A tear erupted from Inder’s 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 – neither too spicy nor 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 wore 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 have 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, fell down and was 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.”

Part -2 is here

A fictional story for #TheWriteChoice .

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Chandrika Shubham Saini

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