A Long Wait
by Venkata Krishnan
(Accra, Ghana, West Africa)
I was 16 then, lean, bespectacled, very shy and highly introverted when Ashutosh, my school buddy in Jabalpur, observed her gaze in the school corridor and said, " I think she likes you:"
It never realised to me before, but after Ashutosh's observation, I too sensed that Mona quite fancied me. She would often give me fleeting glances during the class, start any random conversation just to talk with me at the corridors, and once even cajoled her way in and joined our musical choir, despite her rusty voice, to participate in our annual cultural programme, just to be with me .
Like any other teenager of that age, I liked the euphoria of the moments in her presence, but a constant thought would often bother me, "What was it that she liked in me?". And being the person that I am, I never dared to ask her.
But then tragic struck when just before the annual examinations, she died in a ghastly road accident on her way to her native village.
I would often take out my bicycle and ride aimlessly for hours together just to take her off my mind.
That day, I was on the highway, and I barely managed to swirl off my bicycle at the last moment from a speeding truck that came hurtling at me from the opposite direction, and fell unconscious in a ditch alongside the road.
When I opened my eyes, I saw people all around me, and among them, I saw Mona in a bright sunshine yellow robe with a sad look in her face.
"Come on... You are taking too long", she said and faded.
I was 20, in Chennai, during my college final exams, a typical hot summer day and the bus that I frequent, came unusually late and then found itself stuck in the maze that the unruly and chaotic traffic presented.
After much contemplation, I decided to take an auto rickshaw hoping that I could reach the examination hall in time.
I jostled through the crowd from inside the bus and was about to step out, when I heard the sudden apply of pressure on the gas pedal accompanied by the burgeoning roar of the engine as the bus picked up speed almost instantly.
By the time I could retract from my decision, I had placed my foot on the road and the abrupt momentum from the bus thrust me forward violently and I landed face down on the asphalt just inches away from the rear wheel of the bus.
Seconds later, there was this screeching noise from the car following the bus as it came to a grinding halt with one of the front wheels just over my left hand.
A traffic cop who was policing the area curtly pulled me aside and volleyed the choicest of verbal abuses at me for my reckless action, much to the amusement of the on-lookers who had gathered around us by then.
I looked around embarrassing at the crowd and saw Mona in the bright sunshine yellow robe standing in one corner.
She hadn't changed a bit.
"Hurry up... You are taking too long ", she said and faded.
I was 34, working in Chennai, and was walking slowly towards the lone elevator shaft in one of the old buildings in central market, to meet a client.
I somehow disliked elevators.
The closed enclosure, the intimidating array of buttons for floor selection whose arrangement are never uniform, and the eerie feeling that emanates when the elevator moves without any visual reference to connect to, was enough to unnerve me.
It was mid-afternoon and there was no one else on the floor when the elevator opened bringing out a handful of people with it.
I reluctantly stepped inside and was about to press the button when I heard a lady saying, "Please wait..."
I was happy to see her and stepped aside from the button board to the other corner, hoping she would take the trouble of operating the elevator
"6th floor", I said sheepishly as she started to press the buttons, never bothering to look up at me.
The elevator began to move and just when it crossed the fifth floor, it let out a loud crackling sound and started to shake violently. It stopped ascending momentarily and then began to descend swiftly for a while until it halted abruptly.
It took about an hour for the security to fetch help to open the elevator door. We were stuck between floors and someone handed over a stool for us to climb out.
then, there were quite a lot of on-lookers from the various offices that the building housed and I saw Mona in her bright sunshine yellow robe.
"I can't wait...You are taking too long..." she said and faded.
I was 40, married with a lovely girl child, living in Chennai, and that day we were returning home on our motor bike after watching a late night movie
Riding a bike with family seated in the pillion in Chennai at nights can be quite notorious; with the deadly combination of potholes and dimly lit streets, and the obnoxious manner in which people drive at that time.
So I generally stick to the main roads, but on that night I thought of taking the alleys hoping to reach home faster, as my child was getting a bit restless.
I entered an alley just off the main road and must have gone only a few metres, when a car carrying night shift workers for a back office firm, came directly at considerable speed towards us from the wrong direction, apparently because the driver dozed off momentarily, and knocked us all off balance from the bike and even managed to climb over my legs.
Luckily, my wife and child got dislodged from their seat almost immediately from the impact and fell a few feet away from the hurtling car.
A few people who were perhaps working in the restaurant and shops nearby came forward and helped us to recuperate from the shock.
As I thanked them for the kindness they showed I saw Mona in the bright sunshine yellow robe standing in the midst.
"I can't wait any longer. You are taking too long.. I will have to leave...We will meet sometime... " she said and faded.
I was 50, working in Ghana, little known country in West Africa, away from home.
Working abroad away from family for money and better future, can be quite demanding. Loneliness and boredom become part of your identity and slowly start to reflect on your psyche.
But just then out of the blue, I got acquainted to a nice person in this lady, who was running a restaurant nearby where I stayed. I started to visit her place often, for my evening walk and for the good food they serve.
That night, it started raining when I was about to leave the restaurant, and she said she will drop me in her car. I initially denied her offer but when I saw the rain was getting worse I agreed to her.
We were almost close to the gate of my community area, when a car from the opposite side suddenly tried to overtake the vehicle in the front and came head on at us at top speed.
Everything happened so quick. And it wasn't her fault at all.
Some people from the nearby chop bar immediately rushed to the spot.
"Hey... She's breathing... She's still alive.." someone said and soon were making efforts to pull her out from the badly mangled car.
I don't know how I managed to get myself out of the car and I immediately started to look around for Mona in her distinctive yellow robe. But she was nowhere to be seen.
She has perhaps gone just as she said- I thought to myself.
As I looked down I noticed that I was wearing a bright sunshine yellow robe myself.
I hate hospitals.
And I know that even she hates them equally.
It's been few months now, and she was lying on the bed with all the valves and tubes pierced into her body which had deteriorated from all the complications and ailments that she was carrying all these years.
Her eyes were closed.
I have been with her in the hospital throughout, sometimes sitting next to her on the bed or in one the numerous chairs put up in the corridor outside the intensive care unit, waiting for her to make the final step.
She lay motionless as the machines and the readings kept ticking.
Suddenly I sensed movement in her and her body wriggled. I could sense that she was struggling to free herself from the excruciating pain from within.
The machines started to let off loud beeps and the attendants came rushing in and started to administer drugs in a bid to revive her.
I could see my girl child now grown and in her twenties crying for her mother from the other side of the door.
I looked at my wife.
Her eyes opened slightly and she looked at me momentarily.xxxxx