I did not get on the train.
On the evening of July 11, 2006 – a series of seven powerful bombs ripped through the backbone of my city. It was the evening rush hour when the first of near-simultaneous blasts went off in the suburbs of the heart of Mumbai – a city that embodies India’s global ambitions, leaving more than 200 dead and countless people injured. The city was paralyzed. I could not sleep that night. I felt helpless. I did not know what to do next. I scanned through the list of names of the people who died. And two of my friends were on that list. I checked multiple times hoping I was wrong.
I could have been on the same ill-fated train and it could have been me, had I not been late to the train station. We were supposed to travel together that evening. A news report spoke about the spirit of Mumbai and how we will bounce back from this tragedy.
But my spirit was broken.
My life had been going well all along. I had great friends, a beautiful relationship and a dream job. But now two of my friends were dead. I was alive. And I was lost.
I remember just going to the train station the next day. Just sitting there for a couple of hours with a blank stare into nothing. Why me? I questioned. There are two outcomes when life challenges you: sometimes you get stopped dead in your tracks, and sometimes you change. And it is funny how fast things can change.
It would be wrong to say that I always had it easy in my life. But I had been brought up to feel myself a winner, an attitude that did not prepare me when things began to go wrong. But now everything was different. I lost more than my friends. Soon I would lose any direction. How can someone prepare for an event like this?
My relationship with my girlfriend began fraying. I became possessive of her. I was afraid of losing her. Perhaps, subconsciously. I was scared, scared that I would lose her tragically. She was ambitious, driven, and beautiful. We had always gotten along so well. She had moved to another city for her further studies and we would not meet as frequently. I became extra caring and needlessly obsessive about her. Somewhere I was not letting her live her life. She knew what I was going through, but she was clear it was not working out between us. The thing I was trying to avoid hit straight back at me. The heartbreaking memory of the smile on her face when she said the final good bye flashes in my mind.
She had to tell me that there is no future between us.
I felt an irrepressible urge to slam my fist into the nearest wall. I had not seen this coming. I could only imagine alternatives where there could have been no hurt, no bitterness.
I lost my friends. I lost my girlfriend who meant the world to me. Why me? I kept asking this question to myself. But there was no clear answer. Why did I miss the train that evening? Why had my relationship went downhill after the bombing?
At work, I was lost in thoughts about the past, the future and everything that was happening around me. One day I had blanked out during a presentation to a client. “Deepak, can we move forward?” said one of the partners of my firm. I was beginning to question everything that had made me happy. The turn of events in the past few months had turned my world upside down. I had always seen myself as a success, an achiever, a winner. But my performance at work was heading towards a total failure.
Maybe I was accepting defeat or I had no solution in mind. I wanted to run away. I needed some time to work things out, but had no idea how. As it happened, my friends planned a snowboarding trip to Gulmarg, Kashmir – one of the most beautiful places in India. The most unlikely of trips.
“Snowboarding in India?” I replied, astonished. I was not sure if I had my mind in the right place. But I kept my voice strong to show my excitement.
My friends knew what I was going through. They thought this trip might help me clear my head. Maybe in trying to learn and even master a completely unknown sport, might help me re-focus. I could focus on winning. Little did I know that this trip would have exactly the opposite effect.
So it was that I found myself that first day on the mountain, miserable. I just wanted to focus on learning how to snowboard not think of anything else. My friends seemed to be doing well. I was not. I started to think I was just not cut out for this sport and maybe life in general.
Just then I took a bad tumble. I fell flat on my face. Blood started flowing across my face through the cut above my eyes. I could not feel my legs. I could hear some sounds in the background.
All my problems started coming back.
Why did I miss that train that day? Why did it affect me the way it did? Why could I not overcome this? And why was I feeling lost? And why couldn’t I even learn this sport?
There was a reason I did not take the train that day. There was a reason why my relationship ended the way it did.
I was being challenged as never before. I was not going to do it by running away. There was no one else in this world who could change this. At that very moment, I felt a strange sense of calm. Laying in the snow. Cold. With blood running down my face.
And then I got up.
About the Author
Deepak is a 1st year MBA student at the Columbia Business School and he would like to become a writer someday. He is originally from India and recently moved to US.