60 Minutes Later..
60 Minutes Later..42 mins 20.9K 42 mins 20.9K
I stirred in my sleep as cold crept up my toes. It’s mid January, chilly for better part of the day....everyday. I pulled at the blankets annoyed and found them stuck tight....
Of course !
I wrestled away a small portion of blanket from Kavi to cover myself just so, I’m bone tired, we all were hence sleep claimed me almost at once again.
The next thing I knew was that someone was trying to wake us all. I mean come on, we just fell asleep please. The urge to ignore it all and go back to sleep was so tempting but with all that commotion around me I didn’t think I had that luxury now. I opened my heavy lids and blinked away the sleep as best as I can, I’m still groggy though. In spite of that, the scene I woke up to brought a smile on my face.
It’s not my hostel room, we were at my friend’s home. And by ‘we’ I mean my crazy bunch. Crazy....yes, but still it’s my bunch and I love them all in their crazy-perfectly imperfect-impulsive-boisterous-charismatic glory. In other words, Sathiya’s mom gonna have a task in her hands to clean up after our departure. Let’s just say we weren’t disciplined, squeaky clean kind of people.
The whole room was in disarray. Satz was the only one who woke up to her mom’s call. I wouldn’t qualify myself to be awake that soon, if you are wondering. Just give me few more moments. A girl need those after such weekend. Don’t judge!
My hand went in search of my phone by habit. It was 5:30A.M. I purposely ignored my messages and missed calls, today evening would be soon enough for me to deal with my parents. For now, we had thirty minutes in maximum to haul our asses up and on road, else we can kiss our Internship completion goodbye. That thought did the trick, for it can be easily compared to a bucket load of ice cubes being dumped on me. I sat up straight in a blink. We need to move it.
Mickey (Kavi) was still dead to the world and so was Saran (Saranya). Mama (Sangeetha) was sitting up and rubbing her eyes. I searched for Rose (Roshini) and reminded myself that she left to attend her cousin’s engagement yesterday mid-morning. It was all pillows and blankets in tangles all over the room. We took the first room on the immediate right from the hall. Satz parents, her brother and grandma scattered themselves in the other bedroom and hall, graciously lending us the room. Sandy (Santhosh) was sleeping in another room straight out and to the right of our room. He went out after dinner and I didn’t know when he got back. I hope somebody woke him up already because it’s a monstrous job in itself and we have.... ermm.... 28 minutes left.
“You up baby?”Satz asked me.
They took it to call me baby, I was the tiny one among the group apparently. And it’s kinda endearing....you will not hear me complaining.
“Mmm…yeah mummy”I croaked back at her. For some reason I began to call Satz as mummy and Sandy as daddy. Not that they are a thing…just....just like that.
I threw back the blanket and nudged Kavi to wake her up. Mean while Satz was threatening Saran about pouring water over her head if she don’t wake up now. I was in agreement with that idea but Kavi won’t take it easy. However, we don’t have time to cajole a tantrum now so I went with nudging and it worked.
Being interns, doing insane hours with little sleep wasn’t a foreign concept for us. People don’t get to choose the time they get sick, likewise we don’t get to sleep straight most days. We were tuned to it but waking up and getting back to hospital after a day off was still tough. It’s like fighting a hangover (not that I know how... I don’t drink. Ever! I swear.)
Once we were all up, we took turns seeing to our business . We brushed our teeth ditching each other fighting for the sink playfully. For a moment there we forgot the time.
“I’ll go bring us coffee”Satz said and went out to fetch the same.
We sipped our coffee and packed our satchels on the go.
“Somebody please tell me Sandy is up”
Saran called to nobody in particular. She got stuck with him on night duties in ER postings. So basically she knows what waking him up entails. Satz nodded an yes to her.
20 minutes were up already and we are now close to eating away our two hours run time between Chidambaram to our college in Pondicherry. It ‘s going to be a tight fit of time, I hope we make it to report at the department by eight’o clock. We have a week more to finish our internship. Today we were to submit our project that we conducted about rural health on our posting the past 7 weeks . Our community medicine faculty group demanded a week to analyze and approve of our work . Then and only then would our HOD sign our completion. The department was cunning like that, they thought themselves to be disciplined and squeezed us much. Like I said, we were not the disciplined people by any standard, unless lying lazy like a vegetable in our PJ’s all day was considered a disciplined act... No, we were not. Far from it actually... the risk though, first we didn’t report that we were going out the city limit. If our HOD got wind of it we all were done for. Secondly if we don’t submit our project by today eight in the morning our HOD would throw a major issue about it and we all would have to work a week more for completion, save the begging and extra hours we need to squeeze in as an apology.
365 days compulsory duty was enough in itself, we had no desire to prolong it if we can help it. But getting away for the weekend was beckoning us like a bacon and we greedily took it. We went without holidays and weekends for a year now. This was our second last weekend, I mean how bad it can be we thought.
We said our farewells and ‘we will visit agains’ and ‘thank you’s in a blur.
Sandy came out in his sweats and tracks just before we threw our satchels on the trunk.
He, the only guy among us. That was a hazard of the combined attendance system but that was okay. We all got along pretty good and thick.
He was thoroughly rumpled, his eyes sleepy and hazy. He had a rich honey colored orbs which would probably work like a charm among girls but not on us. The moment I saw his eyes all I could do was pray that he won’t get us killed on road. I don’t think he had much sleep last night, which is not at all a good sign.
Maybe we should have put more caffeine in his drink!?
He stumpled on the way out... oh stuff it! Giving him a caffeine shot seemed more appropriate to me now.
Sandy took the wheel and Saran rode shot gun. Me, Kavi, Mama and Satz on the back. You can’t possibly feel Kavi a burden of space, she was that ‘one friend’ in all gangs who eats a ton and never show that on herself. Lucky for us, it came in handy at times like this.
“ready?”Sandy rasped from the wheel.
I was right to pray... he was not ready to drive but we had no option.
Good God !!
I’m the only child for ammi and abbu…please!
It’s always hard to say goodbyes, even if you were going to be mere two hours away from your parents. We all waved to my family and took off. It’s early January morning,ridiculously misty and the air had a crisp chill to it. I rolled my window down because I’d rather be chilly than nauseous, closed windows on drive just don’t do with me.
Baby and Kavi cuddled together and Mama relaxed back on her seat. Saran was solely focused on her window and Sandy was silent and driving. That was a moment when all of us were in comfortable silence. To find friends who can be comfortably silent and content just by your presence was rich...so I ‘ve heard. Mama (Sangeetha) shifted her head close to my shoulder, quite not touching me but still inclined to me. She looked tired, creases marred her face and I know better not to interrupt her thought process.
The streets I know by heart passed by in a blur because honestly I can’t see things ten foot away from me. I was that child who was always away from home from the moment school ended. But still this...here was my comfort place, maybe it always would be. I can’t quite comprehend what it was like for Sangeetha to be plucked away from her home and dumped among her in-laws. New set of rules, new ways of living to adapt and to think before doing anything or saying anything just so it won’t offend somebody of the family sounded pretty hectic to me.
But she...she handled that as best as she could. That wasn’t perfect enough apparently. She was troubled about her family. Our profession can be demanding at its best and it’s actually not very well accepted always, especially in marriage. Marriages demand consideration and devotion just as much as our stethoscopes, if not higher.
I always had a plan to bring my friends home but it never happened. We would plan and plan but never got through it before this weekend. When I walked into the ward last Friday I knew there won’t be another weekend for us to get away and all those tired gloomy faces only added to my determination. I can be bloody persuasive and stubborn when needed.
It was practically painful to watch them move around and attend to patients, going about the routine with a ready smile (a plastic one) whenever necessary.
I know Mama was not in her best terms with her husband, which would pass by time. Saran was her usual self, one never knows what exactly churned inside her brain. I don’t even understand her brain at times like I don’t understand her manuscripts often. But I did know she was cranky. Baby was literally mopping, hurt written all over her face. Sandy walked in by 10A.M for a 8A.M shift, sleepy as always and I had enough by then.
Thus the buried plan was re-kindled. I refused to listen to anything other than ‘yes, I’m in’ from anybody. Even Saran’s strict daddy excuse didn’t sway my stride. But Rose got held with a family function, I could do nothing about it. We planned to start Saturday morning so that my family could expect us by lunch time. Kavi was stuck on ER night duty, hence the morning start. We meant to pick her right from the ER doorstep and drive home. She can take bath in my home...no issues.
For once we sticked to the plan… I wish I could say that but with my people? NO. Kavi got held up in an emergency case and Sandy slept late after a late night surprise birthday party but, we pick her straight out of the ER. At least one thing was managed to go by our plan.
The journey home would always be long, you just could not reach fast enough. Saturday drive was no different. We were received and was treated with an array of yummy things.
My parents knew every single one of them from me but not on person except few. After introductions I was forced to play host. These little brats sent me on errands every which way I turned.
“Satz...I need water”
“Could you please switch on the fan”
“Can I get a chair?”
“More juice ?”
I glared at Saran with that last question, but she shrugged. Mom called me and a split second was all it took for her to take my glass and empty the juice. Worst part was I didn’t even notice her doing that until she pushed the empty glass into my hand.
And the tragedy didn’t end there,while I was busy assisting in the kitchen these buffaloes emptied the whole bowl of gulab jamuns and I got the sugar syrup!
They didn’t even bothered to look guilty for that...well my fault, I should have known better than to leave the bowl with them.
A whole bowl!! Seriously…
And so the errands continued...all throughout the lunch and some more.
Who thought playing host would be such a pain? Certainly I didn’t. But then, it’s just them...purposely keeping me on my toes.
I shook my head remembering that afternoon meal and Mama caught me off guard.
I turned to her and her eyebrows wriggled in question.
“You had a good time?”I asked her.
“I did…It was wonderful”she said smiling.
Every one of them turned and nodded in to her statement.
Everybody was relaxed...every set of eyes were happy and every single smile was …genuine!
Just what I wanted…which was why I couldn’t stop myself from smiling.
Mission Chidambaram was made a success!!
I mingle easily, socialize fast, talk a mile in a minute. But make no mistake, I’m not a person who wears my heart on my sleeve. Though... when I open my heart to a person I feel deep and it would take something fierce to coax a reaction from me. And these people take whatever I express, they never push for more.
With them I need not go out of my way in grandeur to prove my heart. They are special and they just simply knew that.
Yeah, to find friends like these people was a rich thing to have in life.
Figures …I’m a freaking billionaire by that scale!
I was telling the truth when Satz asked me how was my time in her home. I did have a wonderful time this weekend. Sometimes you just wallow in your worries so often and in the process get sucked into it. It took this trip for me to realize that I was slipping into my worries more than I intended to admit to myself. I’m a strong headed person, always have been but marriage has that in itself to break you and build you back up in a complimentary fashion good enough for your better half . Sometimes it would be demanded of you to make hard choices, and no amount of preaching about feminism and equality would help you from looking like a villain in your marriage if you happen to be a girl and were stubborn enough about your profession. It’s always this way and it might take an entire thousand years to break the beliefs of a community, to pursue them otherwise.
We tend to build a routine for ourselves and go about it every day. We lose our ability to perceive things in a different light because we get lost in the spectrum of the perceptions we built and conveniently forget that there’s an another side... an another dimension... an another light to the scenario. I was so absorbed into my spectrum that I missed the goings around me.
I felt that hard truth on our saturday evening.
We packed light for the weekend but it seemed to me that almost all of us dragged a big baggage in our mind.
I knew the entrance results weren’t good for Rubiya and her dad didn’t take it light. He always had a high expectation for her.
Saran had been inside her head for some time now, a week in the least. I had no idea and it made me feel terrible. I didn’t take time to even ask my friend what’s wrong.
Rose had been texting us all throughout the day, she wanted to be in two places at one time...yeah, not happening.
Sandy was a silent kind but never around us. He didn’t find it hard to open up to us which I was happy for, because he had a solid year to bear with us. That day though, he was extra silent. Kind of behaved awkward. It’s understandable to a level but being among us wasn’t new to him. I thought maybe with Satz parents around he felt cautious. But he conversed in ease with her brother and answered meticulously to her father’s list of questions.
And all through that he kept tapping on his phone.
By evening he holed himself up in the room showed to him. He was unapproachable and we started to worry by then.
He kept himself secluded and that was not the point of that trip.
“Did you go check up on him?”
I asked Satz. We were all sprawled around in awkward positions.
“Why is he inside the room and not with us?”I asked again, this time to nobody in particular. It was as if I blurted my thought.
“He looked off…”Saran said.
“Maybe he is feeling awkward...?”Kavi assumed aloud.
“Why don’t you send sathish to check on him, we can’t just barge inside his room anyway”baby supplied. Sathish was Satz’s brother and it seemed reasonable enough.
Satz pulled herself up and went out…only to come back a few moments later.
Saran asked Satz once she entered the room.
“He said that he is fine...”she sighed.
“Then why is he holed up there?”I asked.
“I asked Mama...he said that there was little misunderstanding with a friend but everything is okay now.”She recited it and it was clear not everything was right with him.
“Let’s do something that can indulge him...”baby suggested.
“What do you have in mind?”Satz asked her.
She thought about it.
Satz and Saran looked my way.
“I don’t know, I just feel bad for him…”I said
“Ah right...”Saran rolled her eyes.
“it’s not like that doggie...”I tried to put it in words but failed. Saran always finds a way to poke him, she just won’t give him an easy day. Nothing malicious but she believed that we spoiled him, maybe we did a little.
“I get it, I feel bad too...but what do we do now? Do you have cards in home?”Saran asked Satz.
“Why don’t we go to terrace for sometime?”Kavi got up saying.
We were all game with it. Anything to drag him out of that room at this point.
The next hour was spent in a riot of laughs and chasing around the terrace.
I can’t remember the last time I had this much fun and finally...finally!! Sandy eased up. He laughed and played around with us...even if momentary we were content to keep him out of that room and whatever issue he was typing away in that damned phone of his.
Out of nowhere his cell phone rang loud. And I winced at that, but when his face split into a smile on seeing the caller ID I became curious.
“hey buffalo...you are missing all the fun…”he bellowed into the phone.
AHH... here we go. Rose really did want to be in two places. We missed her sorely.
His eyes lifted to us a moment later and he turned to Satz.
“Recite the address...she is here and lost”he laughed. And we joined in, Rose was notorious to mislead people to their destinations but she never missed her spot so far.
This was an odd one and she would not hear the end of it from us. Sandy went to pick her up from two streets away and we all slumped on to the cement bench on the terrace. She had planned to be with us tonight and start to her cousin’s engagement tomorrow morning.
“Rose made it...”Satz said, joy obvious in her tone.
Yeah...she made it. Even for a brief time, she would be with us.
Our evening just took a turn for good…I felt good. I could pretend everything was right in my world and my friends won’t say me otherwise. They will nod at me and say ‘of course...what was amiss? ‘
I locked away the sounds of our laughter in my mind to be reviewed again...
I checked my watch…I wished this 60 minutes could prevail longer.
Because, this ... here... traveling with them…felt so good.
My watch read 7:05a.m. I gotta be there in ER by 8:00a.m sharp to switch shifts.
“Can we make it there by 8?”I asked Sandy.
“Probably if I can see the road I’d be able to drive a little faster...”he drawled.
He what? All this time he was driving in a blind spot?
“Uh...brother, will I be able to see my husband again?”Mama mocked.
“Maybe…!”he said, and many hands reached around his seat to knock his head.
“He just seem to lost his touch to drive in this trip...”Saran said...and we knew exactly what she was referring to.
Mama was the one to start her signature laugh and we didn’t stand a chance at being silent after that. It was giggles and snorts for few minutes after that.
When Rose made it to Satz home Saturday evening…uh wait a minute...! I meant when Sandy managed to drag that lost mouse home finally, she wasn’t happy to sit idle in the home.
All she had with us was that night and the next morning so we planned to visit the temple that evening.
We freshened up and with one member extra we took Satz’s mommy’s scooty with us.
The famous Natraj temple of Chidambaram city…that’s where we were headed. Growing up there, Satz was well knowledged about the ins and outs of the city and all shortcuts as well. Unlike Rose, she got us to the temple correctly. If we let Rose to guide us somewhere in her hometown there was a definite chance of us getting lost into wilderness close to the next state. Duh! And I swear… I’m not exaggerating, just merely stating facts.
The temples were always celebrated in our country, irrespective of the God, religion, practices and all that fuss wasn’t for nothing. They gained eyeballs and so much words of awe for a reason and Chidambaram temple was no less.
That was one monstrous looking temple carved rich with history and stood proud with sculpture. Elegance, finesse and mystery rolled into one. It was just...majestic to be precise.
I’m a Christian but I’m not really picky. Rubiya, a muslim...she wasn’t any different from me on that account. Even if we would not necessarily worship as such inside, that was a fine place to be admired. We had our friends with us and we were game!
That was some auspicious day...fortunately or unfortunately. You would know why I said unfortunate if you knew the whole evening.
With that thought, I started to cackle again...and when my friends knew what tipped me off, much to Rubiya’s horror they joined in. Rubiya was a little spooked about that evening events still.
So we arrived at the temple and all we could see was a big gathering of people, it was so massive. All I could make up was black heads all throughout the streets, as far as my sight went.
“How are we to go in and come out of this crowd?”I whisper yelled at Satz.
“Just stay together… It’s the car festival today, a famous occasion in and around here, we will be fine”
“And if we get lost?”I asked again...because I know nothing here and with this much people together I was pretty positive the mobile networks are more than jammed which means, my cell phone was a useless baggage simply put.
“Keep check on dress colors maybe...”Saran chuckled at me.
I looked down at me, well I was wearing black...perfect! there was no way anybody would get me with my dress, in fact nobody would get no one, we were all in pretty night shades, translate that, we were doomed with colors.
“Look its starting”Satz exclaimed as she dragged us along. We had our hands locked together and Sandy joined us after parking the car.
“Can we go inside the temple?”Rose asked.
There was not a chance in heaven for us to get inside that temple today, an another day maybe? When we weren’t in a potential danger of being killed in a stampede please?
The streets were jam packed, whewww... I used that word! I read that word on a book few days back and I was itching to use it somewhere…yayy…
Where was I? ermmm… yep jam packed! (I used it a second time...!! )
There was this images of God and Goddesses fashioned in a series of small lights, colorful and artful of course. I can’t quite imagine doing such by myself. And Satz pointed the temple car at the end of the street and said that it was a privilege to drag that and all those people would drag the temple car around and back to the start place.
A few moments passed, we were pushed, squeezed together and suffocated but managed to stay in a circle. Considering the crowd I would say that was a big feat we stayed together but that credit was short lived.
A few minutes passed and the pushing and pulling became vigorous and we were swayed, passed around in every which way, people stomped on our toes, women’s who wore fashion jewelry did a good job in picking threads from our clothes while brushing past us so harshly and it dawned pretty late to us why there was so much movement all at once.
I yelled at Satz, that’s the only way to be heard. The drums and trumpets were so loud and piercing the air.
“They are dragging the car to its place”she said.
“Oh where?”I asked.
More trumpet beats... I couldn’t catch what she was telling the first time. I enacted her that I didn’t catch her. She leaned and yelled again.
“Here ...it’s coming here...”
She said and turned around to watch the car move an inch a minute towards us.
Uh... she didn’t say what I heard...did she? I was skeptical. But then…
Did I hear her correct? I did... I bloody did!
Were we standing in the dead center. The car was supposed to be where we were...and where were we supposed to be? Crushed beneath its wooden wheels?
I’m twenty three... too early to grave…nah…nah...nahhh…
It was not necessary for me to drag the group, the people around did that for us.
Why, thank you gentlemen...!
I turned around to find a way and there was not a inch. I can pass through a thin loop basically but even I didn’t stand a chance with that crowd.
“Where did Sandy go?”Rubiya asked us.
Ermm... here we go!
I would have loved to say ‘take care’ to him before getting crushed beneath that behemoth wheel, but...nope! he had to go missing now.
And before we could look a second there was this speeding up of the music and I turned just in time to watch the temple car which was moving an inch a minute prior being dragged in momentum to run the span to its rightful place... yeah you guessed right, the place which we occupied.
The rest was all a chaos, people came on to us from all sides and we lost our footing completely.
The temple car had this big thick ropes attached to its wheel, which people where pulling with their full pace, pumped up with the tempo of the instruments they were in high energy. Where as we? Having ran around and playing catch all evening we were at out lowest energy and that doesn’t play out well for us.
This thick rope was a diameter of three to four inches easily and guess what??
The ever cute, miss baby face, that’s Rubiya by the way...she put one foot on either side of that rope and she was in no position to correct her footing, she was being maneuvered and having lost our hand hold we lost her to the crowd in a blink.
It was like this sea of people and like I said with the night shades...God screw our color preferences, we couldn’t see her anywhere.
We screamed her name to the wind to be carried away unheard...thanks to trumpets.
That was one hilarious moment, well when your bestie get pulled away into an awkward crowd it’s well...hilarious!
But Satz started to panic.
We all had our phones out and like I said, it was just an extra baggage, no network and we could not manage to even unlock our phones among that crowd...forget calling a friend.
We lost her. It dawned pretty hard when we couldn’t find her for a solid five minutes. She was gone...into thin air!
I just lost my bestie… she can’t get lost now, I had plans to chew her ears off with my birthday shopping plans.
I started to fumble with my phone warding off hands, ducking, swaying and being dragged all along.
Crowd be damned... where was that speed dial button when I needed it.?
I got dressed Monday morning for work. I was so exhausted with all the travel and the madness I engaged myself this last weekend.
I begged my parents to let me go and join my friends for just one night and I promised them that I’d be there on time for my cousin’s engagement on Sunday afternoon. They were reluctant but a few hours after my friends left I started to get gloomy and my parents gave in.
I reached Chidambaram by evening, I was going to show up on Satz doorstep and surprise the whole bunch but much to my dismay I lost my way and had to call Sandy to come fetch me. Later that evening we went to the temple and the biggest event of the day, we lost Rubiya in a mass crowd.
I chuckled at the memory while packing my bag and stuffing my purse, apron and stethoscope into it for the work.
We nearly panicked when we couldn’t find her for a solid five to seven minutes, there was no sign of her. Our phones were of no help, we didn’t stop trying.
By then, we were pushed to a corner and we managed to pull ourselves safely tucked in front of a store. The whole street was stocked with numerous stalls on both side and I was really grateful for a moment of free air.
We were still looking around and trying to get her on phone when I spotted Sandy.
I waved to him and he waved back. He made his way back to us and trailing behind him with big ‘deer in the headlight’ eyes was Rubiya.
Relief was instant but so was our laughter. She was terrified and the first thing she uttered was...
“Is this is what people say about getting lost in festivals?”
We laughed more at that bewildered statement of hers.
Apparently she lost her footing and was pushed deep into the crowd away from us.
With no signals and being tiny, her only bet was to find Sandy, for he easily towered over most of the crowd. Thus she made her way to him and held on.
That settled, we started to stroll down the street getting in and out of the stalls, sampling street food and shops for handmade crafts, sandals, handbags, key chains, balloons and what not!
Sandy kept to himself and opted to wait in the car all the while.
And finally when our soles started to hurt us, we were ready to call it quit for the day.
We made our way to where our ride was parked.
Satz and I to ride the scooty and the rest headed towards the car.
We stopped short when we found another vehicle parked in the spot we left her scooty pep.
First thought though, with this much crowd...these would be the easy place to get a big bounty and we weren’t so pumped up to take on a theft right now.
But Satz wanted to call her home first, and she was right to do so.
Figured... Satz brother took the extra set of keys from home, came here and took the bike to his tuition. He called her but couldn’t get hold of her so instead he called home and informed. His friend was suppose to pick him up but then his friend’s bike broke so he had to make do, it was a short way for a lad like him to come fetch the bike and seemed he did just that.
We had no option but to ride with others in the car.
We catched them in the nick of the time before they departed.
With all of us inside, it was a tight fit. Extremely though, we weren’t of model catalogue by any measure.
“Wait...my leg”Kavi screamed.
“It’s crammed in here”Saran moaned.
“I can’t even move my legs...”Satz said. Of course, she had legs that go on for a mile.
“And I can’t bloody drive... shut it all of you”Sandy groaned and so did the car.
It was moving in slow pace, practically moving like a snail.
Sandy moaned and groaned all the way but we were enjoying his torment all too much to bother. He loved his car, you know, boys and their toys!
He finally lost it when a bicycle rider over took him.
He muttered all the while, whining about the need to throw away the car after this ride, because apparently he believed we broke it for good. He was already mourning.
We were at a four way cross road and he, admist his mourning forgot the way. Satz couldn’t see the road and couldn’t direct and was giving him directions vaguely and we saw two buses coming at us, normally Sandy would have made his way smooth to the next end but with the car moving at this pace…ermm...uh huh!
The bus drivers had to slow down and they were blaring horns.
“Sandy…move it...”I nudged him.
“Can’t... my suspension is gone. You all are she-devils I swear...”she muttered.
And the horns won’t stop. We had to cover our ears with our palms.
But Sandy seemed resigned, we sailed through the buses in our own pace.
I heard him mutter,
“I’m not exceeding 10kmph...damn it...”
“Can’t you…”I started.
He muttered again, and started on his ramblings about his car, which was totally foreign for me.
My mom shouted at me that I’m gonna be late to work and I said my goodbyes and started to my bus point. I shook my memory away to get to work.
I wondered if they all reached Pondicherry by now, they were supposed to start today morning and reach here on time for duty.
I dialed Sandy... He answered on the second ring.
“Hey, you guys reached?”
“Umm...no, on the way”
I heard a hustle, clicks and then Saran was on line.
“Where did he go?”I asked.
“His friend just crossed us, he got down to see his friend”Saran said.
“Right then, I’ll wait in the parking lot for you guys ok?”
“Where is our fair draft ?”I asked.
“With Kavi... she finished the last touches.”she said.
“Did you confirm?”I asked.
I was put on hold then, Saran shook Kavi from her sleep to ask about the pendrive.
I heard Kavi mumbling about Sandy...sweat shirt...and some bits. But then, my balance failed me.
Now I gotta wait. By what I gathered, she must have finished the work over night in ER and when they picked her up then next morning she must have put it on Sandy, I remembered the sweat shirt he was carrying around on Saturday.
Well, good then.
I was on phone with Rose when Akshay crossed me, he knew my car and I knew his. I thrust the phone at Saran and hopped down because I saw him park after me just few foots away.
“Where are you going?”I asked him, making my way to him.
He rubbed his hands together, the mist still covered the streets pretty much.
“Got a family emergency, I started just thirty minutes ago.”
I didn’t have a comeback to that.
“Oh... is something serious?”I asked him tentatively.
“Ah...no, nothing like that”he waved it off, and then started to take my sweat shirt off me.
“Hey…hey...”I protested but he was done before that. He pulled my sweat shirt over his head and brushed the specks away.
“It’s cold dude, I forgot to dress warm before starting. You are going to college anyway, go to room and change”he shrugged.
I shook my head at him. But the chill was getting to me too, I had an extra set in my overnight bag, so I didn’t really wrestle him for the shirt.
I slapped him on his back, sent him on his way and went over to the trunk to pull the extra shirt on me before moving to the wheel.
“Who was that?”Saran asked.
“Akshay... he is on his way home”
I started the car and drove away. Everybody else were either asleep or was closing their eyes relaxing.
Saran had my teddy on her lap, stroking it almost absent mindedly.
“You changed ...”she commented, still looking outside the window.
And moments passed silently.
I wasn’t on my full mojo this weekend, I had some mishap with my friends and it had been eating my mind ever since.
I value my friends much but I do believe on certain boundaries and when people cross it, I tend to get irritated. I usually try to mask it. Even with these girls, sometimes, they did go overboard but somebody would sense it when my mood change to darken and would drift the topic away.
I’m not sensitive per se but I get mad now and then. And as always it would pass and everything would go back to the way it always was. A week away sounded good, and now that it’s over I really don’t regret making that choice to get away.
I tried hard to push it back and stay in the present and I was not gonna drift away to the mess then. The mishap had to wait till I reach into the middle of it again to get moody.
I asked Saran.
She told us about this fan fiction writing business of hers during the weekend. None of us even had a inkling about what she was talking but that it meant something to her I gathered as much.
“So how is it coming along?”I asked her, anything to distract me from the fact that we were close to our college, meaning facing the crisis.
“I’ve put a halt to it momentarily, with all this house surgency and all, I couldn’t find time and I don’t want it to do it half handedly, that’s my passion...”she replied.
I got her.
“It’s like... you know cricket for you”she qualified.
She got it too, cricket was my passion, even with all that was going on in my life I couldn’t find it in me to put that down. I have wondered, maybe I’d be better off if at all I pursued cricket.
It’s not that I don’t like medicine, it’s just that medicine has this way...to make you feel inadequate so often. It demands you stand on top of your game all the time. Honestly, that’s a little tiring, it’s like having your hands stained with blood even after repeated cleansing, everyone of us have blood on our hands and we always would.
“You shouldn’t…”I muttered,
“What?”she asked me.
“You shouldn’t put a halt to it, if it’s your passion you should continue doing it, doing something against all odds is the definition of passion”I emphasized.
She opened her mouth to say something but then fell silent. I left her to her thoughts, while my mind drifted wayward again.
Everything was going to change in a matter of few weeks and I was terrified. But then, I made my bed and I had to lie on it.
I thought about facing the department, submission, project and it was tiring me even before the day started. Seriously, I so wanted it to be done already.
I would learn later that I just traded off the shirt that has the project pen drive with my friend and my girls would fry me alive for that.
I drove towards our college immersed in my thoughts, unaware of the hectic hour we had ahead because apparently all this hustle bustle and early morning risky drive through the mist was for nothing if not for the submission and heaven knows we did our project on passing, borrowing laptops wherever we could and hence never saved a draft, all we had was the pen drive.
I drove past the college entrance and I didn’t have any clue even then.
I was happy, elated that my people understood me.
When Sandy stressed that I should pursue what I felt to be my passion, for what it’s worth, It made me happy.
It was always my lonely journey and I was afraid to let it out for the fear that people would ridicule me for wasting time with writing when I’d be better off reading medical journals and stuff.
I was skeptical to tell my friends about this guilty pleasure of mine, because I was sure dad and mom would frown upon me if at all they come to know about this, God forbid! I hope not. Dad would probably take a serious exception to it and disown me, and no I was not exaggerating. My dad would do just that, and he would believe he did right by doing so.
Fortunately or unfortunately, medicine/engineering/MBA/CA where the only career options here and anything else, pursuing anything different would get you labeled as a ‘disgrace’ of your family. Thanks to aunts and uncles, and etc etc extended families who love to gossip and chew out somebody else’s child, Indian parents took those relatives words to heart almost always which was a doom for us all.
I turned away to the window because my throat was closing up, literally. How sweet was it to get accepted for who you are! To have people who understood the way you are wired, to have a freedom to do whatever it was you wanted without being judged...!
Sandy was silent then, and a little later we arrived at our college. Satz phone blared before that and saved us the job to wake up everybody.
It was her boyfriend checking up on her, the protective sort you know.
Rose came up to us when he parked the car and we began to unload. Satz was talking on speaker right about then, multitasking, not a care about privacy though.
“Well... aren’t you all peachy today?”Rose quipped.
Well, we were a sight alright, rumpled and sleepy. But, it was time to report to duty so we had to forego bath. Attendance was of paramount importance when you are into internship program.
We were taking stock, slapping water to our face, shrugging on our aprons and things.
“I’m still sleepy...”Sangee groaned shooting daggers at me and Satz.
I admit, we kept her awake most of the night. She was a light sleeper and we both were in a talkative mode last night, we were whispering to each other but still, Sangee caught on it and couldn’t sleep. She was groggy and it was never good to face a groggy girl.
“Everybody know the drill?”Rubiya asked.
We were to submit our project in sayyy… five minutes. And we could not afford to mangle our story, though we did some patch ups and editing here and there to tally things, we couldn’t miss on sample numbers, areas of interest and parameters like stuff. If any of us blurt something different our HOD would latch on to it and drill us until we confessed to all the things that we made up in our project to make it look perfect.
Let’s just say, we lot aren’t big on research. We could do a shit load of work inside the wards but this community stuff was suffocating us. We enjoyed that we get to travel through villages for our research while ‘travel’ being the operative word here.
Now, I won’t say we did right but then, too much probing and nagging would wear you out eventually to a point where you would whip anything up to get it done and over with. We were pushed to that said ‘point’. And it’s not like they were going to give us anything special for breaking our necks in field on top of hospital work.
Anyways, we all muttered yes, nodded our heads when Kavi screamed.
“wait... what?”Rubiya asked her.
Kavi was jumping up and down shaking her head hysterically before she jumped at Sandy.
“Why did you change your shirt?”she demanded and then rounded up behind to search through his bag leaving a baffled Sandy behind. For one, he was groggy too, and she screaming gave us all a kick start.
“what are you searching?”Rose asked Kavi.
“oh no!”Rubiya murmured. Sangee looked at me and I shrugged, honestly?
“stop jumping and tell me what?”Sandy said.
“pen drive yaar...”Kavi said.
“what pen drive?”Sandy asked. Well, typical of him, he never concerned himself with deadlines, that was all on us. I was getting at it but I was stubbornly trying to deny the worst case scenario in my head.
“Oh my God”I groaned.
“I put the pen drive in your pocket when you dragged me out of ER on Saturday, I shoved it inside your pocket remember?”Kavi was talking a mile a minute.
Sandy looked puzzled and I knew he completely zoned out that little detail at that hour.
“You did?”he asked aghast, finally…finally catching on.
“I did… where the hell is that shirt? Please don’t tell me you left it in Satz home...”Kavi facepalmed herself.
Satz home would be a lot better option actually!
“No, Akshay whipped it off him while he crossed us on his way home”I supplied.
Sangee threw around a incredulous look. We heard the tires zooming in and out around us.
“He said, he was cold and....and I....”Sandy stammered.
“We have less than five minutes, and our fair draft is on road in our opposite direction? Is that what this is?”she asked.
I was already picturing the day going down the drain along with our timely completion. My sleepless brain wasn’t ready for such assault yet.
“I’ll be damned...”Sandy rubbed his forehead.
There was a sudden flurry of activity around us, shifts changing nurses rushed past us and we had no time. We were at a standstill.
“Where is the back up?”I heard a phone voice.
“Back up?”Satz spoke into her phone. I completely forgot that srini was on speaker still on call, by the looks of it, Satz forgot too.
“Yeah, back up...where is your back up? Get a five or ten minutes excuse and turn in your back up in the department. Why are you all making a big fuss over this?”
He asked casually over phone. We were standing in a wide circle by now.
“We can’t”I said.
“Why not?”he shot back.
I looked up at Satz, I knew what was coming next and I was not getting the brunt of his lecture, no...nah nah nah... not now.
She gave me puppy eyes before breaking to him the pathetic hippie way we finished our project, tagging on whomever’s laptop we could get our hands on, hence we couldn’t save the file, only worked on it and saved it to the drive.
I could totally visualize his unbelievable look, and could you say fault on anybody?
“Having a back up is a basic thing, next time around learn it to be safe”he bit out.
Our five minutes was up long ago, actually it’s not that big deal. All we got to do is get Akshay on phone and ask him to mail us the contents from an internet center on road, pretty simple. The catch though, he got to get off the highway and there won’t be an internet café open before ten thirty in the least. I’ve never resented the internet centers timing in my life so much like I did that moment...which means we have to stall for about two hours. I was not even ready to imagine how torturous that would be to stand and get it from our HOD.
“Maybe no other groups would have finished, we may get grace time”Rubiya suggested.
“But there was no telling when our peers would go all out and about to impress our faculty.”Rose replied.
She was right. At this juncture of the program, it was crucial and nobody would be stupid enough to mess with PSM department, clearly,we weren’t the smartest bunch.
Sangee shook her head at Rubiya and Sandy was already on phone to get Akshay.
My phone started to ring and I remembered I didn’t call my dad when I reached, my dad was this disciplined sort but also the protective papa bear. Really, I love him dearly but he was too much at times.
“Hello...appa”I said, and before I could apologize he spoke so fast.
“Are you alright? Were you in the spot?”he asked.
“Where was I?”I asked back.
“I just saw the flash news, the car and bus collision...are you okay?”
Our seniors and the nurses who just left were rushing back toward us and our phones started blaring one after the another.
I assured dad and kept the line down to take the call from our casuality. Our phone numbers were no more private numbers, it was on almost all department notice boards. They needed quick access to us they said.
One of our residents called out to us from the distance motioning us to him frantically.
We joined the herd and inside the ER though, every surface was filled.
“What the hell”Kavi barked.
Not shit! If I had to take over ER duty right about now, I’d probably bark worse words out.
There was a bus and car head on collision, luckily many escaped with paltry wounds while a handful was taken into immediate surgery.
Paltry though it was, the anxiety level of the patients was off the roof and every available hand was pulled on deck. Sutures, dressing, investigations all at once were going on and it was another day in hospital when we lived through pandemonium in its truest sense.
With the lack of sleep, this would be suicidal to us, Oh lordy!
On the brighter side though, we now had a viable reason to mend our delay, our HOD need not know we lost the draft, we could save ourselves his rant on us about being irresponsible, incapable and inadequate. Maybe we were a little off late being responsible of the drive but we were getting sick of those paper works.
We had case sheets thrust on us on every side and took up patients on the go, we knew it by ease, this was what it always was. You could never predict when life would throw you a curve ball. This was a huge one to be thrown in the morning but we got into our routine, the pen drive becoming a distant memory pretty quickly.
Sixty minutes before, we had no idea that we would lose our drive, that we would be met with a room full of people hysterical with shock, that we would manage to escape unscathed from today’s biggest disaster by a road accident.
We doctors get a high from saving lives, two months off our game we began to deteriorate, giving in to over thinking and letting things influence us. But then, back being there in that chaos, that’s who we were.
I couldn’t exactly say what did the trick to bring us back to game, was it the quality time we took off remembering ourselves how good it was to be together. Because We always had someone who had our backs all the while, one or the another. This weekend flashed that fact to us yet again.
… or maybe losing our saving card which sent us into action, which I must qualify was the first crisis we managed to have in last two months. Looking back throughout the way, we got into trouble and then we made our way back out of it. That was our story, almost always. That’s how you learnt medicine, you screw up,you make mistakes, you fail but then you bounce back, you go back the next day and try again...again...and again till you get it right.
…or maybe it was the real life scenario before us.
...or maybe… It’s just us. Being in crisis feeds our mojo perhaps!
We took off straight into it and it felt good.
I wasn’t sleepy anymore. When we were elbow deep into sorting out our patients, everything else ebbed out of my mind. Because I knew I got what it takes, we all got it and even if medicine wasn’t some of our choice of passion, we took great pride in our skill. We were proud, and we loved it.
Apparently it took desk works and paper hustle for us to appreciate that.
Saints be praised! I was never going back to paper work, if I can help it.
Later that day, when we were drained and spent, slopped over the cafeteria chairs, we had so much to talk about, to laugh at, and to reminisce.
“I want to try that ice cream.”Sangee said, pointing at a new flavor.
“Let’s shareee...”Rubiya jumped in. They dropped more than they ate, because that ice cream was passed around so much while we fought over it laughing and ditching each other.
And I realized, our weekend was a sneak peak into our whole journey. A mere spoonful out of the large bowl of goodie.
We had a lot more memories to carry on, and the completion we were racing after so hard for five and half years was not in the least appealing right then.
Because completion meant the end of our experience, it meant parting ways, it meant growing apart, it meant missing...
Our journey was a ride of a lifetime.
And no, it wasn’t that weekend I was referring to.
Our ride...it was one of its kind, personalized and precious...!