Thursday, March 29, 2012                           The journey called life


  Every trip or travel for business, pleasure or otherwise has its share of unforgettable moments, some that bring a smile on our faces and some that send shivers down our spine.
                   The year 1975, my father suffering from a rare congenital heart disease had to necessarily undergo surgery at a foreign location, as successive surgeries in India had failed. My brother was born that year and me blissfully unaware of the trauma that was engulfing our house. Soon the decision to get the surgery done at London under Dr. Magdi yacoub was taken and my maternal uncle braving all odds, accompanied him on this emergency medical trip. The innumerable stumbling blocks in the guise of finances, papers, visa, PP and  a prolonged train journey from Cochin to Bombay lasting for more than three days due to the derailment of a goods train en route,  were all overcome with help pouring in from dad’s employers, relatives, friends, medical fraternity in London. On the day of the journey, my mom’s household was a sight to behold, in one corner, grandma invoking all the gods and goddesses,  grandpa doing all the packing and all other family members doing their bit with both hand and tongue. The luggage was loaded onto a taxi and to make it comfortable for my dad ,my uncle brought his ‘Standard Gazel ‘and all of us were huddled into the vintage beauty. As we neared the airport, my dad realized that the most important briefcase containing all papers and travel documents was left behind at home and time was indeed running out. My uncle informed the airport authorities of the emergency and the need to get back home to bring the “black box”, to which the authorities willingly delayed the departure of the airline. My uncle in his magnificient 70s classic  maneuvered the Mumbai mayhem and returned with the most precious piece of luggage much to the relief of all. For the elders in the family, this was a ‘vighnam’ moment and Lord Ganesha had paved the way and removed all future obstacles, needless to say a dozen coconuts were broken at Siddhi Vinayak temple- surprisingly his stay, surgery and post recovery was smooth as silk, went without a hitch and he did return with a fresh lease of life, infused with Pakistani blood, (transfused from a Pak Donor).Surgery was performed by the eminent Egyptian Doctor and his distinguished team. This trip gave life to my dad and all of us a new beginning!
           My dad (on the right) with           his saviour after 34 years  

 Harefield hospital in London where Dr. Magdi Yacoub is currently working.


                       After a decade or so, in the mid eighties as  Punjab and Jammu and Kashmir were in turmoil and on the troubled map of India ,reeling under “operation bluestar” and terrorists, taking the lives of innocent Indians by the day in these states respectively ,we boldly decided to vacation at Kashmir as my Army Doctor uncle was posted at the LOC. The train travel (the longest I believe) from Kanyakumari to Kashmir cutting across different states and cultures was indeed a fairy tale journey. As we neared Amritsar, we were told to securely lock all doors and windows of the coupe for the Pro Khalistanis showed no mercy ! The train chugged along and eventually pulled into the Jammu Tawi station with no untoward incident and as we disembarked ,I breathed in the salubrious air of the paradise on Earth for the very first time. The army camp was located close to the Pakistan border and for one fleeting moment , I could not distinguish between Indian bhoomi and Pakistani soil , only the wired ,barbed fence some distance away was the grim reminder of this Geographical insanity…The lovely aroma of the luscious green apples precariously hanging from the apple orchards was indeed a sight to behold.   

 For nearly a week ,my uncle played the perfect host despite his undying commitment to the country because of the troubles from across the border. His Man Friday dutifully packed hot parathas with aloo sabji which made our sight seeing more pleasurable. We were enchanted by the Nishat e bagh , the lovely Mughal gardens , snow capped peaks at Gulmohar the breath taking view from atop the ropeway , the pony ride on the snowy slopes putting the poor animals to burden and to top it all the serene icy waters of the Dal lake with beautiful shikaras full of multihued flowers and fresh vegetables. Water skiing was still at a primitive stage but the love for real adventure , at the peril of risk, daring my instincts to have a go at it on the lake . The take off was crude but all the same I was surfing holding on to a rope tied from a steam boat, I enjoyed the foamy icy water of the Dal with the wind blowing on my face not giving a thought about the landing. Well, the idea was that the boat would slow down and from the jetty ,the boatmen would simply haul me up – it sounded pretty simple but went awfully wrong as I missed the catch and soon ended in the deep, weedy waters of the Dal. My family shell shocked , stood in mute silence for those agonizing moments while other fellow wannabe surfers just slipped back into their clothes  . My swimming lessons did not prove futile, came to the fore and fortunately did not fail me at the most wanted time and soon enough I was back on the surface, emerging from the dark fathoms, albeit with weeds all over my face like a protective gear .I saw for the very first time , the looks of despair and helplessness writ large on my mother’s face, turning into sheer joy and ecstasy. Undoubtedly, this “surfing” experience has gone down in memory and proved that life is like the frothy bubbles of the Dal lake.

                     Our Scorpio VLX AT was cruising at over 100 KMPH  , in the cool
November month of 2010 on the newly laid stunning expressway between Bangalore and Coimbatore . As we neared the city of cottons, our ride was reduced to a crawl because of traffic snarls and the never ending construction activity . Just before a traffic signal, a car in front of us took a right turn and my hubby who was at the wheel had to de accelerate to almost zero , within seconds there was a thud sound from behind and glass and splinter flew all over the place onto the road. To our shocking disbelief, an old fashioned truck had rammed us from behind and even as we were recovering from the rude shock and checking on the wellbeing of mother and kids who were occupying the rear seats, a gentleman appearing out of nowhere ,managed not to allow the lorry and its crew from  making an escape. He also thrust me a paper containing the telephone numbers of the local traffic police and  as we were inspecting the “tail” of horror, that angel in disguise simply vanished from the scene and I was hopelessly cursing myself for not even offering a word of thanks! Fortunately as our vehicle was not in motion, the impact of the hit was restricted to the rear of the SUV , the tail lights and the diesel tank bearing the brunt, also the left rear door was jammed , the rear wind shield was shattered but the design of the frame had been such that the entire glass was catapulted outward and not a piece fell inside saving our mother and kids who escaped unscathed. Meanwhile ,gathering our wits , I called Mahindra’s toll free on road service number , who immediately directed me to the local Mahindra service centre via tele conferencing and even though it was a Sunday, the breakdown and pick up facility arrived in a jiffy . The front portion of the truck, made of cast iron , was badly damaged and subsequently, we understood that it was the ‘cleaner’ who was driving and not the licensed driver! The Mahindra people helped us to lodge an official complaint  with the police station and the issue was sorted out  within couple of hours and the lorry crew was charged with a hefty fine for gross negligence. An alternate vehicle was arranged for us to resume our journey to our relative’s house and our sturdy M Hawk was taken to the body shop . the damages were assessed and all the necessary paper work for Insurance claims was taken care of by the M&M officials. A few days later it was delivered to us in prim and proper shape and our dream vehicle was gleaming like never before!
                           The takeaways of this unforeseen incident – 1) The old fashioned truck has been nicknamed as “ mookulla lorry” meaning nosy truck and my hubby ,whenever sees one of these colouful trucks , moves miles away
J 2) the miracle man who did not allow the truck and its people to make a getaway and who gave the precious piece of paper – what do we call him? An incarnation of God , beyond doubt! 3) Thankfully our vehicle was not in rapid motion , otherwise the consequences would have been disastrous to say the least and 4) the timely reaction of the entire Mahindra team who swung into action and left no stone unturned  to make us comfortable and not feel the post mishap blues!!!                                          

These three incidents in three different years spanning over  three decades have moulded me and my immediate family as newer and better human beings , enjoying life with all its pleasantries relishing the great moments  and surmounting hardships by overcoming hurdles and obstacles, for life itself is an incredible journey with lot of twists and turns.

Tags and labels:
Dr. Magdi yacoub – Egyptian surgeon practicing in the United Kingdom
PP- passport
Standard Gazel- The vintage car of the 70’s manufactured by Standard motor co.
Vighnam- means obstacle in Sanskrit language
Siddhi Vinayak temple- the famous temple dedicated to Lord Ganesha  located at Mumbai
Operation bluestar- code name for flushing out armed militants holed up in the Golden temple at Amritsar by our army.
Khalistan- the militant outfit who demanded a separate state for themselves
Parathas- rotis made of wheat flour
Aloo Sabji- curry made of potatoes
Jetty- wharf or quay
Scorpio VLX AT- the sports utility vehicle manufactured by Mahindra and Mahindra
M hawk – the name of the engine in the scorpio.