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All I heard was a heavy Droff somewhere in the background. The distinct sound of a body hitting the ground. As I turned around,  a woman from somewhere inside the womb of an auto-rickshaw shouted out to no one in particular and perhaps to herself, 'Uthao usay!'

After many Sundays, I felt like going out. There had been a nice drizzle in the morning, I felt like going to Chandni Chowk and Daryaganj, at Daryaganj you can make the best bargains when the sky is cloudy and the road is wet. And its narrow, busy lanes remind me of the place where I grew up. I felt like going. I talked a friend into coming along, which turned out to be a good things as I felt like not going soon after I well sold the idea to him with lines: 'you can get your fat M.Tech books real cheap. When were you last there? Twelve years! Too long .'But then I started having second thoughts. It is going to get humid. I can stay here and finish that damn book. It was a good thing that a brought in a friend into the plan as now I couldn't back-out. 

So there I was walking the streets of Chandni Chowk, just having brought out my camera, taking some trial shots, trying to get the settings right, and then there was this sound Droff. In Kashmiri we call this fall Alle Droff , to fall like a bottle gourd. But the word is usually reserved for jest. I turned around to find a man lying on the road in a convoluted arrangement, his head facing away from me. Looking at his green lungi checked in white and brown stripes, and the rickshaw next to his body, it was obvious that a rickshawalla had fallen from the rickshaw. As I looked on, trying to grasp the situation, a thin murmur from the passing crowd reached out to me, I figured no one was going to reach out to the man. I walked back to the place where the man was lying. He could have been sleeping sideways in the middle of the road. He was making no attempt to get up. I turned around to see his  face. A thick line of dark blood had already trickled down from below his ear and onto the road. He wasn't bleeding profusely. It seemed that this thin, dark and middle aged man with a sparse and white stubble only under the chin, had no more blood left to offer the road. He must have fallen from the rickshaw, hitting the asphalt road on the side of his face. But he wasn't convulsing from the injury. His muscles seemed to be in a jam, arms fixed close to his chest, the instinctive response of a body falling, his legs were in a knot, a body not realizing its falls, with those crossed legs he could well have been sitting on his rickshaw. But he was lying on the road, his eyes starting to roll out, body vibrating, like to electricity, and then finally there was foam coming out from his mouth. 

I handed over my camera, which now left like an unnecessary drag around my neck, to my friend. I knew I had to help. The question was how. Till then, I had only seen Sanjeev Kumar out do Jitendra at enacting a Mirgi Ka Dora. Those useless filmwallas. Their Chappals and their Loha. On screen, and even in casually heard anecdotes, it always had a ring of falseness to it. The sacred disease and the earthly cures. 

I rolled the man on his back so that he was now facing the sky and the crowd that gathering and dis-banding. I felt ashamed of the fact that after rolling him over, I had no clue of what next to do. I do only carry useless information in my head. I looked around. Nothing. I had my hands on my hips. I looked at my friend. He wasn't bearing witness for the first time. Only a couple of months back he had told me about some relative of his, a woman, who had had an epileptic seizure in the middle of the havan ceremony meant for 'purifying' his newly built house.  Given the nature of the event, people had given it supernatural interpretation. Demons and spirits, breaking out. He himself was only baffled because when the woman had come to her senses, she claimed she had no recollection of the seizure. A doctor had been called, and my friend had got himself a bit educated about the condition. So now, even as a guy from the crowd, a big burly rickshawalla, who looked like he knew what he was doing, having already acquired a leather chappal from a generous passer-by, was putting a chappal under the nose of the mareez, another guy from the crowd, an old man, advising him to at least turn the shoe the other way, at least not make the mareez smell the sole, at least get the Kada, my friend blurted out,'This does not work. This does not work. He can't breath.' It did seem that the man was struggling to breath. And breathing was all his body was trying to do and struggle against. He breath came with a wheeze.

As I looked with dread at the veins trying to bulge out of the man's neck, a man from a passing rickshaw suggested,'Turn his heads sideways.Let him breath.' The chappal and the chappal people had already moved. I moved the man back in sideway position. As I got up, someone walking along suggested that the man be moved from the middle of road. This theme was picked up by the fresh crop of people who had gathered around. But how to move a man. I looked up. I went down. Circled. Then a young Sardar, who must have been on his way to the famous Gurdrwara nearby, came along and got hold of the man's legs as I caught the man under his shoulders and together we moved the man to the side of the road, back in sideway position. Sardar went on to admonish the people of the man. The rickshawallas protected, 'We don't know him. His rickshaw has no number on it. How can we call his Malik, his owner, if we don't have any number? We don't know him. He will be okay.' 
As Sardarji went on to tell them about Insaniyat, I could see the man's eyes rolling back in, he seemed to be waking up from sleep, he was trying to open his bloodshot eyes wide, his breathing was more rhythmic now. He was going to be okay but was bound to wake-up to searing pain in his head.

Half an hour later, feeling terribly hungry, while finding someplace to eat, I realized my jeans pockmarked with the man's blood, thick at places with unusual redness and at places, stained brown, dirty rain water soaked from the man's hair. It suddenly felt wet too. My friend bought me a Dettol soap. Later, I had Cholay Bhatura and Lassi while facing a wall that had some fancy Sanskrit Shlokas written all over it. Wasn't the the owner of this chain sent to jail for conspiring to kill a tea-stall owner. Kill the thought. Nothing fits. No it all fits. 

Half an hour later, I couldn't even locate the place were it all happened. All was back to normal. We headed over way to Daryaganj on a rickshaw.

Yes, I decided to read a bit about what to do if someone is having an epileptic fit and I had provided something akin to Recovery Position, indeed unobstructed air passage is crucial and no Chappals and Loha do not work.


  1. The morning after writing this post late into the night, woke-up to find my roommate screaming about a body hanging from the overhead tank on the roof of building next door.


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