I had to be at the office by noon. After clearing all formalities at the passport office, I rushed on my Scooty hoping to reach my workplace on time. A quick shortcut would save me 10 minutes, so, I took a road not much taken.
The traffic was hindering. I drove by the side of the road to skip a few heavy vehicles. It was a smooth drive until an auto, without warning, drifted towards me. Not to get shoved off the road, I applied brakes but the sand under the tyres made me feel the asphalt. I screeched on the tarmac and stopped a few inches away from the electric post. My head and face were safe inside the helmet.
I lay there for a minute and saw few feet rushing towards me. I could hear a voices asking me if I was OK. As I tried to turn and lay on my back my left leg sent me severe pain. It took several minutes before I could be on my back. Faces were staring at me whom I’ve never seen before. There was an army man in his uniform trying to take control of the situation and a young man lifting the two-wheeler and helping to park it aside. Some handed me my mobile phone and coins that had flown from my pocket.
A few hands pulled me up on to my feet and I limped towards my Scooty. The army man and a few bystanders stopped and questioned the auto driver. The driver and his friends tried their best to convince why they weren't at fault and how I should be the one to be blamed. Given my nature, I didn't have any complaints against anyone. It’s just that the situation was against me. I smiled and patted their back. The driver heaved a sigh of relief and hugged me and asked how I felt. I was OK by then and thought that I could take care.
As the situation calmed, many left the scene. I made plans to drive to the office. I kept what had happened as a secret to my wife. Poor her, she would be all desperate. A man on a bike said, “You shouldn’t drive. You need medical attention”.
I did not want to go to the hospital but the man intervened again and said, “You may not feel the pain now but tomorrow it would turn worse. So, please get medical attention. Can you call someone from your home?” I did not want my wife to know, so I replied, “I live alone.” He said, “Hop on my bike. I’ll take you to the hospital”. I continued to deny but he insisted that I should see a doctor.
The man was a complete stranger and I wasn't comfortable with him, yet, I took the back seat on his bike. His driving was an experience of a lifetime. He drove extremely fast that he overtook an ambulance on the way. I was petrified. I did not want another accident to happen and lose my leg. He honked the government buses and trucks to move out of the way. He screamed profane words at people who came his way. The public starred and I was in complete despair. I could smell that he was drunk. I held on as much as I can.
I had no idea where he was taking me and wondered how much money he would ask for the “favour”. He even skipped the red light and made a sharp turn to reach the government hospital.
The sight and plight of the hospital sunk my heart. With much care, I got off the bike and limped towards the door. From behind, he said, “Sit on a wheelchair you find”. I looked around and nobody even cared to attend me. I limped and sat on a wheelchair expecting someone to take me to the doctor. After parking his bike, the man turned up and asked my address. I did not want to let him know my address, what if he would turn up someday at my home?
The man then ran to the OP counter and got me a card and asked me to write the address. I felt bad that I had doubted him, after all, he asked my address to write it on the OP card. He then took the card and ran to the counter and got the receipt. He then pushed me around on the wheelchair. My heart pumped fast and wished I could limp my way to the doctor.
He used the same technique in the hospital that he used on the road. He yelled at people asking them to move as he “drove” me to the ortho department. Patients stared at me as he howled loud. He parked me to the side and pushed his way through bystanders and uttered something to the doctor. I wondered what he said, the doctor came rushing towards me, saw my wounds and gave him some instructions.
The man pushed my wheelchair and took me to the x-ray room. I wondered how he knew where each department is. Maybe he is a hospital staff, hmm, but I had my doubts.
There was a long queue of patients near the x-ray room. I knew I would be terribly late for office. Add to it, the man went missing. After a few minutes of wait, he returned and pushed me towards the room to get my leg x-rayed. I was wonderstruck and had no clue what this guy says to doctors or staff concerned that they give me precedence over other patients.
After the x-ray, he took me to a doctor to clean my wound and get it stitched. As always he was at his best, yelling even at critically ill and challenged patients to make way as he drove me past them at top speed.
I was administered a local anaesthesia and a single stitch or maybe two was all it needed to close the wound. He continued to drive me around the hospital talking to doctors about what needs to be done. He got me a prescription and got some medicines. He pushed the medicines into my pocket and said, “Rs. 60, please”. I was quite surprised for two reasons. One, for all the procedures that I had gone through, the expense was pretty cheap. Two, the man did not ask a penny more for all the trouble he had gone through.
He asked me to wait in my wheelchair and walked out to get his bike. If not for this man, I would have spent the rest of my day at the hospital with little or no treatment. He turned up a while later, took hold of me and helped me limp my way to take the back seat of the bike. He promised to drop me where he picked me.
The journey back was pretty safe. He acted normal and drove normal. Be it at the hospital or my way back, I had this intriguing thought - who is this man and why is he helping me? He had spent his entire noon driving me around to see that I’m OK. I had a sense of guilt for doubting him on various accounts.
I asked his name -
‘Ambili’, he replied.
That was a funny name for a man like him but I kept it to myself. And I continued to question him.
‘Do you work at the hospital?’
‘No, I’m a plumber. I was on my way to home for lunch. Now, I have missed my meal’, he replied.
"I’m sorry", I apologized. I felt very bad.
‘Hey, that’s OK. By the way, take an auto back home. You can take your Scooty sometime later or ask your friends to help you out’.
Blame it on anaesthesia, I had absolutely no pain and was in full confidence to drive back home. He dropped me near my two-wheeler. I was moved for what he had done. I took my purse and drew out all the money and stretched towards him.
He looked at me for a few seconds and said, “Do you think I did this for money?”
I felt quite uncomfortable but with all gratitude, I said, “I don’t know what else I can do for you”.
“I don’t need money. You keep it.” He uttered.
To ease the conversation, I asked, “How about your family and where do you live?”
For which, he replied, “I stay near here. I have two daughters. One is doing her graduation and the other is in high-school”.
Though I have a high-paying job, I had found it difficult to make my ends meet. However, this man, living on daily wages and taking care of three women at home refused to accept money. He had also missed his lunch.
I was disturbed and deeply moved. I forced the money on to his hand and said that he better take it.
He brushed the money aside and took a cigarette from his pocket and lit it. As he smoked, he said, “God will take care of my needs. As I helped you today, you should help others”.
He started his bike and drove away puffing smoke. My eyes were fixed on him until I lost sight of him.
I stood there for a minute contemplating what had happened in just a few hours. An accident, a man appears at the scene, forces me up and drives his old bike faster than an ambulance to the hospital, spits vulgarity at people, seemed drunk, spends hours at hospitals, misses his food, convinces doctors to treat me first, and then drives me back. Above all, he refuses to accept favours though it would have helped his family. Smokes, drives and disappears.
I looked at the sky or rather should I say at the heaven and asked God, “How will you judge him?”
To me ‘Ambili’ is a Smoking Angel.