Part 4 - 11th Nov 2014
I trudged my way out of doctor’s cabin. The sobbing sound got fainter; as I closed the door behind me. I trembled towards the row of chairs adjacent to the wall in front of me. I can’t particularly recollect any of the surroundings; my vision was blurred. I gave up my struggle to keep standing, and took support of chair’s arm as I sat down, still feeling dizzy as my whole world swayed. Infact everything blackened out, as I passed out momentarily.
Though I remember some distorted images, the white paint of the wall, the grey door, the long passage, and those tube lights above my head. I felt head rush, as I stood up too quick watching her parents come out of the cabin too. Till then I was pinching myself desperately to somehow turn it into a nightmare, but it wasn’t. The wailing woman, the downcast uncle, and a glimpse of hung head behind that closing door, was already assurance enough that disaster has actually occurred in our lives.
Frightened myself, I couldn’t dare to look in their terror stuck eyes. Out of politeness, doctor did express his sympathies but he owed them no further explanation. If anyone did; it was someone by the name of God; the so called master of destiny. Their horrific eyes begged him to answer, trying to decipher their sin; having been forced to face an apocalypse. What was their mistake? What was her mistake? What was my mistake?
I called Prateek, I needed someone to rescue me, to help me, to atleast make me understand what the hell was happening with me. I jumped downstairs, and waited for him in the lobby. He was to be there in half an hour. It was maybe the first time; he picked up my call and heard a crying sound. I wasn’t even trying to control my tears, infact I preferred letting them flow, in hope that they might cure my pain, somewhat. At least those loud sniffs were ensuring that I was still breathing, because I felt dead inside. I was sweating from every pore, panting uncontrollably but still couldn’t hear my heartbeat. I closed my eyes, trying to surrender myself to sleep, wishing that I would wake up in my bed and all of this would turn out to be my most dreaded nightmare, but as the images of the previous day flashed before my eyes, it proved that the unimaginable was infact true.
It was just a normal day, without any prior sign of upcoming thunderstorm in our life. It was just another bunk, one which I was against about from the start. I wasn’t too comfortable, riding all the way to Ujjain with her being severely sick. She had been complaining about chest pains. She was coughing severely and I warned her of viral fever.
But she remained adamant, terming her fatigue as something she was used to since her puberty. I wanted her to check it up with a doctor, but she scavenged all my concerns away proclaiming that it will pass by. She kept prodding me and eventually I gave up to her persuasion. Why the hell did I give up to her incessant cajoling? Well even If I hadn’t the truth would have been out anyways, it was good that it wasn’t late ‘anymore’.
I shared my feelings with her, telling her that it isn’t such a good idea to commence any physical pursuit with her being so weak, but she flew all my worries tagging them as my superstition for ‘jinx’. Nevertheless eventually it turned out to be last bunk anyways.
Halfway crossing ‘bhavsala’, she started feeling dizzy in her head. The cold winter breeze wasn’t helping either. Her coughs weren’t stopping, her chest pain getting more painful. I never should have listened to her, but it came out worse, much worse than anyone of us could have ever thought. Moments later, she fell on my back coughing badly. I stopped and helped her down, she was panting for breaths. I was getting tensed with each passing second. I gave her water, she coughed, this time blood coming out with it. She was barely still, squirming in suffocation but still had enough in her to scream when I took the u-turn.
That cute fool kept arguing that we must go through with bunk no matter how worse she gets, the idiot was worried that if I get caught on yet another bunk, I would be expelled from school, and that would lead to more fights in my house. Yeah! As if that is what I was worried about.
I wasn’t bothered how wrecked I could get; I was worried about my life; about her.
Initially I thought of dropping her at her home, but watching the sudden decline in her health, I decided to take her to hospital. I remember tears rolling down, even when we hadn’t reached the hospital as she lay almost unconscious on my back and I gripped her arms tightly with my left hand. I shrieked, and tried to shudder away my thoughts but felt a lump on my chest as the impending doom waited for us.
They got her admitted and put her on glucose, she regained her consciousness quickly. She started breathing easily by then. I called Ayesha and luckily she was at home that day. I told her to inform her parents and be there whenever she could be, terming it as something not to be worried about much. Fucking idiot. The initial diagnosis was based on the observations of extreme exertion and symptoms of ‘Asthma’. Infact the ICU incharge discharged her to the ward, and prescribed medications for Asthma along with some vitamins, but told us to wait till all reports were out. They wanted to be fully assured behind the reason for blood in sputum, but he told not to worry about, that she wasn’t being admitted rather kept in ‘medical’ view. I sighed as I watched her resting peacefully on that white sheet covered hospital bed.
I called Ayesha once again, my voice calmed down. They were already on the way and she told me that her father has left office too and would be there any minute. The rest of the day went eventless. She kept resting, and we were already happy and ready to take healthy Muskan back to home.
I offered to stay at night, with her mother as Ayesha and uncle made way to their home.
But the next morning, rush grew as soon as blood reports and chest X-ray were out, the activities inside the doctor’s cabin increased as more specialists got involved in examining the report. The incharge yet again appeared, looked directly in my terrified eyes and in his cold robotic tone instructed me, to specifically ensure her fathers’ arrival.
Soon he arrived, and I found myself standing nearby the door, as Muskan’s entire family sat opposite, on the other side of desk facing the doctor holding the sputum cytology report in his hand.
He started with the formal questions, with the customary routine digging out details, trying to find the origin time and the depth of the symptoms. Muskan’s mother told him everything, her penchant for falling ill regularly, her issue with coughing, and her tendency of being extremely tired.
Then suddenly he began asking about her hobbies, and places she would like to visit, crinkles appearing on his face as he looked straight at our confused terrified faces.
Watching Ayesha broke into tears; he made no further delay and gradually progressed towards the point. We patiently waited for him to finish, trying to inhale his words, not being able to trust our ears. At last, his soft voice was completely drowned by the loud wailing sound of Ayesha and her mother, and we were left aghast as he finally broke the news.
I opened my eyes, at the sound of approaching footsteps. With teary eyes, I saw Prateek rushing towards me. He sat there flustered, as I narrated him the entire story. He didn’t speak much, just kept his hand on my shoulders, as I incessantly kept breaking down in cries. For once in my life, I wanted him to let go of our usual boyish demeanor and hug me, but there really was nothing much he could’ve done.
I was so destroyed, and just as I thought what would be running through her head, I wiped my tears and scoot up immediately and scurried upstairs. I whisks towards her room. As I reached, I saw Ayesha coming out. Her parents were still busy discussing the complications and possible treatments. My eyes welled up yet again, watching her crestfallen face. She ran and hugged me tight, as I was supposed to be the one to console her. She didn’t know that I needed it much more than her.
She told me that Muskan had been asking for me. The news was broken to her too. I wished they would’ve waited a bit longer, nor that it would made any difference but atleast it would have kept her ‘alive’ for few more moments
I rushed inside her room, mentally preparing myself to handle her sobs gently without letting mine reflect. But in complete contrast to my expectations, she sat there impassive, dead-pan expression with a drop of tear resting on her cheek. Her eyes didn’t blink even once.
No visible movements of hands or legs, I doubted if she was even breathing at that time. Even though theoretically we had possible few months left, she resembled a corpse even at that moment.
My heart plummeted watching her like that, but I rallied, I had to be the strong one, the brave one, the living one. I felt prickling of drops behind my eyes, but I blinked rapidly, not allowing my tears to fall. I went close, and looked in her eyes. She avoided glancing at mine. I wanted her to cry, to scream, to wail, to vent out her entire emotions, but she kept on sitting there; motionless like a statue. I took her hand in mine, and kissed her palm, few tears dropped on them, still nothing. I clutched her shoulders and shook her ferociously, sobbing loudly. Nothing, she did nothing.
It was getting painfully hard to watch her like that; I broke down and smothered her in a hug, positioning fusillades of kisses all over her face. Still nothing. I felt annoyed, dejected, dead.
As I turned towards the door to leave the room, and took a few steps she stopped me, her hand holding mine, still not looking up at me.
“Say something, please” I squealed.
She kept silent.
“Please, please, please…I beg you; for god’s sake, say something” I winced.
She finally broke down into tears. I felt heartbroken, infuriated at my destiny. I was surrendered before fate, forced to wipe off her tears.
“Dhruv, tell me something” her voice soaked in tears.
“Hmm” I muttered, as I held her hand once again.
“Does it hurt when we die?” she started wailing loudly, tears furiously running down her cheek. I withdrew my gaze from her eyes. Her innocent question pierced my heart, and broke it down in many pieces. My mouth wide open, panting for words; but I needed to respond, so I breathed, and finally gathered the courage to face her.
“Don’t say like that, you’re not going to die” my tone, totally downcast, not even a bit convincing.
She grimaced, her eyes disgusted. “How do you know that, huh?” she winced. “Don’t do that sort of thing with me, I know the truth, and you know it very well too” she chastened.
I stood there aghast, while the catastrophe loomed on us. She was falling down the abyss, and I was supposed to be helping hand to pick her up, but how could I when I myself was quashed down on the ground by my fucked up destiny.
With nothing left to say, I sat beside her, on the bed as she rested her head on my chest, her sobs getting soft as the medications started kicking in, and she fell asleep.
I felt heavyhearted watching her in such a miserable state, hopeless, helpless as I had no cure; neither to her sorrow nor for her illness.
She was suffering from small cell lung cancer. Though the exact cause was unknown, the doctors thought it to be a result of pulmonary fibrosis. Lung cancer tends to metastasize and had spread to brochures.
The general prognosis of lung cancer is poor because doctors tend not to find the disease until it is at an advanced stage. So was hers, it was at stage 4; the last stage. In other words, she had months left.
It felt so irritating and woeful, as if god had handpicked us, to ruin my life yet again; which for once was looking ‘perfect’.
I was confused, cyclone of emotions in my head. A volcano of anger would erupt at my fate, and simultaneously I would feel extremely pity on her condition. She did not deserve this, she deserved better.
How could this happen to her? Why was it happening to her? Why not me? I had no dreams, no ambitions, or wasn’t living my life to fullest like she was, I deserved to have my life destroyed, not her. Oh wait!! I was indeed having my life destroyed, just the other way around. My fate was snatching away the most beautiful thing to ever happen to me, my soul, my life, my breath, my heartbeat. I felt nauseous as ‘we’ were gradually approaching our ‘end’. There was nothing that I could have done, it was inevitable. FUCK! FUCK! FUCK!
She was discharged the very same day, and put on heavy medications. The treatment revolved around combating fiver she was having as soon as possible, so that her therapy sessions could begin. Cancers are malignant tumors, and at her stage, surgery to take it out wasn’t possible. It could’ve been had it been confined to only a part of body, but it was too late by then.
Her weakened body didn’t allow chemotherapy virtue of its vigorous side effects. As her fever turned down, doctors started with radiation therapy, requiring occasional visits being treated as outpatient. A combination of other therapies such as targeted therapy, and photodynamic therapy was also prescribed that was intended to be palliative.
Doctors did warn of certain side effects such as vomits, weight loss, and lack of energy which became palpable after few days.
Her family contacted and took advice from specialist from all the big hospitals to leave no stone unturned. His father wandered from one clinic to another in desperate yet futile attempt to find a solution for the disease, which would uproot it completely, but was left disappointed and completely broken by their cruel, harsh and truthful response. It was incurable at that stage.
He had no other option but to proceed as per doctor’s discretion and to wait for therapies to work.
After few days of struggle, he left all hope, and was left completely dejected. His hands were tied by the mangled ropes of wicked destiny. Aunty submerged herself in making daily visits to the temples all around the city, begging and crying for help, for her daughter’s health, completely shattered.
Ayesha, like me was left too aghast to respond to the situation. We were broken beyond measure. We were ourselves busy, mentally fighting with the tragedy occurred in our life. But atleast our incessant cries reminded ourselves that we were still alive. Muskan was just lifeless.
After getting discharged, she was put on bed rest, for two weeks. All her relatives and her friends paid visit to her house, some expressing condolences, some just sitting there perplexed in awkward silence. But it wouldn’t have even mattered if they would have mocked her on her pitiful situation, because she wasn’t responding to anything, anyone.
She would just keep sitting there like a statue, emptiness in her eyes. Occasionally she would give out a wry smile on someone’s joke or her eyes would well up momentarily whenever someone would discuss the recent happenings; both good and bad around her but apart from that she would remain still.
Her eyes did not even show the pain she was going through, her skin had turned pale and dry. The heat from the heavy medications was hard to survive, and add to that the unimaginable excruciating mental pain. But her eyes reflected no emotion at all, no sorrow, no pain- just motionless, blankness, nothingness.
After few days, when our eyes dried out completely and our tear glands could take no more, we stopped fluttering around with futile activities which weren’t leading to any productive outcome at all.
In the darkest of times, the thing which keeps us going, and help to persevere and to endure the pain, is the light at the end of the tunnel which acts as a gleam of hope, making us believe that the bad time will pass by, and a new morning will rise with new hopes and dreams. But in our life, there was no hope, with each passing day we were steeping even deeper into gloom as the sunset approached ready to engulf us all in its vicious and brutal darkness.
But when all rays are blocked, and everything is blackened out, it is time to blow up the light ourselves. And the best way to accept the change was to pretend as if nothing had changed at all. The best way to make our heart believe that everything was normal was to keep it in delusion.
Me, Avni and Ayesha took leave from our daily routine for some time, to bring our loved one back into life. We flooded her with movies, would spend whole day with her, trying to cheer her up, playing indoor games, desperately trying to put a genuine smile on her face, but nothing worked.
She won’t blink while watching movies, or get pestered by our mocking or constant tickles, won’t blush while I gently brushed her hair and would neither shy away when I would come close, real close to her face. Not even a single crinkle on her face was palpable. She was lost in her own thoughts, she would listen to us, but we were barely conspicuous for her.
Even our frequent cries couldn’t melt her steel gaze. When she couldn’t take it, whenever it would get difficult to handle for her to see us in pain, she would simply lie down, and go back to sleep, with her back turned towards us. She wanted to face no one, was literally locked down in a shell. She was turning blind to our weary torn faces, deaf to our sobs, and dumb to her own sorrow and pain. Completely lifeless.
It would just break all our heart into pieces; not only seeing our efforts going down in vain but to see ‘her’ like that, it was so unlike her. The house filled with her cacophony was now silent.
But desperate of times calls for desperate of measures; it was time to retrieve our old Muskan back. So against doctor’s advice, we prodded her to get back to her daily routine. She didn’t retaliate much and relentlessly agreed on going back to school and coaching. It was working, but too slowly and totally opposite to what we thought.
Being with her friends, she would feel even more uncomfortable, being stripped off by those sympathetic gaze. She wanted to feel normal, be crazy, have fun like old times but was shackled by the weakness of her body. It must have been very hard situation for her, to just sit alone and look as rest of the world move ahead while she just helplessly stood at the same place.
Same school, same coaching, same benches, similar friends, nothing was different yet everything had changed. She felt left out, as if she did not belong there anymore.
She would come home crying, totally broken. Ironically, we felt relieved by her tears and her depressed state. Atleast it was better than to watch her numb. But just when she was about to drown herself in sorrow, Avni made her idiot friends to act normal before her, to be their usual-self. It did make her feel normal once again, but with a twitch in her heart .Even she knew it wasn’t the appropriate way.
We were shutting our eyes, in front of inevitable. Sure the ignorance was blissful, but what were we trying to do? Fooling ourselves, trying to somehow cheat the inexorable?
Just as expected, it didn’t work out for long. Soon the pretence got us burdened, and our illusion disappeared. The false tricks do not work in the real world. It doesn’t give us a chance to sit and wallow over forlorn happenings in our life, it is a race out there and the moment we stop, we get quashed. And she was not compatible enough to put on the external fight anymore; her internal battle took everything away from her.
But it was much more difficult, because it requires a special person to light up the world when it is dark but what if that person in itself is broken into so many pieces; that can’t be put together ever again? I don’t know if she needed me more, or vice versa. I faced the darkest lows of my life, depressed beyond any comprehension level, trying to figure out how to breathe again. I was supposed to make her smile, but first it required finding a way to make my tears stop.
I couldn’t stop imagining how crushed my life would get without her. If on a stupid breakup, I could have gone insane, what will I do when I will find her nowhere in my life, suddenly disappeared, completely gone? Just the mere thought would pierce my heart, it was intimidating.
I couldn’t sleep, eat, talk, breathe, anything…how could I? I was going to be dead in few days anyways or perhaps I already was; I couldn’t feel my heartbeat anymore, The pumping sound of the same heart which I gave away long time ago to her. I was ensured of the end of my existence, after all how I was supposed to live without my heart, my soul, my entire life….
Her pretty face, her smile, our talks, chats, late night calls, that moonlight walk, her affinity for rain, our nonsensical dance, our stupid scuffle, the long drives with whirls of black cascading on her face, my gentle brush to tuck them behind her ear, her naughty footsie, those soft arms, our undying friendship, her private diary scribbled with our secret , our tears, the soft kiss…..soon it will all come to an end. Everything will be gone….FOREVER.
‘Everything will be okay’ I keep telling her,
Even when I doubt it deep inside…
But she can look right through my façade,
I have nowhere to run, nowhere to hide…
She holds me close, her head on my shoulder,
Tears running down her cheek, she knows it’s a lie
Words barely escape her mouth,
She chokes, ‘It is okay baby! Everyone dies’
Those words killed me then and there
My heart stopped, I wasn’t feeling alive…
Hopelessness engulfed, destiny enfeebled me
Without her I knew even I wouldn’t survive…
But I knew I had to be strong, for her
So I dared to look in her eye
I drank down my tear, feigned optimism
‘It’s just a bad phase, it will pass by’
Suddenly my grip loses, the distance grows
I tried clasping her hand, but it slowly slips away
Walking down the dark path, she kept waving
Gone; maybe FOREVER, even when I was screaming her to stay…
Terror shakes me; I wake up; sweaty from nightmare
I hear clock ticking; reminding all of it will be true,
I feel disgusted; it makes me want to kill myself
There is nothing that I can do.
I was living a horrible dream. I wasn’t waking up from a nightmare; I was waking up to one
Getting back on feet…
It is ironic, how time turns out to be the biggest villain and the invisible hero in all our lives at some point. She had so less time left, and in little which she had, time forced her to move on, to get back to normal.
That’s how time works. It shoves us with unlimited options by leaving us no option but to move on.
She was back in her old chores; mechanically she was doing everything she used to, but she wasn’t being herself. The smile that would light up the whole world was missing, those lips which never pursed; continuously blabbered were at pause. She even gave up on her creativity and writing in her private diary; things which meant most to her.
We expect that with time, scars would hurt less but some are so deep, incurable that they never heal. We just get used to them, and hide them under our façade, just to save our loved ones from pain.
Ironically, we both were feigning to be normal for each other but deep within our vulnerable heart was craving for help itself. We would spend hours in each other’s arm, not speaking much, we did not know what to say or how to console each other, yet our silence would speak louder than words. Being with each other was comfort enough, to be assured that everything hasn’t yet been destroyed; at least our love wasn’t.
The toughest of times bring out the purest of feelings and often unexpectedly the sweetest of memories.
But it is only when the fog of misery is cleared, that we notice that someone has been holding our hand ever since, and it makes those true and worthy ones even more special; and bring them even further closer to us.
It provides for best distraction from own misery, to heal the wounds of our loved ones.
We both knew that pain was too much to endure, but atleast we had each other. The world seems a little less painful with that ONE person on our side.
Atleast own broken heart is more preferable than tears on our loved ones’ eyes. We were ready to be blinded and let go of our own grief just to pull the other one out of pain. There isn’t a life better lived, then to live it selflessly for the happiness our loved ones.
But if only it were as easily done as said. The worst part about humans is that we have limits, and getting back on feet has a very narrow scope; a single drop of tear and all the efforts go in vain. It shatters us, by making us aware of our own existence, resurfacing us when we have completely drowned ourselves in someone else’s heart, just for their well being.
The sorrow is so down heartening yet so amazing. It is ironic, how our own misery makes us want to get rid of our own life, just to make someone else’s better. Sweet, yet painful.
But only if one could defy the truth, the inevitable.