Wednesday morning and it’s almost time for Ishaan to leave for school. Dad is out for his regular morning spin in the car and I open the front door to check if he’s back. Not yet.
Just as I’m turning away, an unfamiliar car draws up in front of our gate. I watch as my Dad alights and in the time it takes him to get out of the car and walk the few steps to our gate, the uneasiness that’s risen inside me, boils over into full-fledged panic. Instantly, i’m on auto-pilot and a million thoughts are racing around my head, buzzing like so many bees, drowning out every rational thought. Why is Dad in some strange car? He’s Ok (this registers automatically as I see him walk up to the gate). What the hell is he doing in some strange car? Thank God he seems Ok. What’s happened? Where’s the car? What’s happened? Thank God he’s Ok! You get the picture. I must confess, ever since Dad has started driving, I’ve been plagued by nightmares of just such scenarios (strange people driving up to tell us that there’s been an accident, that something has gone horribly wrong…), mostly ‘coz his reflexes are now hampered by age and Parkinson’s and consequently his control tenuous. The only reason I haven’t said anything so far or tried to stop him is ‘coz I didn’t want him to lose the little confidence he seemed to be regaining.
The driver of the strange car, an Angel by the name Raghunandan, makes his way over, as my Dad, obviously in shock, tries to explain. “It’s the dogs”, he says, “they’re a bloody nuisance! No need to worry, nothing to worry about. It’s no big deal”, he mutters, as I stare stunned, uncomprehending and not just a little scared. I have no idea what he’s talking about until the angel explains – the car has gone off the road, down a slope and crashed into a tree. A couple of stray dogs chased the car and startled Dad on a slope. The car stalled as he swerved to avoid them, and began to slip down the slope, out of control. It slipped off the road into the shrubbery and only stopped, when the rear fender butted up against a tree. A tree. A savior. Another angel. “Your Dad is very very lucky,” says the speaking Angel as I listen, understanding but not really comprehending, make the right noises and thank him profusely, hiding the trembling of my fingers, sending up thanks to the Heavens, while trying to keep my voice steady and unaffected, coz I don’t want to scare my Dad any more than he already is and my Mom! What on earth do I tell my Mom?
The Angel seems calm & collected. He’s a life-saver and his demeanor calms me down. Eventually we go inside and I tell my Mom, making it seem like it’s no big deal (she receives the news as she now does everything in life, stoically accepting, resigned). At this point, that’s what I want desperately to believe, that it’s no big deal. It’s easy coz we haven’t seen the car yet nor the scene of the event (I still can’t bring myself to call it what it is – an accident). I go upstairs where hubby is getting dressed to drop Ishaan off to school, oblivious of recent events. He’s good in a crisis, my own Angel. He takes charge. First things first and Ishaan is dropped off to school on our driver’s motorbike, sandwiched between him and hubby, which I would never have allowed under normal circumstances. But its difficult to get transport around here and he enjoyed the ride as hubby reports later.
Then hubby and Dad’s man Friday, go off to locate the car and see to it’s retrieval. They have a tough time spotting the car, which is hidden in shrubbery and a long way away from the road. A crane will be involved. The next two hours, those of us at home try and go about our daily routine and make light of the morning, some better than others. Dad has taken it badly but is doing a fair job of pretending otherwise. He watches India versus Australia test match on TV, like nothing’s happened. I leave him alone except to check that he’s Ok and isn’t hurt, and tell Mom to do the same. He doesn’t need us on his case right now. He’s shook up enough for the all of us and then some. Eventually, hubby gets back, and in the car! A surprise and a relief, ‘coz it tells me that things were not as bad as we had imagined (the car being drivable and all). The police used their crane to lift the car up and on to the road for Rs.1500 (about 30$). Both fenders are dislodged and the body has taken several knocks both at front and back. But miraculously the engine is undamaged, thanks to the impact primarily occurring at the rear end, which is also probably why Dad is unhurt. Not a dent, well, not physical at least. I stand and stare at the car, mesmerized, as if staring will give me answers to questions even I’m not sure of and once again I give silent Thanks for my Dad’s good fortune.
The rest of the day is routine except that for an ‘out of sorts’ feeling that dogs us. Even India beating Australia in the 2nd test @ Bangalore does little to liven the spirits. I keep thinking and re-thinking of what could have been and though the very thought sends shivers up my spine, I can’t seem to stop. The strain of appearing calm and cool for Mom and Gran makes it doubly difficult. One thing is for sure – No more driving for Dad. I don’t know or particularly care if it’s the right thing to do, but that’s just how it’s going to be. No driving. Not even with any of us in the car with him. Not anytime soon. Maybe I’m being irrational but who says I have to be otherwise?
Maybe this is what’s referred to as a ‘test of faith’ or is that ‘crisis’? Be that as it may, I have my Dad with me, safe and sound and that’s where & how he’s going to stay for as long as I can keep him. Amen.
Heartfelt Thanks to all the angels who kept him harm and brought him home to us safe and sound. I know my brother is one of them 🙂
Am ending with this pic of Ishaan on the bike, ‘coz I would hate to leave you and me feeling morose and if anything can make this better, it’s the sight of my boy on a bike!