I spent the better half of today thinking of what to write about…some more lovely word pictures about this heart-warming little town which has adopted me. Or a blithe post about the dogs and their daily antics—they have been performing the same antics for more than six years, but I feel special , just to be able to see them in action. Thought of writing about my legion list of WIPs ( works-in-progress in internet knitting lingo) and felt exhausted just trying to list all of them, leave alone take pictures of them.
And then, I found a snippet of an earlier post being shared by a young friend. When you read your own writing, it can either make you cringe or it can make you feel crazy tall… this shared snippet was a heartfelt bit of my life which had the effect of swinging my (till now) idle mind to the true North. I know that I need to write down this journey. Bear with me, my dear readers, for this can be a long haul. But I promise you, it will be an interesting one!
This journey started without any notice, planning or scheduling. It was that time of my life when the daughters were emerging out of school and childhood; I was immersed in a busy and satisfying career with a National Public Health program, and was enjoying financial stability, professional success and personal feel-good times. A woman in her mid forties, with good health and an even better figure, blessed with wit and courage, surrounded by great friends, family and colleagues…that was me, in Lucknow, in 2005.
One fine summer morning, I set off to visit a neighboring district with my young and likeable driver in a sturdy Mahindra Bolero. I can recall the quiet morning sounds as we drove out of the city, through the traffic of school buses, rickshaws and cars.
My next recollection?! Pulling myself out of a dark and quiet cocoon onto a stage of bright lights and concerned faces staring at me; Realizing that I was incapable of movement and speech; Hearing my labored rasping breathing; Feeling every variety of pain inside me—dull discomfort of a nasal tube, pain of broken bones and tissues, sharp severe pain while attempting to move or breathe; And all those faces staring at me with anxiety, fear, surprise and clinical acumen.
Slowly, through phases of darkness and light, the faces got recognition and names, my questions got answered and things fell into place. There had been an accident. A head-on collision with a bus, while the driver was overtaking a truck on a narrow district road, had resulted in instant death for the driver. His body and the steering wheel had crushed me into a corner of the mangled vehicle. I had been extricated from the crushed steel mass, rushed to the district hospital and, with the help of 79 separate miracles, had finally regained consciousness after two days.
This was just the beginning of the miracle parade which was rolled out for me. I had a smashed face, smashed ribs, smashed internal organs , internal bleeding and external wounds. Family, friends and colleagues rallied around me and the girls in every possible way. Someday soon, I will write down the details of all those 79 plus 802 miracles which sustained and supported me. That book will become an epic manuscript about the essential goodness and magical ways of the World. Right now, I will just share the journey.
After 48 stitches on the face, 18 bottles of blood transfused into the veins, 4 weeks of only fluids and coconut water intake, 6 weeks of lying in a quiet hospital room with excellent medical care, weeks and months of steam inhalations, physiotherapy, deep breathing, positive affirmations and around-the-clock loving care and attention by my daughters, siblings and others, I was grateful that I had been given a second chance to live.
As you can see in this picture with my surgeon brother, who has been majorly responsible for my recovery, this new life came with its own issues. A face full of fresh, thick scars and marks—the right side paralyzed and numb and senseless. I had a crooked smile, a drooping eye and hollows instead of cheeks. People would recoil in fear/shock when I would hobble into a shop or movie hall. I stopped wearing my spectacles so that I couldn’t see my gruesome face while brushing my teeth every morning. My lop sided grimace of a smile would evoke pity instead of pleasure, and it took months to get my right hand back for writing, eating or doing anything else. I had also lost chunks of my memory. Instead of trying to retrieve and hold on to the memory bits exiting my brain, I chose to just let them go and be content with what I could remember and focus on living in the present moment.
This new life also came with its own lessons. I learnt that my large hearted family and friend circle saw through the scars and disfigurements to see my battle. I learnt that people loved me, not my looks or curves or clothes or hair. They still loved to hear me talk, they still laughed at my whacky takes on life, they still wanted to spend time with me and they still introduced me to their friends with pride and joy. I learnt that I was a lot more than what I thought of myself, the result of that constant conditioning of social norms, advertisements and environment which makes us believe that we are not good enough. And, one of the toughest lessons—there was more to me than my medical profession…Much more, in fact! I learnt that I had a way of handling people, of making team-work happen, of being a facilitator/coordinator/leader.
Seven years of this new life have passed, and this journey continues to be a memorable one. It took me a long time to accept the realities of this life. For years, I was reluctant to be photographed, especially when I couldn’t believe that I looked so different from what I felt. That crooked face and that grimace of a smile couldn’t be me! Now, I think I am the only person who can see the scars. People look at me with surprise when I point them out… they hadn’t noticed the marks! Once acceptance set in, it brought the light of wisdom into every part of my life.
I do not color my hair, or spend a small fortune on miracle creams. I wear clothes which look good on me and which wear well. Fashion trends don’t affect me since I still feel blessed to be able to walk around in my treasured silk saris and my equally treasured jeans and shirts. My concern to look good for others has vanished—I am just glad that I can see people and I can talk to them..And people seem glad that they still have me in their lives.
Finally, one of best consequences of this journey….. the forties are that stage in life when you revel in your good health, looks and zest for life. One of the best compliments for a forty something man/woman can be “you don’t look like a father/mother of a young adult”! It makes women cling to their youthful looks and styling…it makes men haunt gyms and hold in their tummies…it makes us want to remain young and sexy and stylish forever…and there are enough seductive and promising avenues waiting to be explored to find the elixir of youth. Before the smashing crash, I was very proud of my firm figure, youthful looks and the spring in my step. Watching two lovely daughters transform into two lovely women with fresh faces, sparkling eyes and svelte bodies which looked stunning in anything, and at anytime…it would have been enough to make me compete with them, for compliments, for traces of youth, for attention. Many friends are in that space, and I am not judging or belittling their choices to keep looking young and gorgeous, at considerable expense.
I am just glad, really glad, that this was all taken out of my life. I have been able to truly revel in the joy of watching my lovely girls get on centre stage, receive compliments and remarks about their looks, their presence and their grace, and continue to remain relevant as myself. By being able to accept the grey hair, the wrinkles and scars, the other signs of age marching in, I find that I have the strength and serenity to be me, a woman in her fifties..a woman who has lived life with her choices which seemed relevant and appropriate at any given time, a woman who has tasted the dizzy ups of success and joy, a person who has dived into the deep blues of challenges and setbacks and finally, a human being who continues to be relevant in the lives of her loved ones, of her readers, and in the lives of people who cross her path.