Another experience which merits documenting.
This was going to be Mithila’s first trip with her friends over at Columbus. They were to go to Amish Country, a drive of about two and a half hours. During the chat over the phone the night before, she mentioned that she was a little unwell, but nothing that should stop her from going. I asked her to call me the next day before she left, to assure me that she could really go. Early next morning she roused me from my slumber, and said that she was feeling good. Great! Out of habit, I asked her to give me a call sometime in the middle of the day. And then, she went on her way and I back to my Saturday morning sleep. Middle of the day came, and rolled by, without any calls and I didn’t think much of it, imagining her to be busy having fun.
At 2 PM, however, I had a fleeting thought of casually checking up on her. Not wanting to interrupt her while having fun, I told myself I’ll call her the next time I have that thought and went away to cook. During a break in the cooking, I came back to my room to check my phone. And, sure enough,there was a message. It ran, “Sorry I havent been calling you, I was in a bad accidentM”. It was sent at 2.20 PM from a number I didn’t recognise. The time now was 2.35 PM. A number of thoughts went through my mind immediately, in succession,
It’s probably a minor one as she could message me
But she said “bad accident” and sent it from some other phone which meant it was probably really bad
Though she usually didn’t use ‘M’ to sign off, we did call her M among close circles. So, the situation must be tense enough for her to use it while ensuring that I’ll understand it
And, the way the message went, acknowledging our morning chat plan, it had to be her messaging
My immediate reaction was to message back on the same number, “How can I contact you, Mithila? – Santosh”. I wrote out both names to make sure that whoever read that message understood it clearly. I waited for 10 minutes but got no reply. I then tried Mithila’s number. It rang and rang but no one answered. I waited for another 10 minutes giving her time to potentially notice the call and call me back. Meanwhile, the realization of the magnitude of a “bad accident” was taking hold of me. I was playing out various scenarios in my head trying to see how I could help her. I then realised, I did not have the phone numbers of her closest friends who were with her on the trip. Inspite of my obsession about travel precautions, I was in a position where I had no way of contacting her except on her phone! Having still not received a call and being out of options, I called up the unknown number from which I had received the message.
A tired-sounding lady picks up,
“Hello, May I speak to Mithila please?”, trying to sound as calm as possible so as not to alarm the other person.
“Err… I think you got the wrong number”. I was dumbstruck for a second. I ventured, “..but I got a text from this number…??”
“I sent it by mistake. Sorry…”. I say it’s ok and hang up while wondering whether she was the one who was actually involved in the accident (?). But, I couldn’t make sense out of this seemingly unrealistic coincidence.
It was signed by M – Well, matching initials can be an easy coincidence
It came on the day that she was travelling – Ok.. even that is acceptable
It comes at the right time of the day when I have started noticing that she hasn’t called me yet. – again acceptable
It comes to me by mistake of all the people in the world. – Now we are pushing limits of acceptable coincidences
And, how could the message be constructed that way, seemingly in sync with what Mithila and I had spoken that morning. – Outright Unbelievable!
I spend the next hour or so trying to get hold of Mithila just to make sure that this was really a coincidence and she is in fact alright. But she just wouldn’t pick up. I scoured Facebook to find her friends’ phone numbers but to no avail. (Well, it’s good to see everyone is aware of the privacy issues.) In desperation, I message her “Call me ASAP”. Finally, she calls me at 3:45 PM in response to my desperate plea for a call back. Apparently, she was out of cellphone range and did not get any of my calls. I bombarded her with questions about how she was doing. She just managed to say “I’m alright..” before the line disconnected. But, that was enough. I heaved a deep sigh of relief, and gratefully, went back to my otherwise mundane Saturday, but couldn’t help reflecting on the incident for the rest of the day. I think I prefer mundane over this kind of excitement.