Into the abyss and back
- I knew I was approaching death—which came too fast but lingered enough to let you feel all the pain and fear
Jan 8, 2017-
It was a sunny morning in Pokhara when I called my wife to tell her that I was leaving for Jomsom. She was in Kathmandu with our daughter at her father’s place. I was supposed to be there too, for my in-laws’ 35th wedding anniversary. But an urgent office work had come up and I didn’t have an alternative.
“I’ll be home as soon as possible,” I told her. “Stay safe honey, I can’t wait to see you,” she replied before passing on the phone to our toddler, who could only say “Paapoo”. Those were the last words we exchanged before the plane took off. I felt elated after listening to the voices of the two most important people in my life.
As soon as I switched my phone off, my mind drifted away. I was too distracted to listen to in-flight announcements and instructions properly. All I thought of was my wife and daughter. I couldn’t remember the last time I was away from them for so long. It had been a whole week and even a couple more days of waiting felt like eternity.
“Two more days,” I consoled myself. Happy thoughts and memories were racing through my head, when the plane suddenly jolted to startle me. When I looked outside, I could see nothing but the thick fog. The flight attendant announced that there was nothing to worry about; the slight turbulence was caused by the bad weather.
I was used to these turbulences, as I had flown from Pokhara to Jomson and back plenty of times. But there was something odd about this flight: the turbulence was rather more than the usual.
As I got accustomed to the turbulence, my mind too drifted away, like the fog outside. I thought of the pair of pink little boots I was taking home for my toddler. I took them out from my backpack to look at it one more time. Oh, how they made me miss my little one more than ever.
“Are they for your daughter?”
a tourist sitting right next to me asked with a grin.
“Yes, my one year-old has developed a fondness for bright stuff,” I replied, merrily.
“I too have a one-year old back home. She turns two next month,”
he shared, “I’ll be back in time to celebrate her birthday. I’m taking her quite a number of little gifts from Nepal.”
He opened his backpack to take out a pair of bright yellow loafers for his little girl. “Aren’t they pretty?” he asked, and I happily nodded. It was a lovely co-incidence: two strangers sitting side by side on a plane and both had little girls waiting back home. What’s even more interesting is we both were taking home bright shoes for our little monsters just so that we could enjoy their bright smiles.
“I plan to bring my daughter to Nepal when she is old enough to know and understand places. Your country is very beautiful, just like its people,” he said. I felt very proud of what my country had to offer.
While we engaged in the conversation, a loud thud echoed through the plane. We didn’t understand what was going on. By the time we registered the fact that the plane was crashing, complete chaos filled the cabin. Everybody was crying, praying, or doing both.
I was neither fully conscious, nor unconscious—I was in a limbo. But, I knew I was approaching death—which came too fast but lingered enough to let you feel all the pain and fear. My heart ached with the longing for my wife and daughter before darkness engulfed me.
I didn’t know how long I was unconscious for, but when I woke up for the first time, I was buried under snow. Even with all the energy I had, I couldn’t move my body, let alone lift it. I tried raising my head, but it barely budged. It felt like my bones were not just broken but also scattered. It hit me that I was on a plane crash. Was I dead or alive? I couldn’t tell because nothing made sense.
There was very little—if at all—in my plain sight. I could see charred bits and pieces of the plane, few feet away from me. I could also see a hand-like figure clutching on to something sticking out of the plane. It was all a blur and felt like fragments of a nightmare. I let the darkness engulf me again.
When I opened my eyes again, I was in lethal pain, but I was happy. My wife looked at me with tears in her eyes and my daughter played with my fingers as I lay on the hospital bed. “Paapoo,” I could hear.
The doctor rushed in to check on me with couple of nurses. “Can you hear me? Can you understand what I am saying?” the doctor asked. As I nodded, he let the police in. The police sat next to me before he interrogated.
“I hope you are feeling better. You are the lone survivor of a plane crash. The plane is said to have broken in two halves once it crashed and before it exploded. You seem to have bumped out of it in time to survive.”
I could see my plastered legs suspended in the air and I could feel stitches over my eyes. My face felt too heavy when I tried to speak.
“You have many fractures but they’ll all heal over time. There is nothing to worry about,” the doctor said.
“You’re a lucky man. Do you remember anything that could suggest the cause of the plane crash?” the police said.
“Everything happened too fast,” was all I could say.
The police seemed to be in hurry; they all left when I had no information to offer.
“I was so scared. I thought I had lost you forever,” My wife burst out in tears. I assured her I was okay and she eventually calmed down.
Next day my wife brought in the newspaper headlined by the news of the same plane crash I was in. Graphic, the news showcased photos from the crash which sent chills down my spine. The plane, the bodies, the belongings—everything seemed charred. One photograph made me dizzy—that of a burnt hand still clutched to what remained of a small yellow loafer. As I thought of the friend who could never make it back to his little girl, tears rolled down my cheeks. I looked at my daughter—with no idea about what was going on—playing with one of the pink boots that I was found clutching, when they rescued me. I had gone into the abyss and back.
Published: 08-01-2017 10:07