Friday, April 25, 2014

These past days...

I woke up on Monday and cycled to work as I always have done. Stick to the rules and you will be fine Aishu, I have always said to myself. Stick to the rules. Keep left, hand on brakes, stop for annoying traffic lights. Stick to the rules. However Monday morning rush meant someone else who wasn't quite sticking to the rules hit me from the back. I lost balance and fell. In many ways my life changed that second.

I stumbled at first. But I knew I was hurt. I also knew that I could not leave my cycle, my love (named Firebolt) behind. I have no recollection as to who helped me but I later found out it was an amazing human being called Manasa. I was tucked into an auto along with my cycle and en route to home. My first call was to my best friend Ramya. I work with her and I knew she was levelheaded enough to come through (and she did!). She contacted my parents, who immediately called me. What's funny is that I don't remember much of this at all. I do remember thinking that it would be a funny story later on and summoned enough energy to take a selfie! I then called my friend and cyclist extraordinaire Aditya. I still am not sure what I mumbled to him but the gist of it was - "Adi what if I am no longer cute?" Poor thing was probably torn between trying not to laugh and trying to help me in anyway. But he calmed me down.

I decided that instead of going home, I would check myself into the hospital. "You will be fine. Bolt will be fine. Now let's hope this is not serious and hopefully your doctor is cute," I told myself. I paid the auto driver extra, got my cycle out and stumbled into the ER of the Malathi Manipal Hospital a bloodied mess. Immediately I was swarmed by doctors.

Again I lose consciousness. Parents come. I am sitting on a bed. Cracking a joke about running to the doctor who finds me amusing. Apparently I joked quite a bit in the ER. I just don't remember it. But hopefully I was funny. The doc at first seems to deliver good news. "No broken hand. But she needs stitches in her mouth. Bring her back at 2 in the afternoon".

My friend Shuveshek leaves everything and comes sees me. I am still not entirely aware. I continue to Whatsapp. He quietly blots blood coming from my face. Now things get interesting. My left hand is really swollen. An xray shows that it is broken. More bad news: I need surgery. The plastic surgeon has to wire three of my teeth on my upper mouth. He then notes that the lower part of my mouth needs to be stitched extensively. At first my stomach sinks. Then I quietly mumble "I am running TCS 10k in a that out of the window now?". Both docs shake their heads. We need you to get back in one piece they tell me. I smile and tell them - "Just make sure I am still cute ok? Cause I am adorable". They burst out laughing.

I get admitted. Evening surgery. Friends and colleagues pour in. My friend Merlin comes and helps me into my robes. My friend Henna has me laughing throughout. Friends call. I assure everyone I will be fine. I get the message that my hometown team Bengaluru FC won the Indian League. I am genuinely happy and excited at that. Ramya is a rock who helps my parents through this storm. It's time for surgery. My sister in America had apparently been crying. I console her. My mum and dad look shaken but seem fine enough. Especially my mum. She is calm. Her strength inspires me every day.

I had been warned that anesthesia makes you say crazy stuff. When I came out of surgery, I told the nurse I found him cute and then I asked for my friends Prachi, Varsha and GP. Then I asked for my parents. Prach and Varsha were there thankfully and seeing their faces helped. I decided through all that mess that I would be positive and hopeful. I fell into a fitful sleep.

The next day morning was the real shock. PAIN. But that didn't bother me. I saw my face in the mirror. I looked distorted. My face resembled me less and I looked more a zombie. "I will NOT cry", I told myself. Stared at my face a little bit more and returned to my hospital bed. Adi came. We spoke about cycling. He annoyed me when he told me there was a "correct way" to fall but lifted my spirits by calling me the prettiest zombie ever (I am :P ) and regaled me with tales about cyclists and their lives. I am told by the doctor that pain is going to be my companion for a while now. He also tells me I am the most cheerful patient he has ever treated (score 1 for Aishu!). My face has to heal. My stitches have to heal. My fracture has to heal and I have to pray that my teeth can be saved. Discharged in the evening. Curiously the doctor tells me that I have escaped something fatal. I remember fragments of my accident. I believe him.

Friends stream to my house. My friends Nagu, Shri Ram and Naveen (all incredible cyclists) come see me. My friend Niki rushes over.  Nagu always lifts my spirits and he didn't disappoint. He always puts a smile on my face. Henna and Geeta come over with a million rose milk bottles and ice cream. It's just what I needed. My niece looks at my face and sees me and not my injuries and gives me a hug through Skype. I love her more every day but that was the kindest thing anyone has ever done for me. But I was still haunted by my own reflection.

Sidenote: And incredibly enough my favourite player Sunil Chhetri (captain of the Indian football team!!) calls. It hurts for me to smile but I was so incredibly happy when Chhetri called that I forgot all about the pain. Even now the memory of that phonecall boosts me. Bengaluru Football Club is seriously the best club ever! (Thank you Kunaal)

This past week I have broken my hand, my teeth. My face looks like a zombie. I have lost 3 kgs and haven't eaten anything solid whatsoever. I wake up in the middle of the night in pain. But I have also felt incredibly lucky. My friend Tim's mom called me every day to make sure I was fine. My friends have been pillars of support to me and my family. And the kids in my building regularly bring me friendly flowers they scrounge from outside. I have started working from home and intend to resume regular duty from Monday. I cried only once this past week and it was for 30 seconds (yes I timed it like dork) when I got my confirmation mail for TCS 10k. But then decided I would be the best cheerleader at the event :)

All in all, I am fine. I am cheerful. I still take selfies. The pain is reducing by the day and my face is healing. It is amazing to watch as nature slowly but surely heals you. And I am not afraid or worried. I will get back on the cycle when I can. And I plan to start running again when my cast comes off. Yes, I will be starting from square one but I look forward to pushing myself again in the race track.

In the meantime I want to thank everyone in my life. Everyone who has dropped in a kind message. Everyone who has shown concern. I am very blessed to have you all in my life. But as far as my reflection is concerned. I think I was looking at my face wrong all along. I kept seeing the distorted swollen mess. But I didn't see the brave kid who stared right into the camera. The scars will go away. In a few months, the pain will go away too. But I hope that I never forget to be grateful. For my life. For my family. For my friends. And the love that surrounds me.

As for the person who hit me and sped away: I forgive you. I won't waste a second of my life being angry at you or at life. I hope someday you learn to take accountability for your actions but that's your battle and not mine. And I wish you well in life (no...really I do). I have learned so much about myself because of you. And I am grateful.

Eternally hopeful,

P.S My cycle Firebolt is in perfect condition. I swear I would have died if something had happened to it! (Yeah I know the joke's in poor taste but couldn't help myself :P )