Past Transgressions

Wednesday, April 4, 2012


He had been awfully depressed lately. There was nothing that he found joy in, not anymore. The cool soothing breeze, which he otherwise enjoyed now just caused him more pain. He couldn't stand the sight of the blossoming trees or at that, any sign which promised to bring forth new life. For what life remained in him? Had you met him a few weeks back, you would have sworn that he was the most lively guy you came across. Just out of a hard drilling life he had led, he had found a job at the fire fighting station. His father was a fire fighter who succumbed to injuries on his line of duty. That should warrant scaring off young boys wanting to become like their dads. But not him. He had a good heart and wanted to help people in whatever way he can. He promised to himself that he would become a better fire fighter than his dad and make him proud, should he be watching from the fire fighter's heaven (he believed it existed).

It was his first day on duty. With much enthusiasm and high hopes he was ready to work. Make a difference in the lives of people suffering loss. He swore not anyone would have to succumb to the burn injuries, like his father. Not under his watch at least. As fate would have had it, that very night a residential building caught fire. His team was on call and they rushed to the scene. Blazing flames taller than the trees rose up in the pitch black of the night. It was nothing like the simulation fire lessons he had attended. This was real danger. He was ready for it, or at least felt ready. There he was, ready to make a difference. And a difference did he make. He and his team got all the ten people trapped in the building to safety. The battle was over. They had won. He had won. No lives lost, no fireman injured. Then out of nowhere there was an explosion (later confirmed to have been a gas cylinder). Chunks of fire laden shower rained upon him. He was a minute too late in getting out of the building. Left him with a fully burnt face. 

The doctors did what they could but the facial burn was just too extensive. He had lost all his hair, part of his left ear and almost the whole of his face. A small area on the right side of his forehead and an equally small patch on his right cheek remained unscathed. Life, left this handsome young fellow nothing more than a freak show. He looked into the mirror for the umpteenth time and felt his heart break into further smaller pieces. To further aggravate his pain, he was the only one in the burn ward. Its one thing to have to go through a tragedy alone and a different to have someone who knows your pain,who has empathy on you and not just sympathy.

One day as he was recuperating in the burn ward, he heard an ambulance wailing in a distance. Not that he cared but the yelping of the siren made him curious. He prayed to the Gods to let it not be another fireman. They ambulance attendants rushed the trolley as two more held on to the IV fluid bottles up in the air. There she lay on the stretcher writhing in pain as the stench of her burnt hair and skin filled the ward. He caught a glimpse of her burnt face and lived the horror all over again. He overheard the on call plastic surgeon relaying it to his superior that she has over 70% third degree burns and her vitals are not stable. Highly likely to succumb. Further small pieces of his heart.

They brought her to the burn ward after two hours, into the bed next to his. She was unconscious, fully wrapped up in sterile bandages with the pipe into her trachea hooked on to that machine which beeped every now and then. He certainly didn't want anyone to suffer what he had but then it felt good to have another heart beating in that depressing and lonely ward.

She remained unconscious for two more days. The nurses came in now and then, more frequent than the doctors who came in less frequent than the police officers wanting to take her statement. Just out of curiosity he asked the policemen on one such visit what had happened to her. The policeman sighed and he could have sworn he saw his jaws clench before he spoke. "She had been married for just two months. Her in-laws wanted dowry from her. It was a love marriage and no dowry had been agreed upon earlier. Then one fine day in one such rage, her husband and her in-laws set her on fire. They are under custody" . Of course, he had heard about dowry deaths and the immolation of daughter-in-laws for want of dowry. He had felt grief when he heard such tragic incidents, but to see a living evidence of such a heinous crime, it was horrifying on a whole new level.

She was in her slumber for three more days. Every now and then her fingers would twitch and it would seem like she is regaining consciousness and the nurses would come and push down more morphine. The least anyone can do for a victim of such a tragedy is alleviate the pain. She would fall into a soft slumber. And he would watch her sleep. The burns were healing and for the first time in five days after the edema had subsided he saw her face. Even though the burns had their toll on her he could make out that she had been a beautiful woman of late 20s.

He woke up one morning to the sobs of his ward mate. She was conscious and off the ventilator. She wept bitterly. He knew what she was feeling as he too had traveled down that path just weeks ago. How he wished such misery hadn't befallen upon her. How he wished he could take away her pain. Not just the one she felt physically. With much courage he spoke to her. "Hey, calm down, at least both your ears are intact. I look like a dracula gone wrong"
She looked at him, paused for a moment and then both of them burst out laughing.

She looked into his eyes which tried so hard to sparkle and found the same ocean of sorrow that burdened her heart. She wasn't afraid of his scarred face and her hairless scalp didn't leave him mortified. Once the veil of appearances unfold leaving the bare soul exposed, there remains nothing to hide under. The eyes which are the most frequent to be fooled don't stand a chance when they have nothing to be fooled by. Immediately then, she realized that she was crying in vain for the beauty that got burnt when the essence of beauty lay skin-deep. 

A soft breeze blew into the ward and his heart didn't ache for the first time in a very long time.

No comments:

Post a Comment