The entire populace has decided to fall sick this week, or so it seemed to Abhi. Abhimanyu was a paediatric surgeon in one of the major multi-speciality hospitals in the city. He loved being with kids, he admired their energy even while they entered the operation theatre. Their innocence and positive attitude gave him a boost. He loved his job as a paediatrician. Although most of the parents who brought their kids to him were upset and scared, the kids themselves were mostly upbeat and unfazed by their illnesses. He had done hundreds of surgeries in his career so far and could vouch for the fact that the most important factor for his success rate was the positivity of the patients and their determination to live and heal.
Abhi had a hectic week but nevertheless he wrapped it up and was now ready to take off for a break. He was almost turning from the corridor when a nurse came running to him. There is an emergency case of a road accident and he has to attend it right away. Abhi had planned a birthday party for his closest friend and colleague Ujwal that night. He was supposed to be at the party by now but he didn't think twice before turning back to attend the emergency. He stopped for a moment to send a message to his friends that he'd be late and they should go ahead with the celebration.
It is a little boy, four years old. The car he was travelling in was hit by a speeding truck. Luckily, the boy was still alive but his right arm is badly injured and he had lost a lot of blood by now. Abhi called for an operation immediately. It took him two hours to operate on the boy. Finally, he was out of danger. He was still very weak because of the severe blood loss but he would be alright in a couple of days in the ICU. It always felt like a blessing to Abhimanyu that he was able to save so many lives, especially of children. He quickly finished the post operative procedures and started for the birthday party. He was going to be very late but it was very important that he made it there as soon as possible because Ujwal and Abhi had been friends since their medical college days. They had been together when they struggled with the exams. They prepared for their post-graduation entrance together and even applied for jobs together. They had never missed wishing each other on their birthdays and this time it is Ujwals fortieth.
Abhi turned his car into the street that was now dark and empty except for a few taxis or autos here and there. He took the road to the hotel where the party was planned. He checked his watch, it was already 11.30 in the night. He has to hurry to get there soon. Abhi came to a red light at a deserted street, he checked either sides, there was no other vehicle coming from any direction. Abhimanyu at that moment did what most of us do... He stepped on gas and crossed the red light. Suddenly from the footpath on the left side of the street a puppy came running onto the road and a little child running close behind it. Before he realised what was happening, Abhi hit the child and his puppy with his car. There was a loud thud from the front of his vehicle. It took a few seconds for his instincts to kick in and he hit the brakes. But by then, his car has travelled a good hundred metres from the spot crushing the child under the tyres. Abhi frantically got down from the car and started towards the child. He could tell from a distance, being a doctor, that there was no life in the tiny body. Abhi saw a small boy all of four or five years, lying still in a pool of blood, his body badly bruised and his hands clutching a lifeless puppy. He felt the earth under his feet sinking ... He stood there shocked and frozen. A woman came out from the roadside tent and screamed in panic when she saw her child lying dead... Soon a few more people came running. Abhimanyu was standing at a distance looking on stunned. Suddenly voices rose, someone was pointing towards Abhi and the crowd started moving towards him. The first reaction that came to Abhi when he saw people angrily running towards him was to run for life, he sprang to his feet, jumped into his car and sped away before the people could get to him. How he drove the car towards his house or how long he had taken Abhi could not tell. The next thing he knew was he was sitting in his car in his parking lot with the engine still on when the night guard of his society came and knocked on his window. The guard came checking if everything was alright when Abhi wouldn't get down from his car. He quickly got out of the car and went home.
Seema was surprised to see Abhi at the door, she was not expecting him home so soon. When she had spoken to him earlier he had just finished the operation and was leaving for the party. Seema looked at a pale, dazed Abhi and soon realised something was wrong. She asked him what had happened but Abhi could neither hear her voice nor give a reply. Seema was getting worried. She shook Abhi by his shoulder and called his name. Abhi collapsed in the sofa and started crying. Seema thought that the operation he conducted had failed. She went and got him a glass of water and waited for him to calm down. Abhi sat there mumbling incoherently and saying sorry in between sobs. Seema made a cup of tea but Abhi was too shaken to drink it. He left the cup on the table. Seema took him in her arms and asked him what had happened. He then told her that he had killed a child on the street. He had jumped the red light and hit a child on the street. Seema tried to convince him that the child would be okay, they would take him to a hospital. But when Abhimanyu told her that he had got down from his car and seen the child lying dead on the street, she too fell silent.
The first emotion he had when he ran was fear, panic but now repentance had taken over him. He was ashamed and angry that he had committed a sin, a crime. He had killed an innocent child and he being a doctor did not take the responsibility of trying to save the child's life. They both sat there silent till day break. Soon another day started with its normal routine as if nothing wrong had happened the night before. The maid, the milk man, the house keeper were all coming and going as usual. At eleven in the morning, Abhi got a call from Ujwal. Abhi was still lying in the living room unable to come to terms with the accident. He asked Ujwal to come meet him at home.
Abhimanyu's two-year-old daughter Mihika was playing in the hall, Seema was going about her routine in a sullen mood. Ujwal came and Abhi told him about the accident. Ujwal had asked him whether anyone other than the homeless people had seen him or his car after the accident. Abhimanyu told him he could not remember anything clearly but he doesn't think there was any other vehicle on the road at that time.
A couple of days passed, Abhi could not muster the courage to drive again or go to work. He could not forget the sight of the dead child and his dog on the street. There were calls from his hospital when he didn't show up for duty but Seema and Ujwal had floated a story about a death in the family so that Abhi could get leave for the week. They both tried to pull Abhi out of the gloom, they tried to convince him that it was an accident and he could not have saved the child as he died on the spot. Ujwal also told him never to utter a word of this to anyone because there would be a police case and it would take years for Abhi to come out clean. He had a family and his duty was first towards his wife and child.
Ujwal had repeatedly asked Abhi to come back to work, one day he came home and took Abhi with him to the hospital. Abhimanyu only saw the face of the dead boy in every patient in the hospital. He was a murderer and he could not overcome his guilt. He could not attend to the patients, he would break down at the sight of blood or injury. Ujwal realised that Abhi needed a longer time to come back. He needed counselling to come out of the shock.
Days and months passed, Abhimanyu would neither drive, nor go to work. He would not laugh or play with Mihika. Seema tried repeatedly to cheer him up. But nothing could bring him back. Their savings were dwindling and the bills kept coming. Seema told Abhimanyu that he had to go to work or she would take up a job to run the house. Abhi could not think of going back to the hospital. He could not think of treating kids. He could not even think he was capable of handling his own daughter or play with her. He just couldn't be around children, not even his daughter. His friends and neighbours had begun talking about the sudden change in him... He stopped meeting people, he took up a job as a clerk in a supermarket far from his neighbourhood and commuted in the metro. Seema thought it would be better if he let Abhi heal his wounds with time, his own way. She neither pressed him to resume his medical profession or drive again. Seema did not complain about the low income or compromises she had to make. Mihika stopped asking her dad to take her into his arms or play with her. They sold their car. Seema thought with the car his memories would fade away too. A couple of years passed, Abhi had involuntarily gone to the spot of the accident hundreds of times. He would end up there often without realising, he would stand on the footpath nearby for hours. The corporation had shifted the tents and homeless people away from there after the fatal accident. They were shifted to camps farther from the city.
Mihika neither had the experience of playing with her father nor ever experienced his love and affection. To her he was a sullen, moody guy who would not talk much. They had moved to a more economical flat and their lifestyle had changed to fit to the earnings of a small clerk. One by one his friends had stopped meeting with him, it is only Ujwal who now and then came by to meet Abhi and his family. Seema would arrange a dinner for Ujwal and his family from time to time. So many years passed but Abhimanyu could not forget the accident for a single day. It was like he had died that night along with that child. He thought of turning himself in to the police several times, but then he thought of his daughter and wife.
Mihika is ten years old now. She is playing a pivotal role in her school play. All these years, only Seema attended her school events.
Seema and Mihika had gone to school few minutes earlier. It was a big day for his girl. Abhi knew she wanted him to be there... He slowly got up from the chair in his house, wore his sandals, took his wallet and walked out. He was walking towards his daughter's school. He saw a crowd gathered on the street, he soon realised there was an accident. Abhi walked towards the crowd. He saw there was a child on the street and a woman wailing next to it. It was Seema! Abhi ran towards her, he saw Mihika lying on the road, bleeding profusely and writhing in pain. Abhi felt that his heart would stop that moment. An ambulance came and stopped nearby. They lifted the girl onto the stretcher and Seema and Abhi got in too.
At the hospital the doctor was telling something to Seema who was still crying and shaking badly. Abhi recognised the doctor as one of his colleagues from the past. He spoke to the doctor and realised that Mihika needed a major operation to fix her broken ribs and ensure her lungs weren't pierced. The other surgeon to assist the surgery was yet to come, so they must wait for him. The doctor in Abhimanyu at once came to life. All he could feel was that his daughter needed him and needed him as a doctor at that moment. He sprang into action and assisted the surgeon in the operation. The operation took several hours. But Abhimanyu did not let his emotions take over his courage even for a moment. He had to do this for the life of his daughter. His experience as a surgeon definitely paid off when he efficiently assisted the surgeon. At the end of a long fight, the operation was a success. Mihika would need many days of bed rest but she was out of danger, she would recover. Seema who was waiting outside came running and hugged Abhi after the operation.
She got her daughter back but she also got her husband back from the dead after all these years.