An accident, a hospital and my 24th birthday
It’s the evening of 17th November 2015. My mom, sister and I are standing on our Dehradun terrace talking and laughing at something rather small and silly. Soon my sister and I decide to head to the market to buy a cake, while our mother goes to visit the priest in the temple across the road, to ask for an auspicious time for the puja tomorrow morning. 18th November is my birthday; cake and puja are traditions.
Half an hour later, I get a call from my father. In a stressed tone, which is uncharacteristic of my father’s voice, he says, “Mumma met with an accident. Come to the hospital”. My sister and I rush, with our worst fears running through our minds.
When we get to the hospital we see that mumma is in terrible pain, semi-conscious and crying. The Doctor informs us that she has fractured her leg and needs to be taken to a bigger, more well-equipped hospital for immediate treatment. I call up several ambulance companies to get an ambulance as quickly as possible. One arrives 20 minutes later, we gently lift mumma into it, and get in ourselves too.
At 2:30am, sitting by my mother’s side I realise it’s already past 12. I check my phone; the battery had died. My sister looked at me and whispered, “happy birthday”.
I spent the birthday taking care of mumma, meeting doctors, shifting hospitals, standing in long queues to get blood from the blood bank, running around to get the reports, answering panic calls from people who love my mother, not being able to attend calls from people who were calling to wish me, and not replying to most of the birthday texts.
Quite an unfortunate way to spend one’s birthday, some might think. As I did too, in the beginning. But over the course of the day, and the weeks following mumma’s operation, I sensed a shift in my perspective. I started to feel more and more grateful.
Somehow, somewhere, while spending all my time sitting in the hospital corridor, I learnt how imperative it is to be thankful amidst tragedy.
The great African-American poet Maya Angelou referred to it as keeping a look out for the “Rainbow in the clouds.” There was, of course, much insensitivity, pain, confusion and unnecessary delay while ensuring mumma received the best treatment but I am grateful for all the things that went right. I’m grateful for the neighbour who recognised mumma at the accident spot and called father to tell what had happened; for the ambulance guy who did not keep the siren on continuously, as it scared mumma even more; to the nurse who got mumma a pillow to keep under her leg; to the guy in the first hospital who rushed to get us a bottle of water despite having a patient to cater to; to an old classmate who was one of the nurses in that hospital, who recommended shifting mumma to a better one.
I’m grateful to the other hospital and the chirpy staff there; the Doctor who, in this day and age, charges a fee of mere Rs. 30 to see a patient; the patients who said words of encouragement to mumma and us; and the friends and relatives who showed up.
I’m grateful for having got the chance to take care of my mother, and in little ways, give back some of what she has given us over all these years. I’m grateful to my sister for managing the entire house, her job and other errands all by herself. I’m grateful to my father for laughing often to lighten the mood in the hospital room, which was heavy with medicine smell and pain.
And most of all, I am grateful that it was an accident, which did not make our worst fears come true; it only fractured mumma’s leg. Of all the things that have happened since 17th November 2015, my birthday is the last that comes to my mind. Instead, gratitude for every moment of calm, comfort and joy during that trying time floods my heart and reminds me to stop and say “Thank you” often in crisis.