24th April.. A painful memory..
It is almost hard to believe that exactly a year has passed to the most traumatizing day of my life. It is just like a few months back and we all are trying to get over the shock. A year.. is unbelieving..
My dad’s job has always allowed my family to travel the country and unravel such places which a civilian might never get a chance to witness. A decade back my Dad was posted in Bhubaneswar, our hometown. Not that I was very happy, but they said it was just another 2 years.. who knew I was going to spend the rest of childhood and adolescence there. We became friends with our neighbours in the very first day. I don’t think I can reminisce much details, but I was friends with an unmarried beautiful woman in her 30’s who everyone knew as Bobby Didi. She had the most enchanting smile and with her beautiful sleek pitch black hair tumbling over those thin shoulders, she was exquisite to me. She wore adroitly stitched clothes and even mirror would mistake her to be Neetu Singh.
She lived with her brother and nephew who were about four years younger to me. Her sister-in-law died when he was only 2 years old and since then she decided to never get married. Well, I don’t know if that was what she thought and this assumption goes like this because no one knew what she ever thought. She still is a mystery to me.
She would make chocolate cakes, Manchurian, potpourri chicken recipes and each time I went to their place, she always had a candy for me. I would talk to her for hours and she would laugh at my silliest jokes, would assist me in vilifying mom when we had our fights and I never realized how solacing it felt after talking to her. She never asked me to say sorry but once I got back home, that is the first thing I did.
She never said she was busy, even though she did all the household chores, stitched clothes for customers, coped with her pampered nephew all day long and was an occasional beautician to women like my Mom. Despite all, she always had time for me. It was much later, when I entered my teens did I realize that, she always had time for everyone.
She made everyone feel so wanted and cared about that it was infact hurtful to admit at first. My mom found it amusing of how I tried my best to prove that I was more important to her than others, especially my sister. Didi is so perfect that people fall in love with her, but I wanted Bobby Didi all to myself. But anyways, I wasn’t a kid for an entire life. I soon admitted that Didi was always her best friend.. I was and will always be a little kid.. even that brings a smile across my lips now when I look up at the glass painting of a peacock she made for me on my birthday…
Nine years from then and I was sitting cross-legged on the terrace staring blankly at its rugged cemented floor. The world was spinning, the last few days were not making any sense. Just then I heard the phone ringing and on the spur of the moment was already downstairs. I looked for my Mom. Her face was red, her eyes narrow, one of her palms was clutching the cell phone and other one lay limp on her side. Our eyes met for a moment and I already knew what was coming, ‘We have to go to the hospital.’
Few months before this day and I asking mom what was wrong with bobby didi. She had been a little inactive for a while and was ill most of the time. That day as usual, I had been to her place and she was lying on the bed. She did not get up when she saw me, but smiled through the blankets and said, ‘will you get me a glass of water?’ She never asked for anything.
I expected my mom to tell me that it was a bad viral, but after a moment’s silence I had my answer- breast cancer. I was expressionless, shocked and genuinely vexed. They were telling me now!? She assured me that it was nothing to worry about. People survive through this… and that explained why her hair looked thinner than before. Chemotherapy.
Soon in a month, all her hair was gone. Her beautiful dainty strands.. were all gone and in lieu of it an ugly wig insured her scalp. I missed it so much that I remember crying when her hair regrew to form curls. Once my sister was complaining of bad hairfall when she punned ‘ your hair is useless. They are not even as pricey as mine. Huh.’ We all laughed and she laughed the hardest. I can’t say about my mom or sister, but I have never ever seen Bobby Didi shed a tear or look upset or quetch over a bad hair day. She was our sweetest buddy.
6 months later on 23rd april, I return from my friend’s place and straight into Bobby Didi’s to find the grill locked. Confounded, I come home to see my mom sitting with her head bent over the table. The house was quiet.. too quiet. Its usually just her in the house, but there is always so much of noise. And in all these years, watching my mom sit, is rare sight and something that triggers anxiety. I go and sit beside her. She lifts her head and her red swollen eyes meet mine. I panicked and asked her where Bobby Didi was. She murmured ‘hospital’. I asked if she is ok and then I feel my sister’s palm on my arm, her body weeping as she said,
Bobby Didi has lung cancer..
She had caught me off guard again. Is this a joke?.. From when do you know?
Does it mean she has 6 months to live… (I ask slowly..)
She shakes her head.. It was detected 6 months back…
And the phone rings..
24th april, 2010
As I walked across the sleek yellow tiles of Hemalata Medical care, I kept trying my best not to envisage the scene I expected to see in cabin no. 2209. I finally take the last turn and there was my sister with other people, her back pressed to the wall, hands hanging loosely on both sides and face.. showing nothing. She saw me and my mom, stood upright and ushered us into the room. And there she was.
Two days back, I was watching sasural genda phool with Bobby Didi, her body weak but the unwavering smile on her lips and now she was lying on a large single bed, tubes drawn into her body, breathing heavily as if the air was just not sufficient, in and out, in and out.. waiting for the last breath..
All her relatives were grief stricken and as shocked as I was, and yet were trying their best to resist snuffling in case she could hear. I knew she could. When I went close, and touched her cold hand I knew she saw me. She nodded. A brief one though, her senses too occupied to keep herself breathing, to keep herself alive.. as she inhaled, she pulled air from her stomach, her entire body propelling. I lifted her hands and she lightly squeezed mine and I knew I was special. I wanted to tell her that I did not want to know if she did this to everyone in the room and I did not want to care. All these years I never had a chance to tell her how much I loved her. How much she meant to me and that she would be an eternal part of my life. And I said them all.. and I knew she heard. She had to.
Two hours later, Bobby Didi breathed her last and died in my sister’s arms… And with this, another life was later burnt to ashes.. another voice was dimmed to silence, another night ended with tears and now, another year with reminiscing memories…