This Is What I learnt On My 23rd Birthday

A young woman describes her rendezvous with the realities of life and accepts that there are truths to life, we all have to live with.

A young woman describes her rendezvous with the realities of life and accepts that there are truths to life, we all have to live with.

Jethu’s (maternal aunt’s husband) family was our neighbor. Along with Jethu’s pensive smile, the unbound knowledge he had on every subject was his charisma. To discuss and debate on different topics  with him was my favorite thing to do whenever I visited home. But, the news from Baba (my father) on 25th September 2010 about Jethu’s deteriorating health just shattered me. The time spent with him flashed in front of me. Again the next moment I thought, “Nah, everything shall be alright.” I guess this is how human brain work and well goes the saying, “Seeing is believing”.

Next morning, I and my best friend Sandy reached Thakurpukur Cancer Research Hospital (TCRH), West Bengal. The moment I started enquiring about the cabin where Jhetu was kept, a strange pain on the back of my neck stiffened me. “It is just because of the tedious journey?” was my thought. But as soon as I started moving towards his cabin my mind hinted, “Run away, you don’t want to face this.” The reason behind this was the notion I had about cancer – it occurs to people either genetically or because of unhealthy living. But here it was Jethu with every possible precaution and a disciplined life. Thinking all this I didn’t realize that Sandy had already located Jethu’s cabin. She beckoned me to come soon since the visiting hours were to end within fifteen minutes. Back to senses I rushed towards the cabin.

My heart sank. I saw the 6 feet healthy person who now looks like a mummy.

My heart sank. I saw the 6 feet healthy person who now looks like a mummy. With closed eyes, he looked similar to one of the corpse which we saw in hospitals. I whispered to Sandy, “He can’t be Jethu. No. You have mistaken”. She braced me and said, “Dear, he is your Jethu”. I was afraid to go nearby, but Sandy clutched my hand and dragged me nearer. Lost and dumbfounded I stood, “what should I say to Jethu who by no means looked alike the one I knew.” He opened his eyes. I went near him. He smiled and signed me to sit on the tool near his bed. That pensive smile and I sighed, “Jethu”. I sat beside him. Quivering I asked like a fool, “Jethu how do you feel?”Lovingly he patted me on my shoulder and replied, “I am superfine Joyee. It’s just that right at this moment I feel like a puppet in the hands of someone supreme that I denied throughout my life. Happy and contended as I am, I only wish to go back to my home, sleep on my own bed and die in peace”.

“Everything shall be alright,” I whispered. I slowly took his right hand and placed it between my palms while tears streamed down my cheeks. He smiled and replied, “Everything is alright always either before or after me. It’s ‘Me’ which isn’t alright.” I started sobbing. He mischievously said, “Stop your Ganges now; you will need them for your marriage”. I didn’t realize he had made me smile while tears still rolled down effortlessly. Jethu said, “Ahh -your victorious smile. My eyes were searching for that. Keep it intact in every phase of your life. ” He paused and continued, “Even on my death too”. I realized what he was trying to explain. The pain of losing him scared me. Unknowingly I clutched his hand hard. Jethu as if understood and said, “I shall be there this time when you reach home. For the next time, I don’t promise. After I leave whenever you visit home you eyes shall search for me. Don’t search. A space in your memories is booked by me. That’s my achievement.” A spark of excitement filled his eyes. He continued, “I need some sleep now my chemo starts from tomorrow. Have to regain my lost energy to debate with you on different topics for hours”. He thus closed his eyes and slept almost instantly because of the sedatives. I sat watching him fearing the unknown and prayed, “God please fulfill his wish”.

Visiting hours being over, we left, but Jethu’s words hummed in my ears.

Visiting hours being over, we left, but Jethu’s words hummed in my ears. Sleep wasn’t invited that night. I tossed in the bed thinking, “How can I save Jethu?” Leaving the bed I started strolling. Sandy was sleeping peacefully so I left the thought of waking her up. Perspiring heavily I rushed to the wash room and splashed water on my face. This revived my senses. I took the staircase way to the roof-top. On reaching the roof top the fresh breeze flowing touched my face which was still wet. Taking a deep breath and filling my lungs with the fresh air relieved me a lot. Yet the day’s incident kept crippling my conscience with unknown anxiety. I sat on the roof top starring nowhere feeling lonely. Time passed by and I saw the break of the dawn. The birds were chirping inviting the sun.  The darkness of the night then slowly faded. A spring of joy sprouted within me. But ached with my loneliness I wanted to be with my family.

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Without a second thought, I rang home. The first ring at my home made me feel connected at once with my roots. Baba picked up the receiver. Before I spoke he said, “I know you didn’t sleep. Your heart ached by seeing the truth of life. ‘Death’- The destiny of life.” He continued, “Dear, we all need to face that sooner or later. You see cancer patient’s almost every day but to see that happen to your loved ones is more painful. This is a part of the same pain which the sufferer’s family members have to pass through.” I remained silent while Baba continued, “Your love for your Jethu is incomparable but that cannot save him. Let him die in peace but do remember the pain he passed through which can motivate you to do at least some work for the sufferers who die untreated every day. Let this incident and anxiety of emotions you passed through not be the book of your life but a page of it inspiring your aim every day. See I hope the sun has peeped in starting a new day. Enjoy every moment but be ready for tomorrow too”.
I remained silent. The next voice I heard was of my ‘Ma'(mother) who said, “Happy Birthday dear. Welcome to the new phase of your life where along with your dreams you know the meaning and truth of life too. Love You.”

Cover image via Shutterstock


About the Author

Dr. Joyeeta Talukdar

Cancer Stem Cell Researcher, loves to write about various experiences experienced in life. read more...

14 Posts | 51,718 Views

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