Daniel and Faith are devoted church members, very prominent in the local church activities. Daniel is a retired journalist and Faith, a retired school teacher with many text books for children to her credit. They are cheerful and gracious hosts and are very popular in their neigbourhood and among the members of their parish.
They came into my life through a classmate in school and stayed on as my friends. We hardly meet but come December and a few telephone calls will be exchanged between them, their two daughters and grand children on one side and me fielding all of them on the other side. I consider them to be very good friends and I suspect that they reciprocate the affection that I have for all of them.
They have two daughters Sabrina and Audrey. Those of my vintage and older will see that the former is the screen name for the latter in that famous movie. Daniel was besotted with Hepburn and Faith indulged him by allowing these two names for these girls.
Sabrina had a normal and placid childhood, obtained her Masters Degree in English Literature and is now Professor of English in a college. She is married to a Civil Engineer government official and they have two delightful young sons who the whole family adore.
Audrey the younger is the hero of this story and Daniel and Faith are the Super Heroes for having stood by her through her travails and tribulations that had dogged her till she was well into her thirties.
To start with, Audrey developed infantile polio when she was about a year old and till today does not have the full use of one of her legs. Quite what the family went through to save her life and bring her up to be what she eventually became is this story.
Suffice it to say the Daniel and Faith became my heroes when I saw first hand how they used to handle a very difficult child to carry out her physio therapy and massage sessions besides the various medications to bring about some robustness into the little child. Audrey survived and grew up into a very cheerful and bright student and a champion chess player. Unless one saw her walk, one would not know about her handicap. She eventually studied to become a gynecologist.
Faith’s distant relative Vajram is a highly successful medical practitioner with a very busy nursing home in their home town that specialises in maternity and pediatric care for female patients and children. Vajram’s wife Esther is an educationist and runs a kindergarten school. They are both highly respected citizens of the town and prominent in the local church activities. Their only child Rajkumar was brought up to be a gynecologist so that he could take over from Vajram when the latter’s time for retirement came. Rajkumar was working as a Resident doctor in a Church run hospital in a tribal area deep in the forests and would come home once a month or so.
Vajram and Esther approached Daniel with a proposal that they arrange for Rajkumar and Audrey to get married to each other and after the youngsters met and gave their consent, it was all arranged. I was particularly impressed with Vajram’s family for accepting Audrey’s handicap. I attended the wedding and I can confidently say that I had never before nor since then ever seen a bride as beautiful as Audrey on that day. She was radiant and happy and all of us were very happy to see the perfectly matched couple.
Audrey too decided to join Rajkumar in the tribal hospital and quit her post with the local hospital. From all accounts during the next couple of years or so, the couple were happy in their chosen careers and were looking forward to raising a family of their own.
Then tragedy struck and Rajkumar succumbed to a strange, as yet unidentified infection that he must have acquired in the course of his practice and after a brief illness passed away at the young age of 35. A devastated Audrey decided to stay on among the tribals despite all our pleas for her to move back to civilisation and a new life.
It was at this stage that Vajram decided that some kind of retribution for his son’s death was on order and lodged a complaint with the local police that he suspected his daughter in law of poisoning his son. Considering his standing in the local community, the police took the complaint seriously and arrested Audrey as a suspect in a murder case. Despite much pleading by Daniel and other relatives to withdraw the complaint, a bitter Vajram urged the local police to proceed with the case, which with much reluctance they did under pressure from ‘the top’.
Rajkumar’s body was exhumed and a revised autopsy carried out by the government authorities who decided to ignore the hospital’s original death certificate issued when the death had occurred. The autopsy proved inconclusive and procedural delays ensured that Audrey was in jail for over three months before bail could be obtained for her release.
Daniel’s entire family came together to present a unified front against very powerful local elements in the police and bureaucracy and fought the case to a successful conclusion though it took over two years before a ‘not guilty’ verdict could be obtained. Vajram urged the police for an appeal against the acquittal but the Church officials intervened and persuaded him to let the matter go. He gave up when he saw the Church solidly behind Daniel’s family but was totally remorseless for having caused such pain to an innocent woman. From what I gather from other local sources, he is still bitter and blames Audrey for his son’s death.
Disgusted with what had happened, Audrey decided to opt out of her calling in the South of India and as I write this, has moved to the Middle East to practice there. When I spoke to her last December when she was visiting her parents, I teased her about flings with Arab Sheiks and she vehemently denied any such inclinations and also affirmed that she was through with romance and matrimony and also medical practice in India ever in the future.
Daniel, Faith and I have not lost hope and we shall try to brain wash her again come next month when she will be back in India.
Disclaimer. Names of individuals and institutions have been deliberately changed. Any resemblance to living individuals or institutions is entirely intentional.