Of Life, Death and After…
1994. A terrible year of my life. That year ruined me, such that I shudder to think of it. One after the other, Incident after incident, that sent me into a deep abyss; a return from there almost impossible! It led me to think that life was the worst thing to happen to anyone. Human beings are the most unlucky beings to walk this planet, for they have to deal with emotions. Emotions that can either elevate you to the summit or throw you into a crevasse, a bottomless pit!
I was the only child of very loving parents, the types for whom nothing in this world mattered except me. Ours was a small close-knit nuclear family. We hailed from Lucknow, but since my father worked with the railways we travelled the length and breadth of the country, and finally settled in Mumbai. It would come as a surprise why Mumbai, especially for a North Indian family. But I just mentioned, nothing mattered to my parents except me. After I completed my engineering degree I was placed in an MNC IT firm in Mumbai. I could never think of living away from my parents, just like that was an unbearable thought for them too. So they decided to fall in love with the commercial capital of the country and stayed back with me.
All was going well. My career was seeing a new high every year; and soon I also married my college sweetheart. Our family of four was soon to become a five member family. Yes, Shashi was carrying just after we celebrated our first anniversary. We decided to go to Lonavla for the celebration since it was closer to Mumbai and I had to be back for a very important conference the very next day. There was an American delegation that I had to address, so we couldn’t make a trip to another locale. But it’s the company that matters, isn’t it? And all four of us were together, mom and dad, Shashi and I. That’s when Shashi announced and gave us the good news. Mom and dad were to become grand-parents and me a father. Celebrations galore, that day I hit a new high in my life. I had never seen so much satisfaction in the eyes of mom and dad; neither when I got the gold medal in the University nor the day Shashi and I got married. There was pride, love and anticipation of seeing a younger Rohan, and reliving life in all its glory, once again.
Life is a bitch! I learnt that day. We were driving back from Lonavla after spending a glorious day together. I loved the expressway, and I was looking forward to a great finish to Mumbai. The conversation in the car was so mesmerising. Suddenly the focus of our life had changed completely and the talks ranged from diapers to schools to even the marriage of my unborn baby. Suddenly something hit me hard and I was thrown into a world of darkness. I opened my eyes after 4 days. I was told it was a bad hit and run case where the drunken truck driver rammed into my car and everyone died on the spot. Everyone! Even my unborn with Shashi! All of them gone in an instant. They thought I was dead too, but an ambulance arrived in the nick of the time and rushed me to the nearby hospital. I was in coma for 4 days and woke up in the hospital bed. The doctor, a kind old man, immediately called the cops. They narrated the incident and told me they were still around, freezing in the morgue. I stood up with a start to realise that there were needles piercing into my veins pouring some strange red looking liquid in my now cold body. Cold, for along with them, I was a walking corpse too.
Why did I wake up? I pulled the needles out and demanded to be taken to them. They deserved to see me, and me them. And they deserved a farewell in the grandeur that they had lived their life in. I was dead, but something made me move. It was their love. I did everything that a good son and a good husband should do. Brought them home, and called the few relatives and friends who mattered, to accompany them in their final journey; for they deserved the love and respect of everyone who knew them well. I saw the forms turn into ashes, ashes into dust. That’s when I remembered mom having mentioned in the passing that she wanted to be taken to the Ganges after she reached her heavenly abode.When all is lost, life inspires you in the most unexpected ways - short story of loss and recovery Click To Tweet
The good son that I was, I made arrangements to take a dip in the Ganges and ensure their souls rested in peace. I wanted time with them, for as long as I could hold them with me. I decided to take the train to Allahabad. My friends told me it was a silly thing to do and I should fly. But no, I wanted to take the train. It reminded me of how dad worked as a top class railway officer, how we travelled the country by trains. Each memory so precious, I wanted to relive each one of them, alone. Put them to rest in the Ganges and then put myself to rest forever too. Without them I was just a carcass; bones, flesh and blood but no soul. I held my beloved ones as tightly as I could, as tears kept trickling down endlessly. That’s when I heard another big thud and was brought to consciousness only to discover that the train had met with a major accident somewhere close to Sholapur. And I was still alive. Was I cursed or what? Major accidents happen and I survive them all. God has his plans they say, but I had made mine.
A rescue team came to take us all to the nearby station and we were to be put up in the waiting room till such time that the trains came back on track. Nothing mattered to me. My time with my loved ones had increased for some time, I was a happy man. Though everyone panicked, there was a sense of calm around me. Who was I to panic for, about? Was there anything left? I almost let out a sarcastic laugh. The games He plays, sadist and how! I was in my reverie when some small hand touched me. “Chai uncle?” He wasn’t a year older than ten and I was not sure whether I was still dreaming in the waiting room. Was I dead or alive? But his smile stole my heart. I was in no mood to eat, drink; but that endearing voice telling me it was just 2 bucks a cutting brought a smile to my almost white face. I nodded and gave him a ten-er asking him to keep the rest.
He said thank you and sat next to me; asking me where I was headed. What was I to tell him? Instead I asked him what he was upto in this place and shouldn’t he be in school instead? His answer changed my life and my outlook towards it too. Hari was a little over 10 years old and was the only survivor of his family after the Latur earthquake in September 1993. His parents and four of his elder siblings died and since he was out of town at his uncle’s in Sholapur, he survived. His benevolent uncle took him as his son and Hari, out of gratitude helped him at the tea stall in the railway station during the day, and studied in the night school in the evenings. He said it all in one go, his smile not leaving his face for a second. I wanted to cry out loud, but I did not want to insult the brave child by showing how weak I was and perhaps pitied him. It was me who needed pity and empathy after all. It was me who could not handle life anymore and was all set to give it up. I did gather the courage to ask him how he still managed to smile. He said his mother taught him to live life in every adverse situation. They were very poor and sometimes did not have a meal an entire day, but his mother taught him to endure it with a smile; for life is big and God is great; and every cloud has a silver lining. And that hit me hard and brought back memories of having learnt the same thing from my own parents. How could I betray them by taking away the precious gift of life that they gave me?
That day I was born again. The waiting room changed my life. I completed the rituals, bid my final goodbye to my cherished ones; and got back to life with full vigour and zest. A few months later, I visited the same waiting room to meet Hari. I had made up my mind to adopt him if his uncle so permitted, to give him the life that I had already dreamt about giving to my unborn in those few hours.
Today, Hari, my adopted son lives with me and is one of the best students of Class 5 in St. Xaviers High School in Mumbai. In him I find solace, in him I find love, in him I find myself!