Episode 5

NOT GUILTY

It was 8 in the evening; Sameer was trudging through a busy area. He was famished, his lips were parched but he still kept walking, lost and heartbroken.

His mind was filled with thoughts of whatever happened with him today. In a single day, he had lost everything and now, he was on the road left to fend for him.

Due to hunger and thirst, he suddenly felt dizzy. He couldn’t see properly, see a car coming straight at him at great speed. Even the driver didn’t realize that there could be someone walking aimlessly in the middle of the road. While the driver tried to stop the car, Sameer felt himself being pushed hard to the side by somebody as the car screeched to a halt.

Sameer looked up for a moment. In his dizzy state, he could see an old man looking at him. Slowly, everything blackened out and the last thing Sameer could remember was seeing more number of people trying to lift him up.

The old man was none other Govardhan. He called out a taxi, and had the people around him carry Sameer and put him in the back seat.

“My house is nearby. I will call the doctor and have him treated.” said Govardhan.

At Govardhan’s house, the doctor checked Sameer as the former and his family waited patiently.

“Is he alright, doctor? Is anything serious?” Govardhan asked.

“Nothing to worry about. He hasn’t eaten the whole day, he is physically and mentally exhausted, some hot food into his stomach… and he will be alright.” the doctor replied.

“Ok doctor. Thank you.” said Govardhan.

After the doctor took leave, Govardhan, his wife, Gowri and his daughter, Devi looked at Sameer.

“Who is he? He doesn’t look like a vagabond. He looks like someone who belongs to a really good family. Why should he be wandering around aimlessly on the road like this?” asked Gowri.

“It looks like something bad has happened with him to have led him to this stage.” said Govardhan.

After an hour, Sameer regained consciousness. He got up from the bed and looked around. He saw Govardhan coming into the room with food nicely set on a plate. Seeing Sameer regain consciousness, he smiled at him and placed the food in front of him and said, “I hope you are alright. Have something… it will make you feel better.”

Sameer looked at the plate; he was famished and started gobbling the food. He suddenly choked and Govardhan gave him a glass of water. Sameer had some water and then resumed eating. Tears were coming out of his eyes while he ate his fill. Once he was finished, Govardhan took the plate and kept it on the table beside the bed.

“Go and have a wash, and then we can talk.” said Govardhan.

Sameer slowly got up from the bed and went to the washroom. He switched on the light and then saw himself in the mirror. His eyes were red and in tears, his hair that always used to be neatly parted was uneven, and his clothes were dirty and smelling. He wiped his tears and then washed his face. He came out and once again sat on the bed facing Govardhan.

“Who are you? And what happened to you?” asked Govardhan.

Sameer looked at Govardhan, his mind was replaying everything that had happened today and accepting his fate, a smile appeared on his face.

He answered, “I was somebody till yesterday. I was going to be someone by the end of this year… but I have ended up being a nobody.”

“Don’t say that. Do you have a family? Someone whom we will contact?” Govardhan inquired.

Sameer thought for a moment, he thought about his family, his friends, his love and then, he looked down and answered, “I have no one in this world now. All have left me to fend for myself. I am all alone now.”

Govardhan was confused, yet, he could make out that Sameer was deeply hurt and disturbed. The former wanted to help but not without knowing the proper facts about what transpired.

“Thank you so much for your help, sir but I guess, I will have to leave. I don’t want to cause any more trouble for you.” saying, Sameer got up, however, he started feeling weak again and clutched his head.

Govardhan caught hold of him and made him sit on the bed again, he said, “You are not in a position to go anywhere. Even if you go, you will end up in the same situation. You say you have nobody. Where will you go?”

“I will go to where my destiny takes me. I will go anywhere but not back to the world that turned their backs on me. They think I am a sinner, but I haven’t done anything. I am not guilty, yet they refused to believe it.” said Sameer, enraged.

Govardhan tried to calm him down. He nodded his head in disagreement and said, “The world never turns their back to anyone. The world is only oblivious of the fact that there are a few good people out there who deserve to be trusted, deserve to be loved and honored. The world is blind, it is deaf and it is we who should make the world see what it needs to see, make it listen what it needs to hear.”

Sameer stares at Govardhan, the latter’s words hit him like a bullet. Sameer then looks outside the window on his left and wonders what Govardhan meant.

Govardhan smiled, satisfied that Sameer was listening. He continued, “I guess you are thinking about what I just said. Look here, son, I may not know what happened with you but one thing is certain. If you are still alive and unharmed, then you have a purpose and that should be fulfilled. Now that you have eaten, better take some rest. You need it. We will talk tomorrow.”

Govardhan got up, before leaving the room, he said ‘goodnight’, switched off the lights and closed the door. In the dark, Sameer’s mind once again went through whatever happened but they all vanished suddenly, and what remained were the words of Govardhan. He slowly put his head on the pillow and within minutes was asleep.

The next morning, Sameer woke up. He was feeling better as he walked to the washroom and washed his face. There is a knock on the door, before opening it, he looked at the time on the wall clock. It was 8 in the morning. Sameer opened the door, it was Govardhan.

“How are you feeling?” asked Govardhan.

“I am feeling better now.” Sameer replied with a smile.

“I didn’t introduce myself yesterday. My name is Govardhan, come and have breakfast with us.” said Govardhan.

“Ok, thanks. By the way, I am Sameer. I guess even I didn’t introduce myself… considering the position I was in.” said Sameer.

Sameer followed Govardhan to the dining hall. He could make out through a window that he was in a huge complex with close to 50 rooms. He was in for a shock when Govardhan explained about the complex, “I am the owner of this complex. This property belongs to me, passed down from my father. This complex has a lot of rooms and therefore, I have put all of them on rent. One of the rooms is vacant and I am looking for a tenant.”

Gowri had already set the table and her daughter, Devi was having her breakfast. Govardhan introduced his family, “My wife, Gowri and my daughter, Devi. She is in her first year doing engineering. She is a very brilliant student. As you can see, she is ready for college and will have to leave early.”

Sameer looked at Devi. He was reminded of his sister, Dia. He wondered how she was and how she would be going to college. Worse than that, how will she face her friends who will be calling her a hacker’s sister? That was a terrible thought, yet, there was nothing he could do now. While Devi left for her college, Govardhan and Gowri wanted to know what had happened with Sameer.

“So tell me what happened? Why you don’t want to go back?” asked Govardhan.

Sameer sighed deeply and then narrated the entire incident that happened from the college to the hospital and then, from Anita’s house. Govardhan couldn’t believe what he just heard and Gowri became disturbed.

“My God! This was so unfair! Yet, tell me, you still have no interest to know whether your father is alright or not? Don’t you think he would be worried about you?” asked Govardhan.

“I know my father. He is a man of honor and he would have no interest to see the face of the one who has brought disgrace to him. Besides, I have now become a burden to the family. My career has been destroyed. I do not have anyone who can fight for me… and I am not requesting for it. I don’t know who set me up, however, I need to first sort out my life before I can wage a ‘war’ against those who wronged me.” said Sameer.

Govardhan stared at Sameer, the latter was just around 21 years of age… yet, the way he spoke was enough to prove that behind that happy-go-lucky boy, was a MAN who was aware of his purpose yet the world including his family only took notice of his outer self and not his inner self.

“So what are you going to do?” asked Gowri.

It was a question that Sameer was asking himself. He had to decide and his thoughts once again went back to what Govardhan had said yesterday.

“How much is the rent over here?” Sameer asked.

Both Govardhan and Gowri were surprised at that question.

“Why do you ask? And besides, you have nowhere to go. You can stay here as long as you can till you decide what you want to do. We want take anything from you.” said Govardhan.

“Sir, please… that is really kind of you, however, I guess I will have to face life. If that is the case then I have no other option. I will try and find a job. I couldn’t complete my studies but at least I will get a decent enough job to stand on my feet.” said Sameer.

Govardhan smiled at a Sameer and said, “God bless you, my son. You will be a winner and that is your destiny.”

Suddenly, there was a commotion outside. Everyone in the house went to see what happened. Sameer saw an old woman fallen on the ground while the others were seeing as to what happened. Sameer and Govardhan rushed downstairs to check.

“What happened? What is wrong with her?” Sameer asked.

A man dressed in a white uniform looked at Sameer, the latter could make out from the uniform that he may be working for a hospital or clinic. He saw the badge that read out his name – Damodar.

Damodar explained the situation, “She has had a stroke. We have to immediately take her to the hospital. The problem is… today the taxi drivers across the city have called for a strike so I don’t how to take her. Even if I do call the ambulance, I don’t know how long will it take and she is in a critical condition.”

Sameer looked on as the people tried to bring the lady back to her senses. The lady was partly awake and was looking around trying to say something. He remembered something that he read a few days back on internet, he knelt and asked the lady to bring out her tongue. The people were confused yet Sameer still asked in a desperate tone. The lady seemed to hear what Sameer was saying and brought out her tongue. As expected, the lady’s tongue came out sideways and not straight.

“You are right, Damodar. She needs medical attention and she needs it immediately.” said a desperate Sameer.

He turned to everyone and asked if anyone had a car or any form of conveyance. Govardhan rushed upstairs, brought his car key and gave it to Sameer.

“You heard what Damodar said. There is a taxi strike going on. Some of the areas might be sealed off because of that. It can be risky; there are already reports of riots and chaos going on because of this strike because of which the police commissioner has asked everyone to stay indoors.” Govardhan warned.

“Well, let us just hope that I don’t run into any chaos. I will see to it that you get your car back.” said Sameer. He then turned to Damodar, “I need your help with this. Do you work in a hospital?”

“That is a wild guess, genius. I work for the K.G.R hospital, the ambulance service division and that hospital is close, about 5-7 minutes drive from here. I will take you there.” said Damodar.

Damodar and the others put the lady in the backseat. Sameer started the car while Damodar got on the side seat. The roads were pretty much empty due to the strike and Sameer drove the car as fast as possible.

Sameer took out his mobile, switched on the GPS and typed the name of the hospital. The GPS showed the shortest possible way to reach it. He placed the mobile on the gear shelf and drove the car according to the direction the GPS showed.

They came close only to be stopped by a fight that had broken out between the taxi drivers and the police officers. Sameer stopped the car a few feet away so that they weren’t noticed by the angry mob, however, Damodar and he watched in horror. They looked back; the lady was still breathing but had to be rushed for treatment.

Sameer took his mobile again and checked an alternate albeit safest route to reach the hospital.

“Oh great! These stupid taxi drivers are here. All we had to do was keep going straight and we would have reached the hospital in no time. There is no way we can bypass this angry mob.” said Damodar, getting irritated and constantly looking at the lady.

“There is an alternate route, brother. We can reach the hospital.” said Sameer.

Damodar had a look, the route was longer and he wasn’t confident about it.

“That route is long. What makes you think there won’t be anything like this stopping us!” Damodar commented.

Sameer thought for a moment, he had to take a risk. He looked at Damodar and said, “My father used to tell me one thing – There are many ways to reach our destination. It may be short or it may be long but whatever it is, we will reach it if have the zeal to reach it at any cost. We just have to keep going on.”

Sameer then turned right; he kept track of the GPS and then took a left. It was an empty street; he accelerated a bit and then after a minute or so, took another left. He reached the same road and stopped for a moment. Both Damodar and he looked to their left; they had bypassed the angry mob through an alternate route. Damodar stared at the drivers in disbelief and then at Sameer. He couldn’t believe what Sameer just did. Sameer then turned right, drove the car away from the mob and soon reached the hospital.

At the hospital, the lady was been treated by the doctors while Sameer and Damodar waited outside. Sameer was looking out of the window, he was now back to his thoughts about his future and what can he do now. Damodar walked up to him and asked, “What is your name? What do you do?”

“I am Sameer and… I am looking for a job.” Sameer answered.

“Looking for a job, eh! You look well-educated and smart too. You will definitely get something.” Damodar commented.

Sameer grinned and then, looking at Damodar, said, “You have never seen me before in that locality. You know nothing about me and what lead me here. It is a long story, brother… and when there is a chance, I will tell you everything. Right now, all you need to know is that I could not complete my graduation and was thrown out of college for a crime I did not commit.”

Damodar stared at Sameer. The last statement made him cringe, however, looking at the state Sameer was, he realized that he needed help. Damodar thought hard. He then looked at the room in which the old lady was being treated and then looked at Sameer again. There was a twinkle in Damodar’s eyes.

“Do you have a driving license?” Damodar asked.

Sameer was surprised at that question; he thought for a moment, took his wallet and checked. He had it.

“Why do you ask?” Sameer asked.

Damodar explained, “We have a requirement for an ambulance driver. You have nothing to worry… I will do the talking and see to it that you get the job. I will give you all the training and required knowledge for this. What do you say? Game for it?”

Sameer couldn’t believe what he was hearing and pondered over it.

Damodar decided to motivate Sameer, he continued, “You were able to save the life of an old lady by bringing her on time. There are thousands of accidents that keep happening in this city, so many people who fall sick, require medical attention yet lose their lives because they were not treated on time.

You seem to be well versed with routes and have considerable knowledge about GPS which is perhaps the basic requirement for a driver. What’s more, Sameer… you were not thinking about yourself or the dangers that could have consumed us today, you were only thinking about the life of that lady and nothing else.

Imagine saving a 100 lives with the same eagerness. You can do it, Sameer. I will do everything in my power to get you the job. Tell me, will you do it?”

Sameer was still pondering, Damodar could make out the dilemma that former had. Damodar, placing is hand on Sameer’s shoulder stated, “No job is big or small. It is only in our mind. You have a big heart, make it bigger.”

Sameer needed no more motivation. He could see a chance at redemption… a small ray of hope that he can forget everything that has happened and move on with his life. He was so happy that he hugged Damodar and thanked him.

“I will do it, brother. Thank you so much.” said Sameer.

Damodar was delighted and he patted Sameer’s back. The lady was out of trouble, looking at her savior, Sameer, she felt so happy to be alive and blessed him for his deeds.

The same day, Damodar introduced Sameer to his boss, Keshav, the coordinator of the ambulance service dept. of the hospital that he worked in. Keshav was at first hesitant considering Sameer was not able to complete his graduation because of the hacking incident, however, Damodar did all the talking from then on and assured him that he will take complete responsibility for anything that happens. Keshav thought again and then agreed. In his office, everything from Sameer’s salary, timings and all relevant matters were discussed and Sameer was asked to join immediately.

Sameer’s happiness knew no bounds. Govardhan and Gowri were ecstatic and congratulated him.

“I don’t believe it. I got myself a new tenant, Gowri.” said Govardhan, winking his eyes at Devi.

“Oh come on! Don’t scare him now. He has not even started his duty and… you are worried about rent.” Gowri snapped at Govardhan.

“Ah! Come on, dear, I was just pulling his leg, that’s all. Besides, this calls for a celebration. Be proud, Sameer, be proud of yourself. We have no idea what our future holds for us, yet, your story will inspire those who still walk aimlessly on the roads with no idea what to do next.” said Govardhan.

The next day, Sameer began his job as a driver as Damodar trained him to understand his duties and requirements. He was made to understand that like all drivers, he was responsible to the van or vehicle that he was assigned to and had to see to it that everything was in readiness before going on duty.

Sameer was tensed on his first 2 trips, they were patients suffering from a heart attack that needed immediate medical attention, however, he was successfully able to transport them to the hospital. From then on, something different was happening.

For the onlookers, the job of an ambulance driver would either seem normal, tensed… or worse, no one would notice the hard work and struggle that a driver goes through. In the case of Sameer, he found himself in a unique position. The record of almost every hospital within the radius where Sameer was assigned indicated a gradual increase in the number of people brought on time and saved. Sameer’s driving started becoming a talk among a lot of people concerned who began terming him as an ‘ANGEL’.

Keshav was impressed and did not hold back in commending Sameer for his dedication in just a month into the job, “Well Sameer, people call it a blessing in disguise whenever it is you. For once, there a few people, if not all, who are not scared of accidents or sudden death. And you, Damodar… nice training. We need to be on our toes all the time and for that we need more people like Sameer. Well done!”

Damodar patted Sameer on his back, the latter felt proud yet was blushing. Sameer continued with the job and was being called by his colleagues as ‘A HUMAN MAP’ apart from the ‘ANGEL’ tag. He showed no concern for short cuts, no concern for road blocks and traffic. His mind was only on one thing – to reach on time… no matter the cost, and if he had to bend rules, if not break them, so be it.

During the time spent with Sameer, Damodar got to know everything about his past that led him to this situation. Damodar could make out that Sameer, even though sincere in his job, and doing all his best to enjoy life as it came, still thought about his family and his love. He would often find Sameer lost in thought and needed just a gentle ‘push’ or a ‘tug’ to bring him back to reality.

“Time heals everything, my friend. Make an attempt… call your family, call the girl that you love… let them know how you are. Something tells me you are not going be like this all your life. Your life, your fate… everything can change in a matter of seconds.” said a concerned Damodar.

“You think I did not. I have my sister’s and Anita’s contact number. Call it luck that I had my mobile and my wallet. However, I did not call them, I messaged them about where I was. That is enough for them to know that I am alive… and that they can move on with their lives without me.” said Sameer.

Damodar was shocked, he wanted to say something but before he could, Sameer walked away from there to be alone for some time. Damodar decided to stay quiet realizing that Sameer, disturbing as it may seem, started to despise the ‘world’ that he came from and never wanted to go back. Fate, however, had other plans.

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