This Heart-Warming Short Story Of A Kolkata Bridge Collapse Survivor Will Make You Teary-Eyed
‘Wake up! Wake up! Wake up! It’s a brand new day!’- The alarm ringtone kept singing until I put it off. With a half eye open, i took a look at the time. It was 11:00 am sharp. Thursday was the day where I knew my mornings began late and so did college. I peeped to find Maa no where around and happily cuddled the pillow to sleep again. Later I felt drops of sweat trickling down my forehead. Soon the heat compelled me to wake up from sleep.
‘Otho! College jaben na naki? (Get up! won’t you go to college?) – Maa stood near the switch board. She knew what could get me out off the bed.
‘I don’t want to go today Maa, am sleepy! Fan ta chalao na please!’ (Switch on the fan please) – I took the pillow again and buried my face in it. Maa being stubborn had her tactics well practiced.
‘Shona don’t miss college now, you have exams on your way. Already these fests in college have been engaging you alot. Aar kaamai koro na (don’t make absents), please get up’- Maa had to sound excessively sweet to persuade me. But seeing no response of mine, she began tickling me! I hated this thing. I woke up instantly and sat upright. Finally I dragged myself to the bathroom and came out fresh in my purple checked shirt and blue jeans.
‘I hope you phone is charged and is recharged sufficiently’- Maa embarrassed me at the beginning of the day. I gave her fake smile and packed my bag. She pointed towards the prayer room for me to offer today’s prayer. I never left without praying, though. I finished chanting the sloka and came out to wear my shoes. I took a look at my watch it was 12:00 pm.
I was about to leave when Maa placed a 500 rupee note on my hand. I was surprised because the amount ws normally higher than what I got mostly. I knew there was something going on in her mind.
‘Accha, if it gets late take a taxi and avoid the metro crowd. Oh yes! don’t spend this money on food, I have given you your lunch box. Finally buy that, ki bole ota ke? (what do we call it?) SSD card! yah bring back the change left!’ – Maa winked. She was best at being adorable and innocent at the same time. I just hugged her without correcting the ‘SSD’ part. I waved her a goodbye and left my home. I checked my phone to see it was 12:15 pm. That was the last time I had a track of the time. Who knew my world would fall crumbling down. Maybe the very last time I saw Maa, hugged her and inhaled her essence of love. Unaware of the upcoming trauma I rushed down the stairs and hummed my favourite song. My apartment was a few metres away from Ganesh talkies. As usual I would walk down the narrow lanes and take an auto from the stand towards the Girish Park metro station. It was too hot and I kept dragging myself till I reached the Frank Ross Pharmacy to cross the road. I don’t know why I didn’t turn and walk down straight rather than crossing the road. While walking I noticed a few school children happily enjoying their ice creams while coming with their parents. Tired labourers taking their short nap exhausted after working under the sun. I was glad to see that unfinished project that is, the flyover above, gave shade and shelter to many workers. The flyover hung above our heads past many years and now all the residents around including us, were use to the chaos of the drilling and machinery works at night. The rusted iron rods caught my eyes but this significant afternoon something was bothering me other than those ‘red bars’. I diverted my mind from all this and called up Akansha. Akansha was one person who always cared alot about me after Maa. Also the favourite person of Maa as she kept me away from all ‘bad things’. No need to mention she was my second lifeline.
‘Hi! where are you?’ – My voice was almost shaking. She understood something was wrong. I saw two autos coming from the other side of the main road from a distance.
‘Am about to leave my place! Are you okay Shekhar? Why is your voice sounding weird?’- Her voice comforted my heartbeats and I shut my eyes to imagine her image in front.
‘I am fine Akansha, don’t worry just wanted to know your present location to kidnap you’- I sounded better now. She laughed and asked to me cut it short. She hated me, using the cellphone while walking on the road. My area was the busiest it was known to all. I obeyed to her and hung up. I stood just below the flyover to cross but took few steps back as a white scorpio and a taxi behind were approaching. I looked in front to see those two autos had paused as it reached the crossing point. A father and mother were in the middle of the main road with their child, the child’s hand gripped tightly by his father. His mother was a bit ahead of the two. A middle aged woman, her head covered with dupatta was also crossing with me. I stood somewhere in the middle of two yellow taxi hich came at a hault. In a fraction of seconds I could hear something concrete crumbling even amidst the noisy area. Though I didn’t pay attention to it, my heart raced fast and wanted to be free from the bad vibes.
Finally the worst nightmare came alive!
‘Bhaag waha se bhaag!!’ – Two boys shouted and ran for their lives. I lifted my head up for the last time and the ‘world’ came crashing down on me. My eyes lost sight of everything I could only feel pain down my body. Blood oozing out profusely! It was warm and thick, my shirt was soaked in it completely. I laid helpless under the debris senseless, unknown of what really happened. I had no clue of the time and of the span of time I’ll be alive. Tears even didn’t flow down my eyes as pain kept flowing in ‘red’. Around few hours I gained back my sense by God’s grace. I couldn’t move at all fearing something concrete may pass through my body. Fear gripped me each second, neither could I help myself nor anyone around.
With alot of guts I tried to turn, my arm pained badly. The most horrific scene came in front of my eyes again. A taxi driver, that’s what his uniform looked like merely, had his head sticking out of that particular portion of the metal debris. Thankfully he was alive just had his legs stuck. But that was painful no doubt. I couldn’t call out for help. I just witnessed bad images one after the other, I feared to see my lower portion of the body hence avoided it. Air was insufficient to breathe in, I gasped for air.
Luckily that particular white scorpio saved my life I shall say, as the entire metal portion fell over its roof. Or else it was a goodbye from life forever. I tried to move to a side where people were gathering around to help the taxi driver. I threw my wallet and stretched my injured hand outside. I heard faint voices which seeped into my ear but made no sense to me. I took the risk of getting hold of my phone, atleast some message or hint could be conveyed to a contact. My phone began vibrating in that very moment. I was loosing my consciousness but still struggled to take it out.
‘Maa’ the name I saw flashing on my phone, I began panicking and tears turned into howling. I touched the green button with my nose.
‘Shonaa kothay tui? Shona kotha bol please!(Where are you? Say something please)’ – Maa begged for a reply. I heard her voice yet couldn’t speak. That was my end maybe. Her images came flashing vaguely. I separated my lips finally to utter my pain.
‘I’m stuck, I’m in pain. Maa I’m dying! Baachao ( Save me).’- These words were all that she heard, the phone got disconnected. I howled in pain everything began to fall in darkness again. People began digging and drilling those loud noises were hurting my eardrums.
I lost my senses soon.
Not being able to estimate the time span, I woke to some vibrations.
‘Akansha’ flashed the name on the phone which lay beside my face on the ground. I couldn’t move but tried to touch it again with the help of my nose. But the phone fell silent!
Battery got drained that gave an indication of the hours I spent beneath the debris and was still battling for live.
In a few minutes I saw a hand touching mine, I panicked again. But this was help sent in by God.
‘Ekhane taratari! Aaro jonke daako (Here, fast! call more people)’- A man shouted as he peeped under the concrete to have a look at me. Blood may have drained out from my body as nothing felt alive within my body just the heart which could beat once or twice in a second. It took maybe another one hour to cut out the metal and take me out from there. My wallet was stamped badly, I begged for water. I had no clue of my phone. It ached when I was almost dragged out from a small space. All pain now felt numb to my body. I lay like lifeless body on the stretcher brought in for me. Vague images of army officers and locals kept shouting to give way to them. I lost all hope of getting a second life. I still wanted to know abou that taxi driver but couldn’t speak. Water was given over my head and to me for drinking. My body felt cold!
I hated heat but battled it out somehow and came out in the evening when the sun was on the horixon partly.
They put me into the ambulance and the siren began ringing aloud. This time my eyes shut atlast without me myself being aware of it.
‘Shekhar! Shekar!’ – A male voice tried to wake me up. It was the doctor in the hospital. I was unable to open my eyes yet could hear everything and respond a bit.
Maa and Baba had arrived as it seemed. My college friends and Akansha kept praying. I turned a deaf ear to the cries. I weeped within.
The next morning, 1.04.16, Friday.
My eyes opened to the bright light and finally i could accept that life was gifted to me again. God saved me from the most dreadful nightmare. I still had to overcome all the injuries and a fracture in the arm. I saw Maa and gave her a big smile.
‘Ota SSD card noye, SD card bole’ ( That’s not SSd card, it’s a SD card) – I whispered in her ear softly.
‘Jai hok! Shona amar sob thik ache akhon!(Everything is fine now) We are all here’- Maa tried hard to hide her tears but couldn’t she placed a kiss on my head and held my hand tight.
Akansha was in the hospital all night with me as Maa informed. Akansha was filled with emotions and hence was quite.
‘I love you! I can’t thank God enough for this’- She placed her face in my palm and kissed it. I myself had tears again unable to convey what I felt, could only say
‘I love you too! Ami fere eshechi’ (I have come back)- I said and rested against her head.
I’m still recovering and it’s all passing by slowly. I won’t blame anyone for this incident as God wil take this in His hands himself and implicit the punishment. I’ll just look forward to a better tomorrow in my city, Kolkata. Silent prayers for those who couldn’t make it.
Life is just so unpredictable, with one flyover our worlds got trapped ‘Under the debris of Negligence’.
Wishes to capture every element of the city in her photography. Dreams to launch her book at Apeejay House.