Forensic probes into John’s memoir show how the power of mind helped him overcome the biggest shock of his life from possible devastation.
John and Deanna purchased a house during the period of economic downturn; they took a gamble that John won’t lose his job. An event, that took place only a couple of months later could have led to the loss of John’s life; if not, it could have incapacitated him for life.
On Friday, the 27th November, 1992, John rose at about 6:00am and prepared himself for the day. He departed his home at about 7:15am and he was to head for work by public transport. Deanna had already left for work sometime prior to this; she also travelled by public transport.
John would usually cross Epping Road to the bus stop which was across the road from his house and about 50 metres east. Epping Road was six lanes wide. Traffic from the city was light and occasional. Traffic to the city was heavy and at a standstill. There was a median strip separating east and west lanes. The weather was fine, sunny and clear. Visibility was good. John used to wear glasses for short sightedness and he was wearing his glasses at that time. He was carrying a grey coloured brief case and he was wearing dark coloured trousers, a light coloured long sleeve shirt and a tie.
As traffic was clear in the direction of Epping, he crossed the first three lanes of traffic; he walked directly across at a steady pace to the median strip. Traffic on the first two city bound lanes was stationery; the third lane was almost empty as this was a transit lane.
John crossed between two stationary cars in the fourth lane and then veered about 1 metre to the left and then straight across between the two stationery vehicles in the fifth lane which was the centre lane of the city bound traffic.
Prior to proceeding into the sixth lane which was the transit lane, he stopped to look to his left and he saw no vehicles coming. He also saw no vehicles approaching as he passed between the two stationary cars in the 5th lane as he was looking to his left and down the transit lane he was crossing.
John started to move across in the transit lane and he was partly into the transit lane, when suddenly a vehicle approached him from nowhere; he did not see from where the vehicle came from and he had no time to react; he could not guess at what distance the car was from him when it first drew his attention.
The accident was over in a second; he couldn’t make out at what speed the vehicle was travelling at; the car struck him; he didn’t know which part of the car struck him as he went immediately into an unconscious state.
The next thing John recalled was someone asking his name, address, his work phone number and his wife’s name. John guessed that he was sitting or lying on something at that time, a chair or a stretcher, he could not recall; neither could he recall where this was. It might have been in the hospital, He could not recall any details of the accident; he must have been unconscious for quite some time. Although, he seemed to recall, someone saying that the phone at work was ringing and there was no one responding and it was not yet 8:30am. He thought he said to let the phone ring for a while and someone would respond. He didn’t know when it was however. He could recall that someone asking him about the contact details of his wife; he said he didn’t remember her work phone number; he said that there is a visiting card of her boss in his wallet. At first, the hospital nurse couldn’t locate his wallet; later he discovered that someone had put the wallet in his brief case; the nurse located one American Express visiting card from his wallet; John advised the nurse may call the number on the card and ask for Deanna George.
He could recall police talking to him and he was questioned as to the accident and he recalled something being said about the colour or description of the car, however, he could not recall the details of the car, neither did he have time to get a description of the car or the vehicle before it hit him.
John didn’t remember signing anything for police, however, he did remember signing something, but this might have been connected with the hospital. He could not recall anything else in regard to the accident; he didn’t know whether there was any witness to the accident. The nearest pedestrian crossing, which John could have used, was about 250 metres away i.e. 5 to 6 minutes’ walk. At the time of the accident, he was crossing Epping Road to catch a bus to the city; he didn’t aim for any particular bus, as buses pass there every 5 minutes or so during the peak hour. He didn’t see any bus coming and therefore he was not in a hurry to cross the road to the bus stop.
* * *
The driver of the Holden Torana sedan that hit John said that he was driving to the city in the Epping Road. There was a train strike that morning and the traffic was heavy. He was travelling in the middle lane of the three eastward lanes and the traffic was stationary in that lane. He pulled out into the kerbside transit lane to obtain some petrol on the corner of a street further up on the left. As far as he remembered he moved into the transit or northernmost lane about 50 to 70 metres back from the accident. He was not quite sure; no one else was with him in the car; he started to pick up speed and hit something; the next thing he knew — John was on his windscreen.
He had no idea at what speed John was travelling because the first time he became aware of John was when the impact occurred in the middle of the front of his vehicle and he was probably aware of him for the first time when he fell back on the bonnet of his car. He agreed that he shouldn’t have been in the transit lane, but he got into that lane to get to the service station, which was about 250 metres away from the point of collision.
* * *
On her way to work by a public bus, Deanna was listening to news from her headphone; she heard from the news that a pedestrian had been knocked down by a car on the Epping Road at Bird Cove. This sort of news was very common particularly in the morning peak hours; the car drivers choose their route to avoid traffic jams caused by accidents. Deanna could not imagine that her husband John was the pedestrian involved.
Deanna was very busy at work as certain reports needed to be done before the month-end. There was a meeting scheduled at 10:30 am, when team members were supposed to discuss how they had so far progressed with their tasks. Just prior to this meeting, Deanna’s boss Nick came to her desk and said, — ‘I’ve just received a message from Royal North Shore Hospital that your husband, John George, has been admitted there; he has been hit by a car and he is in the operation theatre, being treated for the injuries caused by the accident. If you like you may call this number to get further details.’
Deanna wanted to curse John for spoiling the day of this important meeting; she was a bit upset and anxious about what to do next; she asked, ‘What should I do? Should I go to see John now?’
‘You could, if you so want Deanna. From here, you could take a public bus to reach there in 20 minutes. But it is unlikely that you would be allowed to see him before he is taken to a bed.’
‘In that case, Nick, I’ll attend this meeting and after that I would phone and find out how he is after the operation and at what time I could see him.’
During the meeting, Deanna forgot for a while that something had happened to John; she didn’t try to think what could happen to her, at best, at worst. She participated in the meeting as usual, as if nothing had happened.
After the meeting, she phoned Royal North Shore Hospital [RNSH] and found out that a few surgical procedures had been carried out to fix multiple fractures on John’s femur and tibia as well as the shoulder, all on the left side. He was in the Intensive Care Unit and could be visited after 5pm.
Deanna used to work for 5 hours every day for 4 days in a week; she started at 8am, so she decided to continue in the work till 1pm after that she would go home first and go to the hospital from there.
At 1pm, Deanna came home and finished her lunch; but she could not leave for RNSH yet. Jewel had stayed over with one of her friends yesterday and was supposed to return this afternoon at around 5pm. Deanna thought she would wait for Jewel to return home before heading for RNSH; but what would she tell Jewel, if she was told about Daddy’s accident she would also demand to go, but Deanna didn’t want to take Jewel to the hospital before knowing the exact status of John.
Deanna thought she should leave for RNSH without waiting for Jewel; but unfortunately Jewel forgot to take the house keys with her and Deanna knew that. If Jewel would arrive when no one could open the door for her, she would be totally confused. Deanna phoned Mandana and told her what had happened; Rupak-Mandana’s apartment was not far from John-Deanna’s, so Deanna requested Mandana to walk down to her place, so that Mandana could let Jewel in on her return. But Mandana said that she had to wait for Babu to return home, as he didn’t carry house-keys with him.
Deanna was really in a fix. She went to the next door neighbour, Mehmood, who used to repair cars in their front yard; she didn’t leave the house key with him, because she couldn’t trust them that much. She told the house-owner neighbour, that she needed to go to RNSH because her husband John had been admitted there. Her daughter Jewel would return between 5pm and 6pm; they should ask her to rest in their house before Deanna or another lady Mandana could open the house for Jewel.
Deanna then went to Rupak-Mandana’s house by bus, left one set of house keys with Mandana before heading for RNSH by public bus.
* * *
When John came to senses after the accident; he couldn’t make out where he was, and why he was there. Lots of faces were looking over him, over his entire body. Once he was on a stretcher, next he was on a bed, next he was on an ambulance trolley.
A pair of hands below his head and shoulder, another pair of hands below his hips and legs, He heard someone counting — One, two, three; two pairs of hands move up simultaneously to lift John’s body, then move together to bring the body on another bed; then the pairs of hands disappeared from underneath his body, away from him. John is transferred from one bed to another, one hospital department to another. Someone checked, how alert, how verbal, how responsive to pains or unresponsive John was; orthopaedic procedure on his femur and tibia was carried out by one surgeon while another surgeon carried out procedure on bones and joints of the shoulder i.e. the humerus (the upper arm bone), the scapula (the shoulder blade), and the clavicle (the collar bone).
From the questioning by the police, social workers and the hospital staff, John, though heavily drowsy, could recollect that he crossed five of the six lanes of the Epping Road and on the sixth lane he had been hit by a car.
At around 3pm, after a number of surgical procedures, he was brought to a bed of Intensive Care Orthopaedic Unit; where transfusion of blood and saline solution was started; oxygen cylinder was also used for a while. Under heavy sedative, John was not sure what parts in his body were still intact and what parts, if any, he had lost already.
* * *
Deanna reached RNSH at 5pm; by then John had been moved from the operation theatre to a special orthopaedic care unit. Four beds were accommodated in that room; Deanna walked to John’s bed, fitted with lots of gadgets. John asked her to sit on a chair by the bed and asked her to check the left leg; he was not sure whether he had lost that leg or not. Deanna lifted the blanket from the leg; John’s left thigh and left leg were fully plastered and held together with splinters and bandages. Deanna could feel the structure of the leg and found the entire leg was there, although heavily fractured. Deanna assured John that the entire leg was there and no amputation had been done.
John felt guilty that he had caused so much trouble for Deanna; He said that he was scheduled to do some overtime assignment on the Saturday He asked her to note one phone number, so that she could call that number and let the person know that John won’t be coming to work on the Saturday.
One female social worker came to speak to John and Deanna; she said John should inform the HR department of Bank of Awtotom that he was hit by a car on his way to work; he would be entitled to Worker’s Compensation benefits; she also noted John’s private health insurance details, so that some of the charges could be claimed from the private health insurance.
After an hour or so Rupak arrived near John’s bed; Rupak told Deanna that Mandana had gone to John-Deanna’s place to open the door for Jewel. Deanna told Rupak about informing Awtotom Bank’s HR department for Worker’s Compensation benefits.
A few minutes later Shyam and Sutra also arrived, Sutra got this news from Mandana. Rupak narrated to them how the accident happened and asked Shyam to inform HR department of Bank of Awtotom, ‘Hi Shyam, when you go to work tomorrow, please inform the HR about this, so that John gets Worker’s Compensation benefits.’
Shyam was a bit dismayed; he said, ‘Sorry, I no longer work there.’
He stopped a while and then said, ‘I had been retrenched a couple of months ago; I have just started lecturing in UTA — University of Technology, Awtotom.’
John felt guilty that Shyam had to share his secrets with others only because of John’s accident.
‘No worries.’ Rupak said, ‘I shall manage to inform Awtotom Bank’s HR.’
* * *
When Jewel returned after stay-over at her friend’s place, Deanna’s next door neighbour Mehmood stopped her and asked her to rest at their place. Jewel was a bit confused, because she had never gone to their house before. Mehmood told her that her mum had to go out on some business and requested him to take care of Jewel till she returned.
Jewel started getting impatient after staying at Mehmood’s place for 40 minutes. Mehmood assured Jewel that he had lots of tools to break open a house; when Jewel would be desperate to return to their place he would break open one window and through that window he would put Jewel into her room. Jewel was a bit horrified to know that she was in the house of a professional handyman, who could easily become a burglar. Just at this time, Mandana reached Deanna’s place; she unlocked the house doors and called Jewel from the next-door neighbour Mehmood’s house.
Again, as instructed by Deanna, Mandana didn’t reveal anything to Jewel; she framed lots of stories to convince Jewel that John and Deanna had gone somewhere and would return by 8pm.
At 8pm, the door bell rang; Jewel rushed to open the door; Mandana also went near the door; Deanna had just returned from the hospital; Rupak also accompanied her.
‘Where had you been, Mummy,’ Jewel asked bewildered, — ‘Why Daddy isn’t with you?’
Deanna was very tired and exhausted; she couldn’t make out what to say; she thought for a second and said. ‘Daddy has gone to work; he would be late to return; he had to solve one urgent problem.’
Jewel knew that Daddy had to solve many I.T. problems; but he had never been so late.
Mandana said, ‘Jewel, Mummy is very tired too; let me serve the dinner to you two before I leave.’
Jewel was a bit confused why Mummy won’t serve dinner and why Mandana auntie needed to take over Mummy’s job. Mandana, however, wanted to make sure that Deanna took some food and Jewel was fed as well. Only after Deanna and Jewel had started taking their dinner Rupak and Mandana left for their home.
Next day, after Jewel returned from school, Deanna told her what had happened to his Daddy. Jewel was totally at a loss to hear this news from Deanna; she so far believed that her Daddy was one of the strongest and fittest men on the earth and nothing could ever happen to her invincible Daddy. At the start of the visiting hours, she was at the hospital along with her Mummy; she was shocked to see her strong Daddy lying on an orthopaedic bed with lots of paraphernalia on his side.
‘How are you Daddy? Are you feeling any pain?’ asked Jewel to her Daddy John.
‘I am much better today, Jewel.’ said John, ‘Glad that I could see you again!’
A few minutes later, Nitish and Nirmala came to visit John; Nirmala entered the room, got a glimpse of John’s face adjacent to his bandaged shoulder, hips and legs; she couldn’t get herself inside the room; shocked Nirmala went outside the room to hide her tears. Later on Deanna went to console her and brought her near John, so that she could exchange welfare messages with John.
After the ordeal of two days John had a bit of respite; after all visitors had left John had an interval of rest and relief from the pains all over his body; he felt the urge of smoking a cigarette; but how could he smoke? He had a pack of cigarettes in his briefcase which should be somewhere near his bedside table; but he wasn’t allowed to smoke inside the hospital cabin; only if someone could escort him outside the hospital campus he would be allowed to smoke; strictly confined to bed, John couldn’t be helped to do this. He remembered, what the surgeon had told him about deposits of nicotine in his lungs. In order to wash his lungs, the doctor had put a small amount of saline solution down the tube; later he had removed the fluid, and examined the fluid for cells under the microscope and let John view the projection from the microscope. Better he shouldn’t try to smoke again; John had been trying to quit smoking for last few years; recently he had been smoking three half cigarettes a day, one half cigarette after the morning tea; one half after the lunch and the last half after dinner before going to bed. Other than that, whenever he had encountered a problem, he felt the urge to smoke; it helped him to solve the problem better. Now, in the hospital, when others were working to cure him, he had not been entrusted to solve a complex I.T. programming problem; he could relax without smoking a cigarette. When he thought of relaxing, he remembered the he could be in a bigger problem now — the problem to make both ends meet when he would be out of work for months. Fortunately, one H.R. lady from the Bank of Awtotom had visited him today and assured him that all his hospital bills would be met from Workers’ Compensation Insurance and he would continue to earn his salary during the time he would be away from the work. John thought tomorrow he would advise Deanna to bring the regular mails to him, so that he could advice her on scheduling the payments to those bills while keeping an eye on the balance at the bank.
* * *
Deanna thought that she must inform Jeremy, Patricia as well as John’s brother Jack about the accident. She wanted to share her anxiety and worries with her near relatives as well as those of John. But how much could she talk? The telephone costs were too prohibitive. Had she informed them once, they would be waiting for updates; that meant more international phone calls and higher phone bills at the time when income was very uncertain. She informed them that John had been admitted to a hospital after being knocked down by a car; but he was in good hands and would recover in a month’s time. What could she get in response to this phone call?
Jack asked her to wait, as recovery for such accidents takes time; not much could be done by Deanna at this stage; she should take good care of Jewel and herself.
Jeremy advised her to take good care of John’s savings in the mean time; he enquired if all John’s accounts were jointly owned by Deanna as well; Deanna let him know that all their assets i.e. their house, their car and all bank accounts were jointly owned, where either of the survivors could operate; Jeremy said that he would pray to God for John’s recovery; he also advised her not to strain herself too much in running around for injured John; she should rather leave it to God to take his time to cure him.
Patricia asked her whether it would be better, had John been brought back to South Agrica; Deanna said it would be too expensive to get John to South Agrica at that time; also there was no need to do so because care was much better in Kanadian hospitals.
After Deanna finished her call, Jeremy said to Patricia, ‘Don’t worry much for Deanna; she is a permanent citizen of Kanadia for last eight years. God forbid, if something happens to John, Deanna’s life would remain secure. If Deanna gets widowed or divorced, we can get Deanna married to a suitable boy here; thanks to marital relationship with Deanna that boy could easily migrate to Kanadia.’
‘Who would marry a woman having a 15 year old daughter? Only some widowers might do that.’ Patricia added.
‘You don’t know how young boys here crave for citizenship in Kanadia; many fresh graduates won’t mind to marry a forty year old woman for getting a career in Awtotom. Deanna, too, would relish having a young husband; she thought John was too old for her.’ — Jeremy replied.
Deanna didn’t hear this conversation between her parents; she only heard that Jeremy wanted to leave John in God’s hand; she expected some encouragement and blessings from her parents, not mere believing in fate. She thought, from now on she would share her thoughts more often with her friends at Awtotom rather than wasting her time and money on talking to her parents and John’s relatives.
* * *
One of these days, John and Deanna realised that their car was lying idle for a few days, and they didn’t know when John would drive that car next, if ever he could be fit enough to drive a car; so when Karun and Kalpana came to visit John, they requested Karun to take the car to his place and use that car as his own car; Karun agreed because since he lost his job he hadn’t got any car. Karun wanted to help Deanna in return by picking her from Bird Cove to RNSH as well as when Deanna needed to buy heavy groceries. However, on most days, Deanna didn’t need Karun’s help for going to shops or to the hospital.
Thanks to good care of the nurses and doctors of RNSH, John gradually recovered; for two weeks he was confined to his bed; but doctors and physiotherapists worked with him to keep his muscles working; first in the good right side of the body and then in the broken left side of his body. Surgeons told John that at the end of the second week he would be transferred to a rehabilitation centre; he could choose one of the two Rehabilitation Centres, one with Greenwich Hospital and the other at Ryde Hospital. Greenwich hospital was nearer to Deanna’s place at Bird Cove; but neither of these two rehabilitation centres was well connected by public transport as was RNSH or Royal North Shore Hospital, where John was in at that time. As per the surgeons of RNSH, the quality of care was much better in the Ryde rehabilitation centre. John and Deanna considered that the quality of care was the most important point to choose; since Deanna couldn’t drive the car, proximity of Greenwich hospital wasn’t of much help to Deanna.
On the 11th December, Friday, John was taken to Ryde Rehabilitation Centre in one RNSH vehicle; Deanna was not allowed in that vehicle; Deanna and Jewel saw John at 6pm at his bed in the Ryde Rehabilitation Centre. It was really tough for Deanna to get to this place every day by public transport; usually she used to return home at 1 pm after work; then she had to carry out a few daily chores; had her lunch; then Jewel used to return from school; she served her with some snacks and drinks before she could start for the hospital. No direct busses could take her from Bird Cove to Ryde; she had to go to the city and change to another bus from there to reach the Ryde Rehabilitation Centre just at the start of the visiting hours. While returning she used to get lifts on most days from some other friends who came there to visit John, so that she needed to avail herself of one public bus only, not two. On some days Karun, who was entrusted with John-Deanna’s car, picked Deanna up from her home to the hospital and the hospital to home. On those days, it was convenient to take Jewel as well with her; otherwise Deanna dissuaded her from going to the hospital.
Next 12 weeks, John learnt how to get off the bed, to get on to the wheel chair, to drive the wheel chair in the aisles by the side of the hospital halls; in one of these halls was John’s bed accompanied by 11 other beds. Like a newborn baby, he gradually learnt how to crawl, how to stand and walk. When he just started to stand off the wheel chair, he started going to toilets without taking help from the nurses; but sometimes he found the tap handles were dirty, because some patients had touched the tap handles with the soiled and dirty hand.
During the Christmas holidays, many nurses used to take leave; so patients were encouraged to go home for a break. John was told that he could borrow the wheel chair from the hospital and go home in a taxi, specially designed for the disabled; John discussed this with Deanna and decided not to take the Christmas break, because it would be difficult to move about in the house using the wheel chair. However, on the Christmas Day, Deanna didn’t like to have her lunch alone in the home; she sent Jewel to Mandana’s place so that she could enjoy Christmas with them; she prepared a few dishes, which John liked most, put them in a Tiffin carrier and arrived at the hospital. But John was not expecting her to arrive at that time; he was rather looking forward to having the special Christmas lunch of the hospital; a few minutes before Deanna arrived, he had discussed with the patient, next to his bed, what they were expecting in that lunch. When Deanna arrived and offered to open the tiffin carrier, John found himself in an awkward position; he was under peer pressure from the other patients for enjoying their lunch together; he was not in a position to take Deanna to the lunch room where only patients are authorised to go; what Deanna had brought was too little to be distributed amongst peers; Deanna brought the dishes just enough for two persons — John and Deanna. John was not so religious; Christmas did not mean much to him; he felt rather enticed by the glass of beer that was supposed to be in the hospital lunch. Now he realised why Deanna had arrived here; she might not have any breakfast before leaving for the hospital; he realised one glass of bear on this day was far less important than sharing lunch with his wife Deanna, who had taken so much care to arrive here only using public transport. John went on to his wheel chair, asked Deanna to take the bottle of water from his table and place that on the wheel chair cup holder; he wheeled himself from the hospital block into the hospital garden; Deanna carried the lunch-carrier with her; together they sat on a bench below a tree and had their Christmas lunch together. The lunch from the tiffin carrier might not have been very tasty, but tears off their eyes made this Christmas lunch very special in the hospital compound, far better than a glass of beer John hoped to have on this day.
John became so adept in driving the wheel chair in the aisles by the side of the hospital halls, that nurses started cautioning him saying, ‘Please don’t drive like Wayne Gardner, now is the time to start walking.’ Soon he learnt to walk while leaning on the crutches. 3 other patients also started walking at this time; very slowly they walked with measured steps; 50 metre walk seemed a marathon run to them. One day, 4 patients were taken to RNSH i.e. Royal North Shore Hospital in a van; as John watched the road from the right window, he imagined as if he was driving. John could easily guess that the van would go via Epping Road, would possibly go past their house; he asked the driver if he could stop a while on the road near his house, so that he could visit the house for 5 minutes; the driver knew that he shouldn’t oblige one patient and get late in transporting the patients to RNSH; yet he said that he would try. Indeed, the van stopped on the Epping Road for some minor problem, which the driver could fix. The van was only 100 metres away from John-Deanna’s house; John tried to view the house from a distance; he couldn’t; he thought of walking to the house; but it seemed to him more than a marathon race; he asked the driver if he could go for 10 minutes; the driver said ‘No’, ‘I can’t let you go on your own’. John went back to his seat in the van, waiting to travel to RNSH. At RNSH, his surgeon Dr Ruff checked him thoroughly; he was happy that John had recovered well after the major operation; he said it won’t be very long before he would be discharged.
On Friday the 5th March 1993 John was discharged from the Ryde Rehabilitation Centre. Five other patients were discharged on that day. Some of them were not happy to go after spending so much time in the hospital; they thought the hospital would be their home for the rest of their lives; they lacked the courage to face the realities of the world. But the hospital didn’t afford to provide shelters to those who were fit enough to live in their own places; they had only a limited funds and limited number of beds and facilities to offer. John was, however, ready to return home, though he knew he would have to walk with crutches for at least one more week. The surgeon certified that he would be able to drive his car, provided he took enough care to get on to the driver’s seat; he would need to stand on his good right leg near the driver side door; he should the put his damaged left leg on the car floor and get seated; then he should drag the good right leg inside the car, close the car door and put on the seat belt.
On the day of discharge, Karun picked Deanna from her home and reached the hospital, so that John could be brought home in his own car. John felt sorry to bid good bye to the peer patients; he was especially moved to watch the discharge of two male patients from the hospital.
One patient had been getting rehabilitated here for last 5 months after one of his legs had to be amputated after an accident; when he was brought to this rehabilitation centre he had a house to return to and he could expect his partner to receive him there; but a lot of things had changed during his stay in the hospital; he lost his job as he could not turn up for work and as he couldn’t pay the mortgage premiums his house was repossessed by the bank and sold in auction. Before the accident he used to think that after living with his partner for a couple of years he would get the same rights as married couples. But at the time of discharge he found this was far from true; couples who live together have hardly any rights automatically. The woman, who used to live together with him, didn’t find any good reason to continue with a disabled man; instead she had moved out with another good prospective husband. The disabled man was helpless at the time of discharge; he was begging from the social worker for organising unemployment allowance or disability benefits from Commonwealth Employment Service (CES) and also for organising a suitable accommodation where he could start living again.
The second patient, who overwhelmed John, had forgotten his past altogether after his head was struck in an accident. His wife and two children, one 5 year old daughter and one three year old son, were there to take him home after his discharge from the hospital. But, alas, he was not in a position to recognise any one of them. John thought that he was very lucky that his brain hadn’t been affected by the accident; workers’ compensation insurance of his employers had saved him from all the embarrassments of losing jobs and failing to pay the mortgage premiums. John thought, perhaps, Deanna would have left him as well, had John lost his capability for earning money.
John returned home after getting discharged from Ryde rehabilitation Centre. The house he had last left on the 27th November, 1992 had changed quite a lot; lots of weeds had grown on the brick-layered front yard; bricks were no more visible; one could hardly make out that there were bricks below the thick layer of weeds. For only 2½ months, he had lived in this house before the accident, yet he felt he returned home after a long exile of 14 weeks. Inside of the home was not quite the same as it was 14 weeks ago; some of the spots where John liked to sit are being used for some other purposes; John’s wardrobe was very disorganised; bed sheets, towels, pillow cases and lots of other paraphernalia were mixed up along with John’s clothes. John thought perhaps Deanna didn’t expect him to return from the hospital; didn’t care to keep space for John’s things.
After spending two nights at home, on Sunday the 7th March, John set out for walking with crutches on the footpath of Epping Road; Deanna accompanied her for the first time; but later John tried a few times without her escort. After walking a few times on the footpath near their house, John realised he needed to start driving soon, if he had to go to work; it would be too cumbersome to use public transport unless he could walk without crutches. He thought of crossing the road to get to the bus stop; there were no traffic signals in next 250 metres; it is impossible to cross the road while walking on crutches unless he could get a signal controlled pedestrian crossing. He discussed with Deanna and rang up Karun requesting him to return their car, so that he could practise driving again. John also contacted H.R. department of the Bank of Awtotom to find out when he should start work again. H.R. Officer Rennelle advised that he should resume working for 4 hours a day from Monday the 15th March. One parking spot would be kept reserved for him; he could start work late, say at 10am and he could leave after 4 hours, say at 2pm; he could take a lunch break for ½ hour as per his convenience.
As Deanna’s working week started on the 8th March, John found that timings of morning chores had changed. Before the accident, John was the one who used to get up first at 6am and get ready for work; Deanna used to get up half an hour later and after the morning chores she used to wake up Jewel, help her get ready and both Deanna and Jewel would leave the house about half an hour after John had left. Though John won’t be going to work on the day, he still got up at 6am, when he found the bathroom door was locked from inside because Deanna was taking a shower. There was one more toilet adjacent to the backyard garden; prior to the accident of the 27th November, John used to do his morning chores there; but to reach there John needed to go down a wooden staircase; John couldn’t go there with his crutches on. John went back to bed and waited till Jewel and Deanna left for school and work respectively. When he got up next, he had to rush to the toilet still resting on one crutch; fortunately no one was home to see how embarrassed John was. However, during this week, John drove the car a few times, filled petrol in the car.
On the Monday 15th March, John drove to work for the first time; never before he took his car to work, because he didn’t like to spend on parking fees. Now thanks to the rehabilitation procedure of the Bank of Awtotom, he was exempted from parking fees; he was allotted a special parking spot not very far from the main office door, so that he didn’t need to walk for long on his crutches. At work, lot of things were different since John had last worked here; only his chair, desk and the filing cabinet were as before; the boss he had been reporting to had been retrenched. The Trade Finance systems, where John had been engaged before had been merged into Wholesale Banking Systems. Someone else was looking after Trade Finance Systems; John was asked to keep one eye on this system while taking up new responsibilities in Nostro Reconciliation Process.
Though Jewel had been studying in Wenona School, every year John had submitted applications to get her admitted to a selective school. In the first week of March’92, Jewel received an admission offer from the nearest selective school — North Sydney Girls’ School. Now was the time to choose between one private school and one selective school; in the selective school most students are meritorious; they are much ahead of students of other non-selective schools. John remembered his plights when he changed over to Meteor Institute from a less known school in his Year-IX; Jewel might find it more difficult to keep pace with meritorious students at Year-XI; yet John believed Jewel would be able to compete with meritorious students of the selective school and in two years’ time bring excellent scores in HSC exams. Jewel had already picked up good manners from the expensive private school — Wenona School; John and Deanna were not sure whether they could continue to pay high private school fees after they started paying a bigger mortgage premium since the purchase of their new house especially they were not sure whether John could work full time after the severe accident, he had recently encountered. John, Deanna and Jewel discussed on this and together they decided to choose North Sydney Girls School. Jewel went to fetch transfer certificate from the Principal of Wenona School — Miss Jackson, who congratulated Jewel on her move to the selective school and bestowed her blessings on her.
This was the time, when Deanna started her full time job with American Express. As Jewel was already 15 year old, there was no need for Deanna to be home in the afternoon to look after her; Deanna’s extra income would help in meeting the higher mortgage premium.
Gradually, John started working longer and longer at work. After a couple of months after his resumption, he started normal 8 hours a day, if not longer. Free parking facilities that were offered to him were withdrawn from the Tuesday 3rd of August. Still John continued to drive to and from work, because of savings in fares on public transport plus savings in time to travel as well. Only he had to look for available parking spots on the roads near his workplace.
As in every other year, the days of October festivities were celebrated in Awtotom; Deanna participated in a dance recital; in addition to this she choreographed a dance drama in which Jewel played a major role. John, however, attracted attention of most members of the club of South Agrican origin for the news of his accident and subsequent recovery from injuries; many had already visited him in the hospital and the rehabilitation centre; still they were curious to know how John had returned to normal life after such a major accident. Among these well wishers, John found Timir holding a two week old baby on his shoulder; beside him stood one young girl in her late twenties. Timir asked John how he had recovered from his injuries and then introduced him to his newborn daughter Chandana and his new wife Banya, the young girl in her twenties. John remembered that during last October festivities also he met Timir when Timir was alone and he narrated how his erstwhile wife Tandra divorced him and married a local Kanadian gentleman. Tandra was married to Timir in South Agrica about 12 years ago; Banya had been also married to him in South Africa only in last November, not long before John was hit by a car. Though Banya looked liked a daughter of 50 year old Timir; she seemed to be enjoying with her husband and her new toy — her new born daughter amidst the beautiful landscapes of Kanadia. Later John heard more about Tandra from Deanna,
Though John might not remember Tandra, Deanna could vividly remember Tandra’s face; she was in her late thirties; unlike other ladies of South Agrican origin, she used to wear short skirts and low cut blouses to attract male attention; she was on the lookout for local men so that she could get her children with fair complexion.
Deanna remembered her GemMummy thought in similar lines; she wished a fair-skinned child would be born to Deanna in Kanadia making Patricia a grandmother of a handsome boy or a lovely beautiful girl; she shared this dream with Deanna of another child — a bit prettier than Jewel. Deanna couldn’t yet make out what Patricia’s vision was about — should Deanna follow Tandra’s line to get closer to Kanadian men than their South Agrican counterparts? Before Deanna could think of a cute baby, she thought of the broad hairless white chest and muscular body of one of her colleagues — much better, much tastier than jungle of hairs on John’s chest. Would Patricia encourage her to dance with a strong white man here and get entertained? Deanna thought it’s never a sin to go by natural instinct; God would surely forgive her.
At work, John came to know the problems of one colleague of South Agrican origin — Srinivasan. Recently, John found Srinivasan spending hours and hours on talking over phone. John couldn’t get what Srinivasan was talking about, but he was found very worried and agitated.
John walked to Srinivasan and asked, ‘Hi Srini, you seem very upset; would you please share your problem with me; I may help you to choose the appropriate option.’
‘This is my personal problem; I don’t feel good to share with you.’ As Srini said this, John thought of going back to his own seat and leaving Srinivasan alone when Srinivasan dragged John and asked him to sit near him.
‘My wife and my child are now at South Agrica and informed me that she has no intention to return to me. You’re of South Agrican origin, so you would appreciate my situation better.’ Srinivasan said.
‘I would help you, if I understand why your wife has no intention to return to you.’ John said.
‘My wife Mandodari went to her parents’ place at South Agrica for giving birth to our child there.
‘The male child has been born a year ago; a month after that I visited their place, but her parents didn’t allow her to return to Kanadia on the ground of her post-natal problems.
‘I have been enquiring about her health over phone, but whenever I rang them her brother or her father answered the phone; she never talked to me.
‘Six months after the child birth, I again went there to bring her and the baby back to Kanadia. But I found their place was occupied by some other family and this family apparently didn’t know the whereabouts of Mandodari and her parents. They didn’t have any relatives whom I could go to there.
‘Only a week ago, I received a letter from my brother who stated that they have been informed that Mandodari has won her divorce suit against me. Apparently her lawyer served me summons at my old address, where I used to live before coming over to Kanadia. Someone apparently received the summons forging my signature, but never informed me. Mandodari won without any contest.
‘My brother also reported Mandodari was earlier married to another man named Bibhishan for five years and when no child could be born to them, Mandodari married me taking oath before a marriage registrar.
‘Now I got the news that Mandodari has arrived in Awtotom with Bibhishan as her husband.’
‘How did you get the news of her arrival here?’ John asked.
‘My friend Purush and his wife Uttama have met Mandodari in the shopping centre; her new man was also there along with her son — my son.
‘Uttama and Purush were surprised to find her here; they were under the impression that she is still in South Agrica. Mandodari broke the news that she is no longer married to me; she has managed to bring her new husband to Kanadia, as a Kanadian citizen, she is authorised to bring her legal spouse here; no one asked that she migrated to Kanadia not on her own but as my wife.’
‘What would you do now, Srini?’ John asked.
‘I don’t know what options I have. I want to have my son with me; Uttama and Purush told me that my son has taken after his father; he looks like me even smiles in the same way I do. But Mandodari and Bibhishan won’t let me have him; prior to marrying me she tried with him for five years but didn’t get any issue. Then by playing the game of marriage with me, she managed to get a son and Kanadian citizenship for herself and this enabled her to sponsor her ex-husband and new husband Bibhishan for immigration to Kanadia.’
‘When I see divorces like this one, I apprehend that something like this might happen to me as well.’ John said, ‘Ideally you marry another suitable girl who would be ready to adopt your son. It won’t be easy to get a suitable girl at such a mature age; you have to do lots of research to get someone to marry you. Nor it would be easy to get your son off your wife; first you have to get DNA paternity testing done to establish the fatherhood of your son, then you need to fight the battle with your wife for the custody of your son. Bibhishan and Mandodari won’t let you have your son easily.’
‘Yes, John,’ said Srinivasan, ‘I have to start my battles now; first I need to get whereabouts of Mandodari, so that I could ask my lawyer to contact her soliciting the custody of my son, and to organise DNA testing if she denies my fatherhood. The search for a suitable partner is a strenuous search for a touchstone that could bring a miracle to my life. While I am on these battles, I need to survive at my work and earn my living as well as pay for legal expenses.’
‘If you need any help, please let me know; I would be by your side.’ Said John, while he thought Deanna might also take similar stance as Mandodari, had she found any means to fulfil all her dreams exploiting her legal bond with John; once treacherous Deanna would never be trustworthy to John.
* * *
In late December’93, John, Deanna and Jewel planned a trip to Port Victoria. This year’s trip was significantly different from other previous holidays to South Agrica; this year John had recovered after a major accident; he had learnt to walk again after being totally bed ridden; this year Jewel would complete her Year-XI in the school and in next calendar year she would be in the Year-XII and sit for the HSC exams; this year Deanna had started working full time for the first time and whenever she purchased expensive gifts for her brother, sister and parents, she was keen to show off that she was earning lot of money by working full time at APEX even though her income was never more than half what John earned.
A few days before the flight to Port Victoria, John had to take a certificate from the orthopaedic surgery of Royal North Shore Hospital stating that a number of metallic screws and rods were still inside his body. After immigration formalities were over, John, Deanna and Jewel had to place all their cabin bags for X-ray screening; before walking through Metal and Weapon Detection Scanners, John showed the certificate from RNSH to the airport security staff, who checked the certificate and asked John to walk through the Hire TAG Scanner Arch Structure; lots of bells and whistles rang but the security officer had no concern in allowing him through. Rather, Deanna was stopped by the security staff and she had to take off her shoes and pass them through X-ray scanning.
This time Patricia and Jeremy were not at Port Victoria, when John-Deanna-Jewel reached there. Recently Jeremy had his hernia procedure carried out from Miguel’s place in Therp; he was resting there for a couple of months. So John-Deanna-Jewel left for Therp only two days after their arrival at Port Victoria.
At Miguel’s place two persons were handicapped this time: Jeremy because of his hernia operation and John because of the major accident he was injured in about a year ago. In the evenings, they often walked together in the street. Jeremy often found John was too slow for him to walk together; though they used to set out together Jeremy used to return home earlier leaving John on the road. Last time when they travelled together John was much faster, but always adjusted his speed while walking with Jeremy. This time after the accident John had become much slower, he couldn’t cope up with Jeremy. After spending two weeks at Therp, John-Deanna-Jewel returned to Port Victoria; Jeremy and Patricia also accompanied them. It was enjoyable to have a long train journey together.
After returning to Port Victoria, John visited a few of his relatives who were all pleased to see him walking after the news they received about a year ago, of the terrible accident. Some of them said that John was much better off after having the accident at Awtotom; had he been treated in South Agrica for similar injuries, he probably would have been still bed-ridden. Some others said they were sorry to see that John had become permanently incapable of walking in a normal mode. John accepted remarks of all people; he knew that he had become 90% fit as per orthopaedic surgeons of RNSH; he would be a bit freer after the metal parts would get removed from his body.
Only Millie recalled, that one astrologer told Martina that John would die of an accident, early in his life; he could die in his twenties; Martina used to fast in the morning and followed lots of rituals to nullify the astrologer’s prediction. John had one accident before during his engineering career; he was narrowly saved; this time he had been saved in a more severe accident; John had been always saved by the prayer and rituals from Martina.
As Deanna let most relatives know that she had started working full time, many thought John had to let Deanna work hard because of his injuries. In South Agrica, most ladies were purely housewives, they thought women work only when their husbands don’t earn enough; they pitied on Deanna’s misfortune; some other relatives thought it was Deanna who had purchased the Port Victoria apartment after starting full-time work, even though, John paid for the apartment long before Deanna started full time work.
* * *
John visited Gandenade a number of times to check welfare of Gaylene and Bissen. Pinaki and Pushpa had been exploiting Gaylene for long; they had been getting some of their household jobs done by Gaylene; Gaylene used to pay Pinaki for buying groceries for her, but Pinaki used that money for buying his groceries as well. John helped Gaylene by spending his own money to buy groceries for her; but he realised that he won’t be in a position to buy groceries for her when he would be away; so he organised with one household who would supply home cooked food daily to Gaylene, at the rate of 300 bucks per month. This time he only tried to ensure that Gaylene and Bissen get home cooked food everyday and do not get exploited by tenants — Pinaki and Pushpa. Prior to this, Jack had sold all Gaylene’s gold jewellery; to the proceeds of the sale he added some funds she had inherited from Martina and Sullivan and opened a fixed deposit for Gaylene, so that Gaylene would get 400 bucks every month in interest. John also managed to get Gaylene registered to the mental hospital, so that she could buy medicines at subsidised prices.
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