Each of us has, at some point of time in our lives, received life advice from our personal life-coaches – parents, siblings, teachers, mentors, kids, the vegetable vendor or the stranger sitting on the adjacent seat on the flight. Something that moved you, changed you or made a difference to your perspective forever. India Pages brings to you these slices of life, shared by people from all walks of life … Writers, Photographers, Artists, Television Producers, Hands-on mommies, Entrepreneurs and Engineers …. Meet Noor Vasaya
Never found the angel who consoled me moments after my near fatal head-on car accident
I was crying in pain as someone held my hand and whispered that I was okay and she could hear the ambulance sirens and soon I’ll be taken care of… I never found the angel who consoled me moments after my near fatal head-on car accident on that fateful morning of May 26th over 20 years ago on Fraser Highway in Surrey, Canada. I would like to sincerely thank her for comforting me before the EMS arrived.
The timing of this accident could not have been worse as my high school sweetheart whom I had married just 11 months earlier in India, was preparing to arrive in couple of weeks.
Sabina, my childhood sweetheart whom I had seen at a national camporee in Bombay and instantly fell in love. It wasn’t easy to win her heart due to her shy nature and conservative family. Though Sabina and I grew up in the different neighbourhoods of Bombay, but were part of the same community scouts-guides group. I never noticed her until I saw her dance performance on the stage at the camp. We were in different schools first but due to the communal riots in the area I went to school, I had to change it.
As luck would have it I ended up in her school. After failing to get her attention I befriended her classmate. She secretly arranged my meeting with Sabina without her knowledge and left us alone. During the conversation I found that she also liked me but was shy to come forward. It took three years from the day I first saw her to finally having her as my girlfriend.
’And, when you want something, the entire universe conspires in helping you to achieve it.’ Paulo Coelho
We were only a year into our relationship when our family migrated to USA and we were separated for 5 long years. My parents knew about our relationship but her’s didn’t. We kept in touch secretly via our best friend and his sister during this period to keep our long distance relationship alive. I lived three years in New York then in Vancouver for two before going back to Bombay to see her. The entire Vasaya clan arrived in Bombay from US and Canada to attend my cousin Zeenat’s wedding. While we were all going to be there, our families suggested Sabina and I to get married as well. “neki aur pooch pooch”.
We had two monsoon weddings 15 days apart in the midst of all the rain and power outages in the month of June. Sabina and I took off to Bangalore-Mysore-Ooty for our honeymoon and had the best time of our lives. We spent few weeks together before I returned to Canada and immediately filed for her immigration.
Within 8 months she was granted visas and we were going to be reunited once again before our first anniversary. She was making her travel plans while I was fighting for my life in the hospital.
I was working as a drapery installer heading to a jobsite in the company van around 9 am. A vehicle from an oncoming side suddenly got into my lane and hit me head on. Both vehicles involved in this accident were totally smashed up and in such a bad shape that a local news media reported it as fatal. It was later corrected to “not fatal” as both drivers survived with severe injuries.
In the ER doctors had prepared my parents for the worse as they might have to amputate my left leg and I may not walk properly for at least a year. Fortunately the experienced team of orthopaedic surgeon, Dr. Piper was able to save my leg. I had a broken left femur which required a rod and several screws in my leg and hip bones. My injuries also included several broken teeth, lacerations on my face and arms which required additional surgeries in following several months.
Since I was out of danger, my parents decided to keep my accident news a secret from families in India until Sabina’s arrival so that she could travel without worrying. Her arrival was scheduled earlier but we delayed it by making excuses so that I was out of the hospital and able to receive her at the airport. My brother in Atlanta could not come to see me but my late cousin, Ramzanbhai who was also at my wedding flew immediately from New York to be by my side.
Noor Vasaya as Charlie Chaplin
As I lay in my hospital bed worried about my future; How will Sabina take this when she finds out? Whether I’ll ever walk properly, look normal or be able to pursue my passion? Since very young age I use to act and direct plays/skits and stage performances in my community. I was known as Charlie due to my several Charlie Chaplin acts including the last one in New York.
I was planning a career in acting/directing and was working with my friend Anirudh Chawla in Vancouver to revive a drug-addiction street play I use to be part of in Bombay. We had plans to start Bollywood talk Radio/TV show like Siskel & Ebert as well. While I was sad and depressed in the hospital, my dad motivated me by reminding how we have always overcome our adversities by working together. The struggles we faced after losing everything in Bombay including our home.
How I had to quit school when I was in 9th standard and move to Mumbra (suburb of Bombay) in a community housing. How my dad after working two jobs, helped me bring heavy rolls of steel-wool (household cleaning product) in local trains from Byculla to Mumbra at night. We would then carry it on our shoulders over a kilometre to our place. I would then pack them into small rolls and wholesale it to the local retailers in Mumbra and vicinity on foot and local trains. I returned to school and passed SSC with first class. My dad promised to support me as long as he could until I get back on my feet again.
Sabina arrived 3 weeks after the accident totally unaware of my condition. I remember hiding behind a pillar with my crutches at the airport and was afraid to show her my deformed face with all the scars and stitches. I had lost several of my front teeth in the accident and was not even able talk properly due to it and the stitches on my lower lip. I had lost 10 kg and didn’t look anything like the man she married less than a year ago.
When my cousin was preparing her for what she was going to see, she couldn’t believe it and thought it was another one of my pranks that I was known for. She was shocked to see what had happened to me but bravely accepted the challenge of taking care of a crippled man who needed a lot of care and support. She took care of me and worked part-time while my mom and dad also supported us during this ordeal and 4 years of rehabilitation. I was determined to get back on my feet and enjoy my new life with my beautiful and courageous wife. I quickly progressed from wheelchair to crutches and then walking with a cane. I was walking with a limp in the beginning but was dancing in 6 months.
This accident left our family in financial burden as I was not able to sue the other party for damages due to the worker’s compensation laws. Since both of us sustained our injuries at work we fell under the Worker’s Compensation Board umbrella. It covered all the medical expenses and my partial wages while I was in rehab. I had the choice to accept permanent disability and receive a small amount every month for rest of my life but I chose not be labelled disable. Instead I fought WCB for two years to pay for my education as I decided to go back to trade school to upgrade my employment skills to suit my current physical condition.
I was only a few weeks into my course and in class that morning when our first child decided to make her debut a little early. Our daughter, Nazifaa didn’t ever wait long enough before I could be contacted and be there to receive her at the hospital. This little bundle of joy brought us all lot of happiness in those struggling times. I certified as an Electronics Technician a year later and started looking for a job as my temporary disability benefit had expired. My previous employer hired me as a part-time window coverings salesman with minimum pay.
Sabina had her share of suffering as she became depressed and suicidal with all the issues around the accident and the family situation. Her condition improved after we moved out to a basement suite and had our second child, Ziyana. We moved back to our old house with two toddlers as my parents moved to Atlanta with my brother. I was inspired to start my own window covering business with the help of my ex-employer and a $40K loan against our house. Our troubles were not over yet as this venture also failed and I lost all my investment within two years.
Twelve years after the accident I was still struggling to secure a future for my family by working harder than before my accident. I worked as an AV installer during the day and sold/installed blinds in the evenings and weekends. I sustained another injury at work that made my AV installer job difficult. I decided to change my career one more time by going back to school once again in 2005. With my training and experience in the AV field and further schooling I became an IT professional to land my current job. I was finally able to pay off the debts by continuing to work full-time at the college and running my AV installation business part-time.
I still work long hours because we want to support our children while they complete their university degrees. I don’t think I would have returned to school if it wasn’t for all the lessons learnt during the hardships. I utilised the time during my rehabs after the accident to learn a new trade. This is a personal tragedy turned into blessings.
So friends, never be sad or give up as only He knows what is best for you.
About Noor Vasaya
Born and brought up in Bombay, Noor Vasaya moved to north America after High School and spent some teen and early adulthood years in New York. Now lives in the beautiful city of Vancouver, Canada with his wife and children. An I.T. professional by day and an AV-IT systems integrator, he is also a techno-geek and a Bollywood freak @TheatreNearYou. Loves to script, direct, act and choreograph stage performances i.e. comedy, dance, skits, song spoofs and iNOVAte in his spare time. Currently working on a game-show project called “khelenge shaan se”