The aged grandfather is sitting in the middle of the living room. From his vantage point, he can see everybody busy in their own activities. The daughter-in-law cooking in the kitchen. The son talking on the mobile, pacing up and down. The grandson playing with his Diwali cracker gun. The wife going towards the Pooja room. It’s a completely serene, homely atmosphere.
Unfortunately, the grandfather was a victim of a paralytic stroke. The mouth was sagging towards right, the right arm was bent in a crooked angle towards right, and in fact, his whole body was bent towards the right. Such was his condition that he was practically dumb, barely able to mumble. His mind is active and perfectly fine, but his body had betrayed him. The family had accepted his condition and hence, while he sat there, looking at them all, everyone was busy bustling about in their own world.
Presently, the grandfather is looking at his daughter-in-law. He sees her keeping the cooker on the gas stove and switching on the gas knob. She presses the lighter but she is not actually looking at the stove. Because, ten times out of ten, the stove lights up. This time it doesn’t. She thinks the stove is lit and she moves out of the kitchen, her job done.
The grandfather sees the stove not being lit but the gas knob being on. He looks at his son, trying to attract his attention. But the son is busy on the mobile. The daughter-in-law has now gone out of sight. The grandson is playing with Diwali cracker gun but he has run out of the bursting strip of paper. So he is loading the gun. The wife in the Pooja room finds that the diya, small flame of light kept in front of God, has been blown off and she is striking a match stick. With every passing second, the grandfather realizes the horror of the situation, but is helpless. How terrifying it is to see one’s own Death nearing, along with the death of one’s dear ones, but being absolutely helpless about it!
Meanwhile, the liquefied petroleum gas is filling the house, menacingly, unknowingly. Unknowingly, to the physically and mentally sane members of the house but knowingly, to the physically handicapped. The panic builds on the grandfather’s mind. In a few moments, all of them are going to be blown off. And although, he is aware of what was happening, he is in no condition to break this information to others. He could not even scream or move to attract the attention. His immobility was accepted by everyone to be his normal routine. But he was now in a shocked immobility rather than serene immobility.
He again looks at the three members of his dear family within his eyesight. Son is still on the phone. Grandson has now filled the ammunition to his gun. Wife has found the right match strike to light up. He desperately seeks attention but nobody is seeing him. Else, he could have displayed his tension through his eyes and pointed towards the stove. The gas is pouring on, lethally. Panic has built on his mind to the maximum extent. What an irony it is that the only person, who could have saved them all, could not save them due to his handicap.
And then, the grandson pulls the trigger. The wife lights the match stick.
The screen goes blank. And then, the following message comes on the television:
Get ready for the tension.
India Vs Pakistan.
Nov 10th onwards.
Only on Neo Sports.
Phew. What an amazing ad. In just 2-3 minutes, so much is conveyed. The irony of life. The serenity of a middle class family. The family bonding. A simple mistake. The actions of innocent victims. The growing panic. The climax. No conversations. No dialogs, just pure action. Top class stuff!
But on a side note, it reminded me of my narrow escape in life when I was subjected to an almost similar experience some time during engineering. I keep thinking about it often and wonder what would have happened if I hadn’t been lucky.
I had come back from college at about 3, and as was my usual routine, had slept at 4. I would generally wake up by 6 or 6.30 after a fitful siesta. At about the same time, my parents generally close all the house windows to stop the mosquitoes from entering, and lock the house and go for their evening stroll.
This fateful day, I had slept late. My mother, who had gone out in the morning, came back at about 7 and rang the bell. In my groggy state, I found the key with great difficulty, unlocked the main latch, and let my mother enter. She immediately asked what the smell was. We both realized with horror that it was LPG. The whole house was filled with this inflammable gas. Immediately my mother ran and switched the gas stove off and we both opened up all windows possible. The diya in front of the God in the Pooja room was burning and we blew it off.
It wasn’t too difficult to put two and two together. My father had prepared coffee in the evening, forgot to switch the stove gas off, boarded up the windows, locked the door and had gone for evening stroll. And with the diya being on, the rest was just a matter of time. With all due respects to father, it still was a perfect setting for murder, eh?
After sufficient precaution was taken to let the LPG out of the house, I had to sit down to realize how close to Death I was. A simple matter being overlooked had caused such a grave threat to my life.
What if my mother had come home a little late?
What if the diya had set the whole house aflame?
With the main latch being locked and key not in its place, I could never have made it out alive. Perhaps I would be dead even before I had woken up to understand what had happened. The very thought chills me to the bones even to this day…
I am lucky to be alive.