I gazed at the picture hanging on the wall behind the receptionist’s desk.
It was not unusual of her to keep me waiting for at least fifteen minutes. But I couldn’t blame her for the same. The woman inside the cabin was too empathetic for anyone who walked in, so it was likely for them to take more than the stipulated time.
I continued to read the lady in the picture. She appeared like an angel with innocence illuminating her face. There was nothing but tranquillity in her eyes. I wondered why was she holding a blue ceramic bowl in her hand. Was she offering some of her virtues to the world? Or could she be asking to fill her bowl with more love and affection, or rather more pain and grief that she can absorb for them?
“Ms. Shreya, you can go in,” the young girl at the reception broke my train of thoughts.
Wheeling in my thin frame on the white marble, I was about to push the glass door when Nupur opened it for me from inside.
“How is my girl?” asked Nupur, beaming with love and vigor.
I had been visiting Nupur for the last eight months, but today was a special occasion. It was one year since that fateful day that had forced me to seek help – a fine Sunday morning that changed the course of my life.
Abhishek, my adventurous partner, had planned a hiking trip that Sunday with a few of our friends. We had set out to start at five in the morning so as to be back for lunch at our favorite dhaba, Dhaba 365. He had even booked a table at 1 pm for eight people.
“Manu, why are you always late?” yelled Abhishek as he saw Manu running towards our car at 5:15 am.
“Sorry dost, I had 2-3 drinks last night, so found it challenging to wake up at 4 am,” explained Manu.
“You and your drink parties!” sneered Abhishek.
“Let’s hurry up now. Others have already started,” I intervened to dispel the argument.
We sped on the broad empty road, and reached the foothill in about 45 minutes.
“Here’s the gang!” shouted Manu, with excitement in his voice.
Abhishek quickly ran the hiking checklist for everyone. Hiking shoes, trek pants, food, water, towel, first-aid, knife. All check.
Abhishek took the lead, holding me by my hand.
After about an hour we realized that Manu was not in sight. Sandhya assured that he had been following her and might catch up in a few minutes, but Abhishek seemed restless. He instructed us to continue hiking, while he decided to go down to look for his childhood buddy.
Since I wasn’t much of a hiker, I wasn’t quite comfortable without Abhi, but decided to hide my distress, and proceeded slowly and cautiously.
Thirty minutes had passed but there was no trace of Abhi or Manu. Stress had now taken over my senses. I asked Rahul to call Abhi but there was no signal. I proposed that we wait but Rahul opined that it was a risky terrain. My feet had started trembling by then, and without looking what I was stepping on, I landed on an uneven rock that took me down with it. I completely lost my balance and kept rolling down on the uneven hill, finally landing on my knees.
I was aghast by what had happened and was unable to move. After good twenty minutes or so, I was rescued by my friends but I couldn’t feel my limbs.
Abhi and Manu had reached the spot by then. Manu informed that he was feeling dizzy from the hangover last night and had started vomiting, so he lagged behind.
I was still feeling lifeless below my knees and was frightened to the core.
The next two months went by running from one hospital to another. The doctors had declared that my limbs weren’t responding to any treatment. I felt my life crumbling down and spent days crying in my bed, while Abhi regretted every day for having left me alone at the hill. Manu quit drinking, and kept blaming himself for my state. It was a trauma for all of us.
After four months of the devastating incident, when I was nowhere near to leading a normal life and was trapped in a shell of despondency and dejection, Manu coerced both Abhi and me to see a psychotherapist at his expense.
Nupur, our therapist, has been working patiently and affectionately with us since then. She helped Abhi get over his guilt and repentance by repeatedly telling him that it wasn’t intentional on his part, and he had gone to help out a friend in need. Abhi has now resumed his work, after seeking special approval to work remotely from home so that he could take care of me.
I no longer get suicidal thoughts, or lock myself in the room for hours, cursing Manu and my fate. I haven’t resigned myself from life, nor do I visualise a grim future anymore. I have accepted my fate without feeling like a helpless victim. Nupur guided me to a life which wasn’t dependant on my legs. She gave me the courage and energy to live through my pain, while reminding me to be grateful for having a loving, caring and understanding husband by my side. ‘Gratitude’ seems to be a small word to offer to her.
‘I owe my life to you,’ is what I tell her. The woman in the picture, indeed, was my interpretation and representation of Nupur.
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