The Night Without My Father

Saranya Padmanaban

Born on the 11th of February 1997 in Rasipuram, Tamil Nadu, Saranya Padmanaban, is the daughter of bus driver, Mr. R. Padmanaban and Mrs. L. Sulochana. She is pursuing the final year of her engineering degree at Vivekananda College of Engineering for Women, and wants to get into a good job after the completion of her course.

I am 21 years old now, but in my house, I still don’t have the courage to ask about the incident that happened with my father when I was 7 years old.

My world consists of my parents and my younger sister. We see and talk to our father only at night. He comes back after we have already gone to bed, and though my mother tells him that we are asleep, he makes some slight noise and the two of us – my sister and I – are up, so we could talk to our father before he goes for dinner.

But – it did not happen that day, all those many years ago when I was 7.

When I got up and asked my mother why my father had not come to see me, she told me it was because I had gone to sleep. And I am glad I didn’t believe her. Asleep or not, my father always woke me up, and I was wondering why he did not do so.

I did not have much knowledge at that age, but I knew something was wrong and my mother was tense. We didn’t have a phone at home, and used the one belonging to our neighbor in case of an emergency. Later as our neighbor came to inform my mother that there was a phone call from my father, my suspicions were confirmed.

Just as my father told my mother that he was unable to come due to a small accident, she started crying. Worse, the call got disconnected and there was no further update from him. My mother was suffering, not knowing whom to ask and what to do.

After two nights my father came home at 3 am in the morning wearing someone else’s shirt and lungi. When I saw him, several questions popped up in my mind: Why is my father not wearing his uniform and why has he not come home for a long time? My mother along with me kept asking these questions to him. It was then that my father told her of the accident. He was driving a bus full of passengers and going very slow when two persons riding a two wheeler bike overtook him. They were not only over-speeding, but unsteady as well. My father was driving on the extreme left, and he even stopped the bus at one stage.

However, due to brake failure, the two wheeler soon lost its balance and its riders fell on the road. While one of them had a leg fracture, the other one lost consciousness.

The bus passengers were tense, not knowing who to blame. Normally whichever vehicle is hit, the blame lies on the bigger vehicle. However, instead of arguing with the surrounding crowd and playing a blame game, my father organized an ambulance to carry the accident victims to a hospital. Then he called the people in his company and waited for their arrival, but it was delayed.

Since it is a forest area, there were not many people on the road. One of his passengers was kind enough to allow him to make a phone call to us. By evening, when no help had still arrived from his company, my father became very worried and could not decide what to do. The passenger again offered him to go to his house, instead. “My family knows that you are a driver on this route. If you go to my house, my family will identify you and give you dinner,” this passenger told my father. But my father declined the offer saying he cannot leave the vehicle and go elsewhere. The passenger told my father, “If someone from your company comes, I will tell him I am from your town and I am safeguarding the vehicle.” My father agreed, albeit reluctantly.

My father went on that passenger’s vehicle to his house. His family not only gave him food to eat, but also clothes to change.

When I heard my father’s story, I could not imagine how he must have suffered with nothing to eat. Moreover, he suffered for no fault of his. Later as I asked my father how to handle this sort of incidents, he replied that you should never think that you are alone and in no case should you escape. “When we are in public service, all the passengers should be transferred to another bus, the injured should be admitted to a hospital and to ensure there is no damage to the vehicle, it should be handed over to the company. It is only then that you should return to your house…and your personal life,” he told me.

I am so proud of my father and I know that “great persons” do exist in this world.

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