An expanse of a bottle-green coloured shed, huge domes with machines, tractors, seed posters and open-aired stalls!
Stalls of all different agricultural brands stood opposite each other, giving a picturesque look to the market-place. This is what a typical scène of a ‘Kheti Mela’ looks like.
The city was still in slumber at 9:00 am when I reached my destination. Since this city gets lost between big cities like Ahmedabad and Vadodara, I had modest expectations in terms of the crowd at the fair. As the day began, the fair opened up with a herd of turban-clad people, looking around at new products displayed in various stalls and farm technologies the fair had to offer. They gaped at new pumps, solar lamps, seeds, etc. at different stalls.
Quite amazed by the interest for the bag, I join the bandwagon and start shouting,” One miss call”, when suddenly, I was surrounded by a sea of people with mobile phones, squeezing through the crowd, to reach out for the bag in my hand. I gave an astonished look at the red bag, for which all the farmers were vying. A few curious farmers asked me, “If we give a missed call, will we only get red bags?” To this, I replied “No sir, much more than that. We will give you a wealth of information on farming as well. Just give a missed call on this number. The red bag is a small gift for you.”
By afternoon, there was a deafening chaos at the stall for the red prize! Suddenly, a woman asked for the red bag. When I pointed out to her that she already had a red bag, she said it was for her neighbour. Such was the craze for our premium red bags!
As the sun started setting, the crowd slowly dissolved too. My eyes gazed at the sea of people who had our premium bags, and it stood out strong even in the dim light. In no time post-sunset, the fair became lifeless just like a graveyard and I grabbed one of the premium red bags to join the ‘Red Army’.
More than a year of being at AgroStar, an active and shouting participant in quite a good number of agri fairs across Gujarat and Maharashtra and the energy is the same on either side for the AgroStar red bag.
Life has many ways of testing one’s will. I have been tested!!
It was in hot summer months of Gujarat and temperature scorched with exam pressures. On 4th May 2012, it was a soil chemistry practical exam and I had prepared very well. Things took a different toll when I accidentally pipette 1 ml of concentrated sodium hydroxide with Iodine; a really cool vodka combination isn’t it??
Within few minutes of ingesting, my lips became swollen, my chest was burning and I became blank. My classmate gave me an alien look and professors reacted by giving me water, thinking it as an antidote. But sadly it worsened.
I was rushed to the dispensary, where I texted my sister, to come urgently. My dad, who had met an accident and was on bed rest, was called up by authorities. I didn’t understand the seriousness of it. My dad questioned by negligence, “why it didn’t happen to other 76 students?” I didn’t have an answer for it then.
On 5th May 2012, I was taken to an acid specialist; He advised me complete bed rest. Chemical didn’t hurt me, but my dad with broken hand feeding me moved me. I lost my voice, I couldn’t speak, and it disturbed me. I questioned God, “why me? I need to take care of my Achan, why are you punishing that man?” The moments, when he fed me with each sip of oats and water, my tears rolled up and I felt guilty. Within one week, I recovered, my voice regained and we started forgetting that something happened.
It is said that “god tests you till you are ready to sail the storm”. The pain didn’t end there. I wasn’t able to swallow food, whatever I tried eating, everything I vomited. The doctor performed endoscopy and I developed a complication. My lungs had holes and I couldn’t breathe. The man, who is known to save someone’s life, scared my father. Finally, we flew to our native, where I met a man who lived and believed in service. His motto of life is serving his patients, is serving God. His name is Dr Mathew Phillip, an ideal soul, my mentor, my saviour, gave me support to sail the boat.
Doc Phillip performed endoscopy again after being on saline for 6 weeks where I was discovered with oesophagus gerd. Doctor asked me, “girl, do you know that the there is no space for water to pass? How did you survive this?” I smiled at him and slightly prayed “God give me stones, give me iron, but I have to power to convert it into steel, But don’t you dare hurt my parents”. I knew I had to survive this. The pain of parents, seeing their only daughter suffer, wouldn’t be easy.
With each injection pricked into my body, I felt that electricity hitting my veins, but I smiled at the nurse. For me, It was like a badminton match and with one smash by god, I hit back. The doctor advised me to have a stent and thus most horrifying thing which I dread till today, was put into my body. It made me immobile, the pain was unbearable and my parents cried every night seeing me as I wrangled with pain. The incident bonded us more. I saw the love for me in their eyes, my cousins who couldn’t bear that their sister isn’t chirping around them, people looked at me with pity. It pained, so I smiled.
The stent was removed and I lost 10 kilos of my weight. My dad sometimes teased, drinking that acid is better than you going to gym. I joined college again and was allowed to be part of the new semester. I soon realized that your good friends are those who stay in your bad time. The so-called best friends didn’t receive me or support me in my nightmare which I wished to forget. But I got the best!
Industrial tours were started and my mom used to make soup for me every day. Within one week, I stopped eating soup and even water was difficult to ingest.
So new chapter again started!!
God pushes us to our limits, tests us beyond our fortitude because he has greater plans and faith in us than we have in ourselves!
Thus, I was again in hospital with a new doctor in Gujarat, his name was Pankaj Jain, young and intelligent and epic! He suggested dilatation to me. The procedure involved using endoscopy; he would break the stones and create space.
Thus every Saturday, trip to Vadodara from Anand in order to meet the doctor Jain, followed by dad’s treat of cold coffee from juice pump. Whenever the procedure was done, the doctor would sing lullabies to me, for which I laughed. On 10th session, he asked me, “Neeraja, It is going to be difficult, your food pipe is losing its motility”, I replied, “Doc, I am not coming to your clinic, I am done”. I didn’t return to his clinic. I self-dilated with food, I used to spit food, take 2 hours to eat, but I ate. My parents worried, why is she doing this? I said I need to prove the almighty that he has made me tough. And I survived!!
I cleared all my papers, cracked the exam for MBA and got into good college, scored the top marks and created my brand image. My illness made me strong, made me realise my own strength, I scored one – zero in a match with the fight with god, to realise that he is inside me.
I never thought of writing this article but recently when my parents after 4 years of the accident, was sharing to someone who had lost hope of things, how brave I was. I realized that maybe I should share the story with the world, maybe someone would smile or bless my parents who faced such pain.
I am Neeraja Sasidharan, who had fixed a badminton match with God! I am not Neeraja Bhanot either, though the name is similar! I am me, who self-discovered herself with acid ingestion.
Life with limitation and obstacles is still a treasure.
Sun shore with all its radiance, few rays fell on my new embroidered kurta and giving a shimmering effect! I tried covering my face with my stall to prevent the sunburn on cheeks. Suddenly I found myself standing in mid-lane of a busy street. Few rickshaws hit me, few pedestrians gave me a look of being new stuff to appease their eyes. I gulped once with new change in environment. I felt like a new model which got just launched on the ramp. I had just got down from the noisy train in hustle bustle that my head was spinning. Ahmedabad is the biggest city in Gujarat and the sixth biggest in India, situated in the Western part of Indiaon the banks of River Sabarmati, know for its cultural diversity and glorious history.
I had joined as a management trainee at a milk-based company as a part of my M.B.A course in agribusiness from ASPEE AGRIBUSINESS MANAGEMENT INSTITUTE, Navsari. FMCG and Retailing was the passion for me. A dream to have my own company and finding an opportunity to make it a successful start was making me restless and jumpy. I felt that being a trainee at the company would make one more step to my goal. Thus Ahmedabad would be my cradle towards my dreams, That was my thought! Being Keralite and born to two progressive thinkers who are themselves successful in their careers, I was groomed to be adaptable, broad-minded and my foot on my own land (then on someone’else). Settled in Gujarat for more than 20 years, very few could distinguish me as Keralite due to my patented curls which we mostly all south India’s carry.
Alas! As I was building castles in the air, I was panicked by the lousy horn. ” Aree madam, Vastrapur javavnu che, metre per lye jaise” auto driver spoke while chewing and spitting tobacco with its charotri Gujarati. “AA,h” I refused him with a constipated face. I hate tobacco chewers. Quickly, realizing I was late, I got into other auto and told him to drop at a place called as Navrangpura. My mom had already sent me 5 messages on Whatsapp, I was annoyed but kept cool and replied her “amma, I have reached Mumbai, forgot to get down at Ahmedabad” Another 2 messages arrived ” podi penne”, “I know you have reached”. Mom is overprotective sometimes, but someday I will be too. I tried looking around, tried reading landmarks which were written on each junction so as to remember the places. I was amazed that the city which was around 70 km from Home, was completely different. Clean city, broad roads and people from all religion and different parts of countries, also foreigners …the city is giving me positive vibes. We stopped by traffic lights, I could see a pool of crowd around me. I saw few youngsters, two men and one woman in a car may be in the 20s, the lady had red dyed herself and was smoking gold flakes. It was quite dumbfounding by her , as such atmosphere was common in big metro cities like Mumbai. I was an illusion that Ahmedabad though being a metro city, had preserved traditional culture till date.
It was half an hour and my sixth sense said “something is wrong” . I was used to the peaceful environment with a lot of green flushes and country side abode around me, Such was the place of Dr Kurian’s Amul land. Small, rich with flora and peaceful Anand, I was already missing the place!! I tried checking my google map so as to calculate how much time, it is going to take more. Crap! I gave a sigh…Uninor networks are really too irritating. The auto driver took one more turn, I could see a sky-scraping building, it looked like a mall. I could see a cafe coffee day store nearby and I wished I had the tropical iceberg, which was my favourite. But sadly I was getting damn late. I asked the driver ” Bhai, kettlu time lagse aju?” He said ” 15 minutes,” I said ” what??” I was too late. My dear Uninor provider seems to have got my impatience and gave my response. Google map showed 25 minutes from station to Navrangpura and I had been travelling past 45 minutes. Now I was annoyed and lost my cool. In the mean time, Mr Shahrukh Khan ( seems driver was a fan of the film star) parked in front of a black gate. I saw a glimpse of students in the building. I knew that company was located on top floor and there was college sponsored by them which was located at first level. As I got down, I told Mr hero driver that “google map showed only 25 mins and you took 45 mins, do you think I am a fool?” He said ” Madam ji, ajj shortcut ch, Chalo Lavo 110 rupiya”. I gave him, a baffled look. I said ” 110 rs “” aatlu rate??” I tried all argument a defence lawyer could make. But sadly he showed me the metre reading and I agreed. He was quite happy as if the Hen got her eggs. Within few minutes, I got a call from a friend and he inquired ” how much did you pay?”I replied ” 110rs”. After a short silence, he said ” to pagal h? 60-70 rs lagte h, metre check Kiya?” I told him, I did and it showed “110rs”. He said, ” lady, money to be given should be half the metre reading”. I had anguished look, I was fooled!! As I climb into the lift, I realised that I had already become prone to the enemy of the cold-blooded world. I learnt my lesson and it has become my first chapter in my Ahmedabad diaries.
LESSON 1: BE STREET SMART! NEVER EVER GET INTO TAXIS AND RICKSHAWS WITHOUT CHECKING METRE