I had just completed my masters in cardiology and got a job in a prestigious hospital in Bangalore. Born and brought up in the small hill town of Nainital, I was excited and nervous going to a big city for the first time. But I knew my prospects would be better in a big city. My parents found me a bride to help with the loneliness. A sweet girl, Anu, a postgraduate in history from a small place called Pantnagar. She was content with the idea of being a homemaker rather than a working woman.
As soon as we tied the knot, we relocated to Bangalore to start our new life. Life looked wonderful with a good job and a good soul mate. All my free time was spent in shopping with Anu, long drives and frequenting new eating joints.
Within two years of marriage we were blessed with a son, Dhruv.
Whatever time I could squeeze out of my busy schedule I spent with my family. We enjoyed going on vacations to different places. We generally went by road, as both Anu and I were accomplished drivers. Both of us loved hilly getaways. Dhruv too picked up this love and started enjoying travelling with us.
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But as they say, good things don’t last forever. Dhruv wanted to celebrate his tenth birthday at a hill station. We planned a trip to Munnar, a small hill station near Bangalore. It was a clear October morning and we started early. First I drove with Anu on the passenger seat and Dhruv on the backseat. Dhruv was enjoying the scenic beauty, munching his granola bar and chattering nineteen to the dozen. After a while I started feeling drowsy, so I handed over the wheel to Anu and relaxed in the passenger seat. Listening to the strains of old classic Hindi movie songs playing on our car stereo, I was lulled into sleep.
Before I knew what had happened, I was roused from sleep and yanked out of the car by strangers. I saw Anu lying on a stretcher in a pool of blood, which gave me a shock and I became unconscious. When I regained consciousness, I was in a hospital surrounded by relatives. I was told that while I dozed, a truck coming the wrong way rammed into the car. The hilly, serpentine road left hardly any space to manoeuvre and Anu lost control. The car skidded and went over the edge.
I had broken my clavicle and my arm was in a cast. Dhruv had a miraculous escape, but Anu was the worst hit. She was paralysed from the waist down. In seconds, my Anu, a vivacious person, became a paraplegic.
I recovered in a month, but Anu, despite several surgeries, became incapacitated for life. I was devastated, though to Anu and Dhruv I showed a brave face. My parents were unsupportive, wanting me to leave Anu. But I paid no heed to their words, instead breaking my ties with them.
Though I have employed staff to do the basic housework, I take care of Anu and Dhruv. I wake up at the crack of dawn and bathe, dress and feed Anu. She is wheelchair bound, and has to be lifted to lie in bed. Our house is modified for wheelchair mobility. Anu has a medicine pump, which supplies morphine to lessen her pain, and a catheter to remove wastes from the body. She has developed several other health issues along with her disability, diabetes and a thyroid disorder.
Going in and out of hospitals has become the order of the day. In spite of this, she has managed to do advanced courses in French and Astrology. for the family, from her wheelchair.
I travel 20 km for work daily and she has only two dogs to keep her company, as human companions try to take advantage of her disability. It is twenty years now; I am nearing 60, my hands tremble, and my eyesight has become poor, but I look after Anu as well as I can. Dhruv has grown up and he too helps his mother.
I have even begun a PhD in the hope that I can take Anu abroad and provide her with the best medical care. Her never-say-die attitude has made me strong and I will not hang up my boots while I live.
(Dr. Ravi Sharma as told to Preeti Talwar)