My father was lying on the hospital bed. His forearm wore a motley collection of needle pricks that were administered to draw blood samples. Two tubes were pumping fluids through his veins. The sedatives and painkillers were not enough to dull his pain. His face was contorted in a familiar scowl in his failed attempt to bear or hide the pain. But whenever any family members or I approached him and asked him “How are you feeling?” Each time, without fail, he would flash a radiant smile, make eye contact and say “I’m OK” Seconds later the face would relapse into insufferable agony.
Not long ago, I once took a left turn from a side road onto a priority road. I was on phone, hands free, and my concentration was not what it should have been. I was hit from the side, 50 cms ahead of my seating position, thanks mainly due to the guy who tried to avoid the collision as much as possible. The car was a wreck. My son seated in the front passenger seat got a slight bump on his foot. All of us walked out of the car without a scratch. I was 50 cms and fraction of a second away from being hit head on by the full force of a Jeep two tonner traveling at 100 kmph. My friend, who was travelling with us on this trip, saw the accident through his rearview mirror and pulled over frantically, almost causing another accident, and ran over to find “If I was ok?” I had a smile on my face and told him “I am OK”
We were clambering down towards our camp on day 3 after a grueling day long trekking. The enervation of the day, coupled with the promised rest and leisure that the sight of the camp promised, made us a little careless and my friend in front of me stepped on a loose boulder and fell. His walking stick broke, the pant tore where he hit a sharp edge, there was an ugly looking cut on his calf, the glove was torn leaving his palm exposed with its lattice of abrasions. He did not stand up immediately and when I offered him a hand to stand up and asked him if he was ok, as we had the summit climb in the next 36 hours, he took my hand, hauled himself up with visible pain but flashed a 200 Watt smile and said “I’m OK”
We were biking on the countryside. The terrain was uneven. The fallen leaves hid the root of a tree completely and I was sent flying with the bike cartwheeling behind me. I landed on all four. As if a scraped skin, cuts and bruises and a laundry ready jersey were not enough, the bike surprisingly maintained its direction and landed on my back. The handle bar knocked my noggin and the seat jarred painfully on my back and the rotating pedal bars left ugly looking tear on my jersey. I was in shock and in pain. My friend, a more seasoned biker, who was ahead of me stopped and returned to help me, and also to assess if I was still mobile. I winced in pain as I stood up and told him “I’m OK”
In all the episodes outlined above, everyone knew it was NOT OK, but each time it was said. The person who said it and the person who heard it both knew that it was NOT OK, but still it was said.
It was not a statement to describe the situation.
It was a promise, a reaffirmation that we would strive to make it OK.
That we shall overcome!
And come out tops!
That is why I feel this is the shortest , most beautiful and extremely powerful word.