This is the last part (part7) of the story Red & White. Please read the earlier parts before continuing.
“… and ladies and gentlemen, we come to our next award category. This is the highest civilian honour for showing exemplary acts of bravery and services to humanity. The award this year is being conferred to two young men and, for the first time in the history, to a dog!”
The entire dais and people sitting in the galleries erupted with an encouraging cheer. Sara’s hands had not stopped waving the Indian flag. She had specially come here to witness the ceremony. After all the two men who saved her life were also responsible for a change in her attitude towards it. Even today, the seven month old incident sent shivers into her spine. She still remembered the bus falling down from the bridge. Thankfully she had fallen on the conductor, and two more bodies fell on her. So she was saved from a grievous injury, save some bruises. But the impact of the weight on her chest and the hip bone was too much for her to lose her breath. She remembered Sakha’s words as Moti pulled her out of the bus. “Keep breathing madam. The key to survival is not to give up on basic things. If you hold on for another half an hour, I’m sure you will be able to hold on for your entire life. Keep breathing!” And so she did. They saved her. She spent only a day at the SHCU before being taken to a private hospital by her family. But Sakha and Vinda kept visiting her occasionally. They said it was important for them to see every one alive was back on their feet. They were two good men… too good.
“As much I talk about them will be insufficient today. No word can describe the nonpareil act and contribution of these two men. In fact I’ll go on and say that this honour is not enough. Now may I call upon her Excellency, Honourable, Srimati Pratibha Patil, our beloved president of India to present this award to the two gentlemen? ” said the presenter.
Jeeva, sitting on a wheel chair, got so ecstatic that the glass of water in his hand started shaking. He was obviously overwhelmed to the his saviours get an award at the hands of the honourable President of India. His wife walked up to him to see if he was alright.
“What happened to you Jeeva? Itna kaap kyun rahe ho?”
“Tu nahi samjhegi. You know I’m alive because they were there to help me. Not only did they help. They also encouraged to live again. They are my god. They truly are…” spoke Jeeva as two drops of tear rolled on to his cheeks. Vinda had found Jeeva in a very bad condition. His leg was entangled between the legs of two of the seats. Add to that, Sarika had landed right on to it. He had received blows on his head, had bled profusely and had the glass pieces from the windows and the wind shield all inside his hands and other body. He had seen his good friend and the driver get crushed between the rocks and the bus. He had seen some of the passengers give up and die in the hospital. But he didn’t. He lived and did full justice to the two boys who pulled him out of a near death situation. On one of the many days he spent in the hospital, when the pain had become unbearable for him, Vinda had come and spoken some thing he never forgot.
He had said, “Arre chacha, ek baat bolta hu. It is not in our hands to decide what time life gives us to live. But it is definitely in our hands to decide what we can do with whatever we have got. Do most in every minute. Live, dont give up.” The sentence still echoed in his ears. He didn’t want to miss any moment of the ceremony now.
“… and now ladies and gentlemen. Let me first call upon Mr. Aravinda Narayanan. Please put your hands together to welcome him.”
Vinda’s life had completely changed post the incident. A series of interviews were published in almost all news papers. Every one wanted to know how he and Sakha pulled the feat without any help from any one out side. His father too was proud of his achievements. He started getting requests to bring Vinda along with him, wherever Ananda was invited to deliver a lecture. Vinda was also invited to some of the school gatherings to lecture young lads about acts of bravery and humanity. It gave him some ideas and finally in the second half of December, Vinda opened a adventure training camp cum academy on the foot hills of Valkyrie mountain. Given his reputation, it became an instant hit.
The biggest loser in the story was Nisha. What she hadn’t told Vinda on the evening of 25th July was that she was planning to say yes to her father’s proposal to marry her off to Maj. Kapil Vij. Kapil was a senior army official and was very well known to Nisha’s father. Nisha knew Vinda loved her. But she also was sure that she did not want to marry a loser. But today, now engaged to Kapil, as she watched Vinda walking towards the dais to accept the award, she was feeling like a loser herself. She had tried once to apologise for her behaviour. But now it was too late.
The clapping grew thunderous as the President of India put the medal around Vinda’s neck. Moti was so excited that he jumped out of Sakha’s lap and rushed to the dais. “Oh and the dog is already very excited.” said the presenter as he waited for the applause to die down. “Aravinda can I request to stay for a moment? Thank you! And now let me also call upon Sakharam Khevadiya, the small town boy from Dongri. Please put your hands together for Sakharam and his dog Moti, who is already here.”
As Sakha walked towards the dais, Devilal’s eyes got all wet with the tears of both proud and guilt. He remembered how hardly he had slapped Sakha when he did not return for almost more than a day. It took the intervention of his sister and Sakha’s photo in the newspaper for Devilal to calm down and realise what had happened. What followed in the months to come was a welcome surprise for otherwise calm and serene Khevadiya neighbourhood. Initially the news papers and television reporters paraded on the farm to get the first hand input of what happened. Then a couple of authors came who wanted to write a story on his heroics. Then a local production house came who wanted to make a short film on what happened. They promised Devilal that his son will soon be a national star. But all that turned out to be false promises. As the days passed, the same people who read a lot about Sakha finally started to forget him. Until, one day he received two letters from government of India. One spoke about the bravery award. And another was from the Indian Police Services Commission. They were offering him to join them and get trained along with the special rapid action forces. They wanted his rescue act to be put to good use. That turned out to be the happiest day for the small town boy.
Today as they stood shoulder to shoulder with the President of India and other dignitaries on the dais, the entire country was proud of them. Sakha had got his wish fulfilled by joining the RAF. Vinda had carved a name for himself. Sara learnt to value the life in a better way and Jeeva was now no longer a disgruntled employee. Life had taken an unexpected turn. And all of them were happy about it.