Son Rise – Redemption

(This is a sequel to Son Rise – the Chase)

So, on 22 Jan 2008, around 4:30 am I found myself at the not-so-deserted Mysore bus-stand. I scouted around for a bus to Calicut, my next port of call, realized that the first bus had already left and the next won’t start soon.
That was why when I discovered a red box of a bus ( Kerala Transport’s “Superfast”) with the board Mysore-Thrissur (it rhymes too), I was overjoyed not just at saving a detour to Calicut but also on starting the day on a good omen (I’m very superstitious) – the day looked promising.
The bus’ crew had just woken up; groggily and through mouths foaming with tooth-paste, they fielded queries in Kannada from prospective passengers – “Gundlupet?” “Bandipur?” “Gudaluru?”, interesting places I’d seen only on Google maps and always wanted to visit, but very incongruous in my current situation.Whatever lack of zeal ( in shouting out destinations maybe) shown by the comrade conductor (in comparison to his Karnataka counterpart) was made for in the timeliness, the bus departed sharp to the minute, and never stopped  except at the designated stops.
By quirk of luck, I had taken the shortest geographical route to Thrissur from Bangalore , one I’d never explored before on account of bad roads; but it seemed with this red box bad roads hardly mattered, so inspite of frequently being tossed into the air (the driver never cared about hitting humps or bumps), I was glad at making good progress.
Except a part of me that wanted a pit stop, one which would contain a pay-phone – I’d woken my phone from coma one last time and memorized my f-i-l’s number fast before the phone passed out again. But that was not to be – at a village tea-stall where we stopped there was nothing but to eat and drink and to smoke.
We passed Gundlupet and breezed in to Bandipur forest – which became Mudumalai forest when we crossed into TN; the narrow winding forest road got progressively snakier, till we were climbing hills – and the forest grew progressively shorter transforming into tea-estates – not very impressive ones like in Darjeeling or Munnar but beautiful all the same – though out of focus for my mind at that time. We picked a group of foreigners in the forest and quite a huge rush of well dressed natives outside Gudalur, office-goers ? Maybe ?
But no pay-phone-stop !!
I got company on my seat; a young office-goer – a Malayalee (Keralite):I asked for his cell-phone – trying to explain that I’d use my SIM – but he smelt a rat and declined flatly.
From Gudalur we descended into Kerala at Vazikadav, and ostensibly to celebrate this home-coming the crew finally decided to take a 15 min b/fast stop at a place with yes…
A pay-phone.
M had been in labour room for most of last night and today morning – where she had tea and glucose; nothing more was known – the doctor had not yet arrived – the baby’s ETA was unknown – it could be hours or days ( there were others lodged in the labour room for days) – while their kins camped outside.
Some news was better than no news – so the kid had not arrived yet – I still had a chance to outrun him/her and fulfill M’s desire to be near at that Moment (atleast as near as possible in India -sadly we are still far from aping the West custom of allowing the would-be father into the labour room).
Over bad breath, I gulped some mango juice, to prevent collapsing with exhaustion – no more than a short nap (in between hitting two road bumps and the resultant tosses from the seat) in more than 24 hours.
To Nilambur, to Malappuram – gentle hills , winding roads and we still moved fast – the “Superfast” red box had proved its name. The Malappuram halt got me impatient -and consequently the conductor, irritated.
Pay Phone – my best pal now told me that baby was still reluctant; and that M had asked for me – through the nurse attendant. I couldn’t make out what to think ; distance was my biggest enemy now and I still had 80 kms or so (which is a good deal by Kerala-roads’ standards).
I wondered if M would hold on till my arrival to fulfill some dumb promise – I wished she wouldn’t- I could not talk to her as quite understandably cell-phones were not allowed inside.
Perinthalmanna, Pattambi without halts; I crossed the Bharathapuza and was into Thrissur distict.
Finally at around 12:30ish (it was more than 2 hrs since I had any news) I was on the outskirts of Thrissur – not that I remembered the precise location of the hospital – when the town started looking familiar I got down and took an autorichshaw – thankfully the hospital was (and is) well known.
Around 1 pm, I finally gate-crashed into the wards and got to where kins of expectant mothers camped for days, in front of the white wall (thoughtfully ?) of the Labour Room with a No Entry board and a window, with an electric bell on the side – the window – was the counter for medicines , food , cloth , glucose and yes newborns.
Everyone was waiting eagerly. I thought I’d made it.But I’d lost the race – my mother embraced me and said that I’d become a father – of a boy.It seemed that M was fine, but not much news was forthcoming.
The window opened and “boy of ‘M'” was finally called out from the counter and a little bundle with tiny quivering hands and closed eyes wrapped in a turkey towel – all except the head  and the hands was passed out – after my and M’s mother (apparently only experienced mothers apart from professionals could handle an infant till 28 days as “neck was not firmed up till then”) cradled the infant; they had to finally handle him over to me – reluctantly , gingerly – with lots of this-ways and that-ways gestures. The chap seem oblivious to all the racket around him – I realized that I’d not washed my hands after the incredible journey and returned the newbie in a few seconds, much to the relief of all the “old moms”.
The baby was returned to bond with the Mother and Milk.

The Moment had arrived.

Yet, another incredible wait started – to see M, the visibly calm nurses had to reply a hundred times that she was under observation and it was the norm. It was not less than 4 hrs later that M was finally wheeled out and in the hospital’s private room – that we were once again united and now with a new kid on the block.
He’d arrived at 11:15 am , a little while after I’d last talked to my f-i-l over phone.And incredibly I was the last person in the extended family and friend circle to get the news.
Thanks to my cell-phone’s persistent coma state.
When I arrived back at work 3 days later,my last day at work had been extended indefinitely subject to meeting deadlines; I slogged all could, over the weekend to finally get relieved by Tue.
So much for humanitarian grounds, huh.

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Son-rise – the Chase

More than 3 years ago, around this time – a phone-call triggered a life – no overstatement this.

It was a Monday evening and I’d returned the same morning from Kerala, where my wife (say M) waited the arrival of our kid, scheduled for Feb 14 (no kidding) – still more than 3 weeks away.
And after a long day’s work ( more so, as I was slated to quit the company by that Fri, subject to meeting some unreasonably stiff deadlines) – I had a disagreement over a trifling issue with M, the reason, laughably mundane ( and I don’t even clearly remember the details) but enough to get my feisty M all worked up. Then, over the phone – I realized first hand ( no books or Wikipedia had prepared me for this) – that a tiny impulse of indignation was enough to trigger labor.
While M scurried off to the hospital in a pre-arranged taxi with a pre-packed overnight bag (thoughtful in-laws) – I got home with my head in a tizzy. It still could not sink in – so soon – false alarm most probably. But still, 3 weeks soon, it was not impossible – but all my preparations to switch my job before that and take a week’s leave – to welcome the newbie, evaporated ? Enough to trigger diarrhea – and I sat on the WC, and checked on Indian railways site to find that the last train for the day was already gone ( it was well past 11). Getting to the bus stand was the only option – but only my mo-bike would only be fast enough for that but then where to park. So I went to my b-i-l’s place,to find a parking slot for my bike and to get a ride to the bus-stand at midnight, which I eventually did after some coaxing ( he knew, that otherwise I was crazy enough to ride all the way to Kerala on that bike).
So an hour or so later I found myself on an “Express” service of the Karnataka Transport Corp. ( the 24 hour Blr-Mysore service of which I’d always admired) – there was no direct bus to Calicut or Coimbatore till morning – so segmented travel was the my only option to reach Thrissur. Although M sounded surprisingly calm as well as spirited – Murphy made me fear for the worst – all those medico episodes I’d read of in Reader’s Digest and seen in Discovery flashed through my eyes, connected, as a looping trailer, of umbilical cords wrapped around the necks, making sleeping impossible – it was also possible it WAS a false alarm and that the hosp after doing some business would discharge M, asking to come another day for the finals (and for more business).
My faith in the K(arnataka)SRTC Express was jolted when the bus broke down around 2 or 3 am near a tea-stall at Who-knows-where, the driver seemed to try to fix the engine – which seemed to emit an abundance of steam or smoke or both, accompanied by the skull-capped conductor who seemed to help while being visibly peeved by the account of my predicament (“my wife is in labor, sir” in the best Urdu I could manage) – as I tried in vain to hasten up their efforts. The driver seemed to have his eureka moment when he fished out a tree branch or an old rope or something to fix the incontinent engine – and it looked like we were finally moving off – at 20 kmph – but moving nevertheless – till the engine gave another hiss and filled the front of the bus with smoke once again. Another temporary fix and the driver managed to get to a KSRTC work-shop-cum-bus-depot and called it a day ( he could retire early today) – and we waited eagerly for a relief bus – but one that never came – we, a harried island of wakefulness among a sea of sleeping souls – drivers, mechanics, empty buses, all asleep.
Finally the conductor escorted us back to the Blr-Mys highway on foot – everyone trailing him for that savior bus – empty one – just for us – but one that never came – instead the conductor was trying to flag down any other KSRTC bus that he could – as if his khaki provided us with the credentials that we were not bandits. One bus stopped after many attempts – there was a mad rush – the woman in front of me fell on my legs – but the scramble paid off when I found myself tightly packed in a space fit for half a person.
Mysore was conquered, with a whimper – 135 km in 4 hrs, 400 km or so left, and my phone – gasped one last time for charge and slipped into coma – snapping my ties with M and the rest of the world – from now on – I would not know if a new life was born – or whatever happened to the existing life – and worse – I didn’t remember any phone numbers either, to call from a booth, e,g. it was the very … traumatic.