Hi, I’m just writing this post here.
A hospital is an institution for health care, often but not always providing for longer-term patient stays.
The latter part of a hospital’s definition (which I lifted from Wikipedia, ostensibly) looks somewhat absurd, at least in my point of view. 75% of the patients in any hospital would have stayed locked up in those staidly-coloured four walls reeking with repugnant medicines, not to mention badly-affected fellow patients. A stay in a hospital is an ordeal, or rather, an experience of sorts. For a person who used to boast about never having had to lie in a hospital bed (if you disregard that short while I’d spent with my mom after taking birth!), the accident was bolt from the blue! I not only had to stay in two hospitals for an entire week, but also had to ‘endure’ a 6 hour long surgery so as to fix my badly-fractured clavicle with plate and screws! In retrospect, it was more an experience, even a week-long break, rather than a mishap!
I was taken to the Cosmopolitan Hospital some 15 minutes after the near-fatal bike accident from which I survived by sheer luck. I was ushered into the casualty, where a volley of good-looking nurses ‘attacked’ me scanning for any injuries. Even after my mentioning all perceivable cuts, bruises, and the apparent-clavicle fracture, they kept examining me; running their soft hands all over my body! (for a moment, I fantasised them stripping me in a bid to examine further cuts! 😉 It felt so damn good to be caressed by 20-something, good-looking girls! ) Soon, I was X-Rayed, and even subject to an MRI scan (to examine my head which suffered strong impact), which felt rather too futuristic and scary. Meanwhile dad was busy filling forms and informing mom & relatives. Within no time, I was surrounded by a sea of people, and I was tired detailing the story of my accident! (On a more precise note, I’ve mentioned the story some 246 times, the last one being yesterday! :P).
Soon, Dr Rajeev, the ortho-specialist at Cosmo met me and made me aware of my situation. The crack in my clavicle was complicated. The broken pieces were almost parallel & some parts had fragmented. There was a more than 90% chance that the fracture would heal automatically. If it didn’t heal significantly in a week, I’d have to undergo surgery. So as to accelerate the healing, my shoulder was fitted with shoulder-cuffs. The process of fitting the cuffs wasn’t painful. Besides, my left hand was fixed in an old-fashioned sling. The good doctor, in equally good humour, made me aware of how a helmet would have saved my head and clavicle (I swear, I won’t ride a bike again WITHOUT wearing a helmet, if at all I do so again!).
At the end of the day, when I was almost relieved that I could leave homeward with my stoic dad and near-hysterical mom (who was trying hard to keep a cool face, albeit unsuccessfully), this geeky-neuro specialist comes and announces matter-of-factly:
“മറ്റെന്നാള് വീട്ടില് പോയാല് പോരെ? ഒരു ദിവസം observation ഇല് കിടക്കട്ടെ. തലയ്ക്കു നല്ല impact ഉണ്ടായിട്ടുണ്ട്. നിങ്ങള്ക്ക് വേണമെങ്ങില് മതി.”
(“You have to stay put for a 24 hours-observation. He’s had a good impact on his head. There’s no compulsion, though.”)
I had this queer feeling that I ‘d become somewhat amnesiac, post accident. That feeling subsided when I heard the doc’s words. I found myself mumbling the choicest of swear words which I’d Iearned after quite a lot of research on my own!. F**k! Two days at the hospital!
There was quite a delay in room-allotment,for some inscrutable reason. It was about 8 in the evening when we got a room. It was the quintessential-hospital room, complete with green bedsheets, white walls, even a white fan! By now I’d almost got used to living life solely with my right hand. There were some, ahem, technical problems with defecation and stuff, but thanks to my agile mind (and tissue paper!) I overcame them all!
After one harried day and two nights at the hospital, I was discharged on December 5 noon. The hand wasn’t too good. Though the pain was bearable and minimal, I was feeling totally uncomfortable. Since we had study holidays until January 1, when my third semester exams would begin, the problem of losing classes became redundant. Still, it was difficult for me to sit upright for more than half an hour. My only pastime was to lie down on bed and sleep/read. It seems the Gods weren’t particularly satisfied even after crippling me. The next stroke came in the form of First year exam results, the very next day after I reached home! I didn’t pass and had three bloody back papers! Though my plight spared much of parents’ blitzkrieg, I had to meekly listen to dad’s rather loud thoughts on whether I was fit for engineering education, much to my chagrin.
The next day (December 6), we visited Dr Cheriyan Thomas (a famous orthopedic surgeon at Trivandrum) to crosscheck the Cosmo diagnosis.(my dad rarely trusts a single doctor! He always looks for multiple opinions.) For those who don’t know Dr Cheriyan, he’s a gem of a man. A God in human avatar. No, I’m not resorting to hyperbole. There’s some extra-dimensional aura about his bald, pointed visage and probing eyes! Even before we could utter a word, he asked us:
“Bike ഇല് നിന്നും വീണതാണോ?” (Was this a bike accident?)
“താന് engineering student അല്ലെ?” (You’re an engineering student, right?”)
We were dumbfound!
He gingerly took my X-Ray, probed it for a while, and spent a quiet ten seconds in deep-thought. His mind seemed to have been calculating at speeds that would shame a Core-2-duo processor!
Pat came the repartee:
“തന്നെ ശരിയാവാന് സാധ്യത ഉണ്ട്, പക്ഷെ risk എടുക്കാന് പറ്റില്ല. മാത്രമല്ല crack വളരെ complicated ആണ്. ശരിയായില്ലെങ്ങില്…??” A few moments of deep thought. “ഒരു കാര്യം ചെയ്യാം. Let’s do a surgery. Come to SP Fort hospital tomorrow, at 9:30 AM.”
He hurriedly wrote a prescription in some language which vaguely resembled English.
“ തനിക്ക് പെടിയോന്നുമില്ലല്ലോ?” He looked up and asked.
That was it. For the first time, my body was about to be ripped apart! I didn’t find the situation particularly horrifying. It was an exciting proposition. I’m going to be a “man of steel”. A cyborg of sorts. Metal detectors would beep incessantly when I come to their vicinity. Wow. This is cool!
If you haven’t been to the SP fort hospital, inside the Fort, Trivandrum; please do so someday. At least for curiosity’s sake. The sheer volume of patients, crammed into a not-so-big but sophistic five storeyed building, is mind-boggling! Even more amazing is the fact that 85% of them come for Orthopedic treatments, thanks to the ‘referrals’ by Dr Thomas. He, as a matter of fact, is the sole reason the hospital makes eye-poppingly huge profits!
Though we reached the hospital at 9:30. We had to wait till 12 for me to get examined by doctor(s) and get my body scanned for any possible body-reactions & anomalies which could happen during surgery. I was first allotted a general ward: a room which was roughly as big as my cosmo room, but housed 6 beds, the same amount of patients, and perhaps three times the number of bystanders. It was suffocation personified! I spent the worst three hours of my life there. My dad had contacts at the right places. Thanks to which, we got a cool (pun intended) Air conditioned room, complete with state-of-the-art bathroom and LCD TV by evening!
The surgery was scheduled the very next day. They removed my old shoulder cuffs, and I bathed lavishly after a gap of three days! 😛 I was made to sign a ‘contract’ sort of thing, mentioning that I was willing for the surgery. Then, I was made to wear this blue, check-gown, with buttons on the back. (I was supposed to wear JUST that, not even underwear!). A painless sedative was injected onto my left buttock, and I was made to lie on a stretcher. The feeling of drowsiness began to set in slowly but steadily. The last thing I remember was Dr Thomas’s words when he first saw me at the operation table:
“ആ. ഇതു നമ്മുടെ Engineering student അല്ലെ?” (“Hey, this is our engineering student, right?”)
I was woken up by rather loud sounds. My stretcher was being rolled out of the theatre and a whole lot of faces: parents, their coworkers, cousins, uncles, were peering on me, mumbling something. Dad asked, pointing to my cousin: “മോനേ, ഇതാരാണെന്നു മനസ്സിലായോ?” (Know who this guy is) I felt enraged. True that they’d implanted a metallic plate onto my shoulder. I hadn’t lost my mind! “പിന്നെ, ഒരു ഓപ്പറേഷന് കഴിഞ്ഞാലും ഞാന് അയ്യപ്പന് ചേട്ടനെ മറക്കില്ല!” (C’mon, how can I forget Ayypapan chettan?) I was referring to my cousin Krishna (whose pet name is Ayyappan). I blurted it our rather loudly, and erm, a whole team of nurses and doctors ran to me, thinking I’d gone wild (Dad told this to me later!)
Back at the SP Fort room, I was shivering under the AC. The LCD TV, which showed the IPL Twenty20 cup, numerous movies, sitcoms and news channels failed to give me solace. My hand was fastened onto a drip, which gave me glucose. I wasn’t supposed to eat food for a whole day, so the glucose was my nutrition. My mind was disturbed. I wasn’t fully aware of my surroudings. My phone rang incessantly, lots of visitors came: friends, classmates, relatives, parents’ coworkers. Though, all of them got pleasant, but discreet answers for their queries it wasn’t I who did the answering. It was my subconscious mind! I vomited three times that day. I couldn’t sleep for two continuous nights. Dad says, I repeatedly shouted out loud in English at nights, telling “I want to go home!” and “Release me!”. The effects of anesthesia were taking their toll on me. It was living hell!
It took two days for me to get back to normal. By now, I could sit upright & walk freely. I got back to my senses, and began to *enjoy* the hospital life. It was cool! In the sense, I had absolutely nothing to do! There were just a few things in my itinerary: Watch TV, Read (IEEE Spectrums, India Todays and The Argumentative Indian), eat, sleep, talk on phone (which rang almost twice ever ten minutes), and ‘entertain’ visitors. All this at a steady 22 degree celsius, 24 x 7. Though fits of boredom settled in sometimes, friends called me often, just to ensure that I wasn’t bored! (Thanks a bunch, guys & gals!). By monday (December 10, 2007), I was discharged, and headed home.
A few afterthoughts:
* The most notable change in me after the entire fiasco, was the change in character. I grew close to my parents. Their pain, their dedication, and above all their love for me; it all drove me to tears many a time. I realized the value of human relationships. Especially, the fact that I had always been a black sheep in the family despite all their love to me. I became a better, more empathetic and responsible human being.
* I became aware of safe-driving habits, thanks to the hours and hours of discourse I had to hear on Traffic rules, et al! 😀 Hey, I’m serious!
* “A friend in need is a friend indeed!”. Understood the meaning of the proverb. A BUNCH OF THANKS to all those who took the pains to call me once in a while to inquire how I am, especially to those who took the pains to visit me, pacify me, and give me new hopes! Will never forget ye, buddies… You touched my heart! Special thanks goes to Chitra, who actually changed her hello-tunes often to entertain me! She had me grooving to “Ishq Hua”, from Aaja Nachley.(which even today is a hit-song in my playlist.) Also to my cousin, who took leave from his humongous-paying globe trotting job, to visit me often; even lending me his iPod! People, you blew my heart away!
* On the contrary, the fiasco came as a reality check. Many whom I’d considered my best buddies for life, did never call me once and didn’t even check whether I’m alive or dead. Some purposefully shunned me. I’d done so much for them! They could at least have called me once. Even when I’d call them, they’d talk in non-committal way, eager to cut the call citing obnoxious reasons! (I refuse to name them). To those friends, if you’re reading this, you broke my heart. But, to err is human! I have no grudge against you. 😀
* I started respecting nurses and nursing as a profession. I felt touched by the smiling angelic faces, who visited me daily, inquiring how I felt, holding my hand, taking my pulse, calling my mom “aunty”, and my dad “uncle”. They had nothing to gain,by treating me well, but still they did! (Most nurses at SP Fort are students of their nursing school. Which means, they pay the hospital to work as nurses, day & night under hard conditions!). Kudos too all of you, sisters! You have a meaty role in my health, wellness and recovery today.
*Last, but never the least… hearty thanks to all those doctors who’d treated me. Especially to Cheriyan Thomas sir! Had it not been for your diligence and care when you treated/operated upon me, I would not have survived today! Sincere gratitude to you too!
The tail end:
While we were about to leave after settling the Rs 50,000/- (my parents’ salary for that month combined!), we met a head-nurse. What she mentioned, left me open-mouthed in shock. The day I had my surgery, four severe accident cases were admitted to the hospital. All four were Engineering Students! 😮
Finally, after two and a half LONG years of blogging, my blog gets a makeover. Not just a new theme (from tic-tac to Minima dark) but even a new title (‘Apocalypse in the cliché factory’ now is ‘I chose the red pill’). For those who’ve failed to notice the tiny about-me pic, there’s even a not-so-small pic in the header image! (Now, that’s enough déjà vu stuff for people who see me on road! :P).
Reasons behind the ‘makeover’? Plenty of ‘em, actually. When you’re bored, jobless and desperately stuck at home with nothing else to do other than to pay a (deaf) ear to the rants and ravings of your parents who apparently have forgotten all other words in their lingo but for ‘STUDY!’, your mind gets rejuvenated beyond imagination. Besides, I’ve been yearning for a change-of-appearance too. Some introspection in a jiffy, followed by a rather challenging experimentation with colours and a rendezvous with Photoshop did the trick. I FINALLY chose the red pill.
Now for those who are intrigued with the title. Haven’t you people seen ‘The Matrix‘? Well, I have. About 49 times! I’m a great fan of the trilogy: the philosophy, the storyline, Smith’s cold dialogues, Neo’s repartees, Morpheus’s matter-of-factly explanations and above all; the stunts, especially the bullet-time! There’s this scene in ‘The Matrix’ where Morpheus invites Neo to join his fight against the malevolent machines who’ve made life on Earth an elaborate façade. After succinctly explaining to Neo about the Matrix, Morpheus gives him a choice between two pills: A red pill and a blue pill. If Neo eats the blue pill, he’ll “wake up in your bed and believe what you want to believe” and if he chooses the red pill, he’ll “stay in wonderland, and I’ll show you how deep the rabbit hole goes.”
Needless to say, Neo chooses the Red pill, joining Morpheus’s crusade…
Check out this video to catch a glimpse of the scene:
My choice of ‘The red pill’, hence signifies a quantum shift from dreams to reality. Aw c’mon, that doesn’t mean ostensibly longer and dead-serious posts! Just a slight inclination towards realism. A sojourn of sorts from Dreams to reality. Hope you people find the makeover interesting. Expecting your valuable comments. Happy reading!
P.S. If you haven’t noticed, there’s a poll by the side. Do vote! 😀
[All names, characters and incidents portrayed in this story are fictitious. Identification with actual persons, places and products is neither intended nor should be inferred. If you tend to do so, chances are that your inference could be purely coincidental. However, if your sense-of-identification is a notch too strong and you start accusing this author of blatant plagiarism, it is probable that you suffer from a severe case of cognitive dissonance and/or you are a conspiracy theorist. Should the aforementioned situation arise; the author strongly recommends you to consult a psychiatrist pronto.]
Once, a child was born in the country of India. Now, that’s nothing new, for; more than a hundred thousand children take birth each day in the ghettos of this country. This child (henceforth christened ‘X’) however was better off than a good number of his 99,999 contemporaries, his parents being highly-successful and renowned engineers. Eons before X was even conceived, his parents had lofty ambitions about him. Together, they dreamt about their would-be son ‘Engineer X’ pioneering NASA’s pilot, manned-mission to Mars some thirty years down the line. X would marry an engineer and their children would also be engineers (who would first set foot on Jupiter, at 2090!) They cherished the very thought of originating a true-blue engineer family-tree. In a bid to entrench their son’s NASA-future, X’s parents actually played a (scratchy) videotape recording of Armstrong’s & Aldrin’s “Small step for man & Giant leap for mankind” exactly when X was being conceived (possibly to give a bombastic start to his résumé!)
Pangs of having been subjected to the moon-mission video in the primal phase of his embryonic avatar perhaps, our friend was not exactly brilliant by modern parlance, where brilliance is often synonymous with an eminent academic record. He was more of your average, buck-toothed, next-door-geek. Though he had an unassailable memory and an IQ of 129, he despised the very idea of sitting long hours before the books, mugging facts and figures. X was obsessed with analytical and logical problems since childhood. Right from his pre-teen years, he made friends with the computer. When his friends would spend long hours playing NFS or Counter Strike, X would be busy coding. X’s parents did not particularly endorse this trait of his. They argued that his coding skills, which might eventually induce a host of problems ranging from myopia to cyber crime, would be detrimental to his NASA admission. Consequently X witnessed a massacre of his Gatesian dreams, dutifully aided by his dad’s multi-encrypted passwords on the PC which steadfastly resisted his frail brute force attacks.
To help X obtain the best possible school education, his parents admitted him to a Jesuit-run boys’ school – de facto acknowledged as home to the crème de la crème in town. By the time X passed his tenth grade with a heartening 87%, his parents had shed much of their astronomical (pardon the pun) dreams, fully realizing that their son wasn’t exactly NASA material. Nonetheless, they believed he was brimming with potential and started crafting IIT dreams for him.
X was obligingly enrolled for Engineering-Entrance-exam coaching classes at the start of his 11th grade. X wasn’t too enamored, but he gave in realizing that as an engineer he could specialize in his cynosure; computers. Before long, X understood that he wasn’t exactly IIT material. His course material was demanding; he had to put in hours of untiring ‘work’ (read mugging) on a daily basis to crack JEE, the Holy Grail of all entrance exams; not to mention a dozen others. Initially, he did his best to comply with the haranguing schedule, but soon he realized that he was wearing himself out to near-death. Brickbats from parents and instructors alike destroyed his peace of mind. Gradually, X saw a stubborn reluctance to work (mug) cultivate within. He began resorting to rather inventive methods to deceive his tormentors to his favor. To top it all, he developed an obsessive attraction to a stunningly-beautiful girl in one of the coaching classes. Ergo, a once-highly-ranked X saw his position dip to abysmal lows, never to bounce back again.
The retribution came along with X’s results. Our IIT Aspirant secured a measly 82% for his boards, qualifying only in his state entrance exams and that too with an appalling 2000+ rank! X’s parents, who almost expected their son to top the JEE were dismayed beyond proportion. Pipe dreams about their son ruined, they blamed him for bringing all their reputations to peril. Though, with time they more-or-less reconciled with their son’s fate, the debacle saw a pernicious strain build up in the parent-child relationship. Things were worse for X; his classmates, most of them not even half as intelligent as he, bade him goodbye to join prestigious institutions. What’s more, he even ‘lost’ his girl, who probably never knew X existed despite his best ‘efforts’. Besides, X wasn’t quite sure whether the girl would accept his ‘proposal’ going by his looks which were unpalatable even by conservative standards.
After a delayed, three month-long ‘counseling’ process, X got admitted to a mid-ranked Govt. Engineering college in town. X was alacritous when he was allotted the trade Information Technology. Finally, he could dabble with computers! Gatesian dreams returned in full throttle, which saw him pouring over dictionaries coining names for his soon-to-be-launched start-up firm. Sadly for him, it was only the beginning of what would be the worst-phase of his life. The first shock came when he stepped into the portals of the college which looked more like the quintessential primary school, complete with tiled-roofs and ramshackle walls, exactly like those one gets to see in third-world ghettos. After his first month in college, X’s notions about his alma-mater meliorated nevertheless. He realized that beneath the unassuming tiled roofs, functioned a robust institution which could brag about some of the best teaching faculty, infrastructure & campus placements in the state. The elation, albeit was ephemeral. His course material, though engrossing to some extent, required zilch intellect and maximum mugging! The recognition came with the marks of his first internal examinations for which his performance was dismal in all subjects but Mathematics. Constant reprimands from his Lecturers became part-of-life for X.
Even so, X demanded immense respect and bonhomie from his college mates who were enamored with his refined, euphonic, affable and Jesuit-perfected self. An acclaimed singer and part-time wordsmith, X won numerous accolades in intercollegiate festivals. His Gatesian dreams bought him an entire fan following. Some even acted Venture-Capitalists, agreeing to cough-up money to foot his dreams. For the first time in his life he was being loved and respected for the facets of his life that did not pertain to academics. Throughout the first year of his college life, X worked on improving himself. He got hooked to the habit of reading, devouring almost one book a day. He followed developments in and around the world through television, internet and newspapers and would debate tirelessly on sundry topics from Bush’s incompetence to the perennially-doomed nuclear deal. Having broken into the computer with an indigenous key-logger code snippet, X honed his once-lost coding skills to perfection. X began writing too: his works encouraged by friends & prizes in essay writing competitions.
University exams approached fast. X’s buddies dusted open their long-closed books and got down to some serious studying while our friend didn’t even bother. By now, he had totally repudiated the idea of mugging. He spent hours daily with his old friend, the computer. He was in a totally different world; his study skills in abeyance, perniciously rotting in his hedonism. By the time he woke up from his cocoon, it was way too late. With hardly three days left for the exams, there was nothing he could do. His weak, impenitent attempts at pulling himself back to track failed miserably. X was still in blissful idyll, capriciously reaffirming his last-minute-study skills. The exam season lasted a month. The last day of the examinations was a breather for X, haggard after all the pressure they had on him. He knew his scores would be abject in entirety. But for Engineering mathematics & graphics, the content in almost all other papers were based solely on his general knowledge! Had he paid attention a notch more, he could have done better! Dejected, X vowed that he would work hard the next time.
Promises and vows are always made to be broken. The new-broom-sweeps-clean phenomenon didn’t last long in X’s case either. By early third semester, X was back to his old self. His academics did show remarkable improvement all the same, thanks to his proficiency in logic and computers. He topped papers in programming and logic, once more bathing in false glory. Meanwhile, X’s ‘startup-firm’ kick started itself to action. A few successful projects and some money under his belt, X bought his own website-domain and server space. Within months, http://www.thexworld.com/ became a virtual sensation in the World Wide Web. The fully Search Engine Optimized portal saw X’s Google Ad sense account adding zeroes to the right. The geeky Mr. X within no time turned into the hottest kid on the block!
The initial surprise and empathy of his friends gradually boiled down to ridicule. When they came to visit X at the hospital with their sardonic glances camouflaged amid sympathies, X realized the true essence of the (refurbished) proverb: “Marks maketh man!” To make things worse, the cheap hosting company which hosted his website went bankrupt, taking his website with it. X even got a life-ban from Google Ad Sense; the geeks at Google had finally realized that those thousand-odd clicks in their ads were the product of a brilliant PHP code! The fiasco shattered X, who for the first time in his life started contemplating suicide.
What happened to X after this juncture is purely immaterial. Of course, X gave up his suicide plans; a fit of self-imposed determination and will being the cause. After a month of recuperation, X appeared for his third semester exams, well-equipped this time. He did reasonably well, compared to his classmates for whom it was literal-drubbing. Nevertheless, the relationship with his parents suffered major (and permanent) fallout; they permanently lost faith in their son. The once-hottest-kid-on-the-block regained his geek-next-door avatar.
Hey, that was just the hors’d’ oeuvre!! Time for some food for thought!
Food for thought | Moral(s) of this story
- Unless a school/college student in India has significant mastery over the art of rote-learning, he doesn’t stand a chance of getting ahead in the rat-race! Even the field of engineering, which demands an agile mind, requires a significant (if not total) amount of skill of memorizing concepts and theory spread out in pages of text. Nonetheless, it’s a moot point whether a high-score in such exams, which are more of memory tests, would signify professional competence in one’s field of study.
- Though X is an intelligent guy, he fell backward in the rat race solely because the art of mugging was way above him. Had he tackled his exams with more grit and drive, he could easily have mastered his subjects and scored high. Who knows, had he given more impetus to his preparations in his school days, he might even have crossed the hallowed portals of IIT with some luck. Fate, it is! X alone is responsible for the fiasco. In a premise where marks turn out to be the most substantial employability/knowledge gauge, people like X, though competent, would perennially remain at the bottom of the ladder.
- Had X’s parents allowed him to join a career of his choice, they would have prevented much heartburn. True that X might get a swanky job by the time he passes out with his computer and language skills; but he might have done better, had he pursued another course of his choice. Their obsession with ‘originating a true-blue engineer family tree’ resulted in the birth another Six Point someone, oh yes, with three back papers!
If anything must go wrong, it will.
So observed Edward A Murphy in his eponymous law. In my case, it all went way too wrong, almost to the point of changing my life altogether. The month of December this year was a tad too unlucky for me (the ill-effects of Lord Shani, said my knowledgable astrologer cousin). A crippling accident, stinking (for want of a better word) first year results, and what not! My allotted ‘blogging time’ of one hour does not permit me to blabber about the results, guess it will have to wait until my next post. Let me take this opportunity to describe the event that brought about a sea change to the course of my existence, literally and otherwise. You might notice that this post is almost staid with ironies, but I assure you. This is NOT fiction. Every single word of this is hard-boiled, in-your-face truth. Period.
December 3: An unforgettable day for my friend Prasanth, who first talked to the girl of his dreams this day, two years back. Interestingly, the third of December is also celebrated worldwide as the International day of disabled persons! L That day, I had a C Programming lab exam at college. Dad usually drops me to college since his office (at Vydyuthi Bhavan, Pattom) is a stone’s throw from my college. I needed to reach college pretty early that day so as to attend a meeting of the Aagneya sponsorship committee (of which I was a member). Dad was too busy with his chores and files to travel early, forcing me to find my own means to travel to college. I had a Birthday Cake to carry that day. We had planned a birthday party to a particularly-reticent but brainy classmate who hasn’t celebrated his birthday till date. So, a few friends and I decided to surprise him with a grand treat. It was my job to ready the gifts including the cake. The cake, as you know, is the frailest of eatables. To salvage the already battered (thanks to my ‘knowledge’ about transporting cakes) cake from total destruction, I decided to forfeit the bus commute and use the bike to travel to college. Obviously, I would regret the decision later!
The bike is a Bajaj 4S Champion. Technically, it isn’t even mine. It belongs to my uncle (mom’s brother), and was literally rusting to death at my mother’s native place, untouched for almost four years on end! (When you have a flashy new Enfield and robust Qualis, why care for the old Bajaj??). Fresh after acquiring my driver’s license, and armed by a willing support from my dad and uncle (who was only too happy to give the bulk of mostly metal & scrap away), I decided to bring home the monster and make it my own. After a routine service, it was back in action, and became my trusted ride (only to nearby places, of course!). However, parental restrictions, or perhaps mere indolence from my part renewed its shelf life. Due to prolonged periods of non-use, the bike’s battery wore out, rendering its horn almost redundant. Still I’d ride it to college once in a while.
That day, I had to employ a fair share of pleading and pouting to get Dad’s permission. Dad was reluctant, disturbed by the fact that the traffic police had started helmet-scouting once again. I had to employ some top-grade theatrics, describing my safe-driving habits to bring the ball to my court, on a condition that I’d have to call dad up as soon as I reach college! (During our sojourns with dad in the pillion, I deliberately used to go dead slow, following every SINGLE rule in the book so as to impress dad! Guess that worked in my favour 😉 ). When I was about to leave, mom made an acidic comment: “Innu vaikittu nyaan oru phone call expect cheyyunnu. Ninakku accident aayi ennu paranju.” (I’m expecting a phone call today evening that you had an accident). Almost scoffing at it, I kick started the engine and sped off…
The ride to college was almost filled with fun & frolic. I enjoyed that familiar sensation of the wind playing on my face, matting my hair. The groan of the frail 100 cc engine as the speedometer inched to 60 was music to my ears. I played it safe; never taking risks, not even overtaking unless there was a plausible gap. The day at college went by quickly. I realized that it was futile reaching the college early. The meeting I was supposed to attend didn’t happen after all! I couldn’t attend the birthday ‘party’ either, since the exam for my batch was scheduled at 2 ‘o’ clock, exactly when the whole event was planned. Thanks to my typing speed and neat C skills, I got the output fast and got out. Mouthing the last piece of the Birthday cake a friend Anisha had saved for me from the party, I left college with Mithun (my classmate) in pillion. Mithun stays at Karamana. So despite his polite suggestions at dropping him at Law College Junction, I left him at PMG for his sake, deciding not to go home via the short-cut: LC Junction –to- Pottakkuzhy route. When I reached Pattom Junction, I was reminded that I need to visit Prasanth’s place to get a few movies from him. Which made me turn left: to the medical college route. Again, a wrong decision!
Surprisingly, there was little traffic there. So, I increased my speed to forties. When I reached Vydyuthi Bhavan I noticed that a bus was parked in the stop. But there were no vehicles in the right side. I gathered that I could overtake the bus and move through the right side. I didn’t notice this man crossing the road at a snail’s pace, first. He was almost doing it in a casual way – airily speaking into his Nokia N73 (Did I realize that I’d be calling Dad in that same phone minutes later?), not even looking my side. I tried to alert him desperately with my horn, but alas; even I could barely manage to hear the odd-creaking sounds it made. Trying to avoid the man, I shifted to the right track. Suddenly, a bike came at my direction from the opposite side. Alarmed, I swayed to the left dodging the bike, only to hit the unassuming man with my shoulder. I lost balance and felt my body dislodge from the bike and pummel into the air. Passers-by saw another superman in action, almost flying in mid-air for about a second, only to fall; left shoulder hitting squarely on the road with a thud, rolling a few times, finally shoulder and left forehead screech on the road, bringing everything to a halt.
It all happened so fast that it took me a fraction of a second to realize what happened, lying on the road. I gingerly got up, only to see my bike lying in the middle of the road; headlight & vizor shattered with, another bike nearby. A man was getting up, pulling up the other bike, which apparently did not have much damage. Seemingly, when I fell, my bike jerked and hit the one that was coming against me, causing that hapless Super Splendor to fall. I held my forehead, realizing that it was injured. Half-reassuring myself that the accident was minor, and that I didn’t have any broken parts, but for a few wears and tears I walked to the bike. A torrent of thoughts rushed into my mind at that point of time. The most prominent of them being parents’ reactions on the event. ( I can’t recollect more thoughts now. It’s been a LONG time, y’know.)
Before I could give headway to more thoughts, a sea of people surrounded me. Many were trying to help me out. Others were plainly gazing at me almost as if I were some newfound celebrity. One guy shifted my bike and parked it to a nearby place. They were questioning me whether I had any problems, asking me to raise my hand, examining me of any injuries, et al. The care and concern of the people around made me feel good. People aren’t as insensitive as those exaggerated news reports say! I meekly replied to most of their questions, returning the coldest of stares to those who stared at me, and showing an equal dose of politeness to those who were genuinely helping me out.
A quick examination of my body revealed injuries near the right thumb, right & left knees, just above the right ankle, forehead & ear (which was the worst of them I thought). Then it occurred to me that the functionality of my left hand was somewhat impedimented, authenticated by a sharp pain when I moved it. It was then that I saw the portion above my favourite Park Avenue shirt was literally shredded to pieces. (The impact was so severe!) It looked like a hot Iron box had been kept on it for some thirty minutes! When I felt the portion with my right hand, I felt something uneven. A more thorough examination gave me the shock of my life. A bloody broken clavicle. I could feel the broken bone with my bare hands. A fracture! (Impending university exams! Shit!) A PG Medical student who was standing nearby corroborated my views.
The part that angered me the most was the reaction of the guy whom I’d hit. He was loud-mouthedly explaining the whole thing to newly-arrived passers-by. From his words, I could gather that it was ENTIRELY my fault. Damn him!! If it hadn’t been for him jumping onto my way, I would have passed unscathed, true that my speed was way above normal. My reticent nature and my palpitated state forbade me from replying to him. By now, I was sitting by the side of the road, drinking a glass of water politely offered to me by a nearby tea-shop-owner. The people had reached a consensus that I be admitted to a nearby hospital. The guy I’d hit now came to me, and inquired how I felt. I felt like hurling the choiciest of abuses on him, but I remained silent, muttering: “My dad’s working in Vydyuthi Bhavan, and I have no balance in my mobile. Could you please inform him?”
His expression changed: “Nyaanum avideyaanu work cheyynnathu. Achante perentha?”
(I’m working there too. What’s your dad’s name?)
“Ramesh Babu. Deputy Chief Engineer, TRAC”.
“Nyaan ariyikkaam.” (I’ll inform him)
“May I have your mobile please? I think I need to talk to him.” I didn’t want some third person to twist the entire situation to dad. He should hear it from the horse’s mouth.
I called dad in his Nokia N73 (yeah, that same phone!). Surprisingly, dad was speaking in a calm and taciturn tone. He matter-of-factly replied me to remain there and that he’d arrive soon.
Now that the traffic police also arrived, my heart started beating. Yeah, I had my license, but the bike’s RC Book was with dad. He did not replace it after he’d once taken it for photocopying. God, will this be a Police case?? Will I have to go to the traffic police station? My mind was numbed to the point of non-functionality, and the people around me kept asking rather dumb questions. I was incensed. Dad’s arrival brought a lot of relief. He schmoozed with the people around (including the guy who jumped in front of my bike) to get an idea of the situation, half smiling at me in the process. The traffic policeman came to dad and asked him if we had any complaint. Dad replied that we had none, and that he would settle all financial claims, if any. That satisified the policeman, who disappeared instantly. (Whew!) He gave his number to the splendor guy (who apparently had some slight damage to his bike too), assuring him that he’d get his payment. Then he came to me and presented his trademark sardonic smile: “Nyaan appozhe paranjille?”(Didn’t I warn you?) I couldn’t reply. Soon a few colleagues of dad brought our car outside. We got into the car, and Dad drove us to the nearby Cosmopolitan Hospital.
[End of Part 1]
P.S. I know this is TOO long. Can’t afford to type more now. If you feel this one’s a bit sloppy, erm… Try to realize that I had just one hour to type these three long pages out, with a fractured clavicle! Empathy please!
More info about my stint @ Cosmo, my surgery @ SP Fort et al next year, oops, in the next post! 😉 . Happy New Year, dear readers!!
If the sudden inactivity in this blog caught you unawares, my apologies! I’m not in a state to type/sit in front of the computer for long hours, thanks to some newfound health problems! :(Can’t divulge more details, but I’m debilitated by a rather crippling left clavicle fracture, thanks to a bike accident. Upcoming university exams coupled with my ‘excellent’ first year results add on to my plight. I’ll be blogging about all these once my clavicle has healed. That, if my surgeon Dr Cheriyan Thomas is to be believed, should take about a month or so.
The pic below might shed some light on my situation! This was taken on the 7th of December, the day before they tore my left shoulder apart to fix my clavicle with plate & screws. (Courtesy, Priya Chechi & her Nokia N73 Music Edition)
Anyway, expect a path-breaking post about the whole d’affair in January.
Hearty Christmas & New-year greetings to all my loyal readers! Do pray for me! Adios!
By the time I reached the temple, I realized that I couldn’t take my bag inside: where you’d have to do a la’ Gandhiji and walk half-naked inside the Sreekovil (the inner recesses of the temple, where the idol(s) of the main deity reside) . I decided to deposit the bag in the house of a friend (he happens to be a descendant of the H.H. Sree Chithira Thirunal Ramavarma who ruled Travancore) who lived nearby. His ultra-religious mother was SO impressed by me DEVOTION that she began scolding her not-so-religious son, for not visiting the temple often. Meanwhile, Radhika; the quintessentially-punctilious girl was murdering my phone with a saga of calls and smses! I bade a quick good-bye to my friend and ran to the temple which was nearby, leaving his mother to comment about how polite and God-fearing I was! Little did she know that God was the last thing on my mind at the moment.
Depositing my chappals at a paid repository, I gingerly entered the temple through the main entrance that was flanked by a huge arch. As soon as I entered, my eyes almost instinctively began searching for a blue-salvar clad girl. Lo and behold!! Not one, no two, but THREE girls in blue salvars were praying with closed eyes and folded hands. 😦 Sadly again, each one had a resemblance to the pic Radhika had sent me (you see, I’m pretty bad at remembering faces)! Exasperated, I tried missed-calling Radhika, only to remember that the temple authorities were rather strict about banning mobiles. I was in a fix!
The only key was to pray. I felt like actor Jayaram in the mallu movie Summer in Bethlehem. The “Confusion theerkaname…”(Relieve me of the confusion) song came to my mind! 😀 One by one, the salvared girls, opened their eyes and went inside. I decided to move about the place. The fact that I was sweating profusely having had to run a lot prevented me from entering the Sreekovil. I stood outside and idly moved around the temple, hands folded, pretending a prayer. So near, yet so distant… “Paas ho tum, door bhi…”. I could feel my heart exploding in expectation! Where IS RADHIKA??
Almost as an answer to my question, the mobile vibrated in my chest-pocket. It was her. I picked it up unmindful of the mobile-ban:
“Where are you?”
A hushed-voice counter-questioned: “Are you inside the temple?”
“By God, I AM!!”
“I didn’t see you. Did you see me?”
“Where did those 2 other blue-salvared girls come from? I couldn’t…”
“Hey! That guy’s staring at my mobile. Wait, I’ll come out.”
The call ended. I ran around the temple to the entrance. Still no sign of her. I walked back, lips vibrating as I muttered a volley of abuses. Was this girl making a fool out of me?
The mobile vibrated.
“I just got out. Where are you?”
I turned around, and saw a blue-salvared girl talking on the phone, looking around.
It WAS Radhika!!!
She caught up with my eyes pointing an inquisitive finger at me, shifting her MotoRazr v3i from her ear. I could feel those expressive eyes question me: ‘Is that you?’. My face broke into a grin, pepped with sigh of relief mutely-affirming the authenticity of her guess. Her inquisitive expression altered and her face widened, revealing what would be one of the cutest smiles I’d ever …
Radhika ran to me!!
“Hello there, my best friend!!” beaming, she ran to me and almost snatched my right hand in a shake-hand; making all the passers-by stare at us as if we’ed French-kissed in public or something! Her hand had a unique feel about it. A softness that resembled velvet. Soothing, it was, even refreshing!!
“Hi!”, I replied weakly. I could feel something happen inside me. As if the energy of her shakehand overpowered me. A quick back-flip of my stomach and a quick weakening of knees. I thought I would lose my grip and collapse instantly.
“Hey, you’re cuter than you look in your pics. And, what beautiful eyes… Wow!! Still can’t believe you don’t have any girlfriends yet!” Radhika’s face careened, donning an expression of mischief. I was genuinely blushing! Cocking up my right eyebrow, I stammered: “Haven’t I told you my stories or rather, escapades?”
“Oh kay, loverboy!! My apologies!! Come to Bangalore and a guy like you will get any number of girlfriends… Oh, damn! I forgot we’re inside the temple!” she sheepishly smiled. “Let’s walk.” Radhika & I walked along.
There was something different about Radhika. I’ve felt it all through the time I’ve known her. She had altogether different perspectives; different points of view & varying schools of thought. She spoke of things other girls would never dream of and she argued against the conventional. She was, indeed, one of the most brilliant persons I’d ever known. And, she was gorgeous too. Her face was dazzling; her exquisite eyes often spoke before her mouth: they moved almost involuntarily as she spoke, probably conveying a coded message. The blue salvar matched her body, accentuating her curves. (I swore myself for staring at them! Damn!!)
We talked about each others’ lives as we walked our way visiting deity by deity, though we knew most details by rote. Most of our conversations were in English. But today, Radhika spoke in a heady mixture of stuttering Malayalam and English. I spoke of my mundane life, my problems with parents, Opdyne – my dreamchild, my aims of making it big at the IIMs et al. She spoke of her academics: How her lawyer dad was disappointed at not getting her admitted to NLSIU, and how he expected her to top her class, which, needless-to-say was sort-of a myth at the prestigious Christ’s. She spoke about her brother Anoop who was in the final year of his studies at NIT Surathkal, badly messed up with drugs and drinks, about her friend Archana, who has supported her through good and bad times, about her last boyfriend Anikth, a Delhiite, who try to lay her, albeit unsuccessfully, by making her drunk… By the time we’ed got out of the temple, I could see tears welling up in her eyes as she spoke of Ankith: “He was such a sweet guy. Never ever thought he would try to use me!! We had such nice times together!”
I felt genuinely sad seeing the plight of my friend:
“Rads, Haven’t I told you something? NEVER believe guys. And, that includes me. You’re an intelligent girl. You don’t need me to tell you how guys are. You’ve already had three failed relationships, if I’m not wrong. Then why?” Wasn’t that a bit too corny?
“Yeah, you’re right. But, you know something, Hari? I don’t have anyone to talk to. I need someone to lend me a shoulder. I want someone to love me, dammit!!”
Tears were flowing down her eyes. I have a queer problem. I can’t bear seeing anyone cry in front of me. Especially if that’s a girl who happens to be a buddy. Mortified, I pulled out my handkerchief and wiped the tears from Radhika’s eyes:
“Now now… You’re not in Bangalore. You’re with me now, aren’t you? You have ME to lend you a shoulder. I won’t allow you to be sad. Just forget that Ankith guy. You learnt he’s an asshole before it was too late, right? Cheer up!! We’re meeting for the first time, and I don’t want our first meeting to be drowned by emotions.” Way too corny again, I realized. But being corny just works out right in emotionally charged moments!
“Just forget it, Rads! Btw, you’re a pizza addict right?”
“Yeah, I am. And, I badly miss the pepperoni!” she said, forcing a smile on her tear-worn face.
“Now, that’s an excuse for a treat!! You know what, there’s a Pizza Corner in town. It’s just a couple of kilometers ahead. Why don’t we go there and have a bite? It’s my treat!”
“Okay!! I’d love to.”
I hired an auto and we went to the Pizza Corner at Statue.
I’m sort-of a regular at the PC. I have a cousin of mine who’s kinda’ addicted to Pizzas. But she’s afraid to go to the PC alone and can’t bring home deliveries fearing the wrath of parents. So, she forces me to come with her every time she goes to the PC, and that happens about four to six times a week! As we opened the door, the waiter recognized me and smiled.
It was about six in the evening and the place was brim-full. Thankfully, the waiter managed to clear out a couple who’d done with their pizzas for us, and gave us a cozy sofa-seat at the end. There was an LCD TV on the wall next to us tuned to MTV. Both of us ordered Pepproni and coke. I noticed that Radhika was back to her usual self. Perhaps the idea of having a Pizza cheered her up a lot. Or maybe, my ‘corny’ dialogues did work! I couldn’t be sure. A couple of minutes into our PC date revealed that a majority of the guys around us were ogling at Radhika, some even commenting about her ‘features’. Radhika too might’ve noticed, but she sat there chatting with me as if nothing had happened.
“The bloody mofos. Feel like kicking those buggers in their asses. Look at them staring at you.” I muttered, feeling harried.
“Ah. I don’t care, Hari. A girl in Bangalore must learn to live with this, you know?”
The pizzas arrived, and we devoured them merrily. I noticed that, like me Radhika too spared the spoon and fork while eating pizzas. Four slices later, full-stomached, we decided to leave the place. Realizing my shock at seeing the Rs 350-bill, Radhika offered to pay for the meal. Chauvinist that Iam, I protested! Despite my best efforts, I had to finally accept a toned-down offer of sharing the cost, partly due to economic concerns. As we were walking to the auto-stand, Radhika said:
“You know something, Hari? This was one of the BEST days in my life. Thanks for coming!”
“Aw! C’mon, what’s there to thank!! As someone said, ‘There’s neither sorry nor thank you in friendship’ (a line SRK would later steal in OSO!!) I’ll be there with you as a loving friend till my dying date” And, I meant it!
“So sweet… You ARE one of my best friends. Love you!!”
SHE HUGGED ME AND KISSED ME ON THE CHEEK!!!
God!! I was dumbfound!! I felt as if the entire public in statue junction was staring at me (actually, most of them were!). I could feel tears welling up my eyes, and my cheeks were almost pink! Radhika was almost laughing uproariously seeing my confused face.
“Oh GOD!! What a sight??!! At this rate, I would love to see your face, when you get your first kiss”.
I couldn’t speak.
Radhika clasped my hand and said:
”I know you care for me a lot. I know you’ve spent your valuable hours, making me happy, making me feel I’m wanted, just by being there. Here’s a small gift”
She opened her bag and gave me a neatly covered box.
“Don’t open it now, it’s a surprise!”
We walked for sometime until we reached the auto-stand. She got into an auto and left to her grandfather’s house at Jawahar Nagar. She kept waving back at me, until I was out of her sight. I thought I saw a tear in her eye.
As Radhika left, I gingerely opened the box. It was a beautiful greeting card titled “YOU ARE MY STRENGTH”. Inside, there was a small cover, with a 2 GB SD Card. (She knows I’m a geek. Heh.) As I was walking back, my phone buzzed again. Must be Radhika. Without checking the caller ID, I picked up the phone and said:
”Hey Rads, loved the card!! Thank you!!”
“Rads oo?? Enthuvaade ninakku vattaayo? Ambalathil poyavane oru manikkoor aayi kaananillathathu kondu vilichatha. Nee evideya ippo?” (What Rads? Are you mad? Didn’t see your for an hour since you left for the temple. Where are you?) It was my friend at whose place I’d left my bag.
“Nyaan daa varunnu. Oru 2 minutes.”(I’ll reach in two minutes). As I climbed into an auto, wondering what excuse I would say to my friend for being late, memories of my first date flashed past… What had begun with a kiss had after all ended up with a kiss.
Indeed, it was one of the best days of my life!!