I used to believe that the only people proud and happy about ‘Cancer’ ………. are those born under that sun sign. For the remaining mortals like us, it reminds us of a ticking non-de-fusible time-bomb.
I had the pleasure of interacting with a doctor from a famous cancer hospital in Mumbai. He had the look of a fighter who despite being aware of the tragic conclusion of his battles still fought on regardless….
Hoping for that one shot at victory.
I asked him if he has won any of those ‘fights’…. And he says, ‘Not as much as I would have hoped for.’
Curious, I ask him for his greatest victory. He smiles and tells me about his most victorious fight..
My journey through the hospital alley
revealed a few intimate things.
That cute little girl by the window,
her voice melodious as she sings.
Thin as a needles, bald as an egg shell
She sings a birthday song for her dear brother…
And as the lady sang her heart out
we , mere mortals, watched mesmerized by her spell.
Her song ends in a fascinating flurry ,
a lovely kiss on her brother’s cheeks.
His eyes masking his sorrow,
the haunting image of a tragically forlorn ‘bed’.
She’s made peace with herself,
her brother courageous in his sad smile .
He gives her a heart-warming hug,
Something she’s been waiting for a long while.
Her mother stands silent a few feet away,
Emotions in control as she speaks to her daughter.
she whispers something to her mother..
And you see those great dams break !
I bring her a bunch of red roses,
slightly smashed.. I painfully confess.
She accepts them with an endearing embrace,
Her radiance breathing life in those flowers
I take her readings , perhaps for a final time.
Her eyes keen on me, awareness of the same .
She asks me if I would crack a joke ,
The least I could do for the lovely dame.
No jokes coming to mind, I crack a ridiculous one ..
About an idiotic doctor and a patient named Grace.
She laughs uproariously, ending it with a small hug.
And that final memory…as radiant as her beautiful embrace..
‘ Ummm… so she passed away !?’, I tremorously ask.
‘yep. She died a few days later.’, he replies as a matter of fact.
‘So how was this your most victorious battle if she died of cancer !?’
‘ Well, you see. The thing about Cancer is not it’s inevitability but how it sucks all the happiness and joy in one’s life. How it makes an individual realise the fatality and his drowning in it. Here was
a young girl who had every reason to be pissed out at her fate but she took it head on and made a point to ensure that her remaining period was not cocooned in misery or. Self-pity. She wanted her
brother to remember her as a loving, cheerful younger sister. She wanted her mother to realise how much she meant to her .’
‘And to her father?’, I ask, a question that was difficult to put based on the answers I had received yet.
‘ To her father, she didn’t say anything at all. She didn’t need to. It was evident in the ways she used to crack jokes at him , about how she comically imitated him when he got mad at the nurse
who forgot to bring a thermometer or of that final day when he made up a ridiculous joke just to hear her laugh or when her poor father brought those smashed red roses.’
And with that… he stops… He doesn’t cry but gives an expression of a man who had lost the most precious thing he cared for.
And as the realization hits me, I remember being numb. Words failed me. I thank him, press his shoulder in an attempt to reach out and begin to exit from the room.
He then asks painfully, ‘ It was the heaviest defeat, wasn’t it ?’
I contemplate on what this story meant to me and reply , ‘ For your daughter, sir…. It was the greatest victory she could ask for.‘
By Sajit Nair