Excitement was high – another month and they would both be off on a new life, a new adventure. They were alternately thrilled and nervous and accordingly infected their mothers. While the girls slept off dreaming grand dreams of conquering college, the world, their poor mothers spent sleepless nights – my little baby! If only I could hold on to her a little longer…
But time sped ahead as it is often does in such times and it was time to begin preparing for their departure. Counseling dates were around the corner and once that was done just a matter of a week or two and they would be off.
The AIIMS results were declared – surprise surprise – Rajani had cleared that as well. Suryakant was on the seventh heaven of delight. His status knew no boundaries. Rajani and Nisha – need I say anything? The only fly in the ointment for Rajani was that Bhai wasn’t here – oh how she would have loved to crow over him! She had cracked them all – she had shown them all! Yes! Yes! Yes! Yes! Nisha was almost strangulated – not that she objected for she thought she had died and gone to heaven.
To celebrate the grand feat, the Ahujas and Suris went to the new mall for lunch, movie and some shopping. Both girls needed mobile phones and equally importantly, they wanted to pre-book their copies of the soon to be out Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows.
Lunch was grand, the movie not so much but who cared? Laughter, joy overflowed as the men had a friendly tussle over who would pay the bill. Suryakant won for he proved that he was happiest of the lot. Rajani couldn’t stop smiling – she had never seen her father smile so much. The fun didnt end there. They pored over the latest mobile phone models admiring, discussing debating – Shikha chose a slightly expensive set and in a burst of generosity, Suryakant chose the same one for Rajani. She was over the moon. Yet she couldn’t help but feel guilty. “Are you sure Papa? It’s okay, I can take the other one also.”
Suryakant patted her. “It’s my pleasure. Take it as a token of our blessing and love.”
Rajani forgot herself and threw her arms around her father. Nisha looked on teary eyed. Even Suryakant was not unaffected.
“It’s getting late.” He said gruffly. “Shall we go home?”
Sated and exhausted, they were all more than ready for home and by mutual consent exited the mall.
“Come let’s go!” Hand in hand, the girls stepped off the kerb. Just then a speeding car swerved to avoid a cyclist. He saved the cyclist but hit the girls.
Their world went black.
Shock and horror descended on the Suris and the Ahujas. What was meant to be a pleasurable family outing had become a nightmare. There was blood everywhere and both girls pale and unconscious. They had no recollection of how they reached the hospital and handed over their precious babies to the doctors. They paced the hospital corridors unmindful of the bloodstains, waiting hoping praying.
Shikha had hurt her head and was unconscious for almost 38 hours. Kirti and Lalit were quite at their wits end. But things were worse once she regained consciousness. She couldn’t see.
Panic stricken at the thought of being blind, she went berserk. It was a harrowing and difficult time for all. But then, after a few days, as the swelling went down, her vision returned and Shikha was well enough to enquire about her friend. “How is Rajji?”
Kirti and Lalit looked at each other. “She’s ok. You rest. We can talk later. Don’t worry, everything is fine.”
If only things were fine.
Rajani had fractured her left arm, hurt her ribs and had concussion. She floated in and out of consciousness in a haze of pain and discomfort quite oblivious to the world. Suryakant and Nisha hovered over her hospital bed, anxious and worried. Nisha’s tears just wouldn’t stop. What if something happened to Rani? How would she bear it?
Suryakant hassled the doctor, “How soon will she be okay? Can’t you do something to hasten her recovery? Please doctor.”
“What can I do? For now we can only wait and watch. I don’t understand your attitude Mr Ahuja. You seem to be more concerned about her quick recovery than recovery. My goal is recovery. Period.” The doctor strode away.
Suryakant could hardly explain his urgency to the doctor. Counseling for the medical colleges was just days away – if Rajani didn’t manage to make it there and stake her claim, she would forfeit her hard won seats.
Nisha and Suryakant could only watch in helpless anguish as the days slipped by and so did the crucial dates. It was as if fate was determined not to let Rajani become a doctor for it was on the last day of counseling that Rajani sat up for the first time in two weeks.
Only to realize the full implication of her accident.
She was quite inconsolable. The doctors had no choice but to sedate her. Her birthday came and went in a drug haze. The road to recovery was slow and painful and Rajani was uncharacteristically silent. Her eyes were sunken and lifeless. Nisha couldn’t look at her without weeping. Suryakant stayed away as much as he could.
A few days later, the doctors declared her physically fit to be discharged. She went back home but she wasn’t quite the same Rajani – she was morose, listless and withdrawn. She lost her smile, her zest – nothing held her interest. And when her mother handed her the new Harry Potter book, she stared at it in dull disinterest before bursting into heartrending sobs.
“Mamma, it’s not fair. Mamma, why me? What wrong have I ever done? I worked so hard Mamma. I want to be a doctor Mamma. Please Mamma. I don’t want this book Mamma. Please.”
Nisha could only cradle her in her arms and shed copious tears along with her.
Later she did talk to her husband. “I cannot bear to see her state. Can we afford to send her to Manipal? Surely she will get admission there even at this stage? Abhi is also…”
“Are you crazy? Do you even have any idea what you are asking? Do you know what the fee structure is like at Manipal?”
Nisha swallowed and shook her head.
“Better keep your nose out of stuff that is beyond your understanding and in any case none of your business.”
Nisha flared up. “My daughter is my business. She worked so hard to be a doctor and I refuse to let an accident come in the way of her dream.”
Suryakant snorted. “You refuse? Who are you to refuse? This is her fate, her kismet. What can we do?”
“There must be something we can do? We can put this house on mortgage…”
“Didn’t I tell you not to poke your nose in things which are beyond your understanding? What about Abhi? What about his dream of having a clinic of his own? How will that happen? No I cannot afford to send two children to Manipal. Besides, Rani will get married, have kids – this is a passing phase. She will soon forget about it.”
“Cheer up Rani dear.” Nisha exhorted over and over again. “Don’t give up so easily. You can always try again next year. Even your Bhai tried and got in the second time. You concentrate on getting better and become strong. Then you can start studying again….”
“I don’t want to become a doctor. I don’t want to study ever again. Leave me alone.” Rani turned away.
“Rani dear.” Nisha tried to coax her but to no avail. “Okay fine. At least read the new book. Poor Hari, he is quite upset that you aren’t reading his book.” Even her mispronunciation did not evoke a rise.
Nisha was in despair – she knew Rajani not reading the Hari book was like the Sun rising in the West.
Shikha wasn’t much better off – she too had missed the counseling dates at DU. Reality was far from what they had dreamed of. Leave aside the best colleges, neither of them had admission to any college. They would have to lose a year, stay at home and moan over their kismet. She and Rajani would be left behind while the rest of their class surged ahead. Shikha buried her face in her hands and groaned. She couldn’t bear it – to have their dreams smashed beyond hope.
Shikha’s entire being rebelled – she wanted to cry, rail against the world but she dare not. Post accident, she had massive headaches and she couldn’t risk triggering one with an emotional outburst. So she too sat still, silent and anguished.
“Shikha dear,” Lalit tried to offer hope, “I have a friend who arrange for your admission in Math honors in a private college in Bengaluru. I know it’s far but hostel life is fun. It would prepare you for the world, teach you to be independent. Should I go ahead with the paperwork?” He coaxed. “I am sure you will like it.”
Hope flared – not to have to lose a year! And do Math honors – it seemed to be too good to be true. But what about Rajji? She hadn’t spoken to her since the accident – not that she was speaking much to anybody.
Shikha missed her friend, their little fights, her infectious giggles…
She drew patterns on the bedcover. “Only if Rajji also comes along.”
Up next Chapter 67: Adjusting