Once upon a time there lived a monster named Cancer. And you all know the rest of the story. Many of us would have seen its worst faces. I know it's not a pleasant topic to discuss. But life is not only about pleasant things right? It's the imperfect mixture. I believe these stories could act as aids to uplift ourselves in similar situations. They remind us about the significance of hope and endurance.
The Unseen and Untold
In the 1990's cancer was a terminal disease and was not so known to all in detail as now. When I was in 7th grade, all that I knew about it was, this illness was incurable. Until then I've never seen or heard of anyone who had cancer. My life was surrounded with cancerless people and talks.
That year, 7th grade; our Maths teacher entered the class with so much grace. Math is my most hated subject till date. So I really don't remember most of my Math teachers as well. But on the contrary, this one I will never ever do! Brijith teacher, Maths-Grade VII. Her first impression on me was quite appealing. Somehow I liked her looks. Someone can not describe her as 'beautiful' but her unique style and grace made her stand out from others. She was in her 30's. Short, light skinned, not so fat but plumpy and curvy, straight silky hair always tied into a bun, thin black spectacles, perfectly ironed and pinned saree pleats. Her curvy body structure made her flaunt in any type of saree. In total, she looked interesting to me. You know, for girls the looks of a teacher is more appealing than anything else.
She never wore any kind of accessories but that did not lessen her grace at all. After all, why gild the lily! She was strict with students. And I was not that student who jostled to talk to the teachers unnecessarily. I was more of an ambivert. In the classroom I acted like an introvert especially in Math classes. But my urge to talk to her or atleast to have a feather touch was burning inside. I guess most of us would have had this feeling towards your favourite teacher. It's nothing but the mere admiration and curiosity. I rubbed my fingers gently on her saree pallu(the loose end) when she walked between the gangways of boys and girls in the class. Like me, most of the girl gangs from seventh grade were her ardent fans.
One day during lunch break Neetha, my classmate ran into the classroom with some breaking news. She called out for the girls crew for a secret conference. She had gone to the staff room to submit her Math homework and what she got from there was something shocking! Brijith teacher was a cancer survivor, breast cancer! Neetha was like a radio receiver. She caught news from the air just like that and most of them turned out to be true. Hence no one disbelieved her. It seems Sujatha teacher and Brijith teacher were having a chit chat and she listened in. It was the first time cancer came so near to me. In the next classes we began to observe her in detail. We didn't know about transplantation on those days. There were many discussions going on. Whatever it was, for me she was a real survivor, a super woman! Somebody who won against a real monster...!
All I Saw and Perceived
This is the story of a young hero, a boy who fought the monster...
I was the eldest in my mother's family. Eldest children in a family usually have the virtue of being loved the most. And I can tell I am one of them. I had a minimum of 4 years difference with my other maternal cousins. My mother has one sister and one brother who are younger to her. My uncle has one son, and others one girl and one boy accordingly. All three boys are the same age, including my brother. They three acted like three idiots always fighting with the only two girls, especially me. As I was the eldest I usually didn't give up and fought against them with full power. I had big fights mostly with my uncle's son. I even have criminal records in the family for twisting his small finger during one such fight. So, you can imagine the scenes. But, as and when we grew I was blessed with such lovely brothers. Our fights transformed into best friendships.
Life went on and 16 years later, the youngest member of our family arrived as a gift. He was my uncle's second son. He was the cutest and naughtiest of all of us. He was loved by all the big brothers and sisters so much. Being the eldest and youngest we shared only one thing in common- we were the most loved in the entire family. When you are the first child in the family you are lucky enough to be loved so much by all because you are the first baby. The same happens when you are the youngest in your family especially if you are born with a huge age gap.
I still remember those days when he was a toddler. He was quite naughty and never listened to anyone. If we really wanted to make him do something then we had to give an opposite instruction. One such incident happened like this. One day he threw all of our slippers outside which were lying on the front porch. My grandfather happened to see this and he warned him this way, "very good job honey! If I see any of those slippers on my porch again... that's it! I will show you ahhhh..." The moment he went inside, our hero ran outside and threw all the slippers back onto the porch. I nearly died laughing that day! Another thing that he was interested in was spitting on your face if you tried to carry him. He was such a plumpy and adorable pie that no one could resist lifting him up. He was an active boy who wanted to run around the house like a rat. I have got much spat on my face as I was so attracted to kids of that age. So we called him funny names like "thuppalaakshan" and all. That's all still stays in my memory.
As I told earlier, we had a huge age gap of 16 years! As he grew up I was sent to hostel to hostel for my higher studies. I did not get much time to spend with him like my other cousins. He had a connection with all of them except me. Because, either they stayed close to each other's house or they used to have meet ups often. Also the family partition system literally partitioned our family. Though, we children still keep the bonding strong. But, the big siblings of the house fought each other like kids. Most of these cases, if you observe closely you will find something common. It is not the siblings who fight but it's their spouses!
Our visits to my uncle's house got cut down. So, there were very few chances for me to get to know the young lad. But after my marriage whenever we came home I got to see all of them again. Me and my husband's family always visit all the relatives whenever it is possible. At times, we may feel relatives are so irritating and irrelevant. It's normal especially when you are young. No family is perfect. But it's always good to maintain relationships by keeping the limit in mind. Being too close and too far both are risky. You need to be in the middle of the bridge to have healthy relationships. Relationships are very fragile. If you are too close you may lose them. If you are too far they might lose you. So keep them in one arm distance; the safe zone. You are neither interfering in their lives nor you are allowing them to enter into yours. See, these things you need to learn from our elders, I mean from their mistakes ;). So that we can stop history repeating itself.
Anyways, I was lucky enough to meet them all once again. They too never showed faces. But, when I met him years later he was not what I expected. I was looking for that same naughty boy whom I used to carry. I was therefore surprised to see a soft spoken, timid teenager. I was astonished to find a young mridangam aspirant (mridangam is a percussion instrument accompanied in Carnatic music ensemble). His mridangam skills were great and I even wished to dance along. Some wishes are untold and unfulfilled and that's what makes them special.
I guess while he was in his 8th grade they spotted recurring headaches. In the beginning the local doctors ignored it as a common ailment. But then one day it seriously hit everyone when he didn't answer from his room for almost an hour. He said he slept off. That was the red flag. They approached another physician and conducted more tests. Later he was diagnosed with a brain tumor. When I came to know about it through my mother and her sister, it was the shock of my life. Imagine about the family then. I didn't know much about that timid teenager but I did know the naughty three years old boy who threw slippers back to the porch. I didn't want to lose him. Though they had fights in the family, everyone together prayed for him. Whenever my mom spoke about how his studies were affected, how the treatment was going on her voice trembled. Chemotherapies left him with a pale face, little hair and speech difficulties. But he fought well. He was back in action. He proceeded with his studies too. We were relieved that he had recovered.
While, the monster reappeared in our family thrice again. My chitta(mother's sister) was diagnosed with Cervical cancer, her son-in-law with a brain tumor and one of my second cousins of my same age with breast cancer. I really don't know what triggers this monster! No one knows exactly. Fortunately, they all are doing well and still around us as the epitomes of hope!
The Theory Of Unseen
All these times I was just an observer. I was just standing there and watching, nothing more I did. I have this problem which I don't like in me and I still don't know how to go about it. I am really bad at handling a situation of serious illness or death of someone close to me. I try to avoid talking about it. I fail to console someone or myself verbally in such circumstances. I prefer silence or to divert the topic. Surprisingly my pen could do the job which my tongue couldn't do. Anytime I could do this through my writings. That's what you are scrolling through now.
Meanwhile, I happened to build my own convenient theory when my lovable grandfather passed away. I was deeply connected with him more than anyone else. One of my undergraduation days woke me up with the message of his demise. With the telephone receiver hanging down I stood there like a statue, tears rolling down, until my hostel warden felt something wrong and shook me hard. It was a sudden death; cardiac arrest. So it took time for me to digest the reality. They sent somebody to pick me up that day as my hostel was quite far. By the time I reached the body, cremation had started. So, I couldn't get to see him for the last time. It felt bad at that moment but that made me experience something else. As I didn't see him lying down lifeless, in my mind he is still alive the way I wanted him to be. I had only those warm memories of him which were the happiest. Though the old house is demolished, sitting here far from my native I feel that he is still living there in that house fighting with grandma just to make us laugh... That's when I discovered my 'Theory of Unseen.' I realised that, if you don't get a chance to see someone in their last days of death you tend to forget the truth that they are no more. Your mind convinces your heart that the person is living somewhere happily ever after.
From that time, I had tried to apply this theory whenever possible. I had not attended any funerals in my family later on; even my grandmother's! Staying far away has always been helpful that way. Unavailability of tickets became an excuse many times. Though I felt bad that moment, later I am happy about those pleasant memories which only I could cherish forever without any shadows of death. In my memories they all are healthy, happy, smiling forever. It may sound crazy and absurd to you. I am sure, after reading this many fingers are going to point out towards me. I remember sharing the idea of my theory once with my brother. He exclaimed and shot a question in turn, "Oh, will you not come to see me when I die?" I was thinking over it though I couldn't find an answer! Who knows who will bid a goodbye first, right? The most unpredictable thing in this world! I would rather prefer no one to see my frozen face as I fear it would take over all the happy moments and mostly my pale face would linger in your mind whenever you think of me. Of course, I don't like it that way!
The Second Wave
Apparently the monster was cooking up a storm in his kitchen. We were worried to know that in spite of all the therapies and medications the monster had rooted those cells in his brain immutably. His brother who was working abroad flew back home leaving everything behind only to look after his little bro. The age gap of almost ten years made the elder one caring for him like a small kid. They were like one soul ever. He was ready to go to any extent to save his little soul. Infection spread all over. Those hospital days must have been hard. He fought and fought for almost a few months. Then he came back home dreadfully only to be on a ventilator. No one was permitted to enter his room except palliative caretakers. My mom went to see him once. She stood near the door and peeped inside. She told me, "It was not him, definitely not. Am sure he is safe somewhere else!". I had no plans to visit him. I wanted to treasure that three year old naughty boy, not the one whom my mother saw.
And the day arrived he became the real superhero. He left us to defeat the monster on the other side of the world. He will be healthier and safer there. Twenty one years of journey ended there. When the message reached me, I had the same old experience once again. The one I had gone through years back in my hostel.
I applied my 'Theory of Unseen' once more... Am letting it all go now.
This is memorabilia of my youngest brother who was unknown to me !
I know, this too was a tad long like my previous one. Excuse me, for I write from my heart and there is quite a lot in there! When it gets heavier I pour it over here... :)