The Transformative Journey – Part 5


thetransformativejourney

<< Part 4 >>

Sheela in an attempt to lighten the surrounding started talking to the teenager. She asked him his name, where he came from, whether he had any siblings at home, whether he liked playing with balls, and other questions about him.

Although the boy had been administered sedatives, he was sober enough to understand these questions and respond to them with small answers. His story was that of thousands of young boys across the state and more so those hailing from the district of Idukki.

His poor parents, unable to afford food and clothing for him, had sold him off to one of the ‘ganja’ (cannabis) cultivators who operated illegally in the hills of Idukki. The supervisor of the plantations was notorious for his violent methods of getting all these ‘bonded laborers’ to work on the fields. The boy, Lalu, had somehow managed to escape from the clutches of the supervisor and the guards and had boarded the ill-fated bus. He was enjoying his first few hours of freedom dozing away in the bus when the accident occurred.

When Kesavan asked Lalu if he would want to go back to his parents, the boy answered in the negative. He didn’t want to go back to a place where he was not welcome. Kesavan then asked the boy whether he was interested in studying to which the boy said yes. He then told the boy that once he recovered from his injuries and was fit enough to travel, he would take him to Kozhikode and enroll him in the Govt School which he supervised there.

As the conversation went on, the ambulance finally reached the nearest Govt Hospital where Lalu was wheeled away with his stretcher for the doctors to have a look at him. Kesavan and Arjun waited in the lobby for the doctors to come out and tell them as to how bad Lalu’s injuries were. When they were waiting, Arjun suddenly grabbed Kesavan’s right hand, shook it- Kesavan Sir, I am Arjun, I am a software engineer and design mobile games for a living, he said.

Kesavan shook his hand and then went on to hug Arjun- Thank you son, thank you for all that you have done for me since last night, and more importantly thank you for bringing a smile to that young boy’s face.

I know that you have taken a big first step today and I sincerely hope that this step will be the start of a wonderful new journey for you.

Arjun smiled. Somehow he knew that the old school teacher’s words were prophetic.

————-

Three days, a journey on a rickety bus followed by a harrowing auto rickshaw ride from the bus stand to home, the first thing that Arjun did when he saw his mother was to hug her. While she was recovering from the shock of having hugged her son for the first time in almost twenty years, Arjun then went on to hug an astonished father as well who had come out to welcome him home.

Their son was finally back home again.

<< CONCLUDED >>

The Transformative Journey – Part 4


thetransformativejourney

<< Part 3 ~ Part 5 >>

Sheela then went on to narrate some of the injuries that she had seen at the accident site itself. While she was privy to injuries, casualties and death on a daily basis by virtue of her job as a nurse, she didn’t quite realize the mental trauma that was being caused to Arjun as a result of the conversation. While he didn’t actively participate in the conversation itself, he couldn’t help but overhear it and his head was filled with images of injured people, moaning in agony, blood everywhere. It was an extremely distressful experience for him.

To keep his mind occupied elsewhere and to release the tension, he took out his yellow smiley stress ball from his laptop bag and started squeezing it. This was a habit that had been suggested to him by his psychiatrist when he was first diagnosed with his mild form of OCD, and doing this had become the only coping mechanism which gave immediate results.

As Sheela and Kesavan continued to have their conversation and Arjun continued squeezing the ball, the teenager suddenly gained consciousness. In his half-conscious state, he turned around to Arjun who was sitting nearest to his head and gave a blank stare. He obviously didn’t know where he was and what had happened to him. The first thing he saw was the yellow smiley ball in Arjun’s hands and he feebly stretched out his left hand and asked Arjun for the same.

While Arjun hesitated touching the bleeding teenager and give him his only source of solace on this terrible day, something about the boy’s eyes and the delight in them at having seen the ball automatically made him part with the ball.

The boy took the ball, took it close to his face, all the while smiling away to glory. Kesavan who was watching all this with a big smile on his face, patted Arjun on the back. For the first time in his life, Arjun didn’t mind somebody else touching him without his permission.

Kesavan had seen enough of the world and had met more than his fair share of people in his long life to know that this was a big step that Arjun had taken, by giving the ball to the kid. From the first five minutes of his interaction with Arjun in the train, he had realized that here was somebody who didn’t like talking to people too much, let alone have any physical contact with them, even something as simple as a handshake. And for somebody like that to voluntarily part with his possession to an unknown stranger was a big improvement, and Kesavan mentally acknowledged that.

<< Part 3 ~ Part 5 >>

The Transformative Journey – Part 3


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<< Part 2 ~ Part 4 >>

After a wait of around an hour and a half, the Station Master announced that the ambulance to take Kesavan to the nearest hospital had arrived. By now Kesavan had recovered enough to walk on his own and was accompanied by Arjun into the ambulance.

Given his age and the weakness that he felt due to the recent epileptic fit Kesavan struggled to climb up the steps at the back of the ambulance. However, Arjun didn’t lift a finger to help him up.

Once the ambulance started on its journey, Kesavan started talking to Arjun. He first thanked him for all the assistance that he had provided so far and then started off talking about himself. Kesavan was a widower whose wife had died only last year after a brief period of suffering from stomach cancer. Both Kesavan and his wife had been primary school teachers in a Govt school in one of the hill stations near Kozhikode. He had been on his way to Thiruvananthapuram by train to attend a function of one of his old students, who had by now become a minister in the Kerala Govt.

Based on the simplicity in his words, his old khadi shirt and mundu, his worn-out travel bag and the old broken Nokia phone which Arjun had retrieved from the train, Arjun guessed that Kesavan was somebody who believed in living a simple life. And based on some of the old stories that the old man shared, Arjun understood that the old teacher was extremely worldly-wise with humility being his middle name. Kesavan was somebody who had led an extremely simple uncomplicated life so far and had been extremely happy while doing so. If anything, the only thing that the old man missed was the company of his wife of more than 40 odd years.

Around an hour later, the ambulance driver’s mobile phone rang which he answered after pulling over to a side of the road. After speaking on the phone for around a couple of minutes, the driver looked in through the small window separating him from Kesavan and Arjun and addressed Kesavan.

Sir, I just got a call from a friend of mine who also drives an ambulance. There has been a serious accident around 15 odd kms from here where two buses have had a head-on collision. More than quite a few people have been injured and around seven-eight people are in a critical condition.

My friend wanted to know if we could accommodate at least one small teenage boy who was losing blood fast and was critically injured and take him to the nearest hospital. I wanted to know if you would be Ok with that before I confirmed it to him.

Without batting an eyelid, Kesavan immediately asked the driver to call his friend up and inform him that they would be able to take the boy in their ambulance.

Half an hour later, the ambulance had two new passengers, the severely injured boy who was unconscious and had been put on a saline drip and a nurse, Sheela who was constantly monitoring his blood pressure and heartbeats. Once she had hooked the boy up to the ECG in the ambulance, she asked the driver to make haste to the nearest hospital which was around 45 kms away. While the distance itself was not too much, the fact that they were bang in the middle of hilly terrain in and around the Palakkad district and the pathetic condition of the ghat roads, meant that every minute was critical as far as the boy’s life was concerned.

<< Part 2 ~ Part 4 >>

The Transformative Journey – Part 2


thetransformativejourney

<< Part 1 ~ Part 3 >>

The next four days were going to be extremely stressful for Arjun. His manager had convinced him to attend an IT Seminar at Kakkanad, Kochi which was at least five hours away from Kozhikode where he stayed. The fact that he was the primary designer of the latest mobile game and only he knew the entire algorithm from start to finish and he was the best person to articulate the game, its concept, its design to the venture capitalists who were attending the IT Seminar meant that he had to make the trip.

While the company’s travel agent had managed to book him on a late night train from Kozhikode to Ernakulam in the First Class coach, Arjun’s carefully developed schedule and his daily routine would be upset at least for the next four days and this was extremely distressful to him. However, his manager called on a favor that he had done for Arjun four years ago when he retained his employment despite a mildly irritating incident with co-workers who were talking a little loudly in office, and this forced Arjun to agree to make the trip.

By around 9 PM, he was packed for the trip and started walking down to the Railway Station which was around 6 kms from where he stayed. He made it to the station in time and also managed to board the train successfully.

His co-passenger in the coupe was an elderly man who introduced himself as Kesavan. Despite his outstretched hand and genial smile, Arjun didn’t return the courtesy and just mumbled his name. Kesavan didn’t take offence to his behavior and wished him a good night and proceeded to lie down on his lower berth. Arjun then took his place on the upper berth and tried his best to make himself comfortable and go to sleep.

Despite his best attempts, he couldn’t sleep as he couldn’t adjust to the sounds and the motion of the moving train. In fact it was only when the train came to a complete stop sometime at around 2 AM that he managed to doze off. And even this small semblance of sleep was disturbed by the sound of someone persistently tapping on the side of the coupe.

He looked down at the lower berth and saw Kesavan spasming uncontrollably with his feet violently hitting the side of the coupe; he seemed to be having an epileptic fit. Arjun immediately jumped down from his upper berth, opened the door to the coupe and alerted the guard in the coach. The guard came running, and forced Kesavan’s fingers around the window grills. The subsequent pressure helped Kesavan’s seizure and spasms to stop and he fainted.

The guard then addressed Arjun- The train will soon stop at a small station. I will jump out and request the station master to keep the train there for at least five minutes. I need you to help this man here get out of the train and help him to the Station Master’s chambers. The Station Master will then have an ambulance come over and take him.

Saying so and without giving Arjun an opportunity to react, the guard rushed out of the coupe. In the meantime Kesavan was slowly coming to and Arjun then gave him some water to drink.

In another three odd minutes, the train rolled into a station and Arjun had no choice but to help Kesavan up. He grabbed the old man’s only bag as well, while slinging his own laptop bag on his back. He helped him out of the train and to the Station Master’s chambers where he helped him sit on a chair.

Arjun then ran back into the slowly moving train to resume his journey. It was then he noticed that Kesavan’s mobile phone had fallen down on the floor of the coupe, probably when he was having his seizures. It was one of the cheap Korean mobiles which had broken and switched off, probably from the impact of having fallen down.

Arjun seized the mobile, and jumped out of the moving train. By the time he ran back to the Station Master’s chamber and gave Kesavan his mobile, the train had started moving quite fast and there was no way that Arjun could get back on.

Figuring out that Arjun had missed his train in the process of retrieving his mobile phone, Kesavan thanked him and offered him a ride in the ambulance that the Station Master had called for to take him to the nearest hospital. Left with no choice, Arjun agreed. He also requested the Station Master to make arrangements for his luggage to be taken out of the train at the next station and kept in the cloak room so that he could collect it later.

As it is Arjun didn’t like changes in his routine, his life and had been extremely distressed at the thought of being forced to travel to Kochi on this official trip. And the happenings of the night had served to irk him further, what with him having to actually physically touch Kesavan, talk to him and help him out of the train to the Station Master’s room and all that. Little did he know that his ‘journey’ was just beginning.

<< Part 1 ~ Part 3 >>

The Transformative Journey – Part 1


thetransformativejourney

Disclaimer: The character of the main protagonist in this story is based on the main protagonist of a movie that I recently saw. Some of the other characters and incidents mentioned in the story are also based on other movies that I have seen over the years. The only intention behind doing so is that I found the character extremely interesting and wanted to explore what he would do in the situations that he finds himself in as part of the narrative.

——————–

Arjun heard the alarm of his table clock beeping at 4 AM. He waited till the fifth beep and sat up on his bed by the time it had beeped seven times. He turned around to the right side of his bed, put both his feet down such that they exactly landed into his bedroom slippers. He then turned to the bedside table where the clock was kept and switched off the alarm.

Taking seven carefully measured steps, he went into the bathroom and washed his face, brushed his teeth, relieved himself, all in the space of almost exactly twenty minutes, just like he did every day. He then changed into his exercise clothes, a tee shirt, shorts and cross-trainers with ankle length socks. He then made his way out of the house, briefly acknowledging the barely awake guard at the gate, and started jogging. After running for exactly 3 kms one way, he turned around, retraced his path and came back home to complete an exact 6 km run, just like every day.

Back home between 5 AM and 5.15 AM, he then went into the kitchen, picked up one papaya, two apples and 7 green grapes. Carefully peeling the papaya and the apples, he cut them up into inch sized cubes, put them in a bowl with the grapes, added a couple of dollops of honey and put the bowl in the refrigerator.

He then took a shower, dressed up in a light blue formal shirt, beige trousers, picked up his white cotton socks, his laptop bag and came downstairs. Keeping the socks and the bag near the shoe rack near the door, he sat down for breakfast. His father who was already at the table smiled and wished him – Good morning Arjun, how are things today?

Good morning, things are good, as always he replied, and glanced at his mother who was coming out of the kitchen with today’s breakfast, idlis. He ate two idlis in silence and then proceeded to eat the fruits that he had cut earlier, once again in complete silence. This was his daily breakfast.

And then between 6.45 AM and 7 AM, after having cursorily read the newspaper for the day, Arjun proceeded to walk to his office which was around 2 kms away. While there were at least two cars at home with chauffeurs, he wanted to avoid as much physical contact with anybody and if possible, also avoid talking to anybody at all and therefore walked to office every day.

—————-

Arjun’s parents had noticed these peculiarities in his behavior when he was around 4 yrs old. While everything else about him was normal and in fact his learning abilities were prodigious, the fact that he liked to keep himself really clean and spot-less, and his insistence of having things done in particular ways disturbed them a little. After consulting with various neurosurgeons and psychiatrists, their son was diagnosed with an extremely mild form of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder.

While OCD patients were extremely irritable and generally went into clinical depression due to their inability control their obsessiveness, the fact that Arjun was able to adjust to a very large extent to people around him, his immediate surroundings meant that his condition was not serious and did not need any medication. The only thing Arjun really disliked due to his condition was actual physical contact with other people or things that other people used, and he therefore was very particular about who and what he touched in his daily life. Apart from this weird personality quirk and the fact that he was not too communicative with others, everything else was normal about him.

However, as a precautionary measure, he visited his psychiatrist once a week for half an hour, just for the doctor to be sure that his condition was under control.

<< Part 2 >>