Friday, 17 April 2020

How to save a life...


Two and half syllables uttered in a hushed panic tone completed with a labored breathing over cell phone was enough for him jerk him out of his sleep as if he had been doused with ice cold water. Riddhima, his girlfriend was one of the calmest and the most rational person he had ever known, but the sharp edge in her voice had him worried for a moment or two. It was close to two in the morning and it had been only few hours since sleep had overtaken him.

"Armaan." Before he could think of a proper greeting, she repeated his name. A pang of cold feeling erupted from base of his spine, traveled through the length of the back, swirling through ribcage, suffocating his lungs, punching his gut and finally clutched his heart in a death grip. There was a thick trace of hurt in her voice and the emotion behind that one word stilled him for a moment.

"I am here." His answer was more of a reassurance of a reality rather than soothing her from whatever was hurting her.

"An old man and his daughter were in an accident. The daughter was pregnant. We were able to deliver the baby and both mother and baby are doing fine, but we were not able to save that old man." She hiccuped.

He was actually getting more and more surprised with the call rather being worried. In their group, she was the one who generally handled her emotions very well and she was a very private person when it came to that. Yes, she had broken down when she had realized that she could not save one of her patients and had to watch him die slowly, but it had never altered the ground that she stood on. He wasn't sure if he was well equipped emotionally to handle her in a situation like this. He had to choose his words carefully and also had to be there in person when her emotions would overtake her completely. He started to get dressed and simultaneously started speaking to her. He mentally thanked God for small miracle called "hands free" for cell phones.

"Riddhima, I am sure that you did everything in your power to save the old man's life."

"I would like to think the same thing Armaan, but I know that sometimes, the best of what we give back to people is just not good enough. A few minutes after that old man's death, his daughter delivered a healthy baby. I felt as if fate was mocking at me - An old man dies, a baby is born, a fair trade."

"You know that's not true Riddhima. There is no way to decide the price or value of a human life in this nature. Our nature is not designed in a way where one man becomes more important than the other; it's us, humans, who put a price tag on human lives."

"If fate was standing in front of that old man and asked him to choose a life, he would have definitely sacrificed his life for the life of a baby; even I would do the same."

"Most of us would do that Riddhima. It's an evolutionary pull that we feel towards the young ones that gives us irrational courage to do everything that we can possibly do to protect them, including sacrificing their own life. The old man, perhaps, would give up his life for the happiness of his daughter. It's not because of love or something like that; it's more of an existential choice. If the old man was given a choice, then he would definitely choose the life for the young baby over his own, so in retrospect, he would actually save lives of two people; one, of his daughter and the other of his daughter's unborn baby. In the end, it would be simple mathematics, two at the cost of one." He was now fully dressed, sitting in car and as soon as he turned on the ignition, he heard her soft voice over the dying noise of traffic.

"Why did you choose to end your life with me that day in that car with a bomb? Was that not because of your love for me?"

At that moment he understood her inability to deal with co-existence of life and death in a given single moment. She could not encompass the reasoning behind his decision to stay with her in the car that day rather than taking a logical decision of saving himself. Yes, there was love and so was trust, but there was something else entirely that drove him to brink of breaking down yet calming in an eerily fashion as the realization of a life without her flashed in front of his eyes. He started driving towards hospital and hoped to reach there in record time. It took him a few moments to collect his thoughts before he could reply.

"If you left me, I wouldn't die because that would be too easy way to cease to exist. I think I will break every day a little bit more, my own soul torturing my existence; not allowing me to live nor allowing me to die. It won't be a death of body but death of mind itself, lost in my own insanity and slowly dwindling away into obscurity. Actually by dying with you that day was the only way to save myself from an inevitable insanity. When you think about it, it was an act of selfishness rather than an act of bravery or love."

"You are crazy, Armaan. I don't believe that the utmost act of selfless sacrifice comes in a gift wrap of selfishness. It's your own twisted way of telling me that you love me." He thought he detected a hint of smile in her voice. In a few minutes he would reach the hospital and then he could get a visual confirmation of that.

"That, I do, irrevocably."

"I will see you in a few minutes, Armaan." He was stumped.
"How did you know I was on my way to meet you?"
"Are you insulting my intelligence now Armaan?" She was teasing him now. He hung up the phone promising her to meet her soon, which should be in a few minutes.

He found her sitting on the stairs of fire escape, still in scrubs, eyes lost in infinity. She gave him a tentative smile when she saw him. He spoke his mind before she could ask him anything.

"I am honored to know such a strong woman like you who work like a maniac save people when their own family has given up hope. But during the times when you are in a hurry to find all the answers and save a life, you may skid, fall and scrap your knee. All these years, you have dusted it off, ignored it and moved on. But from now onwards, would you allow me to clean the cut and put a band-aid on it?" She understood the implication of his question. He wasn't asking for love or trust. He was asking her permission to allow him to be her partner in every sense of the word for the rest of their lives. Her face was full of emotion when she answered.

"I have a big packet of band-aids in my locker, printed with cartoon characters and everything. I am going to hand over that packet for you; from now on you are the owner for that."

He smiled at her admission.



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