The translucent fluorescent lights lent a feeling of gravity to the hospital room. The muted hum of machines, the disquieting silence, and the faint chill of the air conditioner only added to Ali’s anxiety.

Mitha’s cold and still hands lay enclosed in his. Her young face had lost all its animation and looked pale and unmoving. 

She had been in the hospital for the last two days, unresponsive to treatment.

The doctor came into the room on his rounds with a posse of medical students. He checked her chart, felt her pulse, and discussed the case with them.  Just as they were leaving, Ali asked, “Doctor, Will she wake up soon? No one has been answering my questions. I want to understand what is happening.”

The doctor closed his eyes tiredly, took off his glasses, massaged his forehead with his fingers, and said, “Your wife has been unconscious for the last two days. We can never say with these coma cases. She could be out of it tomorrow or be in the same vegetative state, her whole life.”

Ali took a deep breath to hide the dread and despair he felt at the doctor’s words. He hated that the doctor called her a ‘case.’ She was a living, breathing human being. She was Mitha, not a ‘case.’

Even though he was tearing up, he managed to sound composed as he asked, “Is there anything, anything at all, I can do to help her get out of this state? Is there a specialist we could consult? Money is not an issue at all.” As tears threatened to spill, he took a deep breath and continued, “You have never seen her before, doctor. She is never still for a moment. She is one of the most lively persons I have ever met”. The tears suddenly erupted out of his eyes, flowing out uninhibitedly.

The doctor patted him on the shoulder and replied, “Let us take one day at a time, waiting and watching how she is responding to treatment. She has injured her head badly. There has been some blood loss. So it is not going to be an easy case. The only thing you can do is that you should be around her and make her feel loved.” As he turned to go out of the room, he paused and said, “There have been cases, though not very frequent, where stimulus by music has helped recovery among coma cases. Especially music that has a special meaning for them. So if you have something like that, you can try playing it repeatedly for her.”


Ali had been practically living at the hospital since the accident. He was washing himself up in the attached bathroom, eating at the hospital canteen, and sleeping in the narrow wooden cot in the room.

The hospital had settled for the night. The white curtains fluttered at the windows. The night duty nurse had finished her rounds.

From where he lay, he could see Mitha’s face, pale and waxen, under the muted lights.

His heart constricted when he thought about how her face had lost all its animation. He remembered how lively she looked the first time they had met.


Ali was into adventure sports, and he was about to take his first bungee jumping in Rishikesh.

He noticed the girl ahead of him in the queue. While the other people were nervous and tense, she had an excited and exhilarated look on her face. The person ahead of her had to be cajoled and pushed. But she jumped eagerly, with a whoop of joy. 

Ali was encouraged and inspired by her to quit his worries and take the plunge with elan. The loss of fear actually helped him enjoy the experience more.

There was a halting cabin where people who had finished the dive could wait for their friends.

Ali went there to wait. As he walked in, he saw the same girl there, watching from the deck as one of her friends was about to jump. 

She recognized him and acknowledged him with a smile,

She asked him about his experience, and they talked to each other. He watched her covertly as she spoke about her love for adventure sports.

She had dark animated eyes, a pert, slightly upturned nose, and lovely lips. Ali felt a sudden desire rise in him to kiss her on that generous, pinkish mouth. He averted his face so she could not see what he was thinking about.

She told him her name was Mitha, and he was elated when he realized that they lived in the same city. They exchanged phone numbers to update each other on the next item on their adventure bucket list.


They were soon spending hours talking to each other on the phone. Finally, after almost a year, they managed to meet.

In the middle of coffee and animated conversation, Ali suddenly paused and told her, “I don’t know if this is going to make you happy or not, but I think I am madly in love with you.”

She was silent for a while and then said, “I have been aware of it. I love you too. But again, as you said, ‘I don’t know if this will make you happy or not’ because for me love has to end in marriage. I am not a casual dater or a quitter.”

“Happy. This makes me very, very happy,” Ali exclaimed with pleasure.


They waited till they finished college and got good jobs. Finally, they married at the registrars, surrounded by a few close friends. The parents cited differences in their religions and did not support them. 

Newzealand had been their dream destination because it was the Mecca for adventure sports. So that’s where they went for their honeymoon. They planned the trip meticulously to take in as many sports as possible within their budget.

They had such a great time, challenging each other to go the extreme step and enjoying the adrenaline flow in their blood. 

The nights were filled with passionate lovemaking fuelled by the excess adrenalin in their blood.


For some reason, Ali suddenly remembered the ‘incident.’ It happened on the last day of their honeymoon.

They had a leisure day visiting the Makara beach, eating local food, and tasting the native wines.

They got back to their hotel and went to take a dip in the hotel swimming pool. They had the pool to themselves and played around in the water, having fun.

After a while, Mitha offered to bring the keys from the reception while Ali wanted to take one more lap. He told her that he would be in the swimming pool till she came back. 

It was already getting dark when she returned with the keys. To her surprise, she could not see Ali anywhere in the pool.  It was totally empty. She checked the changing rooms, and he was not there either. A creeping fear took over, and she began frantically running around the pool, calling out to him.

That’s when she noticed the stream of bubbles. They were steadily appearing from one of the deep ends while the rest of the pool was still and looked undisturbed.

She shouted for help as she ran, drawing the attention of the group of tourists at the reception. She jumped in, very near the place the bubbles were emerging from. 

She found Ali, right under the bubbles, drowning in the deep part of the pool. She put her arms around his shoulders and towed him towards the nearest edge. She kept talking to him, telling him repeatedly that he would be alright. 

By then, the hotel staff had gathered and helped her lift him out of the pool. Someone gave him first aid, and soon the water was spouting out of his mouth.


Later they lay in each other’s arms in their room.

Mitha teased him. “Hero while taking the skydive or climbing the mountain, but tamed by a meek swimming pool? I saw small kids comfortably swimming in there!”

Ali sounded sheepish. “I had sudden cramps in my calf muscles and simply could not move my legs. As I happened to be in the deepest part of the pool, trying to stand did not help. I did surface a couple of times and called out. I flailed my hands and shouted, but there was no one to hear me.”

Mitha became emotional. “God! What if I hadn’t come at the right time? What if I had gone to look for you in our hotel room or the dining hall?” She hugged him close to herself and continued, “It is a lucky day for us. It was those bubbles that called my attention to you.  I heard them gurgling up in the silence of the pool. Then I saw them rising and breaking on the surface.  Then it hit me. I realized that you were down there, drowning. It was your breath that was coming out as bubbles.  But the bubbles also gave me hope that you were still alive and breathing. They were the signs of life- your life! Thanks to those bubbles for giving me the direction and impetus to save you.”

Ali lightened the mood by becoming very dramatic and saying, “You saved my life. Now I am indebted to you, and you can ask for three boons that I will grant you.”

They laughed and hugged each other with a fierceness that spoke volumes about the depth of love they had for each other.


Ali came back to the present with a slight smile on his face remembering the incident.

After all those adventures involving jumping from heights and diving into depths, this stupid Mitha had to go and fall from the bicycle and injure her head on the curbside, thought Ali to himself, wryly.

As he was falling asleep, an insistent idea kept teasing his brain.

He forsook his sleep and checked the time. It was 4 AM.

He pulled up the stool near Meetha. She looked so calm and peaceful. He touched her cheeks gently and brushed away an errant lock of hair that was falling onto her forehead. 

Then, he took up his phone that lay charging nearby.


How long have I been lying here, wearing this shapeless hospital gown? Was it since yesterday or ten days back? I have no clue!

The last thing I remember was what happened when I had the accident. I had always been a stickler for my exercise regimen. It was my cycling day. I had just ridden down the road, and suddenly a small kid ran out of her house straight in front of me. I had immediately gripped on my brakes with so much pressure that the back wheel of the bicycle rose above. I lost my balance and tumbled over the front wheels. As I fell, I saw the mother pulling the kid out of my way and could feel the pavement rushing towards me.

Then after a long period of oblivion, I suddenly became conscious. 
I realized that I was in a hospital but had no idea who informed Ali or brought me there. 

With a sinking heart, I found that I was trapped inside my body which was refusing to obey my commands. I could not move my legs or lift my hands. 

Lying like this, with semi-closed eyes and a slightly open mouth that kept drooling, my auditory senses had overtaken all the other faculties. I could hear clearly, the scrape of a chair’s legs, the painful way the patient next door coughed, and the footsteps of someone walking along the corridor. 

These days my life is measured by sounds and smells, not sights. I know the nurse is in when I listen to her shoes click on the floor and the accompanying smell of Dettol. I know when Ali has entered the room, by the whiff of his cologne and sounds of his footsteps. I visualize the doctor next to me by shuffling of the sheets he reads from and the muffled conversation he has with the resident doctors.

My ears turn sharp as I hear the doctor discussing my ‘case’ with the interns. He refers to my situation as a coma. Then I lose most of what he is saying. 

Other than the audio, I can pick up limited movements on the peripheral vision. I can sense someone entering or leaving. A mosquito that had managed to come near me loomed like a cartoon elephant in front of my eyes. Ali, sitting next to me, shooed it away. 

Ali! My kind and devoted Ali. Quiet and shy, with his intense, smoldering, love-filled eyes. I remember how he walked into my life at the halting cabin of the bungee jumping place. 

I still recollect how he ducked his eyes so that I would not notice the naked desire he felt for me! It only made me smile. I think that’s when I fell in love with him. I have never told him about that. If I get out of the coma, I will definitely tell him. 

But I did not understand the depth of my love for him till he almost drowned on the last day of our honeymoon in New Zealand. I realized what love does to you. Your happiness and pleasure get totally linked. If the partners are down or unhappy, that forms the reason for your own despair. So, now I can understand the torture Ali is going through because of my situation.

The day Ali drowned was also when I started getting fascinated by bubbles. They almost became an obsession for me.

I would stare at the fizz coming out of soft drinks endlessly, letting the glass go stale. I would force a mug upside down into the bathtub full of water, then tilt it sideways so the bubbles would come frothing up and burst on the surface with a ding.


Ali gifted me a fish tank for our first anniversary. It came fitted with an air pump that would send up streams of bubbles into the aquarium.

There was this orange and white striped fish in the tank. It resembled the orange and white striped top I was wearing. So Ali promptly named the Gourami fish, Mitha 11.

She was a lazy fish. I would run, where walking was enough, and jump when stepping over would work. But Mitha 11 would perch herself behind one of the decorative rocks and refuse to budge. 

We would switch on the air pump and agitate her into swimming. The most she would do was get out of that corner lazily and move to another.

After my accident, I have changed into Mitha 11.

I feel as if molasses has replaced all the air in my world. Even if it is only in my mind, I feel sluggish and comatose when I try to move. I want to surface and breathe in the cool air. I want to run and jump and dance. But something is stopping me. I think of Ali. How much he misses me. How much I would love to be back in his arms- Living our wonderful life together!

That’s when I can smell Ali and hear him pull up the stool and sit next to me. His loving hands touch my cheeks gently and brushes away the errant lock of hair from my eyes.

Suddenly I start hearing them- Bubbles. Millions of them popping and humming and effervescing. They sound like tiny bells pealing in delight, inviting me to upsurge along with them.

I am so different from Mitha 11. I am not lazy. I am into adventure sports. I saved Ali from drowning. Now he needs me. I pull myself up from the lethargy and torpor. I swim with powerful strokes to get myself out of the molasses. I am surrounded by these tiny flashing, luminous bubbles that lift me up. True that I can’t see them. But the sounds buoy me up and boost me to the surface of my consciousness.

I can feel Ali’s presence next to me. I thrust my hand out to reach him


Ali has put on the Youtube music of bubbles on loop and watches her face with concentration. He keeps checking to see if her eyelids would flicker or her nose would twitch. Possibly her lips would curve up in a smile.

He is so intent on her face that he almost misses the twitch of her fingers. Then it catches his attention. As he watches, it happens again and again!


When the doctor sees it happening, he is impressed. He makes arrangements for small speakers that keep the gentle sounds of bubbles filling the room.

It takes a week for Mitha to open her eyes and follow people around. Within ten days, she can talk. In fifteen, they are out of the hospital.


Mitha and Ali are celebrating their fourth anniversary, and both of them watch the champagne sparkle and bubble up with effervescence. 
Authors Note:
Music has helped a few patients come out of a coma.  Especially music that has particular relevance. Doctor do recommend it.
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