Winner Of The Way
Winner Of The Way7 mins 430 7 mins 430
"And the award for outstanding excellence in business goes to..."
The announcer flashed a teasing smile at the audience seated in front of him. Everyone held their breaths even though they all were almost sure who the winner was going to be.
"I know Ajay Agarwal is going to bag the award again," my friend Alia, who was seated next to me, said as she rubbed her hands that were trembling with excitement. "The guy is a genius. I've heard a lot about him. He is known by his nickname "Invincible" in the B world, isn't it?"
"Hmm," I nodded as the crowd around us became curious to know about the winner.
"I hope he turns out to be a tall, dark and handsome hunk like a movie star," Alia added with a flirtatious smile.
"Ladies and gentlemen, please put your hands together for..." the presenter took a pause again, "Mr. Ajay Agarwal - the winner of the way!"
Alia abruptly sprang to her feet while clapping hands vigorously as the crowd around rose from their chairs. Alia turned back to catch a glimpse of her idol as the crowd made way for the winner of the way. But her face fell right away as she saw a crippled man moving ahead in a wheelchair. Her clapping ceased and her smile faded. As Ajay took the award I clapped ardently till my hands hurt.
"Do you know him?" Alia asked as she saw enthusiasm bubbling on my face.
"He is my cousin," I smiled proudly as tears of joy added sheen to my eyes.
"What happened to him?" Alia asked on our way back home.
I kept my gaze fixed on the road and turned my car through a steep curve.
"I mean," Alia cleared her throat to borrow time as she searched for the apt words, "was he like this right from birth?"
"No," I finally said, "it was an accident that made him what he is today - "the invincible business magnate."
"An accident?" Alia was confused, "Amrita, accidents don't make anyone anything, they only break us down."
"No accidents in life are potent enough to break your will power, your faith in your dreams and your zest to achieve success unless you give them up on your own free will. They only make you, even more, stronger, determined and invincible."
"What do you mean, Amrita?"
"Do you want to know about the incident or rather say the accident that has changed Ajay's life forever?"
"Yes!" Alia clasped her hands together.
"Eight long years have passed by," I said, "but it seems like it was only yesterday that I received an urgent call from my uncle and rushed back to Delhi to meet Ajay."
Eight years ago...
"How is he now, uncle?" I asked wiping the tears of a traumatized father sitting outside his only son's room in the hospital.
"Just the same," he managed to say and gulped a lump down.
It was almost a fortnight since the accident. Ajay was paralyzed below the waist. The doctors told us that he had very slim chances of recovering. Before stepping into his cabin, I peeped in through the window of his room. He was still in a state of shock unable to accept his fate. He hadn't spoken a word in all these days. He was lying still on the bed and his stony eyes were fixed on the ceiling. His appearance almost frightened me. His face was deadly pale. His eyes were shrunken and he had dark circles around them. I could hardly recognize him. He was only a faint reflection of the handsome Ajay who he once was. His shallow breaths were the only signs that told us that he was still alive.
"He looked more like a cadaver than an alive human being," the thought brought tears to my eyes.
I promptly wiped them before walking into his room.
"Hi, Ajay!" I tried to cheer him up, "how are you, handsome?"
His lifeless eyes turned to me for a split second and then quickly returned to the ceiling.
"It's over, Amrita," his voice came out rather like a moan.
"My life," he whispered in a heavy voice, "I have nothing to look forward to. All my dreams and hopes of a promising career and a beautiful life ahead have also crashed. It would have been better if I had died in the accident!" He hid his face sobbed on his pillow
"Please don't say so," I held on his hand and shed a few tears along.
I knew how difficult it would be for a man like him who is habituated to win. He was an extraordinarily brilliant student since his school days. He excelled in extracurricular activities too. He was a sure shot winner of debates and quiz competitions apart from being an ace choreographer and a marvelous dancer. He passed from his B-school with a gold medal and got selected for his dream job as soon as he was out of college.
He was more of a friend to me than a cousin. I had never seen a man as kindhearted and jovial as Ajay. Now as he lay enveloped in a choking silence I can't believe he is the same person whom we used to call Mr. Chatter Box. I began pondering frantically over the ways to bring alive the old jovial, Ajay who lay subdued within him. Suddenly, I thought of his phone call that he had made a few hours before the crash. He had mentioned about a girl whom he was in love with and was going to propose that evening.
"Hey," I asked exuberantly, "what about your girlfriend...err...what was her name...hmm...yes, Radhika? How is she?"
"She hasn't come to see me even for once," Ajay sighed.
I stormed out of his room and went straight to my uncle sitting outside.
"Uncle," I said, "I want Radhika's address."
The following morning, I was sitting in the parlor of Radhika's bungalow, burning with rage. I was waiting for her to turn up so that I could drench her with the vitriol of agitation churning within me for ditching my brother at the time when he needed her the most.
"Hi," a cold smile appeared on Radhika's gorgeous face.
"I'm Ajay's cousin. I want to..."
"I have been waiting for you," she cut me off.
"Listen..." my fury bubbled.
"Before jumping into any conclusion," she said firmly but calmly. "I think, you should allow me a chance to explain."
The next day, Radhika went to meet Ajay at the hospital. Ajay was surprised to see her. An ecstatic light of love lit his eyes and painted his pale cheeks with a tinge of crimson.
"You must be wondering why I'm here today." Radhika fired it straight, "and also, want to know why I hadn't come to meet you earlier."
There was pin-drop silence in the room as both their eyes met.
"I had," Radhika sighed, "but turned back when Varun told me that you have dropped your plan of proposing to me. Why, Ajay?"
"Why should a girl as pretty and intelligent as you marry a man like me?" Ajay's voice was frail, "I am nothing but a burden to you."
"You do me an injustice, Ajay." A silent tear flowed down Radhika's beautiful face, "you claim to love me but you don't have faith in me. You have absolutely misunderstood me."
Radhika wiped the tear and gulped heavily with downcast eyes.
"Disabilities don't change the people we love. If it were so, my mother would have snapped bonds with my father, long ago."
"Yes," she looked at Ajay and smiled, "my father had always dreamed of becoming a police officer and was almost on the verge of fulfilling his wish. But fate had something else in store for him. One night when he was returning home, he was run over by an over-speeding car and lost both his legs in the accident. But instead of giving up, he chose to fight back. My mother stood by his side braving all oppositions and threats from her family. Both of them started a small tea stall in our village. By his iron will power, indomitable courage and sheer determination, my Dad lived up to become the owner of one of the largest food chains in the country."
"You mean," Ajay was unable to believe the words that his ears have just perceived, "your Dad is also a..."
"A man of exemplary courage and determination, the one who believes in the magic of faith. If you have faith in your abilities, Ajay, then no disability is capable of hindering your way to success. He who fights till the end is the one who emerges out as the winner of the way."
Ajay kept intently listening to her words as a flame kindled somewhere deep with him.
"If my father can," Radhika's eyes challenged him, "then why not you, Ajay?"
The little flame of hope that Radhika had kindled inside him, burnt like a roaring forest fire and Ajay's pallid face glowed in its light.
"It was Radhika who ushered him back to life." I smiled through my tears as I looked at Alia's tear-stained face, "It was her inspiration that has propelled him to reach the pinnacle of success. It was her words that made him the 'Invincible Ajay' who rules the business world today, in spite of his disability."
Alia buried her face in her hands and sobbed. I knew that those were the tears of joy.