(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…
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.