As he made his way over the rocks of the much-traversed path of the mountain, Madan thought over the events of the past few days.
One by one, his mind replayed the things that had gone terribly wrong in the exact sequence, increasing his frustration. He tried consciously to blot them out. He tried hard to concentrate on other happier memories. Like the time when they celebrated the positive results at the lab or the evening at the science expo where he had met Ragini for the first time. Their first kiss upon the beach in the quaint seaside town.
But try as he might, he felt the dejection, the anger, the rage, return. What hurt the most was how he had let down his loved ones. His father’s words rang in his ears. ‘Son, of what use is my money, if it doesn’t aid you now? Take everything and return it in installments so your mother and I can live independantly, as we age.’ Madan had laughed and replied, ‘Baba, this is the nonsurgical cure for arthritis that the world has been waiting for. I’ll double the sum at the very least and return it to you!’ Ragini had pawned all of her jewels, without a second thought to pay for the marketing.
But what has seemed so promising at the experimental stage had tanked at the launch. His close friend and co-founder had ignored a crucial detail which surfaced then. The scientific community accused Madan of fabricating the results. Heroically he took the entire blame upon himself but as he went down, he lost everything – his reputation as a scientist and the company that he had labored so hard to build. Now there was no turning back.
As he climbed jaggedly across the uneven rocks, he stubbed his toe. It began to bleed. The pain was intense. He laughed hysterically which echoed all around him. What would it feel like, when he took the actual plunge over the edge, would he hear his bones break? Would his death be instantaneous, or would he writhe in pain till he passed out? But the thought of physical pain seemed less severe than a lifetime of shame and regret.
He looked around, he had reached the summit despite the bleeding toe, which had gone numb from the pain. Poised at the brink with one foot firmly planted on the ground he stared apprehensively at the deep gorge below. He saw a tangled web of vines, dry brush and bramble amid the rocks and pebbles of the hillside.
He took a deep breath and let himself fall; a shrill scream escaped his lips. To his surprise, though, he found his bruised hands clutching at a thick vine that was embedded in the vegetation. He was surprised to find that his body was not willing to let go of life all that easily. The vine dislodged bit by bit like a buried rope preventing his fall and he found himself landing feet first, on a ledge. His heart was pounding wildly, blood oozed onto his torn clothes from the many cuts in his body.
He sat at the ledge, woefully out of breath, his hand still held onto the vine. It looked brown and lifeless. Yet, surprisingly, it had taken on his body weight and prevented his fall. He found its roots growing close to the ledge. To his utter surprise, he found sections that were turning green. Nature, it seemed, never gives up the fight. Never dies voluntarily. Dead plants spring up after the slightest rain. Dormant seeds sprout life. As he stared at the root he smiled for the first time and found the heaviness dissipate.
Fate had given him a second chance at living. Contrary to what people said, it did take courage to take one’s life but what is even more courageous is to fight back. Death would have been a quick end to his agony, but would have caused his parents, his Ragini, a lifetime of misery.
He would live, he would fight and if he fought back hard enough, his fortune too might give him a second chance.