9and 3quarters

nine and three quarters
One especially sweltering Saturday morning I woke up and figured I had nothing interesting lined up. The pool was undergoing repairs so a swim also was out of the question. That’s when my mom, who was sitting curled up in her favourite chair with her kindle, pointed to the book shelf. I ambled over and noticed a section full of Agatha Cristie books, another with P.G. Wodehouse, still another with Jhumpa Lahiri and some many other familiar sounding names. Finally a section with J.K. Rowlings. Hmm the covers looked like these could be books that younger readers might enjoy. Instinctively I picked up a book titled “Harry Potter and the Philosophers stone” which I found out was the first of the Harry Potter series. And that is how the journey began, Harry with his luggage trolley ran into into the pillar in the center of platforms 10 and 9 and landed on platform number nine and three quarters where the Hogwarts Express was waiting. The journey into the intriguing land of wizards and magic of friendships forged in the most most trying of circumstances and enemies vanquished in the most spectacular of duels had begun.

Once I had bitten the bait there was no stopping, I read all seven volumes almost on a trot, back to back to back with a breather in between for the first term assessments though I remember reading HP on the sly even when giving the FTEAs. Finally as I finished the last page of the last book that came out of J. K. Rowling’s pen I felt sad and wondered “this journey took me almost half an year to complete, I love the storytelling, wish there was more”. Later I read about the hardships that J.K.R. went through in her life before literally winning the lottery with Harry Potter and how it was just a matter of sticking to the plan, being gritty about making something work. I understood that to be able to craft such amazing fairytale like lives one had to stay the course and be patient. The journey was not just about the learnings from the HP books it was from JKRs life as well, I am so glad my mom pointed out the book shelf that summer morning.

5 more minutes

Let me sleep for five more minutes
5:45 AM the alarm goes off. This is the third alarm in a series of alarms spaced 15 minutes apart. Mom and dad are out walking or running or cycling or swimming or just sitting and talking. Ira my younger sister is cosily snuggled into my side breathing heavily ignoring the alarms like me. Let me sleep five more minutes.

The main door opens and closes, dad is whistling and calling out to Ira and me. Ira bounces up all sunshine and daisies and everyone is rolling about in our bed, Iru and I going “eeewww you are all sweaty”. He’s been out jogging with mamma. Ira bounds off like the little mutt that she is with mamma. Let me roll over and sleep for five more minutes, just five.

Ira has had a bath and is all dressed and ready for school, the alarm goes off again this time I know it’s 7:35 coz I can smell the coffee from the percolator, dad’s onto his second cup of the day while he prepares breakfast for me and Ira. Mamma is calling out to me urgently now saying she’ll leave without me if I’m not ready in 5 minutes. I continue to stay put, it’s a Thursday for heavens sakes, the weekend is so far, let me sleep for five more minutes.

The door opens and closes, moms gone. She’s taken Ira with her. Dad’s on the phone with his client in Australia, to think it’s already past 1PM in that country. Let me continue to sleep for five more minutes then I’ll get up and enjoy my self sanctioned holiday. 8:30 AM and I’m finally up. Dad’s busy on his workstation, moms at office and already in the middle of her day, Ira is at school doing her ABCs. What do I do now? I get ready, have the eggrolls dad had made for breakfast and settle down with a book watching the waves roll in and the sea gulls soaring over the mangroves outside the window. Oh boy, time does move slower once one is up.

The day is done and everyone is back home. I am happy about my break from school but it’s done now. I missed all my dear friends and most of all Anshu maam. It’s fun to take a break but it’s even more fun to go back to school the next day. So my bag is packed, my uniform is on the chair, the checklist for bedtime is all ticked and I’m off to sleep. Tomorrow I will wake up on the first alarm and make sure I am at the door at 7:40AM right beside mamma and Ira.

5:45AM, the third alarm goes off…. I’ll sleep for just five more minutes!

sometimes…. it’s not your fault at all….

Ria is back home, after 5 days… she’s still the same impish mutt that she was 5 days back. Looking at her you wouldn’t be able to tell what all happened in these 5 days.

Tuesday evening we had a doctors appointment to get her eyes tested so 1730hrs we were sitting and waiting for Dr. Baramani to take us in for the eye exam. Sitting next to us an elderly lady corrected Ria when Ria pronounced poem as poyum. The lady corrected Ria and then told us she is a teacher of the english language, retired now but still not callous enough to let a poyum pass! I laughed uncontrollably, my own favourite ones were all english or history/civics/geography teachers in school. I also laughed because at the back of my mind I was processing “Ria Khan, got international first in the english Olympiad last year, topped her school this year in the same exam and gets ticked off for wrong pronunciation…. such is education, even when on the top of your game you never really are done! and this kid has just begun”. The lady went on to have a pretty meaningful and elaborate discussion with Ria about the poem Ria was talking about and the book she was trying to get me to let her read on the Kindle (the ugly duckling, I think). Later the lady introduced me to her son in law who is a Railway enthusiast but knows way more about the latest developments in the Railways than most Railway officers. He certainly knew more than me and I am a Railway kid, having spent all of my formative years in and around Railwaymen (as they prefer being referred to). So we finally had the test done around 1850hrs, minor change in power. I paid by card and got the receipt which I still have and it reads 1854hrs.

As we came out of the building Ria insisted that she wanted something to eat, so I slightly reluctantly agreed, as I am not a big fan of eating out. We crossed the road and walked in the direction of the nearby Dominos. I remembered that Sweet Bengal and a friend had earlier sent a message about the newly reopened Sweet Bengal nearby. Initially almost 5-6 years back the location was near the Bata showroom, anyway for some reason we walked towards the Dominos near Apna Bazaar. Ria said “chal Dominos mein hi khaa lete hain” to which I replied “naa re we’ll come to Dominos with Iru and mamma abhi lets find the sweet bengal and get some stuff there”. We obviously did not come across Sweet Bengal in this direction so I rechecked the messages. One of them mentioned “behind MacD”. So we walked in that direction now, deciding that if we didn’t find Sweet Bengal then we would go to MacD. We walked past MacD and surveyed the area, asked a security guard if he knew where the new Sweet Bengal was (he kind of looked like he was going to tell us to take a ticket and fly out to Kolkata). No one knew where it was so we walked back towards MacD. In front of MacD there was a dog standing, well just standing, right in the middle of the footpath. Ria has a deep seated fear of dogs so I took a bit of a detour to try and avoid the dog and started walkingd, like everyone else (there has to be a reason why dogs think the footpath is theirs…. because humans do not use these badly damaged footpaths).

About 10 metres away I sensed someone started their gear-less scooter (a white scooter, Activa I think). He gunned the accelerator and came straight for us completely out of control. The guy apparently was not used to riding an Activa, maybe he was more tuned to a geared motorcycle as he had absolutely no control of the scooter. Now in retrospect it appears as if this was all happening in slow motion but in reality it was all over in a few seconds. The activa crashed into Ria, I was holding her on the inside track away from the traffic but even so the out of control accelerating scooter caught her in the stomach and lifted her clean off her feet. I was still holding onto her left hand as she was being dragged along. All the time I was shouting “You IDIOT, you bloody IDIOT”. The bike did not stop, Ria was shouting “Paapu, paapa!” as she held on to my hand. There was a large Fortuner parked a few feet ahead and I was desperately trying to pull her out of this guided missiles nose as he kept speeding towards the Fortuner. A few others who were walking ahead and behind me also lashed out at the scooter trying to make him stop. It stopped upon crashing into the Fortuner with Ria pinned onto the nose.

I recalculated my damage estimates and quickly calmed down my nerves as I lunged and lifted Ria out of the gap which had formed now as people around started beating up the poor distraught guy on the scooter. As I looked at her pinned in the gap looking at me with large glassy eyes I sort of died, something died. I felt the question she was asking me pierce my heart. “What did I do to deserve this?”. She was just looking at me half crying half unable to comprehend what had happened and mostly in pain and looking at my face trying to ask and understand what was her mistake. I rushed in and picked her clean, lifted her in my arms and carried her over to the car standing next to the Fortuner, a Honda City. This had a flat top boot and that’s where I lay her down. On top of the boot I examined her for broken bones, crushed limbs etc. Thankfully nothing was bleeding profusely as I had imagined it would be. There was a cut on her lower right leg it was bleeding but by now I had already convinced myself that there is immense amount of damage so the cut did not make me flinch. Ria was complaining of pain in the solar plexus. I figured crushed rib cage. In one swift move I lifted her and jumped into a 3-wheeler which had magically appeared behind me on the road where by now there was a traffic jam. As I got in I shouted to the people who were beating up the activa rider to let him go. The boy jumped into the auto with me. Profusely apologetic he clung to me and kept saying “sorry uncle, very sorry uncle sorry uncle”. I told the driver to take me to the Fortis ER, the boy said “I’ll come with you uncle, I am sorry”. I was not really listening I was more distracted by the smell of alcohol that was coming off him. Obviously he had been drinking at the wine shop next to the Macdonalds. As we started getting closer to the place where I had parked the car I changed my mind and told the driver to take a u-turn and drop me at the car parking on the opposite side of the street. The boy immediately rushed out and fetched a bottle of water for Ria as she was asking for water. I opened the car and carefully lay her down on the back seat. As I did that the boy returned with the bottle of water. Ria was able to manage drinking which was a relief at that point. I tried paying the rickshaw driver but he folded his hands and said “sir I have kids too please do not do this please go to the hospital fast”. The boy clung to me again saying “sorry uncle sorry uncle, I’ll come with you I’ll pay for the hospital”. I patted him on his head and said “it’s ok you do not have to do anything, go”. I firmly pushed him away got in the car and drove away. I could not have handled any more cuddling with the guy who just broke my baby specially when this guy was reeking of alcohol. As I drove to the hospital I kept saying sorry to Ria and she said “no paapu it’s not your fault why are you saying sorry?”….. I just wanted to keep talking to her making her stay awake so I had her tell me the poem which she was talking about to the old lady at Surya Netralaya…. we discussed it all the while as I drove carefully to the ER. I’m Staying Home from School Today – by Kenn Nesbitt

At the ER at Fortis there was the usual red tape and laxity and as expected I lost my temper finally at the receptionist when he tried to make me fill a form before they would put the kid under an x-ray machine… that’s when a couple of technicians from the ER arrived at the front desk, spoke to the receptionist and things moved eventually. My phone had died almost when the accident took place so I tried calling Sonali from the guards phone at Fortis but that too did not work as signal at home is poor. Later around 7:20 when the ER doctors were fussing over Ria I called Sonali from the phone at the desk and we decided that she should not try to drive, rather take a rick instead. After a battery of tests (x-ray, USG, CT Scan) the kid was put into the ICU for monitoring pending emergency surgery….. The policeman who took my statement since this was a Medico Legal Case now kept asking me why I let the guy who caused this accident go? I could say nothing I had no reason to give other than the fact that I was too busy saving my kid to be even slightly concerned about taking revenge, righting a wrong or being angry with anyone. I had one single focus get her out of this any which way.

Five days on, we’re back home. Ria is on bed rest for the next 15 days and even after that for 45 days she’s been advised low stress activity. Essentially reading and coloring is all she’s going to be enjoying this summer vacations. I sent a mail to the school informing them of the incident and they were kind enough to tell us that based upon the performance through the year she was going to be promoted to the next section. As if the injury was not enough Ria contracted gastroenteritis on the 3rd day of stay at the hospital and that got everyone confused. Anyway after another CT scan it was determined that the liver abrasions were not increasing in size or intensity which implied that there was a very good chance of complete recovery with proper rest at home and that she could be discharged once the gastro is fixed. Since I have never really had any faith in the hospital system I decided that we wanted the kid home for recovery from the gastro as the injury bit was already addressed and the prognosis on that part is good provided she rests properly. Thanks to our family homeopath, Dr. Bhalinge, and valuable advise from Sangeeta another amazing doctor and our good family friend who came to the hospital to check on Ria and advised on how to address the gastro part better she’s getting better slowly but surely.

So yeah we’re back home. With time things will be perfectly ok and she will be able to swim and run and do all the things that she was going to do all along. I on the other hand will never be able to get the image of a beautiful, terrified baby stuck between two stationary vehicles staring at me with glassy eyes asking “what was my fault?”…..