5th March 2008, 4 AM
My biological clock woke me up, surprising me with its promptness. Earnest efforts to forgo the ‘bio-alarm’ and drift-back to sleep thwarted, I had no other option but to get back to the laptop. It was the big day. Sindhya Chechi (Senior at college, almost-real-life sis, confidante, best-friend) and I were doing a Paper Presentation at TKM College of Engineering, Kollam. Conjura ’09 had an assured prize money of Rs 8,000/-. Bankrupt that I was, I jumped at the chance, further enthralled by the possiblity of a trip with my dearest sis!
It’s hard to get me away from the computer screen, a complaint lodged by parents and friends alike. Modifying our presentation for the umpteenth time, the sidebar clock of Windows Vista reminded me that I just had an hour left to get ready, pack-up, reach Thampanoor and catch the 7.00 Kollam Train. Ten minutes and bingo – I’d brushed, bathed and shaved. I took another two minutes to gobble up four odd dosas and hitched a ride in Dad’s bike to Sreekariyam – the nearest junction.
Another five minutes and Dad sped me up to Sreekariyam. There was a fast passenger, all set and revving up to leave. I asked dad to stop then and there. Dad didn’t. Or rather, he couldn’t. He had applied the brakes, but the bike refused to stop. It decelerated, yes. But the rate was far from what one would expect from standard Bajaj 4S champion stuff (which is too low by industry standards, again!). Out of the blue, an auto appeared on our path and dad drove the bike straight into it.
No, we didn’t collide into the auto. The bike screeched to a halt way before we reached it, as dad did some superhuman effort to make that happen. In all my hurry to get into the bus, I jumped out somewhere mid-way from the slowing-down bike in a bid to run behind the moving bus. Partly from the velocity of the moving bike, partly from the braking action of the bike, partly from the weight of the laptop and my bag, I lost balance and fell squarely onto the road- my body skidding away, balancing myself on both arms.
One quick look and I noticed the grotesque injuries on both palms of my alms. I’d also lost a lot of skin near my elbow. Interestingly, nothing at all happened to dad, who bore a ‘Didn’t-I-tell-you-not-to-go’ look which genuinely pissed me off. Dad took me to our family doctor who lived nearby, but unfortunately (or fortunately) he hadn’t arrived. Dejected, I took out my cellphone to call up Sindhya chechi to inform her that I won’t be coming, only to stare wide eyed into my mobile. My cellphone display got shattered to smithereens in the accident!! The poor ol’ Nokia 3110 was in my shirt-pocket as I fell and the display hit the tar road. With the weight of my body acting upon it, the screen too got shattered.
Before dad could notice the damage, I said something which I think was among the best decisions of my life.
“Dad, I’m going to TKM, anyhow.”
The presentation was something that both of us- Sindhya chechi and I, spent quite a lot of time to brainstorm and develop. It was no easy job. We both felt that ours was a technology that would metamorphose the world! We had to make sure it’s seen and heard everywhere!
Realizing that my dad’s temper was usually succeeded by a blitzkreig of expletives, I’d almost closed my ears. Surprisingly, dad went pensive for sometime and nodded his head. I couldn’t believe it! Before dad could change his mind, I rushed to the bus stop and boarded a bus to Thampanoor. Both palms of my hands and the wound near my elbow were bleeding. My trousers also got torn near the waist due to the impact of the accident. Trickles of blood oozed through both my arms. Unmindful of the pain, I borrowed a guy’s phone and told Sindhya chechi that I’d be late. It was 6.55 already, and there was absolutely no way that I would reach the station on time. I didn’t mention the reason, though. I knew she’d say a flat no if I said I just had an accident!
The benelovent bus driver depressed the accelerator only momentarily during the fifteen minute journey. Lo and behold, I reached Thampanoor by 7.05 in a span of just ten minutes. Washing my hands at a hotel wash, I walked to the railway station. My phone rang to the ‘Saathiya’ tune. Sindhya Chechi‘s ringtone. And, I could still make and receive calls – the phone wasn’t fully dead! The situ wasn’t as bad as it then seemed.
Chechi announced that she’d be near the sort-of temple near the station. I walked up there. I accidentally told her about the accident on phone… damn it! When we met and as she saw the blood oozing from my palms, her cute smile morphed into a teary-eyed stare. I couldn’t bear that sight! As expected, chechi began protesting – fully apprehensive of the trip. Chechi’s mom, who got to know of the news from her daughter, also warned us not to go. But I stuck by our decision. Emboldened by my resolve, chechi too followed suit. We’d missed the train, which was crowded anyway. So we proceded to the bus stand and caught a fast passenger to Kollam.
The journey to Kollam was an extremely pleasant one. With chechi by my side, and her comforting words for my support, I felt no pain, literally. Blood hadn’t clotted, and still oozed bit-by-bit from my hands. Meanwhile, calls started coming into my broken handset. Mom, who didn’t get a picture of the accident almost cried. Sindhya chechi’s mom was in the verge of tears, subtly chiding our decision to go and providing me with a host of handy, useful wound-tips. I handed over the laptop to Sindhya chechi, who edited the presentation to add a few finishing touches.
We got out at Chinnakkada, Kollam and started fishing for a good hospital to dress my wounds. Someone suggested a St. Mary’s Hospital that was nearby. It didn’t take much time to locate the tiny but clean hospital. Both of us walked into the casuality. No sooner did the pleasant lady doc see me, she summoned a nurse who seated me by the couch and dressed me up. I also got a tetanus shot. Meanwhile, the doc was asking Sindhya chechi about the accident and stuff while she was clarifying about the exact location of TKM and the buses that would take one to the place.
That was when the doc asked that question.
“ഇയാള് തന്റെ ആരാന്നാ പറഞ്ഞേ?” (What’s your relation to this guy?”)
Without any qualms or second thoughts, chechi replied:
“എന്റെ സഹോദരന് ആണ്.” (He’s my brother)
For a moment, the gaffe didn’t strike her. Chechi was my senior at college, and not my real life sister! (Although I badly wish she was!)
Before she could clarify, the doc asked again:
“ഇളയതാണല്ലേ?” (Younger brother, eh?)
“അതേ. എന്റെ അനിയനാ.” (Exactly, he’s my younger bro!)
She didn’t bother to change our ‘relation’. Thus, the doc officially proclaimed us brother and sister!! It took quite some effort from our side, not to let out that smile! Even the lady who gave the medicines didn’t spare the ‘sister’ remark. And we didn’t want to change that! Both of us were too happy at having received official-recognition… Lol!
Anyways, we crossed the road and boarded a private bus which took us to TKM in maybe fifteen minutes’ time. Meanwhile, all the passengers kept staring at me and my hands. They’d stared all through the Kollam journey too, but I was too wary to bother. But this time, I’d both my palms in bandages – that too, similar looking ones! Since I was wearing a full sleeve shirt many couldn’t see the wound at the elbow. Anyway, I explained a simpler version of my complicated accident to all those inquisitive travelers. I just said that I fell from a moving bus! 😛 And that’s what I’ve been telling to most of the people ever since!! 😀
TKM looked more like an over-sized mosque rather than a top engineering college of the state. There were huge hoardings of Conjura erected all along. Flex boards of Dr. A.P.J. Abdul Kalam, who’d inaugurated the conjura logo the previous week, abounded. Too much internal publicity, if you ask me! 😛 Anyways, we had to chip in 150 bucks each for registration. It was almost time, and after a quick fresh up we went to the hall, waiting for the presentation to start. To our utter dismay, there was this dude from CET – an ace presenter with a tongue and topic to match. He was sure to win! We didn’t lose hope and decided that we’ll put our best foot forward.
Once, the CET guy had concluded, Sindhya chechi tried asking a question, but was badly snubbed by a judge who categorically ruled that participants couldn’t ask questions!! 😐 Duh! We waited for two more participants to conclude and did our presentation. It was okay. Sindhya chechi did her part, followed by mine. Oddly enough, we noticed a queer expression on the judges’ faces. This female judge started laughing LOL style, when I mentioned a very valid point. Now, I got very VERY pissed!! With all that and more, we overstepped our time by some 15 seconds. Then came the Q&A part. We did answer fairly, but unsatisfactorily. Having done spectacularly successful presentations in the past, both of us were thoroughly dissappointed. I’d spent over five hundred bucks from my personal funds, badly injured myself in an accident, and still we spent all our energy to come to a far-flung college by bus with the sole aim of crowning the first place. And we weren’t even close to winning! All the sleepless nights and eye-strained research gone awry… bah!
It took a gargantuan effort from Sindhya chechi’s part to bring me back to my normal self. The pep talk proved good and we drowned our sorrows over cups of tea at the TKM canteen. We knew we didn’t stand a chance, but still thought we’d go and get the participation certificates at least. The CET guy had won hands-down, and as expected, we didn’t figure in the top three. However, to our surprise, as per the points tally, we were the second! But we lost out just because we’d exceded the time.
I was jack’s extreme sense of dissappointment.
Again, Sindhya chechi’s pep talk! Seriously, within minutes, I was smiling again – cracking dumb jokes. Hitching another bus to chinnakkada, we walked to the railway station in order to catch a train home. As we walked, a cripple sat somewhere on the footpath. He was the quintessential begger, he didn’t have palms on both his arms. Judging by our ‘standard’ he raised his voice in entreaty…
Then his eyes fell on my injured and bandaged palms. He quipped:
“രണ്ട് കൈയ്യും തല്ലി ഒടിച്ചല്ലേ?” (They broke up both your hands, didn’t they?”)
Sindhya chechi didn’t stop laughing for over ten minutes. After five minutes or so, I too gave in. The guy had some sense of humour, yes!
After a long walk, we reached the railway station, talking about God-knows-what. I really enjoyed the walk. Walking-the-talk is great! I opened up a lot, laughed at the arbit jokes we cracked, emphathized with chechi’s fears and enjoyed the whole experience. Since all trains were full and our dwindling finances didn’t permit extra expenditure, we diverted to the bus stop next to the railway station. A Fast Passenger stopped within five minutes and we got inside.
The return journey was the best part of the trip. We talked, talked and talked like never before!! Both of us were chatterboxes with similar interests and schools of thought. Either chechi would be talking or I would be blabbering. We didn’t have time for a pause. Even though I felt sleepy due to the exhausting walk, chechi’s words shoved it off. We didn’t notice the clocks tick. Before we knew it, we had reached Trivandrum! Once we touched down, we started another inventive game. Either of us would mention the name of a celebrity and the other person had to mention what he/she thought about that person in a word or two (or three). It was very funny and very surprising because, 99% of our opinions matched!! Wow! 🙂
We de-boarded from the bus at Thampanoor station. It was just 3.45. I didn’t have the key to my house, so chechi invited me to hers. Chechi’s mom, who’s more like my real mom, was like 😮 at my situ. I was immediately ushered in, fed food at gunpoint. She forcefully cleaned the piles of dust that had accumulated on my palms with cotton and gave me trillions of practical tips that would expedite the healing process (thanks to them, my wounds healed within just a week!) It was almost 5 when I left the place. Chechi dropped me at dad’s office in her car, and as I bade her good bye, I could almost feel a tear in my eye.
Only if I had a real sis like her! 🙁
God, don’t make me an only-son in my next birth… Puh leese!!
The post-accident look! 😛 (On Neethu‘s request! 😀 )