Nothing in life comes guaranteed. Not the happy moments, not the sad moments, not even the limbs attached to you. And before you know it, you’re left wishing for things you never appreciated.
The latest story in our true life series Kahani Mein Twist, which talks about life-changing experiences in the lives of real people. If you have a story you’d like to share, please email us on [email protected]!
I wouldn’t describe myself as a social outcast but after my marriage and especially my pregnancies, I wanted all my time to be at the disposal of my husband and children. I distanced myself from all my friends, acquaintances, even relatives that weren’t immediate family. I wanted to be a devoted mother and wife, giving my family the most attention I possibly could. This also meant that I didn’t attend very many social gatherings, events, weddings, etc. But this was my own brother’s wedding. I had to attend. And the one wedding I attended, changed my life forever.
It was a busy evening – as is when it’s shaadi season. You’ve gotta get the kids ready, get the husband ready, sort out your own clothes and make yourself look somewhat presentable and composed. And that’s what I did.
The hustle and bustle was driving me nuts. “Mama, I don’t wanna wear this. It’s itchy and heavy,” yelled kid number one. “Mum, can’t I go to my friend’s house? Weddings are boring!” argued kid number two. At long last, we were ready and out the door.
Being the sister of the groom, I had a lot of responsibilities resting on my shoulders. Making sure everybody got the invitations, setting out all the mithai trays, making sure every flower was in the right place, coordinating with the decorators, musicians, guests, family – everything. Out of all of the duties I had been assigned, what I was regretting to do the most were the meet and greets at the entrance. Answering all those aunties as they walked by and keeping a smile superglued on my face whilst listening to their sarcastic comments like, “Tum tou milti hi nahi hou,” or, “Moti hogayi hou,” requires more energy than I could summon within myself. Luckily or unluckily, Allah Taala did not will for me to do so.
The marquee where my brother’s rukhsati was happening was a five minute walk from my maternal home. My husband dropped me off at the marquee, just so I could make sure everything was exactly how my bhabi-to-be and I wanted it. The kids went home with him to see their nana, nano and mamu all dressed up. When I was just about done with my inspection (my OCD is very real) my mum called and said she needed help with her makeup back at home. I figured by the time my husband would pull out the car out of the garage and drive to come pick me up, I would be home faster if I walked. It was only a five minute walk and the weather was chilly so working up a sweat wasn’t a possibility either. The guests hadn’t started arriving yet so the roads were pretty clear too. Just the odd car passing by.
I have a habit of slouching and looking at the ground when I walk. I heard a loud, continuous horn and naturally, I looked up. A bright yellow light, accompanied with screams was approaching me. Scratch that, it had already approached me and before I could get out of they way, the bright yellow light thrusted itself in my stomach, spinning me counterclockwise and pushing me on the ground. I heard a loud crack and the pain that followed like a vice – all the way from the middle of my forehead to the back of my head. I was choking on my own blood and teeth. I was writhing in pain. I had never given much thought to how I would die but I was pretty sure when there was nothing but pitch black in front of my eyes and my body felt like jelly that I was either dead or going to die in the next minute or so.
I woke up to the sound of constant beeps, with excruciating pain in my head. I knew I had to open my eyes but I didn’t know what to expect and that terrified me. Without giving it a third thought and adding to my headache further, I lifted open my eyelids. Everything stirred. My family were all desperately trying to take a look at me from the small ICU door window. My head felt light. I took my left hand which was not being tugged by tubes and wires and put it against my head only to find something missing – my hair – all of it! Hot tears rolled down my face, stinging my eyes more. The majority of my head was covered in bandages. My legs were casted. The only thing that I could feel was the movement of was my heart and it felt like it was gonna explode anytime.
I was in and out of consciousness for the whole day. I could just about make out the muffled voices of my family arguing with the doctor to let them into the ICU. When they were finally let in, after I had been assigned to a room at the hospital, both my boys ran up to my bed and held onto one arm each. I still remember what my elder one said with tears in his eyes, “Please get better, mama. I promise I won’t annoy you again,” and then rolled out my tears again. My husband planted a kiss on my forehead and took the boys out of the room. My mother sat down on the chair beside my bed. I could tell she was fighting back tears. She held my good hand (the one that wasn’t plagued with wires) in both of her’s and apologised. I wanted an answer – what happened? But as soon as I tried to open my mouth, shooting pains struck me from my gums to my jaw. My mother understood, isn’t that mothers do? And then she sighed and said she didn’t know where to start. The beginning seemed like a good idea. After about an hour of her calling me to come back home and help out and me not turning up, my husband went out to look for me. On the way to marquee, she described, he saw a slump on the floor in a pool of red liquid – it was dark and even with the headlights on, he couldn’t make out what or who it was in the middle of the road. He got out of the car and walked towards my body. After constant nudging and receiving no response from the body, he pushed the hair that were stuck to my face with dry blood and realised it was his wife. The dread came to him and then the dreaded call went to my mum. My husband hauled into the back of our car and sped to the hospital, wondering how he didn’t crash the car while driving.
I was catheterised. My urine was collected in bags. There was a tube placed in my stomach for stool. So it was just the hospital bed, me and my constant surgeries for which I received general anaesthesia and the aftermath also involved me being heavily drugged with anaesthesia so at the time, I never knew what procedure was being done. My family wasn’t allowed to tell me anything about my condition, medically.
It wasn’t till about a week from my regaining consciousness that a psychiatrist paid me a visit. I couldn’t speak and he had the answers to why. I could open my lips but my jaw was clamped shut and my tongue was trapped. He sat down next to my bed and looked at me. The one-way conversation that followed was less than a pleasant one but at least I found out what was going on. My hair had to be shaved off in order for my stitches to be placed. My head had spilt open and there was skull damage. My jaw had been clamped because it was broken. I lost almost all of my teeth. Both my legs and feet were broken – they had rods placed in them (hence the surgeries).
The recovery process was difficult, time consuming and painful, to say the least. I was bed-ridden for two whole months. I couldn’t turn sides on my own. After those two months, learning to walk again made me feel like I was a baby. I was the mother who wanted to devote all her time to her husband and children, cook them meals, brush their hair, pack their lunches and drop them off to school everyday, sit down with them and make sure they get their homework done, chase after them until they finished drinking their milk – things every mother, that I too once, took for granted. Yet here I was, not even being able to go to the bathroom independently. The roles were reversed, they had to take care of me, and aside from the pain, the pampering brought out the nurturing touch in them.
It’s now been 20 years to my accident. My brother’s happily married with a family of his own. I have all of my hair back, it’s thinned out a fair amount, particularly where the stitches were. The rods got taken out of my legs. The wires that once clamped my mouth shut (it’s unbelievable how we take being able to speak for granted) were thrown out into the medical waste bin, where they truly belong. My teeth are gone and I still feel self conscious about it. I try not to pity myself but realisation kicks in when I’m unable to chew certain foods or when I look at myself in the mirror and see that the pearly whites I once took so much care of, aren’t here anymore. The biggest hurdle I face is with my legs. To this day, I still can’t walk properly. My legs aren’t nearly as strong as they should be to bear the weight of my body, as a result of which I’m unable to take steps and lift my feet off the ground, I have to drag them. I have physiotherapy every day where I’m clutching onto the rod for dear life and taking baby steps – reminiscent of how I taught both my boys to walk but instead of metal rods, they had their mother’s arms saving them from falling.
It’s a tough life to live but through this accident, I learnt so many things that life hadn’t taught me before, like how to count your blessings or how to find light in the darkest situations. Going from a fully functioning human being to not being able to walk properly even after 20 years is life-changing, in the worst possible way. To this day, I haven’t found out who hit me with their bike and left me almost bleeding to death in the middle of the road, but those are chinks in our legal system’s armour that need to be fixed. My boys are both off to university, powering through their lives. My husband and I are growing old together, taking whatever life throws at us in stride.
It’s true what they say, you don’t understand the value of what you have until it’s gone.