I believe that in every human lies a power – a power which could melt one’s heart owing to its kindness. This power is nothing but ‘sacrifice’.
26th November, 2004.
Every single day I’d glance at him as I approached my work table and he’d be in his usual merry mood. I’m talking about Sidharth – the guy who had lost his right leg in an accident and to whom I had lost my heart.
It’s very easy to spot him and one will always come across him every day when they fetch coffee or go to the xerox machine room to make copies of documents, in the cafeteria, just about everywhere, with his wheelchair. It’s been three years since the injury, but he had never considered his position to be a liability, though he had a plastic leg replacing his original one. Rather, he perceived life in a different way from then on.
He always had a jovial air about him and indeed charmed me the most. I’d look up at him and give a smile and say a “Hi!” every time I cross his cubicle. This has sometimes ended up in chitchats too.
“So, how are you feeling today?” I would ask him.
“Yeah, good, though a bit overloaded,” he would say, smiling at me.
“Wanna come with me for a coffee break?”
He would glance at the pile of papers in front of his computer and say with a sigh, “Sure.”
And that’s how our friendship blossomed, which bloomed into love soon.
The whole office knew our story and a few would come over to me to say, “Not many girls would love Sid looking at his condition. You made a wise choice, take care of him.”
I would never convey this to Sid, as he’d rage, shouting, “Do they all think I’m inefficient to do things on my own, just because I lost a limb?”
And I’d feel guilty as people assume I love him out of sympathy. But that’s not the truth. His disability only made me understand him much better.
That day I saw him loosening his tie up a bit, an act he does to relax, when he’s too busy.
“Hey Teju,” he called out to me, as I approached his workplace.
“Yeah, but I can’t afford a coffee break now,” he said in an apologetic tone.
“No problem. I’ll bring you a cup when I come back.”
But when I returned, he welcomed me with happy news.
“Teju, guess what?” he cried excitedly.
I shook my head, handing over his coffee. He placed the mug on his table and looked at me with wide eyes.
“We’re flying to the Andaman, as part of our project.”
“Our whole team?”
“Nope, just a few and we both are among that,” he said, smiling.
Sid and I worked in the same project. So, we were in the same project team.
“How many days?”
“One week and we’re leaving on December 21.”
“Yeah, but it wouldn’t last long. When the work gets over, we are off on our own for sightseeing. Isn’t that great?”
“It is!” I exclaimed.
“Mummy please,” five year old Anu begged.
“OK, I’ll ask your father,” her mom replied, as she picked up the phone to answer the call
Anu’s father didn’t live with them. He was transferred to the Nicobar Islands as part of his job. So, this winter leave, Anu has been begging her mom to take her to Dad.
“Anu, it is Papa on the line. Why don’t you ask him yourself?”
Anu entered the hall with a teddy in her hand. Her mom handed over the phone to her.
“Papa, pleeeech. I want to see you,” she pleaded in her childish voice.
The reply was positive and soon Anu was informed that air tickets had been booked and she was gonna see her Daddy soon.
“Teddy, did you hear that?” she asked the white fluffy teddy bear that was sitting majestically on her bed, “We’re gonna see Papa and this time, I won’t come home without him.”
Little did she know that she herself won’t return home.
December 21, 2004
We landed at the airport in Port Blair in the evening. It was a journey of only a few hours from Chennai.
“Awesome!” I said, as I witnessed the breathtaking view from the plane’s window.
Sid leaned over and saw the sun setting slowly in the horizon and the islands beneath us.
“Heaven-on-earth!” he said.
I leaned on his shoulders and saw the plane landing together.
Over the next few days, our schedules were busy with hectic office work. We barely had time to tend ourselves and I got to meet Sid only in the evenings.
But, we got the work completed before Christmas and were free for the next three days as the flight back was only on 27th.
December 25, 2004.
“Guess where we’re going today?” Anu’s Dad asked her.
She was so excited on meeting her Dad that she was behind him always wherever he went.
“Indira Point,” her Mom answered.
“What are we gonna do there?”
“Well, that is a lighthouse,” her father explained.
“What’s a lighthouse like?” she asked with wonder.
“Like you, Papa?”
“Taller than me.”
Anu got enthusiastic and she began jumping up and down shouting, “Let’s go now, now, now, now…”
December 25, 2004, 5:00 p.m.
“Sidhu, will you be able to manage?” I asked with concern, as I looked up at the towering lighthouse.
We reached the Nicobar Islands by ferry as Sidhu wanted to witness the sunset at a higher altitude with me, close to him. So, he naturally chose the Indira Point. Our team mates had other plans, so we left them back at the hotel and embarked on our own.
“I’ll be able to make it,” he said confidently.
I helped him out of his wheelchair and it took us about half an hour to reach the top. It took Sid a great deal of energy to climb one flight of stairs. We had to stop at intervals for him to restrain energy and rest his functional limb.
“At last!” he whispered as we entered the top level. I placed his wheelchair next to him and he sat down on it with a sigh.
I pushed him around to the other side to see the sunset. About a 50 visitors were present on that floor. I saw a small girl trying to make her paper windmill rotate in the direction of the wind.
“Papa, make it turn, make it turn,” she cried, while her Mom tried to calm her down.
We squeezed our way through and found a cosy spot.
Neither of us spoke for a very long time as we slowly drunk the beauty of the landscape.
Then, gradually he stood up next to me with the help of the railing.
“Isn’t it beautiful?” he asked me, “To stand up here and witness such a glorious moment?”
“Yea,” I said.
“Do you know why God didn’t take away my arms?”
“So that I could link it with yours and stand here someday with you,” he said, pulling me closer to him and linking his arms with mine.
“And do you know why he created gap between the fingers?” I asked.
“No,” he said, looking at me quizzically.
“So that someday, the one who is made for you comes and fills those gaps by holding your hand,” I said, intertwining my fingers with him.
“Is it?” he asked squeezing my hand and giving a soft laugh.
“Love you, Teju,” he whispered in my ear.
I leaned on his shoulder and together we saw the sun sink and darkness reign in.
There was no ferry back to our place until the next morning. So, we decided to stay at a hotel nearby and on the way to our room I noticed the same little girl I saw at the lighthouse enter the room next to us.
I smiled to myself, wondering if Sid and I will have a boy or a girl child.
“Goodnight,” Sid said, as he fell onto the couch and I bargained the bed.
December 26, 2004. 6.30 a.m.
Anu felt her bed shaking badly and she woke up to the hysterical voices of her Mom and Dad.
“Papa,” she called out feebly, wondering why everything around her was jolting out of place.
“We need to leave the place now and get out into the open!” Dad shouted, catching hold of Anu and running for the door.
Just as he was about to open the door, one jolt made him bang his head on the wall and he dropped to the floor, groaning.
“Papa,” Anu yelled.
Her mom tried to arouse him and he feebly whispered, “Go out now, I’ll join you soon.”
The shaking worsened and Anu’s Mom was left with no choice. She scooped Anu and began running out of the hotel along with the other guests.
As she exited the building, Anu saw something huge swirling towards her far away and she heard her Mom utter her prayers suddenly.
“Anu,” her Mom called out to her as they ran in the opposite direction, “Listen, you need to stay by my side and run faster. Momma won’t be able to run faster if I carried you. So, run alongside me and don’t look back.”
Anu was lowered down onto the road and she gripped her mom’s hand in fear. She couldn’t understand what was happening around her and why all the people were running around her madly.
They began running and Anu felt her legs ache after a certain point but she was too afraid to stop and complain. She kept running along with her mother until…
December 26, 2004. 6.35 a.m.
“Teju!” I heard Sid scream.
I woke up with a start.
His eyes were wide with fear and I felt my bed shaking wildly.
“What the hell is happening?” I asked panic-stricken.
“Earthquake,” he shouted, “Quick get out of the bed.”
I ran to help him get on his wheelchair and we rushed out the door. While passing, I peeped into the next room to see if I could find the little girl and her family but it seemed like they had already vacated.
I pushed through the running people and the sight that welcomed us at the hotel’s exit made us all panic even more.
“Tsunami!” I heard someone cry behind me and that brought me to my senses.
“Sidhu, stay still,” I said as I pushed him onto the street and began running away from the huge waves. It was still at a distance, yet we knew it would pour in right through us all soon.
“Teju,” he called me, frenzied.
“We’ll be alright Sidhu,” I kept reassuring him, “We’ll be fine soon.”
With everyone running haphazardly like maniacs, pushing the wheelchair around was difficult. It slowed us down.
“Teju stop, we won’t make it at this rate.”
He got up from his chair. “I’ll try to run too.”
I tried to argue his stupid idea but we had no time left, so I had to agree.
His limbs helped him and I thanked God for it and hoped his energy would last longer.
We had to leave the wheelchair behind and ran as fast as our legs could carry. We could hear the waves approaching us faster.
“Sidhu, are you OK?” I asked between my breaths, when I saw him slow down a bit.
He panted hard and nodded, though I could see pain in his eyes.
We were still running and I looked back, only to be greeted with waves so higher that I knew for sure would engulf us.
“Oh my God!” I yelled, tears flowing.
Sidhu turned back to see too and that’s when another bad luck hit us. A car zoomed in out of nowhere and hit Sidhu and another woman before us. It crashed through and smashed Sidhu’s plastic leg and wheeled over the lady’s head. She died on the spot and I stood frozen.
My ears turned deaf in a moment and I could see tears flow through Sidhu’s eyes but I couldn’t hear his wailings. I blinked my eyes hard between my tears.
“Aaaaaaaaaaaahhhhhhhhhhhh,” at last I heard him wail.
“Sidhu!” I cried, going on all fours, next to him.
“Teju, run,” he shrieked.
“No, I won’t without you.”
“I won’t be able to run. The plastic leg’s shattered and we left the wheelchair behind. So, you run.”
I ran helter-skelter, trying to find something that could make me wheel Sid. No vehicles passed our way and I didn’t bother to find out what happened to the car driver. The car had hit a post and the front windowpane was all smashed. The car too was not in a condition to be driven.
“Sidhu,” I cried, hopelessly.
“Run, Teju, run!”
I lost all hope and decided to die there with Sid.
But, just then I heard some kid crying. I turned around to see the same small girl crying next to the woman who was killed by the car.
“Mama,” the kid, kept shaking her Mom.
My heart melted. I got a new vigor. Something in my heart urged me to run. So, I picked up the girl who wailed loudly and kicked her legs in the air.
“Look, look, you’re gonna be OK. Your Momma won’t come with us though,” I said crying.
She cried louder.
I kneeled beside Sid.
“I’m sorry, but I’ve to do this,” I said. He was still groaning in pain.
“I know. Just run. If you stay with me, we both will die and so will the kid. Just go!”
“I love you,” I said, kissing his forehead, my heart aching, as I need to leave him behind.
“Love you too. If I do have a next life, we’ll meet there,” he said sentimentally, crying.
I jumped onto my feet, gave a final look at the love of my life and began running, holding the girl close to me.
I heard the waves crash and drown all the buildings and people that came along its way.
I ran faster and I sighted many giving up their fight. But, I wasn’t ready for that. If not for me, I’d save the girl’s life.
My energy was beginning to drain out. I would’ve run about a mile when I saw a motorist vrooming past us.
“Hey, help us!” I shouted with all my strength left.
He applied brakes and I ran forward.
“Hop on, fast!” he urged.
I got onto the backseat with the girl and he raised his throttle, gaining momentum.
I turned around and saw the sea now, conquering the land and at first glance I knew, Sid would have been drowned and dead by now.
I fainted and fell on the driver’s shoulders.
December 26, 2014.
It’s been ten years, since the tragic disaster shook the world. Almost 11 countries had experienced the same scenario, with Indonesia – the largely affected country.
Well, even after I blacked out, the kind, Mr. Sushil (the motorist to whom I owe my life) was able to make it. We made it to a safer zone and I was nursed and later reunited with my colleagues. Their part of the island was still intact. Everyone grieved on hearing about Sidharth – the hero of my life.
Anu, the little girl’s name that I later learned, was given proper medication but the trauma hadn’t affected her much, except that she kept enquiring about her Mom and Dad. I knew nothing about her Dad’s whereabouts until she informed me that they had left him in the hotel. And I missed sighting him there. Anyway, my efforts would have been futile. Anu was able to understand she would meet them no more and that eased our worries a bit.
We returned back to Chennai only after New Year and from then on, Anu grew up with me. I didn’t get married. But, I raised Anu up as my own daughter.
Even now, as I recount those days, I feel proud of all those who fought their lives when the waves grabbed them and gnawed them to death – including my Sidhu…
And I salute the power of many such warriors like my Sidhu – SACRIFICE…
P.S. The Indira Point lighthouse is used only for fictional purpose. It is not open to visitors. The events and the characters are for fictional purpose only.