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).

They Haunt Me In The Shower

Five sentences crowded in the left column of the newspaper jolted me this morning. I read about earthquakes, bombings, accidents, murders and cardiac arrests everyday; newspapers make sure we wake up to witness the end of lives in solemn obituaries or gory details or just few indifferent words. But these are snippets of wars in foreign lands or riots nearer home or a bespectacled old woman lovingly remembered by her sons and grandchildren, and even though these deaths aggrieve me, their anonymity cushions the blow and makes it only a fleeting presence in my memory.
How does the death of someone you know affect you?
I don’t mean the intimate circle of family, friends and loved ones or the innocent victims in distant, war ravaged lands. I’m writing about those in between, the people one might have known, met at some point in their lives and maybe had talked about the weather.
A good friend of mine from high school traced me through an online social network and we ended up sharing the latest gossip, reliving old memories and promises to meet soon. She used to ask the weird questions and when we were in the eight standard she made me choke on a burger when she asked out loud ‘Does pubic hair turn gray?’! She spelled it ‘trigonometry’ but pronounced it ‘trikonometry’. Her hands were never tired by the animated gestures that accompanied every sentence she spoke. Every night her mother shook her curly hair to drive out any mosquitoes before she got inside the mosquito net. Time and distance had faded her from being a close friend into the sphere of a mere acquaintance and I forgot about her in pursuing the mundane activities of my life. And one day I received a text message informing me that she had died following complications of a regular cholecystectomy! I wasn’t devastated or cried throughout the day. I envy people who can do that. I was sad, and profoundly so, but I didn’t shed a single tear. I was amazed at my own calm and strength in handling the emotional blow. Two years on, I avoid any conversation that brings her up. The grief refuses to ebb away in a gush of tears.
My pehi (paternal aunt) died two nights after I had scolded her about eating potatoes. She was a diabetic who never comprehended the seriousness of her ailment. She gulped down rosogullas in secret, as if discreetness would shield her from the ravages of diabetes. Her feet had sores which she hid in the folds of her saree. She thought it was a game her body would win as long as she plunged a syringe into her abdomen twice a day. She got hospitalized frequently, but always recovered in a few days and the family breathed a collective sigh of relief. Five years ago she didn’t even have the time to reach the hospital. She died on her bed in our ancestral home in the village. I had called up to know if she got admitted in the hospital yet and I was informed that my aunt had expired a few minutes ago. It is this phone call that will haunt me all my life; how my heart had stopped beating for a few moments and it was momentarily difficult to move my mouth to form words.
Today the newspaper told me that another life had ended and it threw up a familiar name. I sat transfixed for a few moments, then rationalized that it might be a namesake and called up few people who might help refute the newspaper claim, but the news only got confirmed. He was an acquaintance who I had worked with nearly two years ago. Through the little interaction I had with him, I knew him to be a good-hearted, calm, intelligent, unassuming, hard-working, sincere, sober and kind person with a wit that took time to get used to. He had warned us about the futility of a doctor trying to advise family members regarding health issues. He had said, “Ghar ki murgi daal barabar!” and all the interns had laughed. He had once admonished me for rushing into the NICU with my shoes on. We drank piping hot cups of tea on a winter night and talked about treatment protocol of asthma! I remember him with the ubiquitous muffler around his neck and a brown jacket. He wasn’t a friend or a close acquaintance, just someone I had known fleetingly. But I am distraught by this sudden end to a young life full of so many hopes and dreams, a life that had just started out, a life which was backed by achievements and a life so gentle. Tongues have started wagging about the cause of death, but is it necessary to know how, where, why or who drove him to the ends of despair and end his life? It’s a sad enough fact that we lost such a good person from amidst us.
The melancholy of young lives cut short by untimely deaths haunt me every moment till they merge into the subconscious only to erupt in moments of solitude. I am scared to close my eyes in the shower, for the thought of the dead haunt me in the claustrophobic, hazy cloud of steam. In morbid moments I feel guilty to be alive and breathing when someone my age, someone I had known, someone who might be more deserving of a place on this beautiful earth is no more. I am disturbed by the unpredictability and the abruptness of death, of dreams and hopes remaining unfulfilled or fading from the memories of loved ones.
Today the sky was the bluest blue and the sun had cast a golden glow and a pleasant breeze had rustled the leaves of the tree outside my window. The traffic continue to harass, new books are getting penned, movies will release this weekend, iPad5 is yet to release, fuel prices continue to rise, people will continue to fall in and out of love, the ruins of Atlantis might be discovered and Venice might sink; but the lost lives will no longer witness them.