Do you want to hear my story?
For twenty years, I was a purser with Air India, based in Manhattan, New York. For fifteen, I was a small-time smuggler for various shady companies. Most of my week was spent flying high in 747’s and the rest, high on every beer ever brewed. I was young, wild and well-paid. I had the life. I was a dude, you know.
On New Year’s Eve 2004, I was hammered. And speeding at 120 kilometres per hour on Marine Drive. I ignored the red light at the Not Just Jazz By The Bay signal.
Six cars collided. Six people died. Including my best friend. Who was sitting next to me.
My leg bones were broken in 16 places. They gave me 231 stitches. I spent a month in the ICU and another two in a hospital room.
My father paid Rs. 30 lakh as compensation to the families of the deceased. My wife, an air hostess with Air France, left me, and took our daughter along. And despite the titanium bones and joints they put in my lower limbs, I still couldn’t walk.
I tried to kill myself – thrice. Pistol, hanging and 60 Calmpose pills all failed because of a rusty firing mechanism, my vigilant brother and my surprising tolerance to sleeping pills. Praise the Lord.
I took my (multiple) survivals as a sign. From God. And I turned to Him.
I spent two years in the Tagore Ashram at Igatpuri, and another meditating in Kerala. And then I returned to my own faith. In Christ the Lord.
I’m now the administrator of a school in Chandrapur. I’m also involved with Alcoholics Anonymous and counsel teenagers attending its Nagpur meetings. And I pray every day.
I’m going to Mumbai today to see my family after six years. The Bishop was kind enough to arrange a ticket for me in the VIP quota. My father is to undergo an angiogram tomorrow and I want to spend some time with him. And tomorrow night, I’m gonna keep an all night vigil at St. Thomas’.
And the day after that, my wife has agreed to meet me. And she’s gonna bring my daughter along. She’s sixteen now. Got 89% in her SSC. Smart girl.
Not like me.
This is a true story. Its narrator, a fifty-something well-built man with grey eyes and a florid face, was my co-passenger in the Gondia-Mumbai Vidarbha Express. I have tried to reproduce everything he said verbatim, from the notes I made, crouched on my upper berth, before dozing off.
I have always been either dismissive or critical of those who advertise their religion. This man initially provoked a similar response – he kept fingering his rosary, chanted psalms at the top of his lungs and assumed a holier-than-thou attitude with the visibly Hindu gentleman seated opposite him.
But his story altered my perceptions. I still don’t believe in any particular faith. But I now have faith – in faith.
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