Saturday, March 12, 2011

Exchanging notes over a calamity

Prof. T.J. Joseph and an auto-rickshaw owner, M.G. Radhakrishnan, experienced similar tragedies: each had a hand chopped off

Photo: Prof. T. J. Joseph (left) and M.G. Radhakrishnan

Photo by P.K. Jeevan Jose/Courtesy: The New Indian Express

By Shevlin Sebastian

Professor T. J. Joseph is standing outside the physiotherapy unit of the Specialists' Hospital in Kochi. He has come from Muvattupuzha for yet another session of healing.

The professor, whose right hand was chopped off by fundamentalists last year, because he named a lunatic as Mohammad in a question paper, greets a man, M.G. Radhakrishnan, who is standing nearby. The bespectacled Radhakrishnan is wearing a bright-red shirt, and his left hand is covered by a crepe bandage.

One month ago, when they had met for the first time, the professor had said, “What happened to you?”

Radhakrishnan said, “I have had the same experience as you.”

“What do you mean?” said Joseph.

He pointed at his left hand. “On December 16, last year, in Palluruthy, a youngster, Ratheesh used a blade to cut off my left hand,” he says. A former soldier, Radhakrishnan had retired from the Army a few years ago. At Kochi, he owned two auto-rickshaws. Both he hired out. On some days, he drove one.

One afternoon, he had gone to a shop at Palluruthy on his auto-rickshaw to collect a tyre. Ratheesh, an odd-jobs worker, was sitting nearby. He was high on alcohol and heroin. He asked Radhakrishnan whether he would take him to the bus stand.

Radhakrishnan said he would do so, but only after collecting the tyre. Incensed by the reply, Ratheesh picked up a blade, which is used to cut tyres, and stepped forward. In one swift movement, he gripped Radhakrishnan's wrist and sliced it through. The hand fell to the ground. Ratheesh calmly slung a bag on his shoulders and walked away.

Radhakrishnan collected the hand, and the tyre shop owner, Mathew, placed it in a plastic packet. Then Radhakrishnan pressed a towel at the end of the mutilated end of the arm, to stanch the flow of blood.

In the auto-rickshaw, Mathew and Radhakrishnan went to the nearby police station. There, the police rushed Radhakirshnan in a jeep to the Specialists' Hospital. Once, during the journey, the jeep fell into a pothole, the towel got dislodged, and a spray of blood hit the roof.

At the hospital, a team which consisted of Drs. Senthil Kumar, Girija Nair, Abhishek Gosh, and R. Jayakumar, the head of the department of plastic, microvascular, and cosmetic surgery, worked on Radhakrishnan. Eight hours later, they managed to attach the hand, in the same manner they did with Joseph. In the meanwhile, the police apprehended Ratheesh in a barber’s shop where he was having his head shaved. He is in jail now.

This particular evening, when I am present, Radhakrishnan unfolds the crepe bandage and shows his limb to Joseph.

“My hand is like a piece of concrete at the end of my arm,” says Radhakrishnan. “I don't feel anything.”

Joseph says, “That was the case with me. But after a few months of physiotherapy, the nerves will come back to life.” One method of treatment is to send bolts of electricity towards the nerves.

Joseph inspects Radhakrishnan’s hand and says, “I am sure you will get well soon. You are lucky, there are no bruises elsewhere.”

Then Radhakrishnan silently inspects Joseph's hands. “I was also injured in the leg,” says the professor, as he points at a bandage on his feet. “There were seven attackers.”

What is most astonishing to see is that both are smiling easily. I ask Radhakrishnan, “Are you angry with God over what has happened?”

Radhakrishnan shakes his head, and says, “On the contrary, I am grateful to God. Ratheesh could have slit my throat, instead of my hand. So how can I be angry? It is because of the kindness of God that I am alive today.”

Truly, it is only when a man goes through a mind-numbing tragedy that he develops a powerful sense of magnanimity. We should take Joseph and Radhakrishnan's positive attitude and willingness to forgive to heart.

(The New Indian Express, Kerala)

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