November 2006, London
It was about mid-night and as is the reality of a multitude of employees in the Global IT industry, I’d commenced yet another day at dawn, to sync-up with India, which is always ahead in time zones from its Western client-geographies and was about to wrap-up with a review call with teams and Management in the US.
My son, a little over 5 years of age, was in his tiny cot in a room that was an extension of my own by about 4 X 4 feet. Cozy, appropriate, quite typical of a One-two bed apartment in the Greater London area. As I started to clean-up and prepare for the morning, I felt my head-swimming and my legs giving way. I scrambled to my couch and passed-out long-enough to have a visitation from my grandfather in sparkling white attire with a surreal glow around his person. He’d left for his Heavenly Abode about ten years ago and even in that state of “zoning-out”, for want of a better comprehension of what it was, my whole being felt this great fear deep within that it was time for me to join him in the Afterlife. I would die and have to leave my child behind! That single gut-wrenching fear, snapped-me out of “the zone” and I reached for my cell-phone and rang the neighborhood Cab-stand that I walked past every day at least twice, responding to their greetings and making small talk. They’d always hoped I’d use their service and I’d always walked right past them to the Tube-station down the High-street. I never took a cab except for the airport. No one does!
That night I called from a dark, desperate, terrified place and someone responded. The man on the phone gave me clear instructions to stay on the call, to stay awake, to unlock the door and to wait. “I’m on my way..I’m right there..”, he spoke in his Pakistani-Punjabi-British assuring voice. Unable to get myself up, I slid down the stairs and unlocked the door. The man arrived and started to help me up to get me into the car and to hospital. I was mumbling, crying that my child is alone and I can’t leave him and I neither heard what he said nor processed what he was doing. It was as though I’d turned to Lead and my insides were headed to Heaven but my body couldn’t follow…..my child was alone.
This comforting stranger rushed up, gathered my little boy in his arms, managed to scoop me up and into the back seat of the cab where I passed-out again…but I could now hear my son’s crying and his fear. I could hear it within the deepest layers of my being. I was being separated from him and I was in my state of deep sleep, but fighting to wake-up.
When I came to my senses it was morning. My son was fine and fast asleep, my husband had been on calls with the hospital, my friend had been orchestrating various affairs…so I heard the nurse tell me. I managed to get myself up, determined to find my child and leave for home instantly. As I peered through the curtains of the ER cubicle that I’d been in, felt the blood warm-up inside my veins and start to flow. My heart, like our old car that would suddenly splutter and respond to the ignition, after playing dead for longest time, was beating loudly. I have no recall of hearing it thumping quite as purposefully ever before that moment. My fervent gaze found that precious sight it was yearning for. My child. I saw my child fast asleep in the lap of a bearded man.
I could not have recognized this very person had I walked past him on the street. He was just another stranger. Yet in that moment I knew him. I knew who he was and I knew his soul and spirit. He was a Messiah who’d answered a strangers call and left his warm Dispatcher’s Room and brought me to the Emergency Room of the hospital. He had called three numbers that were the most dialled recent numbers on my phone, including an overseas one, to contact my family. He hadn’t done that and left. He could have and most people would have. Instead, all night, he sat outside my cubicle, on a plastic chair, being comforting sentinel and family, to a little-boy who was even in his sleep clinging on to his collar, just as he would have to his father’s, for security. It’s as if he knew this stranger was not a stranger.
As time days went by, I was questioned by family and friends as to why I didn’t dial 911?! I didn’t have an answer then and I don’t have one, 10 years on. I dialled the first number on my cell phone’s Contacts list. C for Cab. Perhaps, my survival instincts trusted the kind-faced strangers and their proximity more than it did an emergency service. Maybe my maternal instincts chose to place faith in people who took a moment to nod graciously as we, mother and son, rushed between day-care and office. I had never looked them in the eye or stopped to speak. We simply wished each other in passing with a nod of heads and a courtesy greeting.
Perhaps this or possibly, that. I can’t really say. I ran that scenario over in my head like what felt like a million times over, as years rolled on. Without the slightest sliver of doubt, I knew, that on that mystical night, I had been guided by a powerful Force into the safest hands. On that night when I felt myself being taken away from my child and into a world beyond the living, the kindness of a stranger, brought me back to our child and life.
The kindness of a stranger in a strange land; Heaven is a place on Earth.