Nainital’s beauty was at its peak glory, as the first ray of sunshine kissed the greens. Tanya felt the chill when she removed the blanket from over her face. She could almost feel the warmth of a bright new morning touch her from within, she was reluctant to get up from her bed. Tanya was home for her Diwali vacations. She was a final year student pursuing a degree in medicine from a reputed college in New Delhi. Though she had gotten used to the metropolitan lifestyle of Delhi, she never missed a chance to visit her hometown.
Tanya stretched and sat up on the bed, facing the window. A cool breeze swept through the butterfly patterned curtains. She drew the curtains to look at the misty mountains outside. She inhaled and felt the fresh air around her. She remembered how suffocated she felt in the first few months when she came to New Delhi years ago. She spent some time at the window, everything still around.
After lunch, Tanya decided to stroll around, and reminisce.”Mom, I’m slipping out for a couple of hours.” Tanya called out as she picked her bag and walked out. As a young girl, she used to enjoy the picturesque lakeside and was a huge admirer of the hills that surrounded the place. She never failed to notice the little things, was always aware of every change however minute that happened around her. She realised that her childhood had passed so swiftly, that she had never taken a moment to notice it – and now she would be graduating, and become a doctor.
Tom, a solitary traveller from Birmingham in the UK, was loving Nainital. Travelling was something he relished deeply. He had planned this trip to the Himalayas’ foothills two years ago when a work colleague had talked for hours about Nainital. Being a Field Engineer, working at a well-known company based out of Dover, Tom had spent a lot of time with machinery. The talk was enough to ignite his dormant hobby of travelling. Tom landed in Dehradun two days back. The first couple of days, he walked around exploring; cruising the cuisines, the culture, and the people. Tom captured all of it in his DSLR.
He remembered how his friend explained that Paragliding in Bhimtal was one of the most beautiful attractions of the small town. Also, he overheard a few other tourists talking about their adventure in the glider, on his way to the visitor’s information centre. Tom collected the leaflets on the rack, eyeballed through it, and gained further information from the help desk. The weather was rather good, and he decided to book a paragliding experience for the same afternoon.
Tom had once done paragliding in the Alps, a couple of years ago. It has been a while, and he kept clarifying his queries and the technique with the guide, Manish; who was helping him buckle the harness. He took off smoothly, and as he ascended, he felt weightless as ever, like a butterfly in the air. Enveloped by the serenity of Bhimtal, the clean air, he was entirely absorbed.
An hour of light gliding later, there was a sudden change in the weather; the wind speed had increased. It was all too quick; Tom struggled hard to regain control of the glider.
*Swish, Thud, Scratch, Louder Thud*
Tom crashed on to the ground, from a height of 350 feet. Before he could make sense of his limbs and feet, he felt a sharp pain in his head, as though a hundred tiny bombs had exploded inside his brain, piercing like needles.
The last thing he remembered was the face of a girl, her eyes wide with shock. She shouted for help, as his vision blurred and eventually, his eyelids kissed each other.
The medical streak in her kicked in immediately, with a jolt of adrenaline.
“Can somebody call the emergency services please?” Tanya yelled, getting down on her knees to do a quick assessment. He needed to be resuscitated.
The siren of the ambulance approached and tyres screeched to a halt. The paramedics took over immediately. As Tanya told them about her observations, a crew member alerted the Centre to send an air ambulance, the situation seemed critical. Tanya stood in a daze as the chopper ascended with the paragliding man on board. Her lips moved in prayer subconsciously, for that young man. The incident shook her considerably, and she walked home soullessly.
Two weeks had passed since she came back, and Tanya was due to join back. After last week’s incident, Tanya spent most of her days at home. She was absent-minded at times; her thoughts were filled with the injured person’s look of bewilderment just before he had closed his eyes. When Tanya returned, her first posting was in the intensive neurological unit. She followed the general consultant during the morning rounds of the ward. They approached a room towards the end of the hall; a man was sleeping peacefully, with the KLG cables connecting his chest to the monitor on the side table. She moved closer to the bedside, the face looked familiar, and almost immediately, Tanya gasped. She was astonished. The intern, along with Dr Sharma, the consultant, summarised the case history of the patient. He was receiving a follow-up treatment to recover from a sustained head injury. There was ventilator support for breathing, and equipment for fluid replacement. “Tanya, we will take Tom off the ventilator early this week.”
Dr Sharma said, looking satisfied and glanced through the results of his blood work and full-body scans.
“It may take a month or two for a full recovery. But his body is responding to the treatment well, which is a good sign.” He remarked and handed over the reports to Tanya, advancing towards the next unit. Tanya’s initial shock at finding the man from Nainital was soon taken over by relief upon hearing her senior talk about his recovery.
In the next few days, Tanya had to cover another unit, as a colleague was off duty. Following a successful, spontaneous breathing trial, Tom was extubated. When Tanya resumed regular duty, she walked to Tom’s room to check on his progress, almost anxiously.
As he woke up, he was startled. He tried to recall the seemingly familiar face. Seeing his confused expression, she smiled. In a little while, when as if he had remembered something, Tom said, “It feels like a dream. Thank you.”
Tanya was home again, this time for her Christmas vacations, the semester examinations were finally over. She had been eagerly looking forward to her internship. The exam preparation and the hectic study schedules had kept her busy in the past couple of months. Being mostly cut off from all things social, she was pleasantly surprised by an email she received on her phone. Tom, the name that remained in her mind for a long while until a few months back. The man to whom, she became the saviour of his life.
Tom’s email took Tanya back to the same spot she met him first. She wanted to be there again, so she took her bag and walked to the infamous spot. She recalled the incident as if she was watching a movie for the sixteenth time. It had all happened in the flash of a moment. She almost felt proud of herself for her profession, for being a doctor, for being able to help when it was a case of life and death. She remembered that if it weren’t for her rapid response, the outcome would surely have been different. She also remembered the day of Tom’s discharge from the hospital. He was excited to fly back to his home finally. She was holding her drink, going through the discharge summary on the desktop in the doctor’s room when a knock on the door diverted her attention. Tom stood there with a smile and handed her a bouquet and a thank you card. The card read, “Thank You to the angel that appeared in my life, in a moment of critical, dire need. It it weren’t for you, I might not have seen to live the day.”
He said he would like to keep in touch with the person who saved his life, so Tanya didn’t feel awkward giving her email address, it wasn’t remotely a concern.
Tom’s emails were about his work and life, about gas prices where he lived, about how apples don’t rot in the United Kingdom, but most importantly, how the incident had changed how he saw life and how grateful he was about it. Tanya was delighted to know that he was back on the mill, back to his everyday life. She felt satisfied, with her work and her profession, as she took small steps heading home, head high. If she ever got exhausted with the job, if at all, she would come back to this place, to read this delicate note once again, from Tom of Birmingham.
Chinchu Kuriakose is a Registered Nurse by profession, currently working and residing in Norfolk, United Kingdom. She was born and bred in Thiruvalla, a rapidly transforming town in Kerala. Recently, she took part in a couple of fiction writing challenges, and has successfully completed the ‘Start Writing Creative Non-Fiction’ module from the University of East Anglia. At present, she is working on her first book. Blog: https://myprofoundthoughts.blog/