Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Suddenly, One Day.

At the Pragati Maidan Metro Station, two people waited.. One was a young woman not more than twenty, dressed in black like most of the people her age. Every once in a while she looked up from her iPhone, craned her neck a little bit, looked around, and went back to fiddling with the device.The other was a middle aged man, grim looking, with silver rimmed spectacles. The two of them sat next to each other, unspeaking, comfortable with the silence – waiting for their Metro to arrive.

Rajesh sighed impatiently and leaned back onto his chair. He glanced at his daughter, Akhila, who was still tapping the screen of her phone and occasionally smirking. He shook his head and sighed again. What is it that Akhila found so fascinating about the Metro? It was just a train, except it was silver in colour and looked a little more fancy. They could have taken the car – but Akhila had insisted that they use the Metro. The young people were more concerned about the environment these days.Rajesh looked around a little more. Damned train.

The Metro came whooshing into the platform and suddenly the idle crowd came to life. People stood up, straightening their newspapers, clothes, hair. Women checked their reflections in the mirror. Men started gulping down the last sips of their coffee. Children started jumping up and down and clapped their hands with joy. Teenagers said their “Catcha later, dude. Gotta go.”

Akhila looked up from her iPhone and put it away, and stood, her eyes gleaming with ill concealed anticipation. Rajesh also silently rose, and followed his daughter to the train. They stepped inside and sat down, and within a few minutes, the massive vehicle rumbled to life and whooshed out of the station.

Not many people had got in and the compartment was relatively empty. Rajesh looked at Akhila again, and saw that her phone was nowhere in sight, and she had pressed her lips together, like she did whenever things became awkward. He wondered if she was expecting him to make conversation. Rajesh winced internally. He was horrible at small talk.

“How is college these days?” He heard himself say.

“Good.” She replied, looking slightly relieved.

Rajesh nodded. Now what? “You don’t go with your friends these days?”

Akhila shook her head. “No. They have gone to Ladakh.”

“From your college, isn’t it?”

“Yes, Papa.”

“Why didn’t you go?”

“Because of my asthma problem. The doctor didn’t clear me.”


Awkward silence.

Akhila tapped her phone a little more, set it down and stared at a boy in front of her. Then she tapped her phone a little bit more. What was this tapping business? Rajesh wondered. He surreptitiously leaned in to see.

Akhila was on FaceBook  (big surprise) ‘updating her status’. He leaned in a little more, and read.

Sitting in the metro. Hot guy sitting in front of me! :D :D

 Rajesh chuckled quietly, and cleared his throat. Akhila looked up quickly and touched her hair uncomfortably.

The train stopped at Rohini East. Rajesh looked at his wristwatch and realized that the Metro was behind schedule. Passengers shuffled in, some shuffled out but the compartment still remained fairly empty. The Metro started again.

They passed buildings, and cars and more buildings. From the window, he could see two drivers engaged in a fight about their collided cars. He saw a small boy rolling  a tyre around with a stick. He saw a massive lorry carrying sugarcanes to somewhere. An old woman buying carrots from a roadside vendor. Two men leering at a girl crossing the road. Then they passed more buildings, and more cars. Then he looked away, bored. He tried to think of something else to do.He missed driving his car. Damn Akhila's concern for the world.

 Rajesh looked out of the window again, watching the buildings and shops whiz past him. They were now on a bridge, and suddenly the Metro gained speed. Outside the window, everything was a blur. Rajesh frowned, and heard mumble. She looked outside, and said: “It's moving too fast.”

By this time, other people had also realized the change in speed and were looking out of the window, a little tensed.

 There was a loud thud and the compartment shook violently, throwing people off their seats. Akhila squealed. Rajesh put a protective arm around her and held her tightly as the train shook.
People were screaming, crying, some desperately looking for the emergency exit. Someone had hit their head and was bleeding profusely, and a small child probably had broken her arm. People were rushing towards the tail of the compartment, hoping that the train would stop. Some were swearing, others were praying. It was utter chaos.

Rajesh looked at Akhila, had held her even tighter, and closed his eyes. He prayed to God, hoping that Akhila would get out of this unharmed, and that his wife and son would remain safe and happy their entire life. He prayed for this mess to stop. And he prayed to God to save his life. That was his last clear thought.

He heard the massive noise.He heard the screams, the ear piercing screech that only colliding metals can create He heard the cries . And then he heard the silence.All the noise of screaming people, crashing glass, screeching metal stopped suddenly stopped. As if everything was alright with the world again.

Rajesh opened his eyes. He couldn’t see anything. His vision was blurred. He tried to remember where he was. His jaw hurt, as did his chest. He had lost all feeling in his lower half. He could feel blood trickling down his face. He tried to shout for help, but nothing came out. Then he felt something. Rather someone. He rolled his eyes to the left, and found Akhila, bleeding. Then he remembered. He was in a train that had crashed. Gathering all his strength, he called her.

“Akhila?” A whisper came out, to which he got no response.

“Akhila, beta? Can you hear me?” He spoke louder.

Yet no reply.

Tears welled up in his eyes, and silently rolled down his cheeks, mixing with the blood. He prayed again, to keep Akhila safe. To let her be alive and unscathed. Then he closed his eyes, and let the blackness overcome him.

" Put pressure on that wound. Sister, please get me 100 mg of Thiamine, 1 mg of Folic acid, I amp MVI and 3 grams magnesium sulphate. Fast!”

“Yes sir.”

“His pulse is low, I need you to keep the defribillator ready. Now check his…”

Rajesh tried to hear more, but he was feeling dizzy, and already the voice had started growing more distant. He couldn’t remember where he was. His body had lost all feeling, except for the faint awareness of the fact that he was hurting. It was too much of an effort to think, he just went back to sleep.

“Rajesh?” A voice from a tunnel came. It seemed familiar “Rajesh? Can you hear me?”

“Papa, please wake up.” Another voice came from the tunnel. It was closer. “Papa.” The voice became a whisper, then he heard someone cry.

“Don’t cry, Ma. He’ll be fine.”

“Yes. Yes, he’ll be fine.” The first voice said.

Rajesh felt like he had suddenly resurfaced from a pool. He opened his, but the light blinded him.

“Rajesh! You’re awake.” He heard his wife speak to him. His wife. He opened his eyes and saw her, smiling through her tears. “Arun! Call the doctor, fast!”

“Yes, Ma.” Arun hurried away.

“Akhila?” Rajesh managed to say.

Sarala held his hand tightly and tried to calm him down. "Shh, you rest now. Don't worry."

"But Akhila?"

"Sarala held on to his hand tightly and smiled, trying to reassure him, "Everything's fine. The doctor's just coming."

Rajesh blew out a sigh of relief. He looked at his wife. She was smiling at him, clinging on to his hand like a lifeline. Rajesh stared at her, completely transfixed by a tear drop that seeped out of the corner of her eye, slowly. 

The month of March was hectic. My daughter Ishita appeared for her class X board exams. It was a stressful time for all of us, may be I'll blog about it later. This was a story Ishita wrote for her school magazine. I copied it blatantly, with her permission of course. Hope you enjoy it.