A House on Fire
Fire – A good servant.
To say that “Fire is a good servant but a bad master”, is a cliche. Fire is worshipped as a god in some countries. It is said that Prometheus stole it from heaven and brought it down on earth for the welfare of mankind.
There is no doubt that fire is important for us and we cannot live without it. But, we should remember that fire is a double-edged weapon. I saw the bad side of it last Sunday.
A tailor’s home
It so happened that a tailor’s house on one street caught fire. Mr. Sunil Trehan is a poor tailor. He is about forty years old and has to work hard for his family comprising six persons including himself and his four school-going children. Mr. Sunil is not a skilled tailor according to modern standards, as he cannot stich ladies suits or gents’ woolen suits or fashionable dresses for the guys. He has to content himself with the stitching of simple pajamas, salwar, kurtas, and shirts for the common people. Hence, he does not get much work. It is also so because he has no money to get a shop even on rent in the market and has to content himself while working in the small drawing-cum-bedroom in his house. In short by all standards, Mr. Sunil is a very poor man. But, he is a very God-fearing honest man.
Previous bridal clothes
Last week Sunil got orders, and for the first time in his life, to stitch some costly dresses in large numbers from two parties whose daughters were going to be married in the near future.
Deeming it a good augury as the Dame Luck seemed to be smiling on the family, at last, Sunil’s wife brought the stove near the stacks of expensive silk, woolen, and polyesters lying in stacks, near Mr. Sunil’s small board dais on which he had planted his sewing machine in a mood of intense hilarity and delectation. She wanted to prepare some sweet dishes as a mark of good luck. In a highly Jocund mood, Sunil lighted a costly cigarette for the first time in his life.
As chance would have it, as Sunil was giving a shake to his lighted cigarette a spark fell on a piece of precious cloth. Sunil’s wife discerning the devastating blunder, rushed forward to pick up the burning speck of tobacco. She tumbled against the lighted stove and all the kerosene in it fell on the “highly expensive pieces of cloth which caught fire instantaneously.
Fire flames rise to the ceiling
The fire flames rose high in the room. They swallowed the precious clothes in no time and even reached and engulfed the other sewn and unsewn clothes lying in the open almirah situated nearby.
Wooden doors and windows catch fire
The flames touched the roof which was built of wooden material, iron girders and bricks. All the door and window planks were reduced to a cinder in a short period.
Sunil became extremely nervous and similar was the condition of his wife. A large number of people gathered outside the house. They brought the middle-aged couple outside the house in a semi-conscious state. The children too were shocked and speechless.
People threw lots of water and sand at the burning flames but the fire could not be controlled. I too was doing my best to bring the flames under control by pouring buckets of water and bags of sand on them, but seeing all my efforts futile, I felt greatly upset.
Child left – in the house – rescued.
I kept my presence of mind and rang the fire brigade. Meanwhile, it was realized that the poor couple’s youngest child who was still asleep on a cot in a corner of the room was left behind. This fact was known when the lady opened her eyes and asked for the presence of the little “Rosy”. Everybody was answerless.
Understanding within no time that the poor little child had been left in the room, she rushed forward towards the flaming house. She was held back by the people there. Then she began to cry hysterically.
It was, indeed, a most moving spectacle, perhaps, never witnessed even in an imaginary, fictitious film or T.V. serial.
It was early morning and I was in my sleeveless vests. Everybody began to look at my biceps and triceps with disdainful eyes. At a moment’s propulsion in my soul, I jumped into the burning flames to the amazement of all the on-lookers.
Everybody looked towards me with hushed breath and within a few moments as I came out with the crying child in my highly scalded arms and handed it over to the hapless mother, all present there, heaved a sigh of relief and began to look at my red and black face.
Tears of joy gushed out of the mother’s eyes. Meanwhile, the fire-brigade arrived and controlled the fire after a struggle of about one hour.
The loss was estimated immense from the economic standing of the poor tailor. Everybody admitted that the tailor was a thoroughly honest man who had never committed a sin or crime in life. Then why had God been so ruthless to him?
Everybody was reminded of the story of Job in the Old Testament. Job too had been a good and honest man who had been ruined by bad luck. But, ultimately, God had showered His mercy on him. Will he, at last, do the same with Sunil? It was now simply a hypothetical matter, fit better to be left to conjecture. But, we the residents of the locality decided to do as much as we could to restore the loss of such a good and honest man as Sunil. His wife wanted to give me her silver earrings but I simply declined to accept any reward for any selfless service.