When I came to, I felt something heavy on me. It turned out to be Mala aunty. Her body. She wasn't moving so I pushed her over to the other side of the seat and tried to get up myself. I couldn't. A terrible pain shot through my shoulder straight to my head.
And that's all I remembered. Later at the hospital people told me that our driver was the only one who died in the crash. Everybody else survived, including me with a broken shoulder. Bombay was under waist-deep water, as the TV newscaster kept updating me every hour and I was happy to be in this private cabin with a TV in it. There were no visitors apart from Sucharita, who happened to be in the second car that Saturday. But Sucharita had her family, her job, and Bombay was flooded.
I tried but couldn't remember the face of our driver. He was in a white uniform that day and it was a rented car. Who was he, what was his name? Did he have a family? I couldn't push away these thoughts from my mind and there wasn't anybody to answer them anyways. The nurse was kinda nonchalant with a saccharine smile and had a stock "I Don't Know" answer to any question. She had very white teeth that shone like diamonds on her face.
Sucharita informed me that my dad was trying to come over to Bombay but could not because of the floods and disrupted air services. Apparently all the flights to and from Bombay were either being cancelled or postponed indefinitely. What a fuck-all city, I thought. But then this was the city that accepted me in its folds and gave me a life. I got a plush job right after coming here. I met Sucharita, possibly the most warm person I've ever met. I found an identity for myself, so how can I possibly blame Bombay?
My doc had a few assistants whom she brought along on her visits every morning. One of them was this really handsome Marathi resident doc with Dr Bahutuley printed on his name tag. I almost wished he would come alone one day, but that was probably not to be. Maybe my bandaged face doesn't appeal to him at all, who knows.
"Hello baba, did you manage to get a ticket?"
"Yes darling, I got one for day after . . . just hang on my brave girl, I'll be right there with you. Just hang on...am sure the flights will resume by then..." my dad always sounded hopeful. Man, he is my hero, my entire reserve of positive energy comes from him. Don't I love him!
The nurse took me to the OT to get my stitches removed one morning. And guess what, like in a fairytale story, Dr Bahutuley was there. I just mustered all my courage and asked his name. Rohan, he smiled. And during the entire exercise (which was rather painful now that I think of it) we made light conversation and I even managed to ask him to come visit me sometime.
And he kept his promise. He came over one evening when he was off his duty...just before he had to catch his train home. He came with a bunch of white flowers. Maybe from the florist's right in front of my window?
"I'll be going away for a while," I told him, "for about four months, precisely."
"What about your job?"
"Oh, I will join the Calcutta office after about a couple of months and work from there for another couple of months."... "Will you call?" I blurted, suddenly not very shy anymore. Baba was arriving that night. His rather wan smile made me cringe and suddenly I felt like kicking my butt. Shit, why did I have to do this? Didn't I see the scar on my cheek? I look pathetic, oh shit...
Back in Calcutta things were different. Ma cried for almost an hour from the airport till we reached home. We must thank god you survived the car crash, why did you have to go out on the weekend at all? I must go to Kalighat and offer my prayers...and I hugged her with my left arm and cried too. Just felt so good to be back home, with my folks who probably were the only ones who loved me with all they had. The cosmetic surgeon said it was possible to cure the scar on my cheek that ran down till my neck. But it had to heal first.
A couple of days later there were these serial blasts in Bombay. In the local trains. In a train in front of the hospital where I was admitted. We were all shell-shocked, numbed by the reports on TV. I went mum for the entire evening. Ma held me as I wiped my tears. These were the places where I used to go to. And now there were body parts strewn all over. It could have been me. Ma kept saying "don't you worry, you don't have to go back to Bombay any more. Stay with us, baby...you'll get a job here..." when I got a call on my cell.
"Hey, just wanted to tell you that I'm fine." It was Dr Rohan. Rohan.
And that moment I knew I had to go back to Bombay soon. It was where I belonged.