Saturday, June 9, 2007

the crash chronicles

Friends, well-wishers and all those who would rightly view my bereavement as a national catastrophe – I’m back!

After all, I’ve always believed that you can’t keep a good thing down. But before I get swept by another wave of self pity, let my exert some of that cobain willpower and return to the real purpose of this note. Which of course is to pen down the most memorable parts of
The Event. Call it an official reporting if you will. Or a crisp statement for the paparazzi. And ahem- check whether this copywriter (Oops, Senior Copywriter hehe!) is still capable of writing decently, ‘Compound Frontal Cranial Fracture with an Edema’ notwithstanding!

So here goes:

March 9th 2003, 6.30 p.m.: I pick up keys of the Royal Enfield Thunderbird. A 350cc chrome ‘n’ silver brute. Bought with Rs. 77,000 of my own sweat (and not the company’s blood – Daddu, please note!) while earning a princely pay of 12.5 grand a month.

March 10th –November 15th 2003: Employee dissatisfaction in my firm, JWT rises sharply for reasons unknown. Demands for increments are voiced extra loudly. Observation reveals this happens more in the parking lot vicinity.
I master the feat of riding the Thunderbird with both arms in the ‘Jesus Christ pose’, and the tougher art of ignoring envious glances at red lights.

November 16th 2003, 7.00 p.m.: I polish the beast with a newly bought bottle of Waxpol. The occasion – catching up with Jakarta deported boss & mentor Juhi, her hubby Amit and close friend/co-golden-employee Gaurav Dudeja a.k.a. Daddu.

November 17th 2003, 1 a.m.: A wee distance before the IIT crossing, there’s a cyclist driving in right lane (though undoubtedly it’s the wrong lane for him…and consequently me!). I see him at the defining second, and in a gesture of supreme sacrifice, swerve handle viciously.
Thunderbird and rider hit pavement at 70 kmph.

November 17th 2003, 1.10 a.m.: Passing car stops, helps me up. Woman in car panics on seeing my condition. I think, “Typical female overreaction”, and call home from my cell calmly, informing kith & kin about minor accident. I look at bike’s mirror, see for the first time a stream of blood and gooey liquid, and realize that that the bike’s first-aid kit won’t help. And then, in a display of Herculean presence of mind, I remember to throw away my contact lenses.
They were anyways nearing the expiry date.

November 17th 2003, 1.20 a.m.: In a departure from Bollywood movies, a PCR arrives in the thick of action, proving “With you, for you, always” is not etched idly on the vehicle. I remember sitting in the backseat, shaking violently as shock sets in, and a policeman with surprising gentleness massaging my hands and saying, “We’re just about to reach AIIMS, hang on.” I lose consciousness.

November 17th 2003, 1.40 a.m.: Time is truly relative, images hazy. I express profound regret on my Rudra metal tee being cut away by neurosurgeons (as it can’t be removed from over my head!). Strangely, my parent’s don’t seem to share my concern. I see their faces (and Riju’s parents, Juhi’s, Amit’s, my brother’s and lot many others’) flash in moments of clarity. Fade to black.

November 17th 2003, time unknown: I look up to see a face in a green mask tugging at my skull. I realize he’s suturing my head. I apprise him of my own medical knowledge: “Doctor, am I on local anaesthesia?” He nods, and I drift away. We’re both satisfied.

November 17th 2003, 11 a.m.: I wake up in a room beeping like a Nokia dealers’ meet, and realize it’s the ICU. Every part of me aches horribly- my upper body feels like it’s on fire, my neck feels like its been massaged with a pickaxe, and my arms feel like they’ve been used by elephants in a tug-of-war. I also discover that my right eye is swollen shut. I’m repeatedly questioned by anyone in a green or white coat – “Accident kaise hua/kab hua/kyon hua?” I try and patiently (pun intended…top this one, boss!) answer them. But everything has a breaking point, you know. So when this head nurse walks in (this is question # 34522) and asks, “How did you get here?”, there can only be one reply.
“On a stretcher”, I answer.

November 17th 2003, 12 noon: The inevitable happens. I want to pee. I look around and can only spot nurses walking busily. The only male being in the room, alas, is me. Resignedly, I hail a ‘sister-in-transit’ and tell her I want to go to the loo. She looks at me, gestures at the antibiotic drip attached to my left arm and says, “You can’t get up.” She also calls for a male orderly, and spares me any embarrassment by loudly proclaiming, “Inko pishaab kara doh.” I feel like a pup on a leash. The orderly leaves me and returns an instant later, holding a cylindrical metal bottle with a funnel top. And he too loudly says, “Side pe late jao aur iss mein karo.” Hello! I’m not peeing under the covers into some metal bottle blessed by countless vacationers before me, am I? I’m Ram Cobain, after all.
I refuse the bottle and stoically hold on.

November 17th 2003, 12.30 noon: But when you’ve gotta go, you’ve gotta go- no matter what your name is. I beg for the bottle like an alcoholic in throes of withdrawal, and the orderly gives it to me – luckily without a smile. I turn around, hope that no one’s looking at me (and that my aim under covers is good!) and let go. Aaah, praise the lord! I hand a very heavy bottle back to the orderly, lean back and close my good eye.
And pray that I don’t get an urge to shit.

November 17th 2003, 2.30 p.m.: I refuse a slice of toast but accept a glass of milk. By now, a first-year nursing student has been assigned to take care of me. It’s difficult to say who is more nervous between the two of us. But she manages just fine. She’s extremely compassionate and caring. She cuts my nails (as nails are a prime carrier of infection) and scrubs me with a hot towel. I fall asleep and keep seeing the pavement in my mind’s eye. When I get up, it’s time for me to be shifted into the ward. She wishes me a fast recovery, reassuringly saying that all will be fine. God bless her.
I don’t even know her name.

November 17th 2003, 04.30 p.m.: I’m in the critical section (as a nurse told me later) of the General Ward. There are 5 other beds with patients with super-gory wounds. As I haven’t been near a mirror, I can only wonder how I must be looking in comparison.
The sharp intakes of breath by visitors tell me that I’m very much in contention for the top 3.

November 17th 2003, 2.30 p.m.: I’m treated by awesome doctors – Dr. Mahapatra and his team (a special prayer for you, Dr. Sumit). They tell my parents that it’s a miracle I’m alive. That if the wound had been half an inch deeper (or if the fracture had ‘caved in’), I might have either been chatting with my ancestors or would’ve become a veggie! The CT scan reveals a Compound Frontal Cranial Fracture (that’s a big term for a big fracture to the front of the skull). I also have an Edema (a swelling inside the head somewhere) and a Haemotoma in the right eye (which translates to a bursting of blood vessels).
Plus an anonymous collection of bruises all over.

November 17th 2003, 06.00 p.m.: I very much want to be shifted to a private ward ‘coz I’m not sure of the state of the toilets in the General Ward. And I sure won’t be using a cold bedpan in public view! Riju’s dad (A very good, and cool doctor in AIIMS itself) is insistent that we stay in the General Ward, as the treatment and supervision is a 100 times better here. My mom begs me to listen, and I agree. The last thing I want to do is give her more tension. Plus the doctors have said that I can walk to the loo (if I can manage, i.e.), and a careful inspection tells me that the toilets are acceptably clean. Everyone’s happy.

November 17th 2003, 06.30 p.m.: Juhi is back again (after an all-night vigil at the Emergency) and Daddu is there too. It would be an insult to call them ‘friends’ when they’re so much more. I feel a lot better already. Their presence also helps block out the positive vibes from the woman on Bed 4, who keeps crying out, “Hai, main marr gayi!/God, I think I’m dying!”

November 17th 2003, 9.00 p.m.: My elder brother, Karthik stays the night with me (Every patient is allowed one attendant only). And oh – today is his birthday. I wish him and he smiles. He holds my arm as we slowly walk to the loo for me to pee. Once there, I manage on my own. As I leave the urinal, I sneak my first look at my reflection in the bathroom mirror. Wow! My right eye’s still swollen shut, and it’s the size of a cricket ball and as black as a burnt nigger in a Cherry Blossoms factory fire. There’s also a huge bandage on my forehead, my hair’s been half-shaved off (no big loss, everyone tells me!). And unknown to me, a neck collar too is on its way too.
I realize why the prettier nurses haven’t stopped to chat.

November 17th 2003, 10.00 p.m.: My entire upper body feels like someone’s playing Naughts ‘n’ Crosses on it with broken glass. The pain’s almost hallucinogenic. I can well empathize well with Hannibal Lecter’s victims.
The good part is, I no longer mind the numbing feeling on my skull.

November 18th 2003, 9.30 a.m.: An MRI reveals Cervical Degeneration to the neck, because of the whiplash on impact. Seems like nerves there have got inflamed, and hence the pain. I’m put on steroids. I’m also made to wear a throttling collar 24 hrs. a day.
Guess that means no more headbanging for a while.

November 18th 2003, 2.30 p.m.: A computer controls the intravenous flow of steroids into my body. The nurse tells me that 80ml of steroids would be injected over the next 48 hours. The ‘drip’ adds intensely to the pain. I ask her if I couldn’t instead do a bottoms up and gulp it all down. She refuses.

November 18th 2003, 6.00 p.m.: Nothing like friends, family and good wishes to cheer you up! My good buddy and art partner Sandy drops in, and I feel much better. So what if he goes back to office and confides in the gang, “Mujhe lagta hain Ram tapak jaayega.”
(Which politely translates into “I don’t think Ram will make it”.)

November 19th 2003, 11.00 p.m.: I just can’t get any sleep. It’s damn tough when your entire body aches. That’s not taking credit away from the antibiotic IV in my arm and a hangman-patented neck collar. Stephen King’s ‘Pet Sematary’ doesn’t help much too.

November 20th 2003, 5.30 p.m.: After 4 days, 22 skull stitches, 75 odd injections and a Ph. D on the smell of hospital antiseptic, I’m ready to go. Today’s my Discharge Day! Hallelujah! I hurriedly (and painfully!) get out of the cell clothes. And just after I’ve changed, a nurse ambles across and says that the discharge has been cancelled.
A good doctor with a sense of humour wants to observe me for another day.

November 21st 2003, 5.30 p.m.: I’m finally leaving! Juhi and my parents hold the bed sheet as a makeshift curtain while I slowly change. I feel like a Vietnam War hero. The nurses say that I’m looking much better. Relief of going home can add a definite glow to your cheeks.

That’s that, I guess. I’ve spent nearly 2 months at home recovering, and at times I’ve even come close to missing Horlicks Medical Marketing. (Gagan, please note the emphasis on the word ‘almost’). It’s been one crazy ride, from learning to keep the neck immobile while Black Sabbath plays on, to becoming accustomed to the morbid gawks of passerbys. But I’m not complaining. It’s nice to see the sunrise, and sleep knowing you’ve got a great, truly awesome bunch of friends/well-wishers. But of course, some of you are much more than even that. You know who you are, so I’ll spare you the pink blushes of individual citations. If only I had known earlier that I was so popular, I might have run for the PM’s job. Seriously. Thanks for everything – you’ve made it worth coming back J

peace, love, empathy
ram cobain 5th Jan 2004

P.S. – that thing they say about “your whole life flashes in front of your eyes….”- it’s a giant hoax!

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