Dark clouds pierced the veil of the sky. The howling wind produced a loud cacophony. Dusk had dawned early.
Pranati worried about reaching on time as she manoeuvred her well-used van through the rough terrain.
“My wife is in a lot of pain,” the caller on the other end had remarked. “You are my only hope.”
Pranati started immediately after noting directions. Nothing could deter the young doctor from her duty.
Pranati had come to the tiny hamlet of Chamoli, in Uttarakhand, for six months after completing her MBBS. She had been here for three years. The villagers, living on the threshold of the traditional and the modern, deserved a doctor. The nearest government hospital was thirty kilometres away.
The out of the world place also provided an escape from her past.
Pranati pressed the brakes to avoid a head-on collision with an uprooted tree. The vehicular movement was blocked, and she set for her destination on foot.
It took another ten minutes to reach the house, which stood aloof in its eerie darkness.
A woman’s wail punctuated the silence. Pranati vigorously knocked on the door and was momentarily blinded by the glow of the lantern when it opened. She did a double-take upon seeing the face.
“Thank you for coming in this weather,” the man said, without recognising her.
Pranati followed him inside the house in silence. She had always thought that she would freeze with fear upon facing him again. Strangely, she felt nothing.
The house was decrepit, with signs of seepages visible at many places. The windows appeared unbolted for ages.
Inside, a woman lay atop a charpoy, moaning in pain.
“Don’t worry, dear,” the man said in a soft voice. “Help is here.”
Pranati marvelled at the genuine concern. She administered an injection and comforted the scared young woman.
As she waited for the medicine to take effect, Pranati recollected the time when the man in front hung around her MBBS campus. He had thrown acid at her face after she had thwarted his repeated advances.
She closed her eyes as the burning sensation engulfed her.
In less than a minute, her world had changed.
It had taken three months, plenty of her father’s money, and the best doctors for Pranati to get a new face. Her attacker had disappeared from Earth, till today.
“I am feeling better now,” said the woman on the bed.
“Your fees, doctor?” the man asked after a pause.
“No fees,” she said. “I am glad I came here.”
Her attacker looked at her in surprised silence.
Pranati took leave of the couple and retraced her steps with a spring in her step. The rain had stopped, and a new dawn was yearning to break out.
Her van was parked nearer than it seemed the first time. Pranati whistled as she jumped over the fallen tree to reverse her van to change her path. The verdant atmosphere glowed in luminous delight at the reflection of her vehicle’s headlight.
Pranati had come face to face with her fear and realised that the past held no power. She pressed the accelerator and moved ahead. Her present beckoned.
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