Story Collection - Chaalbaaz

Different Paths

“You think I should pull the plug?”

“We suggest that you should think about it.”

Hardik’s mind ran over the conversation that he had just had with the doctor as he sat in the car and started driving. Sameera was sitting beside him but kept her silence. She didn’t know what to say anyway.

“I am not going to do that.” Hardik said finally. His mind had been wandering in the corridor of that hospital that they had left half an hour ago. He still couldn’t believe what he had just saw. Both of his parents, comatose, on a life support system.

Sameera nodded when Hardik looked at her. Hardik was slightly relieved to see that. Hardik knew it won’t be easy keeping up with the bills but he had made his decision as soon as the doctors had told him. He can’t do it. He won’t kill them. He won’t be their murderer.

Almost an hour had passed by when Hardik realised that he was sitting in his home. He didn’t know how he drove back to home or when he sat in front of the television which was showing news. The news of his parent’s accident was flashing in front of him and it was this news that had brought him out of the trance.

Some kids were racing and his father swerved the car to protect them and the car smashed in the divider. His father, who had never in his life drove rash and who told Hardik always to care for others on the road while driving, was now in a coma because of someone else’s mistake.

Sameera took the remote from him and replaced it with her own hand. Hardik saw his hand print fading from the remote but there was a deformation on it that wasn’t there before. He had held the remote too tight.

“You really want to take the risk.” Hardik asked nodding at the remote and then Sameera’s hand. In response, Sameera hugged him gently and moved closer to him.

“Where is Sameeksha?” Hardik asked.

“She is at school. She will be back by 2 pm I think. I decided about telling her when she comes back.” Sameera said.

Hardik nodded. It was the right thing. It wasn’t as if Sameeksha could do anything about it. Hardik’s parents loved Sameeksha to bits and so did Sameeksha. Hardik didn’t know how will she react to the news of her grandparents in hospital on a life-support system. Will she even understand the severity of the whole situation?

“I don’t think I can even tell her without falling apart.” Hardik said.

“They will be fine Hardik.” Sameera said and squeezed Hardik’s arm gently.

“I was thinking about those boys.” Hardik finally said looking at the remote again. “It was all their fault and yet, my parents are suffering because of this. Perhaps, they didn’t even realise what had happened and moved on to their next adventure.”

“Hardik…” Sameera started.

“You know, I was just like that. Indifferent, ignorant, arrogant. I used to drive my bike as fast as I could for as long as possible. I used to drive like a maniac. Do you think something like this might have happened with me too? Do you think I might have killed someone too?”

“No Hardik! You might have been fast, but you were never careless. You couldn’t have killed someone.”

“I did almost killed myself once. Only my helmet saved me. I was in the hospital for almost two days. Till today, I never considered how my parents might have felt then.”

“Hardik.” Sameera said softly but didn’t know how to continue after that. Hardik was in a zone and didn’t listen much.

“You will have to work Sameera. For us to sustain them, you will have to leave Sameeksha alone and go to work. I am sorry for putting this burden on you but I can’t kill them.” Hardik said abruptly.

“Don’t you dare call it a burden. I love them as much as you do. So does Sameeksha. If I could, I would give my life for them. We will do whatever it takes to keep them on life support for as long is necessary. I have hope that they will get better soon. I believe that.” Sameera said and gave Hardik a peck on the cheek.

“Thank you love. I will tell them tomorrow when I go to the hospital.” Hardik said and smiled slightly at Sameera.

Sameera gave him a tight hug. In her heart, she knew that she could give her life to protect Hardik’s parents if it was possible. For now, all she could was support her husband in the decisions he takes.

The morning was the bleakest one he had ever known. He woke up but felt that he had never slept. He had had bad dreams about this accident and then, his own accident when he was 17.

“You alright?” Sameera asked looking concerned.

“I had a dream about my accident. A very vivid dream. I don’t think I have ever had such a dream before.” Hardik said honestly. He had never been able to lie to Sameera and somehow, he had never felt the need to as well. She knew him better than anyone else, except for perhaps his parents.

“Its going to be alright. You get ready and I will prepare the breakfast.” Sameera said getting up from the bed.

Hardik nodded but kept to the bed.

“Daddyyyyyyy!!!!!!!!!!!!” Sameeksha came screaming and jumped on her father. Hardik flinched at the impact. They had not yet told her. Hardik and Sameera just couldn’t muster up the courage to tell her.

“Yes, sweetheart.” Hardik said in a strained voice. His stomach was still hurting from where Sameeksha had jumped. He didn’t understand why she had to wake him up like this every day.

“Today, will you take me to grandpa and grandma. They promised that they will make me the truffles cake.” Sameeksha said in a broken language but fast pace.

Hardik grimaced. He knew he had to tell Sameeksha sometime.

“Ok. Daddy has some work in the morning. I will come in the afternoon and then we can go to meet grandpa and grandma.” Hardik said without lying or telling the truth.

“Yayyy!!!” Sameeksha said and ran towards the kitchen, no doubt to tell her mother the plan for the day.

Hardik sighed and started to get ready.

“Don’t dwell on this too much.” Sameera said softly to ensure that Sameeksha couldn’t hear.

“I can’t stop thinking about my mom and dad Sameera.” Hardik said irritated.

“Not them, about your accident and those teenagers.” Sameera said plainly.

“Oh.” Hardik said guiltily. Sameera knew him a little too well.

“Take care.” Sameera said and gave him a kiss.

“Bye.” Hardik said and went out. Even though, he had promised Sameera not to dwell on the matter, he couldn’t help but think about when he had had the accident. He remembered how worried his parents were and how they cared for him. And that was all his fault. He was the one driving fast, he was the one who hit the other bike head on and he was the one who became a liability on his parents for over a month with a broken arm and collar bone.

Perhaps he shouldn’t have been so engrossed in what happened years ago. He would have seen the young boy who was trying to pick a ball from the road a little earlier. He might not have had the need to swerve in last minute and the accident might have been avoided. Alas! None of that happened. The last thought in Hardik’s mind was his family before his mind went blank.

“He is opening his eyes. Doctor! HE IS OPENING HIS EYES!!” Hardik heard a loud female voice trailing away.

‘Great! Two accidents in two days. What’s wrong with God?’ He opened his eyes in the hospital with this thought in his mind.

A doctor entered and started checking him.

“Do you know your name?” She asked.

“Hardik.” Hardik said finally taking the whole scene in front of him. The room was a small but private room. It was an AC room with another bed for a visitor presumably. The room seemed to have been in use for some time. He supposed that this was the only room they could find but he dreaded that it was not only a few hours that have passed. Perhaps, more than a day had passed since the accident.

“Do you remember how you came here?”

“Accident. I don’t think there are many ways to come here, are they?” Hardik said.

The doctor smiled. Apparently, sense of humor was a good way to prove that you are fine, Hardik thought.

“Bring them in.” She said to the nurse. “You are lucky. They are all here right now. My name is Dr. Sameera. I am your doctor.”

Hardik tried to get up to see what was broken in his body but was happy to see that no visible damage was present.

“How do you feel?”

“I feel fine for someone who had just had an accident.”

Dr. Sameera’s face fell at hearing that sentence.

“How long do you think might have passed since you had an accident?” She asked concerned.

“A day probably.” Hardik said smiling.

“Oh dear. Five years have passed since the accident Hardik.” Dr. Sameera said.

Hardik sat up with a start. He couldn’t believe that he had been in the hospital for 5 years.

“How’s my family?” Hardik asked immediately.

“They are fine and are coming.”

On cue, his parents entered the room. They looked young and dishevelled.

“Hardik! Oh you are back.” Hardik’s mother said and hugged him. Hardik’s father was standing with tears streaming from his eyes freely.

“We hoped but never thought it would come to reality.” Hardik’s father said to the doctor.

“And he woke up on his birthday too.” Hardik’s mother said while hugging him.

“Yes. 23 years old now.” Hardik’s father said looking at him with pride and relief.

“23 years?” Hardik said questioningly.

“Yes. Today you have turned 23 years old. This is going to the luckiest year for us.” Hardik’s mother said.

“But I am not 23. I am 38 years old. Where is my wife, Sameera and Sameeksha, my daughter?” Hardik said confused.

Both his parents were shocked and looked at the doctor.

“Tell me more about it Hardik.” Hardik started to tell her about his wife and daughter and ended at the accident of his parents.

The doctor didn’t laugh at him for which Hardik was glad. As he was telling the story, he could feel pieces of the story failing him. He had started to dread something.

“I am afraid that it was all a dream Hardik. You might have picked up the name from me probably. Other than that, I don’t think I can say more on it as of now. However, I will try to find out more about it.” Dr. Sameera said sombrely.

“As for the current situation, you have been in a coma for the past five years. In fact, on a life support for the first two years. It was your parents’ decision to keep you alive and it has come to fruition.” Dr. Sameera said.

“Oh.” Hardik said slightly crestfallen. No one in the room spoke. He looked at his concerned parents and the worried doctor.

“It was just a dream.” Hardik said while a single thought coming to his mind. The conversation he had with Sameera — ‘If I could, I would give my life for them.’

Hardik knew it was not real but Sameera did gave her life for his parents. They were in front of him, alive and well.

Finally, he braved himself to smile.