Sunday, July 7, 2013

Radioactive Monk

Arun, completing his masters in English in first class, had got a job in a government office. Just after getting the job, his family got busy in finding a match for him so that they could put him in shackles of marriage. With the help of large relative community, they were able to find to girl for him. Pooja had completed her Bachelor of Arts and was a perfect fit for standing next to Arun in their family photograph. A priest was called by both families to look at the celestial formations for an appropriate date of marriage. With the blessing of elders, both took oath of supporting each other for life time. She described her first night as “As soon as I look up, his eyes clicked onto my face. The breath whooshed out of my body and everything froze for a second, as though I was looking at him through my camera lens, zoomed in all the way, the world paused for that tiny span of time between the opening and closing of the shutter. “And when asked Arun about her, he replied “I could not tell you if I loved her the first moment I saw her, or if it was the second or third or fourth. But I remember the first moment I looked at her walking toward me on our first night and realized that somehow the rest of the world seemed to vanish when I was with her.” 

After a year and half, Pooja gave birth to twins. Both were girls. Family was not happy because they wanted someone whom they could call the heir. But Arun was very happy to have them, it seemed like it was a wish fulfilled for him and he was on cloud number nine. His daily routine had changed. Along with his daily office work, he had taken charge of telling his lovely angels the bedtime story and lullaby with a good night sleep. He was completely trying to live their childhood. Pooja often used to say that she was sometimes jealous of her daughters because they took Arun away from him. Then one sad day, while performing the daily house hold things, Pooja collapsed on the ground. Arun rushed from office and took her to hospital but it was too late. Pooja’s death shook Arun in deep and young Usha and Seema not just lost their mother body but half of their father’s soul also. Arun turned within himself for few days. He was silent and isolated himself from family & relatives. But the swollen hearts of his daughters gave him a new life. He decided to fill that void of mother in their life. He realized that every great tragedy forms a fertile soil in which a great recovery can take root and blossom...but only if you plant the seeds. Only thing was in this process of plantation of seeds of love and nurturing his daughters, he lost contacts with the whole world, no friends and no relatives. His world had shrunk within those four walls. After his dedicated office hours, he used to cook meals for his daughters, clean their dresses and help them in their school work and continued those bedtime stories & good night kisses. He was their first love and for him they were his last love. There are people, there are stories, and the people think they shape the stories, but the reverse is often closer to the truth. And Arun & his daughters was the best example of it. His daughters excelled in education and in all fields they were exposed to. Sometimes his relatives referred him as a mental patient and his house as an asylum because they were jealous of their happiness and the solitude that prevailed within those walls. Whenever asked Arun about this, he used to quote the words of Joker with a smile of satisfaction “Memory's so treacherous. One moment you're lost in a carnival of delights, with poignant childhood aromas, the flashing neon of puberty, all that sentimental candy-floss... the next, it leads you somewhere you don't want to go. Somewhere dark and cold, filled with the damp ambiguous shapes of things you'd hoped were forgotten. Memories can be vile, repulsive little brutes. Like children I suppose. But can we live without them? Memories are what our reason is based upon. If we can't face them, we deny reason itself! Although, why not? We aren't contractually tied down to rationality! There is no sanity clause! So when you find yourself locked onto an unpleasant train of thought, heading for the places in your past where the screaming is unbearable, remember there's always madness. Madness is the emergency exit… you can just step outside, and close the door on all those dreadful things that happened. You can lock them away… forever. And for me my daughters are my madness”

With sun rolling over day by day, Usha and Seema were growing both in years and wisdom; both had now completed their formal educations. Usha had completed her engineering degree from IIT, Delhi. And Seema had opted for Masters in Agriculture and also had got a post-graduate scholarship offer in University of Sydney. India was not that much open during that time that people allow their daughters to go oversees for studies. But with Arun & Usha open-mindedness and ready to bear the cost, Seema went to Sydney. With growing years, Arun was also getting aged and now he was nearing his retirement. He wanted to marry both of his daughters before his retirement. So he started searching for matches and even consulted with his daughters that if they have someone in their mind .Seema made Arun’s job easy when after completing her PHD, she told Arun about Rakesh. Rakesh had also completed PHD with her and they both knew each other from past four years. Arun had no doubts about his daughter’s choice so he agreed without any questions. Both families met and finalized the dates. The flowers, the candles, the easy swing of the music, his daughter's perfectly made-up face, her artfully arranged hair and sketches of mehndi on her hands brought tears in his eyes. Her whole childhood rolled back in his mind. She looked as beautiful as her mother on her wedding day. With heavy & happy heart, Arun and Usha bid her goodbye, blessed her for her future endeavor.

With Seema gone, the house seems like a life-less cracker after bursting out. Both Arun & Usha missed her for many days. For next few days they always used to cook meals for three people and put three plates on the dining table. With just one year left for his retirement, Arun started looking for a groom for Usha also. One day while coming back from office, Arun collapsed and his office people took him to hospital. After doctors examined him, they told Usha that it was a minor heart attack. It was a minor heart attack for Arun but a major one for Usha. She was broke with even the thought of losing him. After consulting doctors and taking all prescribed medicines, Arun got discharged from hospital. For few nights, Usha couldn’t sleep because she was missing the good night kiss by her father. The thoughts of Arun’s helplessness if she got married boggled her mind. After couple of days, when Arun recovered they talked with Seema over the phone. On hearing the news, she rushed back to India to see her father. She stayed for few days and shared Usha’s load .But then she had to leave to take care of her family & job in Sydney. After few days of rest, Arun started his office but increasing tiredness and hyperventilation didn’t permit to work as usual. His heath conditions deteriorated day by day and Usha couldn’t coup with her job and daily work. So she quit her job and started spending time with him as a full time care taker. Arun had to opt for volunteered retirement just eight months before his regular time. He was getting enough pensions that both, he and Usha, could manage well. Usha detest the thought of getting married. She couldn’t even think of leaving her father for one hour, then how she can even think for life. Arun was getting more tensed day by day about her daughter’s future. But both knew that there was no way out.

Seasons kept changing and years passed by. Usha had stepped in her forties and Arun was in his early seventies and still both were supporting each other. When unconditional love had fused , the secret of life had been discovered so far as they were concerned; they were no longer anything more than the two boundaries of the same destiny; they were no longer anything but the two wings of the same spirit. Seema had become more responsible with kids in her life. And Usha devoting her life for her father, the man who taught her how to walk, the man who taught her how to love and live for someone. Day by day Arun was losing his grip on his life. Everyone around them was illuminated with the devotion of Usha for her father. As always people talked big but very few offered them help during times. In the last visit to the hospital for her father, their family doctor also suggested Usha to go for her health check-up also. Usha resisted but doctor insisted so she did that. As life is black man’s left ass, never fair, never right. Usha’s reports gave another jerk to the already wrecked life-line of Arun. She was diagnosed of malignant neoplasm, another term for cancer. As soon as doctor read the reports, Arun heart sunk .He somehow considered his illness responsible for Usha’s disease. He was so much grief stricken that for next couple of days; even in laughter his heart was sorrowful. On hearing the news Seema also landed home to support the family, but fate had something else in mind. The day Seema reached home, Arun had a major stroke. Usha was the one who was sitting next to him in ambulance when Arun waved his hand and called her near him, whispered something in her ear and kissed her forehead. Then he kissed Seema’s forehead and closed his eyes. Usha was holding his hand and continuously checking his pulse. A tear rolled from her check the moment she felt no pulse in his hand. She embraced Seema in her arms and just held her tightly. No shout, no loud cries, just tears rolling down in the deep.

After the cremation of Arun, both reached home with naked walls. Seema stayed for few days but then the day came when she had to leave for her life. She insisted Usha to come with her but Usha didn’t agree. She had her soul in that home, how could she think of leaving. After few days, her anti-mitotic chemotherapy medication started. The goal of that radiation therapy was to damage as many cancer cells as possible, while limiting harm to nearby healthy tissue. As seen in most of the cases, the patient loses her hair (medically known as alopecia) as a result of this treatment. Same was for Usha. She had lost all her hair and lost few pounds in past few weeks. Doctors were seeing fewer re-generations of cancerous cells hence they were quite positive about treatments. But with Arun’s death, his pension had stopped and Usha had already encashed most of the resources they had for Arun’s treatment. She didn’t find it apt to ask from Seema for it and hence used to lie with her about her treatment.

I met Usha two months back when an ngo contacted me for some donation for cancer patient. I went to meet few of their patients and it was there I saw her for the first time. The moment I saw her siting on a chair and having a silent smile, some part of me wanted to talk to her. With alopecia and simple attire, she seemed to me nothing less than a monk, who had spent her life in celibacy and in service of others. Each time I met her after that day, I found that she still lives with her father in that house, death may ends a life, not a relationship. She taught me to be the hero of our life, not the victim of situation. After listening to her complete story, I asked her about what her father whispered in her ear; she told me with a heavy heart, he said “I like myself better when I'm with you. I think it’s my time to miss that part of me.” 

Today I am coming from her funeral and I realized “Sacrifice is a part of life. It's supposed to be. It's not something to regret. It's something to aspire to.” Her life will continue to inspire me. God bless her soul.

Aditya Deadpan