Finding solace in solitude | Sunday Observer

Finding solace in solitude

It was a fine sunny morning. I was in the front garden inspecting a red rose bush for new growth. All of a sudden, a massive pain hit me in the back, and sent me sprawling onto the damp turf strip. The pain came full force, driving deep into my body. I fell, writhing like a man having a fit.

I had back pains in the past, too. But, this pain was different. I was pinned as tightly to the earth by pain as Gulliver had been by the Lilliputians. If I so much as move an arm or a leg, it would return in full force.

From my position on the ground, I could see the tender new unfolded red rose petals. I could see four birds seated on the edge of the birdbath while few others were swimming. There was new life all around me. I lay still and watched and listened.

There was nobody at home until evening. I was completely alone. As the realization hit me, I remembered my other experience which happened years ago, being left alone and in need.

Accident

It was late evening, just before Christmas, and I was driving home after visiting a friend. I may have been about half an hour from home when suddenly, out of the corner of my eye, I saw headlights coming up fast behind me. I saw in the mirror a big truck coming up over the trunk and felt my car break loose from the road to begin a wild skid.

During that three or four seconds, on slow motion, I watched and wondered, almost casually, how I would be killed. Anyway, my car skidded back onto the pavement and stopped. I was unhurt.

Traffic swished past me on both sides as I stepped out. The truck had already gone. My mobile phone was nowhere to be seen. I waved my hands, but none stopped.

First came anger and then frustration. My car with extensive damage, was sticking out onto the road. No one could fail to see it. Some slowed down to look, but did not stop.

Good sense

I asked myself. What if I were bleeding to death? Or my thighbone rammed into my belly? Will that make them stop?

Half an hour passed and then I saw a three-wheeler stop by and a young driver got down. He did what I had expected at least half of the hundreds of passing cars to do. He ascertained that I was unhurt and used his mobile phone to call assistance.

Now, lying paralyzed on the turf strip, I remembered that evening and the sense of aloneness that I felt. But that was different. There I had been alone because no one cared enough to stop.

Here I was alone because no one knew. Good sense dictated that I lie still until the pain subsided enough to let me roll over and crawl to my thrown mobile phone just 3 metres away. It dawned on me how unexpectedly we could find ourselves alone and in trouble.

Suddenly, I felt embarrassed, and wondered why. One should not feel embarrassed about something over which one has absolutely no control. Yet, people do. I had been embarrassed about not visiting my friend - Abey.

It was two months ago when I came to know he was going to die and I did not know what to say to him. Abey was in his 60s, full of life, eternally curious, a man of big spirits who had lots to do, many places to go.

Abey had a backache, just like me. He had gone into hospital to have it examined.

The diagnosis was not a stripped muscle or a crushed disc. The diagnosis was cancer.

I got the news from another friend, and knew by his averted eyes that Abey would not recover. I could not help but connect Abey’s illness with my auto accident. He had lived as carefully as I had driven my car, yet, calamity had sneaked in.

Understanding

“I am sure,” my friend said, “that Abey would appreciate a visit from you.”

My heart shook at the thought. Abey was a school mate. We were very close. But, now what can I talk with him? About death? About our fragile lives? Or, offer some comfort, no matter how small it might be? Abey was too honest in his own life to accept false hope, even from a well-meaning friend. He was quite smart at that.

The sun had risen to mid-sky by the time I was able to roll over and crawl to my mobile phone. I called a friend. As I switched off the phone, the pain hit again and I was flat on the ground when Indika arrived.

He made me as comfortable as possible and then summoned an ambulance. “I really wish there was something I could do for you,” Indika said on our way to hospital, watching me grimace during a sudden spasm of pain.

It was then that I understood.

Alone in the garden, I had had some time to think, to reflect on the fact that birds and flowers and generations of people go on endlessly. It wasn’t really so terrible being alone out there.

But, on the road, watching people go by, people who refused to notice, I felt abandoned by my own citizens. That was a different kind of loneliness.

I knew now I had been wrong on not visiting Abey. I decided not only to visit him as soon as possible but also invite him home for a few days.

Today, Abey is no more. But, he had a good time with me for five full days. I got some other school friends to drop by.

We talked about the good old days, and the atmosphere was full of joy and laughter. He enjoyed every single minute of it. I had only done for Abey what both, the there-wheeler driver and Indika had done for me. 

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