The Price of Resilience

When I was a child, I used to accompany my parents to visit a family whom they had known for more than a decade. The couple had lost their elder daughter, then aged four, in a road traffic accident a couple of months before their second child was born. Both their present children, a boy and a girl, had been diagnosed with cerebral palsy. Even as a child, I could comprehend the graveness of the adversities faced by them. But no one in their family sulked about the apparent unfair and cruel blows life had dealt them. The whole house was a riot of laughter and activity. Sketchbooks, crayons, plastic trucks, glass marbles, frisbees, half-eaten packets of potato chips and a football were always strewn around the living room. Since the children were the biggest fans of Michael Jackson, they often used to rev up the music volume and give impromptu performances. They continued to quietly celebrate the birthday of their departed daughter, just the four of them, huddled around a chocolate cake baked at home, and the kids were oddly solemn in the remembrance of the elder sister they had never known.
There was none of the expected shadow of gloom hovering over their home; in fact often we could hear their laughter from the street as we turned into their home. But I was not convinced that not even a shred of anger, disappointment or sadness lingered in the lives of their parents; and was always on the lookout for hidden signs. But they were no more exasperated about their children than my parents were about my sister and I. I was suddenly disappointed about the hue and cry my parents raised about the glass of milk we refused to drink at bedtime or procrastinating on homework. I couldn’t contain my curiosity and bewilderment at their amazing coping mechanism and asked aunty how she managed to accept whatever life had brought her so uncomplainingly. Didn’t she ever get angry that this wasn’t exactly the life that she might have envisioned when she was young? Wasn’t she scared of what the future held?
They weren’t sticklers for religion, but they believed in the presence of a higher being who would look out for them, as they continued to make the best of whatever life brought them. She told me that the slightly detached overseer of our lives brought such obstacles into the lives of only those who had the strength to tackle them. She grew angry a thousand times every day but over the same causes that every parent frets about; untidiness, temper tantrums, excessive TV hours etc. And yes, she had found everything that she had always wanted in life; a loving husband, two happy children, a wonderful job, good health and lots of laughter. It is all about perspective. The journey was tough, and peppered with losses and obstacles; but the destination more than made up for that. She was content with what she had made of the sufferings life brought her. She was proud of it. As for the future, who can say what it held; it is useless worrying about the things we haven’t come to yet and giving up the pleasures of the present. She preferred to spend her days equipping her children with life skills, good education, ensuring they were healthy and happy rather than worrying about how they would cope in the world later.
These words had stayed with me and I still find them oddly consoling. Even now when I want to scream my lungs out, every time a cascade of new obstacles flow into my life and wonder if there will ever be any respite; I think of her words. I remind myself that I am resilient enough to handle this. Last night I had another health scare as the word cancer sprung up again, barely one and half months after I had lost my elder sister to it. I had lost three family members in quick succession in the past five years to cancer. And frankly, I am tired of it. I am tired of people dropping dead, when they are young and full of dreams, leaving the rest of us to battle the loss. All I crave for is a life where all my near and dear ones are healthy and happy; and I can get to worry only about things like what to wear for an evening out, long hours at work, the bad food at cafeteria, and get adequate time to lament about and pine for a lost love.
Sometimes I feel envious of those people whose lives had run such smooth courses, but then I remind myself that I haven’t been singled out, every one has their own private sorrows; and into each life some rain must fall, some more than the others. It has taught me to treasure the apparently mundane, everydayish things where nothing much happens; and revel in the infrequent but real joys that come my way.

R.I.P Mayuri Sharma

all life is no more than a match struck in the dark and blown out again
A match, whose flame lighted up my world and gave me my name, was blown out today. And I can’t help wishing it should have been me instead. My ambitions are simple; I am not the love of anyone’s life, and I am not even a mother. You were needed more than me in this world. You were more loved. Yet your light was snuffed out today, leaving me broken. Cancer won. Ironically, on World Cancer Day.
Ba, I had seen the fragility of life at close range while working in the hospital. People die young, unexpected, and sometimes just when their dreams get realized, and no matter how much they are loved. I had known for long that the end was imminent, even though we never said it aloud; I also know that this end has relieved your suffering, yet nothing could prepare us for losing you.
Five years ago I was watching the movie Meet Joe Black, the one where death personified and visited a man’s home, and it was few minutes to midnight when the phone rang and I was informed that my pehi had succumbed to a massive myocardial infarct; I never watched that movie again, somehow I associated it with the death. I don’t mourn about my aunt any more, but often remember that particular phone call at work, in the shower, while stuck in the traffic, any time. Once I was sitting at a Microbiology class, when I checked my phone at random and saw a text from my father, “Mini expired. Come home soon“. She was a year older than me, and had stayed with us for more than a decade, ever since my father found her on a bus, running away from an abusive step-mother in some remote tea garden of Assam, and with nowhere to go. She became a part of our family, and was undergoing treatment at the hospital for a recently diagnosed brain tumour, dying a few days before her scheduled surgery. The year before you were diagnosed with cancer, you had called up to inform that your father was no more. Such news had always been sudden jolts of shock in my life, never had I seen a dear one go through a long period of suffering. Until you. You withered before our very eyes.

Four years ago when my father was diagnosed with sepsis and multi-organ dysfunction syndrome, and his survival depended on a miracle, given his age and co-morbidities. He was admitted in the ICU and later at the hospital ward for months. I had sat along with the attendants of other ICU patients, and there was a boy of my age, whose mother was recovering from a hemorrhagic stroke; he often talked to me of the signs of improvements his mother was showing. On a regular sleepless, tired, anxious night of waiting, the intercom buzzed announcing his mother’s name and calling for her attendants. He went into the ICU, thinking it was another call to buy more medicines, but came back with the news that it was all over. And for the remaining days till my father’s recovery, my heart stopped every time they announced his name in the ICU. Every day I see hopes cut short at the hospital, it is an inevitable truth of life and I accept that. But, no matter how calm, brave and resilient one is, and however prepared to receive bad news; it is always difficult to let go of a loved one.
It is tragic, even comic, how I am always in a rush, trying to beat time, putting off dreams till a convenient day, making plans, messing up priorities, so much to do, so much not done, always chasing the superfluous; much to the amusement of whoever is up there. What is the point of it all? But then, life doesn’t stop at the fear of its inevitable end.
I had insomnia since the past few days, worrying about an exam result, which can be declared any day now. But these worries are laughable when it comes to the larger perspective of life, when I think about what you had gone through, what you must have felt at the unfair notice life gave you. No matter what happens tomorrow I feel the need to be thankful for each moment of working, reading, writing, spending time with my family, having a good home, of being alive. Not even a single moment is worth wasting over what could have been or what will be, who is in my life and who isn’t. Every moment should be savoured; love and laughter should reverberate every day; one should ensure a life worth living; because life gets snatched away from so many who deserved to have lived.
It has been just a few hours since you left us. Yet this sudden brush with mortality creates in me an irrepressible desire to feel alive; and that’s why I am writing now, writing for you. You found a love so real, simple and true; a love that surpasses all others that I had ever known. You brought into this world two lovely daughters, who make us proud every single day, by just being who they are. You had been a wonderful sister, daughter, wife, mother, daughter-in-law, friend; it is a blessing to have had you in our lives. You make me want to believe in afterlife and I hope you are in a happy place, wherever you are.
Ba, I won’t cry now, I am just relieved that your suffering had ended. But someday, I would see your number among the phone contacts, and knowing that your endearing voice would never answer at the other end would widen the gaping hole of your absence. It will remain for the rest of my life. Some losses just hang awkward, and permanent, amidst our thoughts; but then it is just the love we feel, isn’t it?
RIP Mayuri Sharma (Juku Ba).