I watched my sister dance at the funeral of her husband. It wasn’t the frenetic swaying of a delirious mind. Nor was it in measured restraint. It was seamless, fluent, san all conscious effort. It felt the same as the day she danced when I told her that she had become an aunt, her movements sparkling of joy and pride. It was the same as when she got into the grad school for design, her life’s motive, her long-cherished desire. It was the same as when she fell in love and danced to let him know, that while her heart was all his, she couldn’t be. She bowed to her mother’s dying wish and married a guy of her family’s choosing. The guy, today, lying on the funeral pyre, was silenced in death. He didn’t hurt her, nor was he bad. He was a good fellow, kind and gentle. But she couldn’t bear to hold within a love she felt for else. She wrapped it deep within, where it simmered. One fine day, unbeknown of the cause, she cracked. Breaking the calm placid facade shot out the hand, her hand, grasping a knife in a tight clench. A cruel unfaltering slash, it hit an artery in his neck, and he ceased to be, diseased, sliding to the beyond in a gush of blood-red blood spurting from the gash. She was sane, oh yes, rational too. She just broke once, then, and the deed couldn’t be undone. Today, she danced in farewell to the guy, her erstwhile husband, caught in cross-fire of her unrequited love. It’s wasn’t his fault, nor her’s, or her mother’s who died while holding on to the wisdom and custom of the eras bygone. It just happened, and all she could do was to dance resigned to the fates design. She danced. She did.
She is sleeping peacefully. My wonderful wife! How serene is her poise… I gently brush the hair from her face. She doesn’t wake up. I look at her. Look at her for a long while. Its nice to see her rest like this.
I get up from the chair I was sitting on and walk across the room, into the hall, cross to its other end and enter into the kitchen. This huge house is to become so empty and silent… I put the kettle on the gas and brew some coffee. The coffee beans slowly melt into the heat of the boiling churning water, spewing the colour brown into it. I pour milk, pick a spoon to stir and walk down to the yard.
It has been 6 months since I diagnosed her with the disease that changed our life forever. How is her delicate body bearing the wrath of this demon. She presented with cough. It was dry, non-productive and infrequent. I took a chest x-ray, which came our normal. I did her blood works and it showed hyponatremia. This was all. Cough and hyponatremia.
I am a general physician and it did not ring a bell in me. I put her on an anti-tussive and dissolved a packet of electrolyte. Her symptoms subsided, but something was amiss in her. Oh my beloved! She started losing weight. Leaner and leaner did she become, and her lips started going blue. Blue they went, oh yes, her sweet red lips went blue and sickly. I stuck up my steth against her chest and found consolidation in her right lung at the lower lobe. I so much wished it was just a trivial pneumonia, but even before the x-ray and ct, I knew well what it was. My dear, am sorry.
The rapid course, loss of weight, cough, hyponatremia and blue lips all assumed a sinister and wholesome meaning with the finding of the tumor. That wicked cruel tumor … I am her husband, her lover and also her doctor. What was I to say to her! My first impression was to hope against hope that there should be an other explanation, she should have something else, nothing if it could be. But I knew, what it was.
I tried to smile at her, took her hand and looked into her loving deep eyes, tired were they, but still beaming with a twinkle of her own. She came close to me, stroked my face and asked me what she had. And I opened my mouth but no words could I speak. The knot in my neck tightened and I felt all air inside draining. I held her tight and looked away. Tears filled my eyes and came running down. I did not want to lose heart. I wanted to give hope. But wish I had that much strength. Wish I was stronger. She just embraced me tighter and smiled.
O dear! So strong where you to support me even when u knew the fate that awaited you. She is the best and most wonderful thing to happen to me. I had finished my MD in Internal Medicine and was helping a NGO to provide medical care at a small village near the Aravalli’s. The village was cut-off from downstream life, being situated on a pocket of land on the foothills of the mountain range. It was in this picturesque land, in the season of rain did I spot her. My wonderful wildlife photographer!
She was snapping photos and came to a couple of our camps to give a hand. It took but a few moments of togetherness for me to realise that she was the love of my life. The love of mine! Bustling with energy and spirits, she was always twinkling with joy and cheer. We took a couple walks together through the green and wet ranges, and she was quick to spot so many creatures around. Not only that, she like an expert naturalist told the habits and peculiarities of each species we managed to lay eyes upon. A pack of spotted-deers, wild ducks, gazels, birds of so exquisite color and beauty, I rejoiced and relished the beauty of nature like I never did before. With her pleasant company and commentary beside!
It was the last day in the village and we were packing up. I wanted to bring her home and live the rest of my life in her presence, but say it awkwardness or fear, I dared not endeavour. I was laying some instructions with the village head-man when she came and stood beside. Once I was done, she asked if she could take a snap of me for am the most lovable of creatures her camera ever shot! And viola, with a big smile she pulled me into an embrace and said, “Why don’t u ask if I will marry you?”. Awkwardness… fear… I only said, “Girls don’t like to be asked I heard. So I say, marry me!” Not bad.. not bad at all..
I found all joy and happiness flood my little world. We were so happy. The marriage was modest with only the closest around. And since then we have lived such a pleasant and cherished life. Why do you leave me alone now… So unfair is fate. Destiny is so wrongly written. Why her… why my wife… Its been only three years since we first met at the NGO camp there at Aravalli. Three most beautiful years of my life, of our life, but hardly enough are they. We pledged to be there for other, in thick and in thin, and … part only in death. But why should death come in such earnest!
I felt the heat of the mug of coffee at hand. I looked into it and fell a tear from my eyes streaking down the face into the mug. I had thought that there couldn’t be worse till when the biopsy result came. Oh my! Of all the varieties and variations of cancer, why at all this. She had small cell carcinoma. Small poorly differentiated cells with scant cytoplasm, unwanted as they are, but that grew in abundance in her lung and were spreading to the rest of her body. It was not to be believed for its extremely rare in a non-smoking woman. Impossible should have been the probability for my wife, given how much we loved. But probability comes only in books and research papers, not in real life. Here she was with an incurable cancer, and she had but 4 months to live.
It took her not long to come to terms with her reality, but I couldn’t. From that day, I spent each waking moment with her. Never did I let her off my sight, away from me, even for a moment. She used to look at me with so much love in her eyes, it saddened me what is to become of me after her. O my woman! Why do you have to die. She told me how she knew very well I wont propose and she had to do the honours. How I used to forget my things at home and she would bring them to office for me. Knew did she not that I would forget with intent, wanting her to come to me. The ruckus we would together create in the kitchen. Her eye for speckless cleanliness and my inattention to the same. How she had made me starve for half a day because I did not bath and finally she budged! I had my way, but it was rather because she could bear not long to see me sit hungry.
One day she made me sit before the mirror and opened the closet. From inside she took out a tie and put it around my neck. She said, “You little spoilt kid, its time to become big. I will teach you to tie a tie shall I?”. Though she had said it with so much cheer and composure, the moment she finished, we both held each other and cried into the others arms. No dear, I don’t want to grow big. I don’t want anything to change. I don’t want you to go. She slowly fell asleep, in my arms. The chemo wasn’t working and it was taxing her body like anything. I gently rubbed her cheeks and smelt her hair. And I knew that day, that it was for real. She is to leave. O lord! May her not suffer lot.
Days have rolled by. It’s an agony to see her trudge along. Thin as a thread has she become, with eyes sunken and somnolent most of the time. But leave do I not her bedside. My dearest! I love you so much. Love you lot. Loads. And do I know in a couple days from now, her body will go limp in my arms, and she will seize to live. That she will leave me and will go. That she will die. But my dear, I have loved you profusely and completely, each moment from the day I first saw you, and will love you so till ever.
And just then I heard a feeble voice calling my name from inside, my sweetheart has risen… I kept my cup of coffee down, and ran in to be beside my love, beside my life, beside my dearest wife.