“Ladies and Gentlemen, the cabin lights will be dimmed as we are landing now. Kindly fasten your seatbelts”.
The wheel compartment was now open and wheels were drawn out as the pilot dropped in altitude. Like every other flight day, he wanted to make a perfect landing. He knew the stake his job had. Cutting out all the background noise by plugging his ear pods, he thumbs upped his copilot. “Let’s do this Charlie” he said. Aligning the Boeing 737 along with the air strip, the pilots smiled at each other as their baby touched the runway with its hind legs first. Another safe landing and another five hours of flying, Brad and Charlie loved their job. Their partnership seemed to be perfect. More than co-pilots they were becoming good friends.
As the speeding tires hit the tarmac, the plane almost bounced, but was kept under control. Raghu got up with the jolt, half sleepy and tired by the previous day’s hectic schedule he strained his ear to listen to what the airhostess was saying. “It is now 3.00 am local time and the temperature outside is 14 degrees Celsius. Thank you for choosing Fly Emirates and we are happy to assist you at any time. Once again, welcome to Bengaluru and have a great day ahead. Kindly collect your baggage from conveyer belt number 4”. He looked out of the window as the plane came to halt at the terminal. Picking up his hand baggage he made his way to the exit keeping his eye on the airhostess. Emirates had always selected the most beautiful girls to serve their passengers. Thanking her for the wonderful in flight service, he walked into the terminal.
He was away for a couple of months and was desperate to get back home. His lovely wife, Rikita was waiting for him. He remembered what she insistently told him over the phone, “Call me once you reach the airport, I will prepare hot coffee for you.” He looked at the time and it read 3.30 am. Thinking about it, he didn’t encourage the idea of disturbing her at odd times. He wanted to surprise her by ringing the doorbell. She loved surprises. Collecting his baggage from the conveyer, he went to the taxi stand and booked a cab homeward.
Siva, the driver asked him the dropping point as Raghu gave him the exact route and directions to his home. He then placed the entire luggage in the boot of the Verito and sat in the rear seat. The ignition was turned on and the car left the airport complex. That happiness of being received by his beloved, calmed his mind. He closed his eyes and went to sleep.
Rikita was waiting for her husband to call. She had specially engaged a new alarm to wake her up at 3.30. She was anyway expecting him to call and did not find a need to call him. As the clock ticked to 3.45, she logged into the Emirates portal to check if there was any delay of the flight. It showed no delay, what could keep him from making a call for 45 minutes she wondered as she dialed his number.
Siva was driving carefully on the highway keeping in mind that his fare was sleeping. He heard Raghu’s phone ringing and didn’t bother thinking as to why to disturb him during his sleep. When it was ringing for the fourth time, Siva felt that he needed to wake him up. Keeping his right hand on the steering wheel, he turned to his left extending his left hand so that he can tap on Raghu’s knee. The vehicle was cruising at a comfortable 80kmph. He also made sure that it was a clear hundred feet from the previous vehicle.
Tapping on Raghu’s knee he said, “Sir, aapka phone.” Raghu in a hurry removed the phone from his pocket. His drowsiness made him lose the hold of the phone as he slid the screen to answer the call, “hello” he said. “Sambhalke sir” said Siva turning back to see if he was fine. Little did he realize that his right hand on the steering came lower as a result, the wheels of the car turned towards the divider. In split second the front half of the car was on the divider crashing into tiny plants. Siva now was panic stricken and slammed his foot on the brakes. With the speed uncontrollable, the tires screeched as the vehicle went forward to the opposite lane. Siva had a fraction of a millisecond to realize that there was a pair of headlights directly in front of him as the driver airbag sprung to life.
Raghu was transported into a shock because of the bounce off the divider. His mouth ran dry as he stared at what came opposite to him. He couldn’t move, all he heard was loud honks from vehicles around him. He tried to scream as his chords were voiceless. He observed the driver bleeding from the back of his head. The impact of the collision was so hard that the car was tossed up into the night sky. The seat belt kept Siva stuck to the seat as the airbag in front gave him some support. Shocked Raghu observed how he along with the car took off from the road, his head hit the roof and then the seat. He was thrown from side to side. He saw the road, the streetlight, the sky, the back seat as the glass pieces from the broken windshield pierced his face and neck. He tried to swallow some spit but all that he could taste was only blood. All that he could hear was only loud honking, he tried to speak to his wife over the phone, he tried to say hello, but all that came out was only air.
He felt his body hit the interiors of the car a few more times and then heard a huge crash. His head hit something very hard. He tried to lift his hand and clear the mess from his face, his arm hurt. He could feel the joint of his elbow almost in two pieces. He rubbed the mess off his eyes and was surprised to find that his eyelids were open all he could see was darkness. He stretched his fingers from his broken nose to the ears but only a constant high frequency sound made through his ear drums. His heart beat began to fade away, as he lost his senses. Life was withdrawing itself slowly. Not knowing if his eyelids were open or closed, he succumbed to the emptiness.
Ritika’s heartbeat hit the roof. All that she could listen after calling him four times was a half hello and a loud crash. She immediately dialed again only to hear the automated voice saying that the number was switched off. She tried to calm herself trying to assure that everything was fine. Tears started to roll down her cheeks, trying to imagine what would have happened. Stuck in between calling her husband and trying to assure herself that nothing happened, she dozed away.
Her phone rang aloud as Ritika observed an unknown number on the display. Seeing the sunlight creeping in from the curtain she realized that he was not yet home. She answered the call,
“Hello, am I speaking to Miss Ritika?” said an unfamiliar voice.
“Can you come to Jehangir Hospital immediately; your husband is admitted here”
“What! How!” She spoke as tears started to flow from inside her eyelids. The morning’s incident drew up in her mind as she tried to connect the dots. “Coming right now” she answered and left home.
After finding out which ward her husband was admitted, Ritika raced to the room. She opened the door in anticipating to see him but was welcomed by one of his friend’s teary embrace. She overheard the doctors talking, “we have tried our best to save him”. The words pierced her heart as her head started to reel. “Let me see him” she yelled. She made two steps to the bed as she saw his face studded with glass pieces.
She looked at his now closed eyes and couldn’t forget the stare he would give her whenever he wanted to get things done his way. He would always raise an eyebrow and stare by crooning his eyes to make her realize that he was mischievously pulling her leg. She looked at the partial bloodied ear and would miss biting them when she wanted to turn him on. His words would never be heard again, had she recorded any of their conversations, she wondered. Unable to take seeing the lifeless body in front of her, she shouted out loud. “Raghu wake up, it’s me” it aided no response. She put her hand on his chest and tried to give an artificial breather for the lungs but it went in vain. She ran her hand down to his legs to make him get up, but they dropped down dead from her hands. Cursing her stars on being alive to witness this painful moment, she collapsed.
A few weeks later, she recovered her husband’s left over luggage from the police station and opened it in despair to see what remained of it. Between his clothes kept carefully was their photograph but the screen was cracked. As promised, he had got from Dubai a pearl set. He had forgotten to remove the price tag from it. Probably it was their anniversary gift. Also present were numerous tops that would go in with any jeans. This time he had got all the colors right, exactly as she wanted. There was a small gift wrapped box, on opening she found a sliver ring that fit her ring finger perfectly. Embossed with golden letters on the ring were words “Me and You”. Attached to the box was a hand written note, “I am ready to compromise on my career. For the rest of our lives let us live happily. It will be more of us from now on, love Raghu”
She read that note a thousand times as he looked at her with pity from above. “Destiny” he sighed!