A Burning Coincidence

Warning: The post contains the description of a burn victim.

Hello friends. I’m back after another hibernation. I’m also capable of going into aestivation – but I will explain that later. I wanted to start the new year with a blog so, here I am. Today I want to let you in on a page from my history.

Disclaimer: Names of the people involved have been changed for privacy reasons. I do not have their express consent to quote their names – there’s no way I could contact them for seeking consent, in the first place. Also, the pictures used in this post are purely representational. No actual/personal photographs have been used.

This incident dates back to 1993 – my FYJC days. The bucking bronco that I was, one would hardly ever find me home unless it is after dark. That day was no different. Two of my classmates asked me out to a movie. How could a 17-year-old refuse such a wonderful proposition? More so when someone else offers to pay. I joined the twosome and the movie we planned to go watch was Jackie Shroff’s Gardish (released 10th September 1993). Thanks to Wikipedia, I could confirm the timeline of my story.

Almost 2 hours into the movie there was a gruesome scene in which the villain sets Dimple Kapadia’s character ablaze. People of that ghetto run helter-skelter or just watch awestruck as she goes up in flame. Little did we know that in another scene, in my real life, something more gruesome lie waiting for me. Talk about coincidences – mine was terrible. Something that still gives me goosebumps. For statistics – we went to the 3-6 pm show of that movie. So, the immolation scene unfolded at about 5 pm or a bit later.

After the movie, the three of us were not done yet with our gallivanting. We decided to pay a visit to a good friend and classmate, Selena (name changed). We planned to take her along to visit yet another classmate. That’s when she broke the tragic news of the suicide attempt of one of our classmates – Jane (name changed). She had tried self-immolation. What an eerie coincidence – the time of her attempt coincides with the immolation scene from Gardish that we had seen a while ago.

That was the first time I had even been INSIDE a Burns Ward. For the uninitiated, that’s a section of the hospital where burn victims are treated. I get scared watching burnt faces/bodies. Just mere mention of the word ‘burns ward’ or ‘immolation’ brings back memories of that fateful day (even to date). We carefully paced into the ward, towards her bed. Since she was burnt to almost 95%, she was placed in a ‘burn cage’. Now that’s hospital equipment used to cover a burnt patient’s body so that the hospital linen does not touch their practically skin-less body.

There laid my heavily sedate beautiful classmate. She had almost no hair, no eyelashes, no lips and above all – she had lost most skin on her body. That means she could not be CLOTHED in any way. Also, her skin-less body could not have been exposed to the elements either for fear of septicemia. All in all, an effervescent, short-tempered, talkative girl lay there almost lifeless. She was thirsty, but could not be given any water since her throat was leaking and water could cause infection.

While we were still trying to process that frightful scene, we noticed her bandaged hands twitch. We were relieved. At least she was alive. That’s when we got the frightening revelation that she was AWARE of her surroundings. I still cannot imagine her condition – no skin, no strength, no self-esteem, no future but full awareness of the surroundings and excruciating pain. We spoke in hushed tones to her uncle who made a laboured effort to introduce her to the fact that her classmates had come to see her. We could hear her moan (with great effort since her vocal cords were damaged too). Suddenly she raised her hand and called out the name of one of my classmates. That’s when I skipped a heartbeat. I could hear my heart beating loudly. That’s how scared I was for that one moment. The classmate who she called out, had the never to take her hand in his – and talk to her. He spoke to her as if nothing happened. He asked her to rest and get back to school on Monday. This was a Thursday late evening. She got the humour and tried her best to laugh. Selena, who by now was in tears, ran outside the room, plonked on the hospital bench and wept like a baby (muffled though – we didn’t want Jane to hear our cries).

Somehow her uncle convinced us to leave since we were still school kids and had parents at home who would be worried by our absence. Not quite convinced and with a heavy heart, we walked away from the ward, picked our bicycles and pedalled our way home. No words were spoken. We first left Selena and later went to our respective homes. I was still shaken and apparently distressed. I slowly narrated the grim story of that evening. Even my parents were speechless. I could not eat that night – and for the first time – my mother allowed me to go to bed without dinner. She knew that after what I saw at such close quarters that night – I could not even think about food.

The day passed and Friday dawned. We went to school – but kept the fact to ourselves. Others thought Jane was unwell and hence absent. Somehow toward the end of the school day – someone got a whiff of the news and quite diligently spread the news. After school, we paid Jane a visit. That day she was weak, fighting a losing battle. We were not allowed to stay for long – doctor’s orders. We had to beat a hasty retreat.

The next day, we got the sad news that Jane’s battle was finally over and now she could rest in peace. Her pain and agony were over. A flower was nipped in the bud, that day. A girl who harboured the desire to become a pilot and soar in the air was being consigned to the flames. A beautiful (husky though) voice was silenced forever that day. Her reasons for suicide were shrouded in a mystery that continues to this date. Now, even if I knew it – I would never disclose it here.

I talked of coincidences earlier – this was the one I meant. While Dimple’s character was set ablaze on-screen, Jane had set herself ablaze the same day – almost at the same time, in real life. We could never have imagined that such a horrifying coincidence was waiting for us just around the corner. Although 29 years have passed – the mere mention of that name (cannot be mentioned here) – still brings back a mixed bag of memories and emotions. All I can say today is – may her soul rest in peace. At the same time, I’d like to request everyone reading this to take life seriously and not end it on such a gruesome note.

Bye for now.

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