Akron, Cleveland & New Jersey
After two quick meetings in Akron, Ohio that finished by lunch, we drove to Cleveland, to catch our flight – the last domestic flight in the US, to New Jersey.
The drive from Akron to Cleveland took about 45 minutes by road. When I thought about Cleveland, I was reminded of a very dear cousin of my Dad – Hariarj, and his wife Sneh. Hariraj to us kids was a very successful business executive with a tire company in Mumbai, India. His wife was a Doctor. Then he got his big break in the US, and came to work for Goodyear. Hariarj and his wife together with their children, settled in Cleveland. Life was good.
One day the family went out shopping for a bicycle for the little son – I think his name was Manu. A few blocks short of their home. Hariraj and his son got down from the car, and asked Sneh to drive back the rest of the way. He wanted to help his son get on to the bike and start peddling. When his son struggled to get on to the bike, Hariraj decided to demonstrate how. He himself got on to try and peddle the little cycle he had bought for Manu.
No one really knows what exactly happened thereafter. In all likelihood, Hariraj lost his balance and fell (from that little bicycle), and his head hit the pavement. He became unconscious and there was blood from his mouth. His son panicked, and knowing only what he thought best. he rushed home, and informed his mother who was just unlocking the house.
When they reached back in all of five minutes, Hariraj had already been taken in an ambulance. For the family, life would never be the same again.
After two or three surgeries in the brain, to remove blood clots, Hariraj remained in a coma. The hospital did the best they could, and after a prolonged period of stay, he was brought home. A few months later, Hariraj lost his job.
Sneh, totally broken down by this adversity, slowly came to terms with reality, and emerged stronger with a renewed resolve. She learnt that to earn a livelihood, she had to begin practising medicine in the US, and to do that, she had to study to pass some exams. Between tending to a comatose husband and managing two ‘pre teen’ children, she also had to put in long hours of study, and also manage the household. Any ordinary person would have not had the courage, or would have lost hope and broken down. Not Sneh. She passed her exams, and became a Doctor and started practising, thereby opening up a new source of earning for the family.
Hariraj remained in coma for 7 years. Every moment of that time, his wife and children eagerly looked for that one small change in his condition – that one sign of hope. It did not come. At the end of seven years, Hariraj passed away, never coming out of the coma for a second.
I recollected this episode while driving to Cleveland. It was humbling to say the least. And it teaches me a lesson. Next time I get ‘bogged down’ by minor problems in life, I should remember to be grateful and thankful to God for small mercies. For there are people in this World who have had much much more tougher lives to live.
Our flight to New Jersey was delayed, as a result of which a dinner planned with a key customer had to be cancelled. So one had to remain enclosed within the confines of the Hotel room, with the exception of having dinner with good old Scot, my colleague from the US Office.
The tour to the US will end tomorrow, after two meetings. Work begins at 8.30 am and will finish by lunch time. The flight to Delhi is at 8 pm. One might decide to travel to New York in the afternoon, for some ‘sight seeing’