A Narrow Escape

 

These true stories from India are written by Lillian Dirksen who served at Mukti Mission for many years. She wrote these stories for boys and girls everywhere in the world. Her hope was that these stories would help children to pray for children in India who are in need. Dirksen wrote, “Maybe your prayers will help to save the life of someone like the children in the story ‘The Narrow Escape’.” If you have children or know of a friend with children, share this story with them so their children can be encouraged to have strong faith!

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“Don’t leave us here, Mother! Take us with you, “pleaded Saveeta.

Saveeta and Ameeta, the two little sisters, and Baba, their baby brother huddled together on the cold cement platform of the train station. Their eyes had followed their mother until she disappeared from sight.

“Maybe mother will bring us rice,” Saveeta said hopefully. “Do you think we’ll ever see Daddy again?”

Ameeta shook her head. “He’s been gone so long I can’t remember him. I don’t think he will ever come back. If he did he would never find us. Just think how many trains we’ve been on with mother.”

The children had been traveling with her many weeks in search of some place to stay. They were always looking for something to eat. Everything they owned had been sold for food. Now they were homeless and hungry, trying to stay alive by begging.

This small family followed people since there are usually many people at railway stations. The children with their mother traveled from one station to another, asking men and women to give them food or money. They never had money to buy tickets on the trains. People traveling on trains without tickets are often put in jail.

They crowded into a section of a train where poor people travel, hiding away from ticket collectors. There are always so many people in an unreserved part of the train that many have to stand. The mother and her children stood in the crowds hoping no one would notice that they had no tickets. But whenever a ticket collector discovered she had no tickets, he did not send the woman and her little ones to jail. He just put them off at the next station.

The mother and children begged from people at that station and then jumped on the next train that came along, always traveling without tickets, always asking for help.

The mother had taught the children to hold out their hands, then to touch their mouths or their tummies, pleading for money or something to eat. They were hungry all the time. At night they would lie huddled on a railway station platform, but no one paid any attention to them. To most onlookers, these were like many other hungry people in India.

“We’ll get on another train and go to Daund. It is a big junction. There will be many people there,” encouraged mother.

When they arrived at Daund their hope turned to despair. There had been no rain that year and no crops. Food was so scarce that the government had declared it a famine area. No-one would give them even scraps of food to eat.

The mother felt very sad and discouraged. What was the use of getting on another train and going to still another station? There probably would not be any food there either. Despair filled her heart. Dark and troubled thoughts filled her mind. She only knew one way out of all their troubles. Hearing the whistle of a fast express train speeding towards them, she pulled her children nearer the tracks. Ameeta screamed, “Mother, the train is coming!”

The mother continued pulling them onto the railway track. The swift train rushed right at them. Ameeta and Saveeta struggled to be free as they shrieked, “No, Mother, No!”

The mother flung them down so hard on the tracks that Saveeta’s nose hit one of the rails. Throwing herself down on top of them, the mother held the three children firmly so the train would run over all of them and end their lives. They would never be hungry again.

The train’s engineer blew his whistle. Its brakes screeched, but the train was going too fast to stop in time.

A railroad man nearby heard the children’s screams, the train’s shrill whistle, and the piercing sound of brakes. In a flash, he knew the train could not stop quickly enough. He dashed over and grabbed the mother and children off the tracks just as the train roared by.

The railroad man was stunned. It had been so close. Before he could stop her, the mother ran off, dragging the screaming children behind her. The mother was afraid that the police would arrest her for trying to kill herself and her children. Desperation filled her heart. She left her children under a shady tree not able to bear the pain any longer. In the distance, she saw a big well from which the people drew their water. The water was deep, and she was desperate. Before she could change her mind she ran and plunged into the well.

The darkness of night settled around the children. Helplessly, they waited and called out for her. Hearing their cry, a watchman took his flashlight and ran into the direction of their cry.

“What in the world are children doing out there by the road at this late hour?” he muttered.

Under a banyan tree beside the road, he found the three children huddled together, clinging to one another in fear. But when he could not understand a word they said, he realized they were from another area where people speak a language called Tamil.

“How can I find someone at this late hour of the night who knows the Tamil language?” he asked himself. Then he remembered some of his neighbors that were from that part of India where Tamil is spoken. They worked hard all day for the railways and might not appreciate his waking them up at midnight, he thought. What should he do?

The watchman looked closely at the children. They were ragged and cold, miserable and dirty, their faces streaked with tears. One of them had a bloody nose. He knew he could not leave them there all night. They needed attention immediately so he decided to call Swamidas the neighbor who would understand them.

The neighbor came immediately and brought his wife. They listened to what the children were saying and then told the watchman. “They are hungry and cold and do not know where their mother is. Let’s take them to the police. Maybe we can find their mother.”

When they arrived at the police station, all the lights were on, even though it was midnight. The railway man who had pulled them off the tracks in front of the train was there. He had recognized the woman’s body when the man found it and had brought it to the police station. “Oh! Here are the children!” he said. He had been so concerned, wondering where they were.

As Ameeta, Saveeta and little Baba came into the room, they were crying and afraid. They did not know what all this meant.

The chief of police was a kind man, and he did not know how to tell such tiny children that their mother was pulled up out of the well and that she was no longer alive. He told one of the policemen and Swamidas’ wife to take the children into another room and get them some food.

While they were eating, the chief of police asked, “What shall we do with them?”

Then the night-watchman said, “The Ramabai Mukti Mission is twenty miles from here. Maybe the wife of Swamidas and a policeman could take them there.”

The police chief phoned the superintendent of the Mission. He told her all that had happened.

“I hope you can take these two girls and the little boy. They are destitute and need help right away,” he said.

“We’ll be glad to have them. They will be happy with the hundreds of children living here. This is a home especially for children who have no mothers or fathers,” the superintendent answered.

It was Swamidas’ responsibility to break the news to the children.

“Your mother became so tired, she decided to go to sleep and never wake up. My wife will take you to a nice home where you can live with other children. There you will have a new mother,” he told them tenderly. The children cried for their mother but went with the police officer and lady on the train. When they arrived at the Mission, the superintendent was waiting for them. She was called Aunt Gladys. She asked one of the women to bring them steaming soft rice. The children eagerly ate every bit of it.

While they were eating, Aunt Gladys sent for Eileen, a young woman kind and loving. She looked caringly at the children. After they had eaten she took them away to wash and give them clean clothes. Then she took them to the group of children that she had in her care.

The group was called the Morning Glory Family. When Eileen was a little girl, she had been brought to the Mission like all the others, because she had no mother or anyone to care for her.

The wife of Swamidas, who had come with the children, talked to them in the Tamil language they understood. “This lady Eileen, will love you like a mother and take good care of you. Baba will live in a nearby room with other baby boys. And you, Ameeta and Saveeta, will live with some girls, just like in a family, with Eileen as your mother.”

“And there is a doctor here, Saveeta, who will care for that cut on your nose. You will never need to beg for anything, and you will never be hungry like you were again.”

“I was always afraid that one day Mother would leave us and never come back again, just like Daddy did,” said Saveeta, unable as yet to believe the change in their lives. She could not keep back her tears.

Whimpering and a little afraid, the children went with those who were to care for them. The doctor took care of Saveeta’s bruised nose. Over the next few days, life was different. There were baths. All the dirt was washed away, and all the lice cleaned out of their hair. In the morning a whole new, wonderful life was theirs.

There were new clothes to wear and ribbons in their hair.

There was food to eat and milk to drink.

There was a jungle gym to climb and swings to ride.

There were stories and songs and school and friends.

They laughed and played and knelt and prayed.

Six months later when the children came home from school, Eileen had a surprise for them. “A new baby came into our family today. She has no mother or father to care for her and would have starved to death had someone not found her.”

“Just like us,” said Saveeta. She was now able to understand and speak a little in the Marathi language which everyone around her spoke.

That evening when they were sitting in a circle during family prayers, the new baby was on Eileen’s lap. The baby was crying because everything was strange. When the singing and story-telling were finished and they all knelt for prayer, Eileen asked, “Who would like to pray?”

“I will,” Saveeta answered.

She prayed, “Dear Lord Jesus, thank you for the home you have given us, and for food and clothes, for friends and school, and for our new mother, Eileen Akka. Please help this new baby to stop crying and to be happy like Baba, Ameeta, and I are now. Amen.”

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