought. Silently, just to make sure, Aabha glanced around the barn, making sure not to leave anything (although she hadn’t much,) and then slipped away.
Running was something that Aabha greatly enjoyed. She ran whenever she got the chance, and when she knew for sure that no one would suspect her of running away. It gave her a free feeling; like there was nothing to worry about in the world. Aabha liked feeling the wind whipping her long, dark, hair all over the place, and she laughed out loud for the first time in months. After a while though, she had to slow down, too out of breath to continue—back to reality. Aabha’s stomach growled, and only then did she realize how hungry she’d been; after all, she hadn’t eaten anything for two days!
As she kept moving, the streets became livelier, and soon Aabha could see a market approaching. She slowed her pace, so as not to suggest anything unnecessary, and continued on towards the food. Aabha watched a young man trying to sell some rice, and an idea started to form in her head. Cleverly, she eyed the basket, and carefully edged closer to the man. Pretending to slip, Aabha bumped into him, and his rice went everywhere!
“By Shiva! Look what you’ve done!” the man yelled. Putting on as innocent a face as she could manage, Aabha said in a sugary voice,
“Oh my! I am so sorry—oh you poor thing, working so hard; only to have little me come a long and destroy it for you!” The man’s face became less menacing, as Aabha continued to scold herself, and at the same time, slyly place some rice in the sleeve of her saree.
After her little rice encounter, Aabha kept moving north, until she could see a train station in the distance. Tons of people milled around the interior, or sat in seats waiting for their train to arrive. Why am I here?! Aabha thought in panic, as she heard the rumble of a train. Clackety-clack, clackety-clack, Hurry, hurry, hurry! As the train rushed by, briefly stopping to pick up a load of passengers, Aabha rapped her arms tightly around her head, and tried to drown out the awful sound.
When the train had passed, Aabha slowly lifted her head, and really looked around for the first time. The train station was still crowded, as always, but it was emptier than before, and Aabha noticed something. But she had to look hard to actually see it. Hundreds of homeless people sat with piles of blankets or a bag with a few belongings in it. Some had been camped out for weeks, or even months, just because they had no where to go. Some, like Aabha, were only arriving—just seeing the station, just seeing the people like themselves, for the first time.
Aabha had never thought that in her royal position—much as she hated it—that she would ever be one of the street; and her only choice, being to salvage any scraps of food.
The station was huge, and sounds easily echoed across the its brown walls making the rumble of the trains even louder, and scarier. Scanning the area, Aabha noticed an old woman sitting against a seat. She had nothing other than a small pouch of items, and a small gold chain fastened around her wrist. Her face was worn, and tired, and for a moment when their eyes met, what Aabha saw was sadness. But the woman’s wrinkled face lit up at the site of Aabha.
“Come sit down and rest.” She said. “You look so very tired.” Suddenly, Aabha realized how tired she was, and not seeing another option, Aabha sat down next to the old woman, and laid her head against the seat. She yawned and rubbed her eyes, and the woman patted her arm. “Have you traveled long?” she asked. Aabha glanced at the woman, and without making eye contact, replied,
“No—but a few days.” The forlorn face looked thoughtful, and then answered,
“You are such a young girl, is no one with you? Certainly you mustn’t have traveled such a long way, as you look to have traveled—all alone?”
“I am alone.” Aabha answered, uncertain with all of these questions. She yawned again, and felt herself drifting off.
“Now you rest—but what be your name?” the woman questioned,
“Ah, and I am Adya.” Hardly hearing the woman’s last words, Aabha fell asleep.
Rumble! Rumble! Rumble! Aabha awoke sometime later to the sound of another train coming into the station. After managing to doze for a couple more minutes as the train passed, she glanced over at Adya, and the woman’s eyes twinkled as a smile spread across her face. Aabha couldn’t help it—she let a tiny smile escape her lips too, and she noticed how good it felt—Aabha hadn’t done that is a long time. Aabha basically lived at the station—talking to Adya, eating any scraps of food left from passengers, and bracing herself for the constant arrivals of trains; and wondering why she’d ever subconsciously walked into a train station!
One day, the station was unusually quieter that normal, and that put Aabha in a very good mood; she even smiled a few times.
“You are like my little aatma.” Adya said. Aabha looked away. Don’t get attached, it won’t last, she thought sadly. Oh, and here comes another train. Aabha’s good mood vanished.
Passengers were rushing to the platform, and yet another train was arriving. Feeling sick and shaking, Aabha hugged her knees, and rocked back and forth, back and forth, her face suddenly showing who she really was—Aabha. Not Aabha the homeless girl always living on the streets, but Aabha the girl once in royalty, still being introduced to the streets, still unsure what to do with herself. Adya apparently saw this for the first time, and looked a bit surprised.
“What ails you, child—are you sick?” Then noticing that Aabha was about to cry, she knew that there was something more. Carefully, Adya pried the story out of Aabha: about the collapse, about trudging through Calcutta, and about finally arriving at the station, and when she had finished, the two of them—one very old, and one still very young—sat there, side by side and for once, they were both completely silent.
Early one morning, Aabha sat in the same old spot in the station, quietly waiting for Adya to wake up. Two trains came and went, and still Adya didn’t awake. That’s strange. Mmm, she’s probably just tired. Aabha waited a while longer, and another train went by. Finally, she couldn’t stand it—she had nothing to do but sit! Gently, Aabha shook the woman awake. When her dark brown eyes opened, she smiled at Aabha; but she looked so weak, and more tired than Aabha ad ever seen her.
“A-Adya, are you alright?” she stammered. The woman’s reply was only a faint whisper, as she pulled out a single coin and handed it to Aabha. Telling her the name of a special herb to buy at the market used for curing illness, Adya sent Aabha out of the station for the first time in nearly a month. Aabha turned to go, and the faint whisper stopped her.
“Wait,” the woman carefully unhooked the clasp of the thin gold bracelet around her wrist, and handed it to Aabha. “Take this for good luck.” She said, and Aabha left.
Aabha ran faster than she had ever run before, her feet scraping against the ground, her head spinning with worry and other uncomforting thoughts. The city flew by—people walking, vendors selling, children talking and laughing, and Aabha, running. Out of breath, Aabha paused and looked around. She spotted a basket with the herb she was looking for, and slowly handed the vendor Adya’s coin. Her last coin. Aabha hastily thanked the vendor, and sped back to the station, clutching her bundle of herbs.
When she arrived, she saw Adya lying on the floor, and she hurried over with the plants she’d retrieved.
“Adya! Adya! I’ve the herbs!” Adya didn’t wake up. Aabha gently shook her, but she didn’t stir. She bent over the woman, and listened. Nothing—she had no pulse. And she didn’t breath. Not at all.
I’m going to do it! I will! I will! I will! I am not afraid—I will NOT be afraid! Aabha’s heart pounded like it did the night of the collapse, as she heard the people around her already becoming a mob of chaos to board the incoming train. As the sound of the train roared like an angry storm through Aabha’s ears, and squealed to a stop in front of the crowd, Aabha forced herself not to think twice, and not to look back. She took a step forward, and stopped.
Just GO GO GO! Her mind screamed at her, but she could not bring herself to board this machine that had nearly killed her. Suddenly everything was a blur, and Aabha heard voices yelling. She squeezed her eyes shut, but she could not get rid of the room swirling around her, and the voices ringing through her head.
“Stop the train! Stop the train!” they grew louder and louder, until another voice took over.
“We haven’t got all day young lady, are you coming with us or not?” Aabha looked up. She was lying on the floor, and staring down at her was the train conductor. When he saw the fear and confusion in her eyes, his face softened, and he said in a kinder tone, “The train needs to leave, and I can’t hold it up anymore. So…, are you going to board?” Aabha gulped, and nodded, and she cautiously stepped inside the train.
As the train pulled away from the station, Aabha peered out the window at the tracks rushing away behind her. Clackety-clack, clackety-clack! Hurry, hurry, hurry, they reminded her. Shhh, quiet—listen! As the station disappeared, Aabha looked at the gold chain around her wrist, and silently turned away.
Aabha—glow; shine; lustrous beauty