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Nithya and I were best friends from childhood. We were the kind of friends who were there for each other no matter what and we remained friends through thick and thin. Nithya remains a bright star even after she has left us all.
While growing up, our families were friends with each other and Nithya’s parents, Shanthi Aunty and Ravi Uncle considered me a part of their family.
Fortunately for us, even after all these years, we had settled down with our respective families in the same city, an hour from each other, making it easier for us to keep in touch and still remain best friends. Nithya had always been the first person I would turn to if I had a problem and she would do the same if she had one. Nithya had always been a kind, selfless and a generous soul like Shanthi Aunty. I still remember the days when she sat with one of our classmates during lunch because she did not have any friends, when she shared her lunch with one of the girls because she forgot her lunch that day, when she stood up for a friend when she was being bullied in college and many more such moments when she reminded everyone in her own way that “Nothing is more important than being generous and kind”.
She remained the generous soul, she was, even after she left this world leaving us all bereft and grappling with grief.
It was the weekend before Diwali. We decided to meet up at the mall near Nithya’s home to shop for ourselves and the kids as we do each year. I prefer to shop online whereas Nithya loved to shop in the stores. We had compromised and eventually came to an agreement to go out together for shopping only for Diwali each year. Despite the fact that I was not a fan of shopping in a crowded mall, I loved seeing Nithya and I always enjoyed the time I spent with her during those few hours. She had such a warm personality and the ability to melt all my worries away. I wish I had done more of these shopping trips with her.
It had been almost a week since I saw her last and I was looking forward to the shopping spree with her that day in-spite of my dislike for shopping in crowded malls. I parked my car and headed towards the entrance of the mall. Especially crowded this time of the year, the mall was bustling with people in every nook and corner. Everyone at the mall seemed to have just one motive which is to shop. Stressed out parents with little kids were trying to get their shopping done amidst the chaos. Young men and women, perhaps college students, probably taking a break from shopping, making small talk in the crowded coffee shops.
I was getting a little overwhelmed with all the chaos around me when I heard a familiar voice behind me. “Here you are Anu! I was looking for you. Are you enjoying your solo shopping yet? I bet you are”, grinned Nithya. “So much so that I am ready to go home. Are you?”, I winked and gave her a friendly hug and we started our usual Diwali shopping.
We were almost done with our shopping when Nithya received a call from her husband, Mohan. She spoke briefly and as soon as she hung up, Nithya said that she needed to hurry home as she had completely missed it, but Mohan reminded her about their neighbour’s housewarming party that night. I gave her a hug and asked her to drive safely. That was the last time I saw my dear friend, Nithya.
I received a call later that night from Mohan informing me that Nithya had met with an accident and was in the ICU. Nithya, my best friend, my confidante and my partner in crime was fighting for her life in the ICU and I couldn’t help but wonder how unpredictable life was. We had both been shopping and enjoying each other’s company a few hours back thinking that life will remain the same, but everything changed in a matter of hours.
I quickly grabbed my purse and rushed to my car letting my husband know to get the kids to bed and that I would call him if there was any news. Although the hospital was not too far from home, the drive felt the longest as my mind tried to fathom the seriousness of the situation. I imagined the agony her family would be going through. I wondered if Shanthi Aunty and Ravi Uncle who lived an hour from her home were with her now. I thought about Nithya’s kids and Mohan and I could not bear the thought that something bad had happened to her and the impact it would have on her family and all her loved ones including me.
I was jolted from my thoughts when I heard ambulances blaring and the hubbub of activity around the hospital. I parked my car and rushed to the front desk and inquired about Nithya and they pointed me to the ICU on the 2nd floor.
I saw Mohan with his brother near the ICU. He looked as if he had aged by 10 years just in the last few hours and it took me a matter of seconds to realize that the news was not good. A devastated Mohan told me that Nithya had suffered severe injury to her brain due to the impact of the accident and the doctors were doing all they can to save her.
Within 36 hours of the accident, the chief doctor told us that as a result of the injury to her brain, the brain became swollen, obstructed its own blood supply, causing brain tissue to die and thus causing cessation of brain function and that the condition was irreversible. Thus, our sweet Nithya was declared brain dead. We still hoped for her recovery as her organs kept functioning, but her brain ceased to work and we discussed all options with the doctor, but at the end, it was clear to us that Nithya was no more.
Although Shanthi Aunty was devastated and heartbroken, she immediately consulted with Ravi Uncle and Mohan and told the doctor that her loving daughter would want to donate her organs as she was registered as an organ donor and asked the doctor to do whatever they can to donate her organs. The fact that Nithya would want to donate her organs did not surprise me as she was a generous soul and had always advocated for organ donation, but I could not help but be amazed at the love and strength of Shanthi Aunty for making such a huge sacrifice in the worst possible moment of her life. I could see Nithya in Shanthi aunty and I could not control my tears at this noble act of selflessness.
The doctors informed us that Nithya had helped several families, even after her death and that the families were extremely grateful to Nithya and her family for their incomparable sacrifice. Nithya’s heart was donated to a teenager named Neela who was suffering from a heart condition. Her corneas were donated to two other people who were gifted with vision. Her other vital organs gave a new lease of life to three other individuals. It was like Nithya was born to help them get their second chance in life. To this day, Shanthi Aunty and I still keep in touch with most of the organ recipients, especially Neela as she is the “special one” in Aunty’s own words.
I miss talking to Nithya. I almost picked up my phone to call her the other day to share something with her as I used to, but stopped myself and could not control my tears. I miss her a lot, but I am still trying to keep my Diwali shopping promise to this day. I pick up Shanthi Aunty from her home and take her to a mall near her home where we also meet Neela. Neela and I help Shanthi Aunty select Diwali dresses for Nithya’s kids.
Today was my shopping date with them. I drove to Shanthi Aunty’s home and I saw her waving to me from her window letting me know that she will come out in a minute and soon after, she was outside her gate. I opened the door for her so she can sit in the passenger seat comfortably. She looked older than she did a few weeks back. She inquired about my kids and we talked about Nithya’s kids until we reached the mall. We headed directly to the specific shop in the mall where she usually shops. Neela had already completed one round of shopping and met us at the shop which is typical of her as we learned that, like Nithya, Neela also had the heart for shopping. After our shopping, we sat on the benches near a shop so Aunty could take a break. We chatted for a while and soon after Neela wanted to check something in a shop nearby and asked me to join her.
An old man was in the shop at the cashier’s with a little girl inquiring the price of a simple pink dress the girl wanted. When the cashier told him the price, the old man hesitated a bit but told the girl that they could not afford to buy the dress and that he would get something else for her. It’s ok, Thathayya, the little girl said to her grandfather but she looked visibly disappointed. Without a second thought, Neela asked the old man how much he could afford and immediately paid the rest and bought the dress for her. The little girl thanked Neela and gave her a hug. I instantly thought of Nithya and how she would have done the same thing if she was here.
On my way to Shanthi Aunty’s home, Aunty was quieter than usual. “Are you ok, Aunty?”, I asked her. “Yes, Anu, I am fine. Neela reminds me so much of Nithya. Doesn’t she? Whenever I meet her, I feel like I am spending time with Nithya and it feels good,” Shanthi Aunty said with both a smile and tears in her eyes. I told her that I could not agree more and that I felt the same.
It hurts to see Aunty and Uncle going through their life without their only daughter when all that they wanted to do was to spend their twilight years with their dear daughter and her family, but I find solace in the thought that Shanthi Aunty has found some peace in Neela. As for me, I see my best friend Nithya in Neela and I believe she is the brightest star even though Nithya’s absence is a constant reminder of our darkest night.
Image via Unsplash
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