Manu Devassia



Manu Devassia




14 mins

After my classes, I was eager to see the postmaster. Today, it would be ridiculous to talk about a postman, but in a time before cell phones and the internet were invented, there was a hero who delivered belated happy and awful news to every home. I used to receive a letter from my father the first week of every month. Even though my mother was reading it I could only ever hear my father's voice. I was in charge of keeping all those letters safe and I kept them in a wooden trunk under my bed. I loved my dad more than I loved my mother, therefore those letters meant so much to me than any gift. I treasured them, and I kept them in a secured wooden trunk in our living room, underneath the bed. Dev Mohan, my father, had spent the last seven years working as an automobile technician for a private company in Dubai. My dad used to capture all the lovely moments of me and my mom in a small camera he brought from Saudi. Those photos now speak of his care and love.

I was in grade 5 and Neenu, my sister was in grade 2. He left for Dubai shortly after she was born. He wanted to spend a few more days with the newcomer, Neenu, so he wasn't willing to leave that month. I recall him reluctantly making his way to the airport, just like a little child making his first visit to the school. Even though my mother resented him working abroad, dad chose to forgo a few years of his happy life for the better future of the family.

For a month, the postman didn't visit us to deliver a letter to our house as customary, leaving us slightly anxious and disturbed. To my mother's relief, none of the three or four letters she sent that month received a reply. However, the following month, the letter arrived as usual, but to our astonishment, dad made no mention of why he had missed writing to us. in the next few letters, I repeatedly asked dad why he didn't write a letter that month. He added that he had sent letters as usual as I asked the same question over and over.

As the days and nights passed, we waited impatiently for that Friday in March 1995. My dad had informed us in writing that he would be coming to Kerala on that day. I traveled with Mommy to the airport with Neenu, all excited to receive him. On the way to school, the only car we ever saw was an ambassador car, but it was the first time we had ever travelled in one. The sights outside the car recalled the days he spent with us on his last vacation. Time passed quickly, but I could still recall my mother taking me to the airport two years ago to say goodbye to my father who was leaving the country for Saudi. I was too young to comprehend how a flight could make one tear. As my father went inside the airport, my mom began crying. I comforted her by wiping away her tears with my little hands and assuring her that the airplane wouldn't crash. I can clearly visualize how my kind gesture of consolation brought some chuckles in combination with the tears falling.

I told Neenu that our dad would be ecstatic to see her. She was probably too young to comprehend who the dad was and what he meant to me. She was more inquisitive as I continued to describe him. She could hardly utter more than a few words, so I didn't have high hopes about her asking any questions about dad. She must have considered my description of my dad like a fairy tale. But I loved talking about my dad as if he were a superhero. He was to me like a Christmastime visit from Santa Claus. The only difference was that dad visited just once every two years. I was unaware that we had landed at the Cochin airport. I had never seen the sight of the giant bird taking off. It was an amazing experience for both Neenu and me because I had only ever seen an airplane in my English textbook. My mum was a little nervous. I presumed the flying object was the cause of her trepidation. I had no clue how this massive object could bear the weight of so many people in addition to the presents and treats they brought with them from other countries.

We eventually caught sight of dad at the carousel, and he soon emerged. I clasped my mother's right hand as her face grew pale and I felt her heartbeat. The exuberance on his face and his graceful demeanor were gone. I got the impression that he had changed a lot. His left hand was dangling like a heavy strip, as I could observe. His face was gloomy as though he was concealing something mysterious. I sprinted forward to him as he drew closer and grabbed his left hand first. Yes, I was right in my assumption. His left hand has completely lost sensation, making it impossible for it to feel the gentle touch of my tiny fingers. He dropped the bags down and wrapped his right arm around me in an embrace. He hugged Neenu and kissed her. After a prolonged absence, he was delighted to see her. For the first time, Neenu saw her dad in person. She was therefore hesitant to approach him initially. 

"Hello, my little doll, Papa's baby has now grown into an angel!” Dad exclaimed fondling my head. My mother sighed deeply as she stood, her eyes rheumy. She seemed to have a tonne of questions, and I could sense it. Dad dared not look into her eyes, and I noticed him attempting to hide something. 

"Dev, what has happened to your right hand?" Holding his dropping hand, mom asked.

"Oh, what a tragic tale, but it requires a lot of time to be told. Is it time to get back home? Can I make my tummy happy now?" Dad said tapping his stomach. I held my mom's hand once more as we made our way home, but it wasn't the same warm hand I had previously held. I could feel her heart pounding fast and her hand shivering. She was quite upset to meet Dad in such a condition.

Dad pulled a package out of his handbag and handed it to me as we got into the car. As usual, Neenu seized it from me, but I managed to act decently unlike ever before. My attention was on my father's happy smile rather than the package. Neenu was attracted to him a little more because of the attractive package. 

Oh, my dear... That is for your sister, and this is for you. Dad said, extending to Neenu another adorable doll that was stuffed with candy. She cautiously removed the doll's cap and was surprised to see dark and white chocolates inside. She quickly gulped one, and mom warned her that if she wasn't cautious, it might get stuck in her throat. Dad grinned widely and handed mom a piece of white chocolate right away and mom accepted it with a lot of love. I could see their eyes filling with love.

As we drew closer to home, I sprinted to the back dicky of the taxi to grab the rest of the luggage since I knew he had more treats in store for us. I accompanied the worker as he dragged the luggage and bags to our room, making a lot of effort to assist him.

"Now explain what happened to you, Dev. I am becoming extremely anxious because you appear so different and frail.” Mom said sitting close beside him. 

“I can explain, Deepa, but for now, I need a cup of tea and some food.” His right hand was on her shoulder as he pushed her toward the kitchen.

Mom didn't appear to be happy at all, and her face seemed like the sky preparing to shower. She was particularly curious about the reasons for his physical changes. As we were having our meal, he began to explain.

"Deepa, I'm sorry I was unable to give you any information. I didn't know how to explain to you what happened to me. "

"What are you trying to say, and why didn't you tell us anything in your letters if there was something unfortunate?

I know that you were worried about not receiving my letters, but the situation never allowed me to write a letter. " He tried to explain.

What? You didn’t send us a letter! But... but... we received letters every month except for a month. " Suspicions filled the air.

"No, I haven't written to you in eight months," Dad replied, a little shocked.

I immediately dashed to the room and brought all the letters we had received.

He quickly scanned a few of them. " No, these are not my letters; in fact, my handwriting is not exactly like this and you know it very well." He quickly skimmed the letters and found, to his amazement, that someone else was remitting funds to his house instead of him.

"I once had the same feeling as I read the letters, but nothing unusual was discovered in them, and the letter that arrived bearing your address never caused any confusion." Mom explained, surprised.

"But why and who sent these letters?" Dad posed this question to all of us.

"Okay, Das, let's probe into that later. You didn't complete what you started. " Mom reminded him.

"Yes, Deepa, I am coming to it." He continued explaining.

He had a tragic accident and spent the past eight months in a coma. One of his colleagues, Jeevan, was behind the wheel. He was slightly drunk after an evening party that their boss had arranged for his daughter's wedding. It was a moment’s reckless driving that caused the accident.

Their car collided with a truck, and one of them was killed instantly. He was a Bihari, and my dad was among the three people who suffered critical injuries. The last word that my dad uttered was 'Deepa', and the rest was a mystery to him. I sat in shock when my mother and I heard about the accident. I struggled to get rid of the haunting thoughts that followed my bizarre thoughts, and thinking about the incident made me feel numb.

"Deep down, I knew all that was happening around me, but I was unable to respond. Do you realize how much distress and anxiety I experienced while in the coma stage thinking about you? " My mom was sobbing when he was saying this.

"This is an unbelievable story. What about the money orders we got every month if what you say is true? " Mom asked, confused. Yet another shock struck him.

"What? Money? Who sent you the money? I have not sent any money." Dad got up from his chair, in stark shock. 

"Perhaps one of your colleagues..." Mom speculated.

"No, they were all working quite hard to support themselves. They are not, I am sure.”

"Who then looked after you?" Mom asked inquisitively.

The treatment and other expenses were covered by dad’s friends and the company he had been working for. He didn’t forget to thank them for keeping the accident a secret. They first planned to move me to Kerala, but they ultimately opted to share the cost of my medical treatment. Those were the days when I firmly believed that God really existed.

They spent a lot of time analyzing the matter but came to no satisfactory conclusion. They were unaware of the sender's motives when he sent those letters. Because it did more good than bad for our family, we could be certain that the intention was not malicious. In a detailed letter, he asked his friends if they were the ones who were behind that drama. They were all completely ignorant of it. One of his Saudi pals finally dropped a hint.

He remembered that one of the doctors who worked in the hospital visited him while he was under treatment and asked for more information about our family. It was an interesting coincidence that he was also a Keralite. There was nothing suspicious about a doctor visiting a patient, so we had no reason to be suspicious. But with no alternative reason to think otherwise, we ultimately made the assumption that the doctor was the one who had sent the letters. Then, my dad insisted his friends go for a fully-fledged inquiry regarding the situation.

After a week, another letter informed him that he had the doctor's Kerala contact information. He was a doctor from Kochin, middle-aged. They also enquired about the doctor and gathered all the information they could in support of this case. However, no other proof was produced to establish that the doctor was behind the mystery. So, we made the decision to pay him a surprise visit one day. I also went with my dad to the doctor’s house.

Since he was the only doctor in the area at the time, we had little trouble finding his residence. The infrastructure of this lovely traditional house was made of wood. A young girl, aged perhaps 15 or 17, opened the front door as we rang the bell.

"Can I meet the doctor? I need to talk to him about something really important. " Dad clarified.

"How do you know him? Are you sure he knows you?" she questioned.

"He must instantly recognize me because I've known him for the past two years," Dad told a plausible lie.

When she was convinced of my words, she let me in. Inside that house, he was left to uncover some unexpected mysteries. My father stopped me and turned to look at a photo frame that was hanging above the mantel before we entered the guest room. Dad was startled to see it, not because it was a portrait of the doctor, but because he recognized the doctor's face instantly but couldn't recall how or where he met him. He realized with a sign that he would not be able to personally meet him and that the doctor had left the world with the key to his puzzling questions. He also knew that he was looking for a person whom he knew before. Dad tried to recollect and instantly got all the answers to the questions he came up with.

He then recalled something that happened a few years ago. As he was returning from work in Saudi Arabia, he once saw someone bleeding on the pavement. He yelled for help, but few people heard his screams because it was around 10:00 p.m. No one stopped their car on the highway to help him save the stranger. He was groaning in agony, and blood was dripping down his face. He was battling to breathe because of the severe injuries on his head. He took him in a taxi to the nearby hospital. The man's chances of survival were extremely slim because, according to the doctors, his health was already deteriorating.

He was informed by the doctors that the man required surgery immediately. They demanded that he pay the initial payment to start the treatment. The amount was a little bit too much for him, and he didn’t know any means to arrange such a large amount instantly. He then assured the hospital officials that he would pay the full amount the next morning.

They disagreed to keep the man on medication. The sight of the stranger writhing in pain touched his heart. He was forced to offer his golden ring and chain as a surety and give the assurance that he would pay for the treatment the next morning. After a few hours, the doctors informed me that there was still hope for the man's survival because he had surpassed the critical stage. He didn’t know anything about the stranger. After a day, when he regained consciousness, he demanded to see the face of his savior. Even though he could not speak a word, he conveyed so much more through his eyes than he ever could with words. For some time, Dad sat in front of him and looked at his face. The man extended his hands in gratitude. My dad was extremely pleased to see a few drops of tears strolling down his cheeks. Dad didn't visit him again as he got information from the hospital that the man's relatives would arrive soon.

As he was walking home, a nurse beckoned him from behind and returned his golden ring and chain, along with an envelope containing the money he used to pay for his treatment. She also informed him that the patient's family had made the payment. He was so pleased when he discovered a thank-you card in the envelope.

It was his second meeting with that man after that incident that occurred a few years back, but unfortunately, he was no more. My dad hadn’t even known then that he was a Keralite or a doctor.

"Is he your father,….I mean, the doctor?" Dad then paused and then asked the girl.

"You said you knew him very well." She stated with a frown.

Dad purposely avoided replying to her questions after realizing that the doctor was no longer present there to explain the mystery.

"When did your father ……….." Dad asked her.

"Just two months ago... It was a stroke, "she replied with a deep sigh.

My dad confirmed that it was this doctor who helped his family. He didn’t ask her anything. Perhaps the doctor paid off his debt... But could it be the same doctor who treated me for the past eight months? Had he recognized my dad's face even if he had been his patient? I don’t know.

He walked out of the house pondering something. I just followed him, believing that it was this doctor who kept my dad alive and my family hopeful.

When I got home, I took those letters again and read them again. This time as I read it, I heard a different voice. I thought about how beautiful and admirable the doctor's heart must have been. I was impressed by my dad's heroism in saving the doctor's life that awful night. That night, my dad was a god to him like the doctor was to us. I'm waiting for the right time when I can be such a God.


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