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What is the value of a life? A short story that illustrates this wonderfully well!
I open my eyes in pin drop silence, stretched out in a dim lit room. It feels like I have slept for eternity. A strange stench hits my nostril and I feel suffocated.
I look around. A boy aged about nine or ten, is lying on the bed next to me. He looks at me and smiles. He is exceptionally thin.
A woman is sleeping on a cushioned bench near his bed, snoring gently. My eyes travel a little left. There is another bench on which another woman is sleeping. She looks familiar. Very familiar! Oh, she is my mother.
Suddenly, I feel a sharp pain and I moan. My mother stirs slightly but then turns still. My eyes shift to my left wrist which is heavily bandaged.
Heck! I am in the hospital! Memory of last night and then three days back reel in fast backward motion.
Abhinav clinging to a scantily clad girl. His furious reaction when confronted. Those insulting and abusive remarks in front of many people. That bitter break-up. My painful pondering for two days, and finally giving up.
I remember a shriek before my mind plunged into silent darkness.
The pain is getting unbearable and I try to stifle my scream, not wanting to disturb my mother. Or I don’t have the courage to face her. But I fail miserably. My mother gets up and she looks utterly worried, but she doesn’t say anything to me. She is angry. She is sad. She calls the nurse. I feel weak with guilt. “Was being alive so difficult?” I think.
Next morning doctors come to visit me and say I can be discharged the next day. I look at my mother closely in the morning light. Her eyes are red and swollen. She looks old and tired.
It’s night again. My mother serves me dinner. She is still not talking to me. That is more painful than anything else. I yearn for her scolding. But, I think I deserve her silence. How can I even think of suicide, ignoring my hard-working single mother and younger sister? For that heartless Abhinav? I am feeling ashamed.
“Do you want to read this?” The boy next to my bed (his name is Amol) asks, as I lay aimlessly after having a scanty meal.
I take that book from him. It’s a children’s book but I try to engross myself in it. At the same time I am mustering courage to say sorry to my mother.
As the clock hits midnight, a few people suddenly enter our ward, singing loudly. “Happy birthday to you….”
It’s a little weird for a hospital ward but I somehow like this liveliness.
After a while, Amol comes to me with a box full of chocolates. “It’s my birthday. I turned 12 today.” He says. I take a chocolate and wish him.
“What do you want as a birthday gift?” I ask affectionately, suddenly feeling rejuvenated.
“I want something badly, yes, but I know you can’t give me that,” he says.
Published earlier here.
Image source: ill boy in hospital by Shutterstock.
Author of 'We Will Meet Again'. Freelance writer and editor. Tarang's works have been
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The Best Birthday Gift (Short Story)
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