Wednesday, May 16, 2007

A pat on the head

"The army marches on its...."

Give the guy a tough trek, a long journey, no rest and hardly any sleep. He hardly murmurs a word. But to this concoction you add bad food. Well, now you are asking for trouble! This particular guy sits below my chest and above my hip and in the past he has been responsible for many a dozen pains (most of them fraud, I was an expert at using him as a blatant anti-literacy weapon).

Anyways, the above mentioned combination of evils happened to me this past weekend on a trek to Mukhruthi, near Ooty. I am really not sure where exactly I got this minor case of food poisoning, but the effects started from Sunday evening.

It was Anoop who was first deduced with the symptoms. I pitied the poor chap. He was throwing up and acting funny. I gave him a sort of pep talk and bundled him into the cab. Our destination was Coimbatore which was a 3 hour drive from Ooty.

Poor foolish me. I was just getting proud at how good a constitution I had, when I was duly put in place with that good old feeling to throw up. Now me being a veteran at throwing up, I was not so perturbed. But things got bad when I did not throw up and the ill-feeling refused to go away.

Half way through I had enough of it and decided the old epicurean "hand-in-throat" trick to throw up. It was only a minor success, for some reason I only vomited the water I had drunk ten minutes back.

By the time I reached Coimbatore, I had a slight fever and body pain to add to the queasy feeling. Mind you, when you are together in misery, it is not all that bad. Every one else in the four member team was feeling much the same. I had initially planned to travel from Coimbatore to Bangalore on the very same day (I didn’t need no doctor to tell me how dumb an idea that was) Anyways we hit the sack and slept peacefully.

The next day, I was still weak and did not feel like eating. The silver lining was, I did not feel like throwing up either. Being a firm believer that reaching home is one of the best remedies for most illness, I decided to get a ticket to Bangalore and scoot out fast.

My train was at 2:30 P.M and my friend's at 12:30 P.M. As far as I have heard, nobody ever gave Indian Railways an award for punctuality. Fortunately the trains were only half an hour late. By this time, I was feeling really weak and a bit alone since my friends had left.

Presently, the train came and very luckily for me there was no rush. I was able to stretch out as much as you can stretch out on 3 seats. Thanking the creator, I lied down and fell asleep. But it was too good to last. The lack of food and the terrible heat got to me and in a short time I was wriggling around, irritable and weak.

On top of it all, I felt a bit scared because I was alone. What if I fainted? (I have never fainted so I couldn’t say how bad that was). I was already feeling dizzy and the extremities of my body felt a tad funny as if the blood was not reaching there.

To shut out these negative feelings I shut my eyes. Almost as soon as I shut it, I heard a female voice above me. I opened my eyes as saw this 18-20? Year old girl in a rather neat but simple churidhar standing beside me, hands out stretched. I didn’t get it. She did not look like a beggar. She was far too well dressed for that. Then from the corner of my eye I noticed another "girl". I had noticed this same "girl" on the platform and was in doubt whether it was a he or a she or a eunuch. But the one standing over me definitely looked female.

As my thoughts raced, she stretched out her hand again and said "help me brother". I was in no condition to speak or I would have replied "help me sister". Instead I shook my head to mean negative. I did not feel like giving her anything. Even if I did feel, I was in no condition to take out my purse from my jeans pocket.

I closed my eyes as if in dismissal and then re-opened them to see if she had gone. She hadn't! So I shook my head again and I guess it must have been a pretty pathetic shake because she did not leave but just kept looking at me again. I again did the "eye-closing-dismissal" sequence and this time I kept it shut.

What came next really surprised me. She gave me a pat on the head, the kind you give kids by ruffling the hair. I don't know clearly how to explain my feeling. Somehow my loneliness vanished. Here was a complete stranger (and whom I had refused to help) giving me support in her own small way. The world may be bad and going down the drain as per the news papers. But in moments like this I feel that there is so much good in it too.

I felt like getting up and paying her, just for the gesture. Somehow the idea felt a bit crude and on top of it my soul, saintly as it was, was stuck up with a non co-operative body. So I didn’t move a muscle. But from then on I steadily felt better. Guess most of my queasiness was psychological rather than bodily. Though I did not feel like eating, I forced myself to eat a bit of bread-cake bought at Coimbatore. Later, I had a cup of tomato soup, which really energized me. I reached safely and by then was feeling ok enough to eat even the cold, hard and tasteless dosa at my place.

To the girl in the train: I am sure that we will never meet again. I am also sure that you will never see this blog. But just in case you do… know this… “I am so very thankful to you!”

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