A tear erupted from his eye as his colleague gently thrust food in his mouth. The morsel of chapatti wrapped around a lady finger was just as he liked it - not too spicy or too plain - and almost as good as home-cooked; yet it made him cry. Inder chewed on it reluctantly for a few seconds and forced it down his parched throat.
He glanced around the room which has become his humble abode for a while. The walls were spotlessly white-washed. Blue curtains were drawn partially on the windows to shield the brightness and heat of the October sun. On the other side of his bed a white partition provided some token privacy from the occupants of the room. He was lying on a white iron-frame bed on which a spotless white sheet was spread. Two small holes almost the size of a rice grain was visible near his knee. A stainless steel table stood on the side. A dented steel glass, two spoons with different designs, a dirty steel plate, a Bisleri bottle half-filled with tap water, an old Nokia mobile, two brown pens and lots of colourful pills and bottles were competing for space on it. A creaky cane chair stood on one side. They had to pay extra for it, but Inder wasn't too sure if it was suitable for sitting on.
He was wearing a sky blue gown which hung loosely on his skinny body. The hospital staff had been adamant that he wear their gown and not his own clothes. The tears in his eyes made everything look blurred. A blurred corner of handkerchief came towards his eyes.
“Inder Singh, if you will lose courage now, you will lose the battle of life. Be brave and use your brain to come out of this trouble,” said Sumit, his colleague.
“Without hands?” Inder said, unable to keep disappointment out of his voice.
“Be brave and use your brain.” Sumit repeated, and put a spoonful of curd in his mouth, which Inder gulped half-heartedly.
“I will not be able to do my present job.”
“You will find a better one! This might not had been the right job for you and I am sure that some better job is waiting for you!” He put one more morsel in his mouth.
“Ya! What's the use of a job which puts my life at risk?” said Inder, his voice muffled with sobs and food in his mouth.
“I found you unconscious under the metallic pipe.” Sumit told. Inder started to recall the events of that fateful night.
“I was just doing my usual routine. Before leaving for home every night, I check that the boiler fire source is closed. I tried to tighten the knob, but even after three complete rounds of the handle it was still too loose. That's when I realised that the spring must have broken! It was a set up! Someone was jealous of my promotion last month and knew my routine. But there was no time to think. The pressure was building up very rapidly. I was trying to prop open the release valve with both hands, when the pipe connecting the boiler and the dying container started creaking. I should have stepped back, but I thought the jammed valve would open any second. When the heavy pipe dropped on my hands, I lost my balance and fell down, trapped under the pipe. I could hear my bones crack! It was just too painful! I must have screamed loud enough to crack the concrete walls of the factory. I tried to pull my hands once but that only made the pain worse! After that I must have blacked out. Next thing I remember is waking up in this room."
Sumit picked up the thread of story from him and continued to narrate further “I had just started my night duty at the entrance gate when I heard you screaming. I rushed towards the boiler and found you unconscious. Without wasting a single part of a second, I pressed the emergency button. Alarms rang all around. Meanwhile I found a metal stirrer lying nearby and tried to use it as a lever to raise the pipe. Three more guards came running and joined me in raising the pipe. One two and three… we all shouted in chorus.. The pipe just rose by a few inch. The others hung on with all their might while I dragged you out. We rushed you to the hospital in an ambulance.”
“This is a costly hospital. You should have taken me to some cheaper place. All my savings are draining out in the treatment,” Instead of being thankful to his colleague Inder complained.
“You can earn and save more once this difficult period is over,” Sumit tried his best to raise Inder's spirits.
“Saying so is quite easy but how can I earn when I am not even able to do my personal work.”
“Nothing is impossible. You can do whatever you wish.”
“I can’t feed myself. You are feeding me.” Tears rolled down Inder's cheeks again, he tried to hide his face behind the stumps of his hands.
“Any movement of your hands will delay recovery.” Sumit reminded him of the doctor’s advice.
“I can’t bathe myself. I can’t change my dress. I can’t even hold a glass of water to my mouth when I am feeling thirsty. And to top it all, I can’t even open the zip to pee.” Inder felt defeated.
Sumit kept the half-eaten plate aside and started fiddling with his mobile. He showed Inder a video in which a woman with no hands was leading a normal life and doing all household chores as well as any other housewife. For a few minutes Inder felt better and accepted a few more morsels, but then again a cloud of depression came from some unknown source to wrap him. Seeing him sad, Sumit took out a paper cutting from his purse and put it in front of Inder so that he could have a good view of a cheerful girl.
“Sexy?” He teased Inder to change mood. He looked up irritatingly with wet eyes. Sumit winked a little and asked again.
“Even if then what?” Inder’s anger was reflected in his words.
Sumit picked up the cutting, turned the folded paper upward so that Inder could have a full view of the photo and the article below it.
“Hell! She has no hands!!”
“As you can see she is standing in an aircraft. She is a pilot.” Sumit explained.
Inder read aloud, "Jessica Cox, 25, a girl born without arms, the girl from Tucson, Arizona got the Sport Pilot certificate lately and became the first pilot licensed to fly using only her feet. With one foot manning the controls and the other delicately guiding the steering column, she soared to achieve a Sport Pilot certificate. Her certificate qualifies her to fly a light-sport aircraft to altitudes of 10,000 feet.”
“Yup! I always carry her inspiring story in my pocket. Any time I am feeling down, I look at her photo.”
“So dear friend, focus your energy and attention on your abilities rather than disabilities. You have to use your foot as your hands for doing chores. He asked Inder to pick up the cotton piece in between his right toe and moved leg towards his face to clean the tiny droplets of the terrible past.
Inder cried more, uncontrollably this time. Sumit was confused but decided to let Inder clear out his pent-up emotions. A couple of minutes later Inder in between sobs said, “I lied to you my buddy. I lied.”
Sumit frowned but didn't say anything, waiting for Inder to say more.
“When you were away to fetch the food from cafeteria my mobile had rung, I picked it up from the table using my toes. On seeing the screen, I came to know that it was from my mother. I pressed the buttons and hold it near my ear using my toes. My mother told me that my wife left me for her lover on hearing about my accident. Actually I was not crying for my hands but for my wife as I loved her very much.
Sumit totally dumfounded threw himself back on the cane chair. ‘Life is tough!’ he mumbled. The chair creaked in unison.
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