I have always placed myself as the focal point around which all the events happened in my life, in fact even in this brief narration of my life I have made myself as its center-piece. However everything changed in that particular phase of my life. I started seeing the world through the eyes of someone else.
During this phase I got acquainted with a post graduate student named P.S Karthik. My juniors and I fondly address him as PS anna. PS and I presented a technical paper in a national level symposium and got an award, and PS gave me the entire award money and it was pretty helpful back then. There are numerous facets to PS anna, and it is hard for anyone to completely understand him; but the bottom line is he has a great heart. I have always helped others whenever possible, I started donating blood and plasma, right from the first semester, however after every time I donated I felt proud of my act. In the NSS camps, I helped, played with and taught kids in Sevalaya (an orphanage) and later in a village named Karumbakkam. I did all those things to be popular, that was not service. It was all about me and satisfying my ego. One day PS anna took me and my girl friend to the cancer institute near our college. He was helping a little girl named Pavitra (7 to 8 years old), who was fighting cancer. He got her eatables and even helped her mother with some money and he was no way related to that girl. That day was a giant leap in my evolution. I struggled to survive in the world until then, so before every act of mine there would be a moment of “What is in it for me?”. I was not selfish, I helped those who asked me for help but had never done anything like that until then. To lookout for someone who is in need and to voluntarily help them was beyond my plane of thinking. We then regularly went to the institute and spent time with the girl. There is only person in this world whom I consider as my elder brother and that is PS Anna. More about him later in the post.
I did not have the money to pay the semester fee. My girl friend and I asked one of our class mates (let us just call her as Ms. K) for help. Ms. K was a good friend of mine right from the first semester. She was wealthy enough to help, however it was not easy for her to ask her father for money. She told her father that a girl in the class had some issue with check clearance and got the money. She gave me the money, but told me that her father would ask for the money soon. I knew it was a temporary fix, with the limited income and an upcoming final year project.
Meanwhile, the jobs offered through campus recruitment was far below the normal number. Among all the Indian IT companies only Infosys invited Textile Technology students to attend their campus recruitment process. Back then I did not have any particular interest in the IT field, however like everyone else I was keen to get a job (any job). I was staying in the hostel in my friend’s (Shanmugam’s) room trying to prepare for the next day’s process. However a fellow hostler Rateesh Chandra (with whom I had a serious fist fight before), intimated me of a raid conducted by the hostel authorities. I was trapped, as they locked the entrance of the hostel. I jumped out from the corridor, in to the backyard and in the process sprained my ankle. I went to another block (C block) where my friend Saravanan stayed. He took me inside his room, but unfortunately the resident counselor of that block saw me. The counselor said that he would raise the issue to the warden, but I begged him not to. He let me off, but asked me to leave the hostel right away. I left the hostel, but had no place else to go and the time was 1 am. I went to the cricket stadium and spent the rest of the night there.
I attended the aptitude test conducted by Infosys, but could not clear it. However my girl friend got selected, in fact she became the only person from our college to get selected. A part of our problem was solved with her getting placed. She was doing a dual degree and it would have taken her an additional year to complete the second degree. Since she got placed, she quit that program and gave me the refund money which she had paid for that dual degree. We paid back Ms. K .
Meanwhile I got placed in Voltas, a dream job for most Textile Technology students back then. I was also the only one from my class to get an interview call from Atul dyes (also Murugappa Group) after taking the written test. However I was not permitted to attend the interview, so I had to let go other offers as I signed the offer letter with Voltas.
It appeared like most of the problem was solved, as both me and my girl friend got placed. However my girl friend was particular that she would marry me only with the consent of our parents. So I would have to rebuild the bridges that I had burnt. So one fine day (a Saturday), I went to my home to meet my parents and tell them about my placement and my future plans of getting married to my girl friend. I borrowed Rajesh anna’s motorbike and went home to find only my sister. As my parents were not there, I returned to the college, on my way back I met with an accident. A small girl learning to ride a bicycle got on my way. Trying to avoid her, I applied the brakes too hard and biker who came behind smashed on my vehicle. My right eye got smashed on the handle bar, and within seconds my face was covered with blood. I was unable to open my right eye, while the blood continued to flow. I felt the dizziness due to the loss of blood, but wanted to stay conscious. A crowd gathered around, they wanted to me to get in to an auto rickshaw and get to the hospital. I had two questions on my mind; what would happen to the bike if left unattended and whether I had lost my eyesight. With the help of others, I parked the bike in a corner and locked it and took the keys with me. I then wiped me eyes covered with blood, I was extremely happy as I could see with me right eyes. I then closed my eyes slowly and was shocked to see everything even with my eye lids closed. Only then I realized that both my upper and lower eye lids were cut open vertically. I had to think quick, I took the auto rickshaw and visited a nearby hospital. The doctor there covered my eye with a bandage and told me that the eye should be operated immediately. He also recommend me to go to Shankara Netralaya, a top eye care hospital in Chennai. I took the auto rickshaw, went back home and took my sister along. We went to Shankara Nethralaya and I was asked to sit in the lobby. Back then mobile phones were not popular and only two of my friends (Rajith and Lenin) had mobile numbers. I remembered the mobile number of Rajith and asked my sister to call him and tell him about the incident, while I sat at the hospital lobby holding my eyes. She called him and told him about the accident. The hospital authorities refused to admit me without receiving the admission charges.
Rajith and Lenin arranged for the money, and my juniors and PS anna came to know about the incident. They all rushed to the hospital. My sister also managed to tell my mother about the accident, but my mother did not turn up, citing some other appointment. I had the money but I could not undergo the procedure because my parents had to sign the the consent form. PS anna told the authorities that he was my elder brother and he signed the form. I was admitted and the doctors stitched together what was left off my eyelids. The hospital was full of my juniors and friends, the nurse who attended me told me that she had never seen such a crowd in that hospital. For the first time I was thankful for my parents, if not for them I would not have got such great friends and brothers. I later repaid Lenin, but have not paid back Rajith till date. He never asked me for it, and even when I had sufficient money later, I did not feel it appropriate to repay him. No amount money would do justice to the kindness he showed me. I am eternally indebted to Rajith, PS anna and my juniors. Every time I look at the mirror, I cherish the scar on my eyelids. It tells me a story – a story about the other side of the world filled with great and kind people like Rajith, PS anna and my juniors. Their selfless acts of kindness made me a better person.
My mother turned up the next day at the hospital. Like I said before, I had to build the bridges that I burnt to get my girl, so I remained in touch with my mother but continued to stay in college hostels. Most of the faculties knew about my relationship with my girl friend, one day our Head of Department advised her against having a relationship with me. I was always perceived as a rebel who got in to trouble, and there was good reason for him to warn her. However I wanted to prove him wrong, so I chose him as our project guide and my girl friend as my project mate. I chose doing my project on knitting – Knitting Glass Fibers, a project that was chosen by a few PhD research students before. However all of them dropped the project midway unable to knit glass yarn. We did not meet our HOD until our review. He was pleasantly shocked to see our work, as we presented him with a knitted glass fabric on the day of our review. He changed his opinion about me and eventually gave me the top grade for my project.
Both me and my girlfriend joined our jobs and started a new life. We got married after four years with the consent of our parents. However things did not work out again, and my mother has not seen my 6 year old son (not even once). I conclude this series with this chapter and would write may be after a decade. I also thank all my other friends, especially Ganesh kumar (Gones) and Saravanan (Saro), for giving me a place to stay when I really need it.