I was on the way to meet a close friend in the evening after office. As I entered an Ola Cab, the local Uber, and shared the password with the driver to start the trip, I noticed a red SOS button flashing in one corner of the application. Though I had seen it in the past as well, I never bothered to share an emergency contact number. That day, I had a sudden intuition to do that. I don’t know why. The next question was, of course, who will be my SOS? In this big city where more than Twenty Million people live, who will run for my rescue? I did not have to think much. Something guided my fingers through the phone book to the right person. After registering his number in the App as my SOS, I leaned back on the seat. Why he? There are not many similarities between us. He is from a different geography, speaks a different language, born in some other religion and does not subscribe to my political ideologies. Still, why he? For me, it was a great realisation that our faith in human beings transcends cultures, caste, colour and creed that apparently divide us. It also reminded me of a quote of J Krishnamurti, ‘When you call yourself an Indian, Muslim, Christian, European or anything else, you are being violent. Because you are separating yourself – by belief, by nationality, by tradition – from the rest of mankind. This breeds violence.’
Let me come back to the friend I was going to meet. She is from the Eastern Region of the country while I am from the South. We have been friends for more than five years. We normally catch up once in three-four months over a drink or dinner and chat for hours. During the intervals between our meetings, there is hardly any phone calls or messages. When I got her call the day before, inviting me for dinner at a Thai restaurant, I had a sudden realisation that we had not met for more than six months. In this fast-paced life and rat-race, it is so difficult to keep a track of such things. While I was lost in all such thoughts, the cab reached my destination. She was waiting there for me. She looked weary and pale.
As we sat down for dinner and placed orders, I asked, ‘where were you lost for such a long time?’ She drank a glass of water and started narrating the ordeals she was going through. After our last meeting, she had gone home for holidays. It was during those days, she started experiencing some discomfort in her throat. The medical investigations that followed diagnosed her as having thyroid cancer. It was, of course, a great shock to everyone in her family. Preparations for her wedding were also underway. The doctors assured her a complete cure through surgery and a few rounds of radiation as it was detected at an early stage. The surgery was carried out. She left the hospital after spending a few days in the ICU and undergoing the first round of radiation. Everything was fine for a few days. Suddenly, one day she started having spasms. There were some other complications too. She was taken to the national capital, where both of us live and work, for better medical care. Further investigations revealed that the surgery had caused some damage to her thyroid gland. It was yet another shock! Still, the doctors promised her the best possible treatment and a total recovery. Her second round of radiation will start in a few days. In the meantime, she started attending to her duties.
Two days back, while going to office in a cab, she felt that she was going to faint. Immediately she alerted her aunt and asked the driver to take her back home. By the time the cab returned to her residence, she was almost unconscious. She was taken to the hospital immediately. This incident created a lot of panic at her home. She was asked to stop working till she would be completely alright. But, she is not in a mood to listen to anyone. After hearing all these, I just said, ‘you are more courageous than what you think’. She just smiled and said that she would take me to her hospital to orient me about the procedures related to her treatment there. Why? I asked. She leaned forward, looked into my eyes and said, ‘because I want you to be my SOS, you may have to rush me to the hospital if something happens while I am away from home.
Who is your SOS?