The sun was setting in the western horizon as the melancholy breeze engulfed the remaining warmth left by the sun. People were already besides their Bhukharis comfortable with its cozy warmth. The cold seemed to have forced the insects to take refuge in a warmer shelter as the evening was dead silent. The fallen leaves rustled from the little breeze that motioned from his tensed walking feet. Closing his eyes, Drukdra inhaled deeply the cold October air as the battling thoughts running wildly in his mind ceased. The frowns seemed to disappear magically for a second as the same old air took its effect. Slowly his fingers stroked the wristband on his left hand as the past memories rushed tangling his thoughts. With a swift movement, he opened his eyes to the view of football ground, his paradise as he used to tell his friends. The large green football pitch was still the same to be greeted by the victorious players. The only difference was that he was greeted with a melancholy anxiety and he felt like a complete stranger as he stood in his so called paradise.
The cold seemed to gnaw at his back as he painfully stretched. He was a tall, dark and usually an enthusiastic and an optimistic guy. It would be bitter to say that only at the age of eighteen, he was faced with a huge obstacle to be overcome. Treading through the rough pebbled pathway and showing his frustration on the deserted empty soda can, he tried to erase the painful memories. He reminded himself that it was just a bad dream and wished to wake up soon. But somewhere he was sure that it was impossible and that he had to be brave enough to accept the truth.
“Where had you been? We had been so worried about you” his mother asked concernedly from across the kitchen.
“Sorry mom went outside to take in some fresh air” he answered apologetically. He could smell the delicious aroma of emadatshi wafting through every corner of the house. On quickly glancing around the sitting room, he saw his father engrossed in some of his paper works and his fourteen year old brother struck near the television.
“Next time inform us if you need to go outside” his father added taking his eyes off the papers.
“Yeah sure dad” he answered trying to avoid the extra attention they were showering on him.
“You just reached here on time. Dinner is ready” his mother announced setting out the table. He noticed that her mother had taken special care to prepare his favorite curry. However his favorite curry could not help in diverting his mind from the disturbing thoughts. They circled around the television and silently ate their dinner. The blaring sound from the television broke the awkward silence. The advertisement on the television gave way to the heated match between the Barcelona and Manchester United.
“Put off the television!!!” his father scolded his brother to which he quickly acted on his instinct.
“It’s ok Dad, let him watch the match” Drukdra uttered. “I am already done with the dinner. I’ll be going to my room now” He pushed away the half full plate as he fought vigorously to suppress the surge of sadness with a forced smile.
“Goodnight son. Time heals everything so don’t be too harsh on yourself” his father patted encouragingly on his back. Drukdra dragged himself into his bedroom and tiredly lay on the bed. He gazed at his wristband and let the memories unfold freely. It was the wristband with the word Barcelona engraved on it. The symbol of victory as his coach had gifted him for being an exceptional player.
“I am sure you can easily make it to the national team and make us all proud one day” the coach had said when he had handed him his lucky charm. Drukdra idolized Messi and his fellow mates even hailed him the 2nd Messi as he won every match that he played in.
The memories unraveled once again before his very eyes. It was a sunny day with nothing unusual. The day was perfect as it should be with the students going about with their endless chatters and the birds chirping in the distance. Drukdra was as expected in the football ground practicing for the upcoming annual District match. The scorching sun made his shirt soak in wet but it did not dampen the stamina he had for the game. The ball presented itself before him and using all his skills he passed it to his other friend near the opposite post but his strength overtook it and down the ball went landing right into a pothole in the road. There was a disappointing sigh from the few eager audiences as the ball missed the post.
“I’ll fetch it” he volunteered and right at the moment when his hand came in contact with the ball a speeding truck zoomed by.
“Watch out!!!” his friends shouted but it was too late to reach his destination as his leg caught under the rumbling tires. He could hear the crunching of his bones and his own excruciating scream. Everything blacked out and he felt terrible hands of death tugging him.
“Thank god he is alive” he could hear faint whispers and the fading footsteps. He felt so weak and felt insurmountable difficulty to even open his eyes as if climbing the Mount Everest. He inhaled the sharp smell of medicine and he could somehow guarantee that he was alive. Gathering all his strength he opened his eyes to be greeted by the white walls of the ICU. He tried to get himself off the metal bed but his leg didn’t obey him. It felt heavy and the searing pain shot up his whole body. The painkiller was wearing out and he found the pain impossible to be dealt with.
“Lost in your thoughts again?” his brother intervened bringing him back to the reality.
“No. was just wondering about some useless things” he shrugged his shoulders creating space for his brother to hop in. His brother adjusted himself and within seconds was already deep in sleep. He closed his eyes but the sleep seemed to have abandoned him. His mind visited the past incident again. He could still feel the anguish when the doctor had informed him of his condition.
“I’m sorry; we did everything possible but could not save your leg. You were in critical condition and concentrated only on saving your life. Even though we replaced your leg with an artificial metal leg, I’m afraid you can no longer play.” The doctor had informed him calmly.
He cried himself to sleep for weeks. The doctor did save his life but ironically he was already dead inside. He was only a moving body. Letting go of the only ambition that he had worked towards from his childhood was indeed tough.
“Why did you even save my life if I was to lead a miserable life” he cursed god every time his glance fell on his legs. His wings were broken and he knew he was trapped forever on the ground.
It was after the harsh accident that watching football was prohibited in the house. For the first two weeks every time he saw the match on the television he broke down into tears. His parents took extra care to divert his mind from the harsh reality of his life. It was almost a month now and he still could not move on from his past. It kept lingering and obstructed his future. He was a topic of gossip in the school too. Except for his few true friends, others mimicked him as the ‘Metal legged’. The sight of the football ground drained him of his happiness as he realized he could no longer play. With the flashbacks playing on his mind he slowly drifted away to sleep.
Drukdra woke up to the warm rays of sunlight streaming through the curtains. As usual he dressed himself for the school and quickly grabbed some bread for the breakfast. On the way he met a cute child. His curly hair and the round big eyes instantly caught his attention. But something wasn’t definitely right. The child was crying all alone on a lawn with his leg drawn forward. On a closer glance he saw that the child was bleeding and his knees were bruised. Drukdra quickly went over to his aid. After cleaning the bruise, he used his spare band-Aid.
“Thank you doctor uncle; I can no longer feel the pain now” the four years old child thanked him with a broad smile on his face.
“No dear I am not a doctor” he laughed touched by the thankful voice of the child
“Hey you are smiling. Thought you had forgotten how to do so” his friends commented happily.
“Yeah, I rescued a child today or more importantly that child came to my rescue. Who cares if I cannot play? I still got my brain to create a new future. I am going to mend my wings, go up in the sky, open my wings and fly more freely and higher than anyone has. The child gave me the courage to dust myself off and get back on my feet and take off once again.” “I am going to be a doctor!!!” he smiled victoriously
“Wow that’s our buddy. Cheers to the new found ambition” they shouted uniformly. Even though only a month was left for the board exam, he didn’t lose hope. With no games to distract him, he concentrated only on his studies. While others were drooling over the addicting match on the television, he was studying the texts ardently. He was brave enough to turn his weakest point into his most benefitting point. Every time his mates called him the ‘metal legged’, he studied vigorously to avoid quarrelling with them. The books became his best friend and his grades shot up shocking his teachers and his classmates.
The most awaited time for Drukdra came when the results for the class twelve board exam was about to be announced. He already lost his first dream, he did not dare to let it happen the second time. Anxiety got hold of him and even the food was tasteless as it seemed to get struck on his throat. Sitting on the sofa with his back bend forward, he tried to control his shaking hands which supported his tensed head. His cell phone beeped and with a swift motion he picked up his cell. The caller ID showed it was his dad and knowing the reason for the call his heart skipped a beat.
“Congrats son you have made me proud” his father announced barely able to hold the excitement. “You stood second from overall science stream”
Tears of happiness welled up in his eyes as he realized his hard work has paid off. His dream of being a doctor was only a few steps ahead of him. What if he could not make up to the national football team? He still could treat the patient who had lost hope and provide them with a reason to be alive. He was going to pursue MBBS in a renowned college in Sri Lanka. He thanked and kissed the lucky charm on his left hand. He was a winner once again.