Am I beautiful?
by Chetna Sharma
Sumi, a young girl in her early twenties, was sitting on a beach watching the waves come and go. She was a short girl with round face and curly hair. A pair of spectacles covered her protruding eyes. She had a peculiar dressing sense that made her stand apart from the crowd.
“Hi, what are you thinking,” a friendly voice said from behind.
Sumi turned around and said “nothing much Rohit.”
“But it has to be something,” he said.
Such friendly arguments were common between them. They studied in one college and lived in the same building.
“Let’s go fast else we would miss the local train,” Rohit told Sumi as he quickly moved towards the station.
As the train took speed Sumi opened a book and started reading. “Close the book, you would lose eyesight as you are already wearing spectacles”, Rohit said angrily. Sumi continued as if she did not hear anything. Rohit went close to her, removed glasses and kept them in his pocket. Sumi closed the book and started looking outside the window. She was silent.
“Hey, what happened?”
“Nothing,” she replied.
“Are you angry?” Rohit asked.
“Not really, I want to look outside.”
Soon their station arrived and both got down. Their house was a ten-minute walk from the station. On reaching the building, Sumi pressed the buttons in lift; she got down on third floor and without saying bye to Rohit moved out.
“Why are you looking upset?” her mother asked Sumi at the dining table.
“Mama, its final year and next month projects would start so I am tensed up.”
“Don’t worry, you are hardworking, you would do well. Also, take help from Rohit, you both can complete work together,” her mother said.
Sumi did not reply to this. She quickly finished food and went to bed. She closed her eyes but could not sleep, “Why does Rohit worry so much about me?” thoughts crossed her mind. “There are many beautiful girls in college; he can be friendly to them.”
Since school, she and Rohit had been good friends but now Sumi was getting disturbed with this growing closeness. She knew she was not pretty in the conventional way and Rohit was smart, intelligent, anything a girl would desire in a man.
Next day was Sunday and early morning her mobile beeped, it was Rohit’s message. “I have started work on the project so you can join me.” She read and kept the phone on her table. “I would do my own project without any support,” Sumi said to herself and did not reply to the message.
Rohit found her behaviour quite strange. In the past she would promptly reply to his messages. It was not unusual for them to work together, discuss and share. He decided to see her and talk about it.
Sumi was having her breakfast when the doorbell rang. Her mother welcomed Rohit, “Would you like to have some poha?”
“No aunty, I just had breakfast”. He sat on the dining table next to Sumi. She said “Hi”, finishing poha from her plate. Rohit did not reply. “Good, you have started the project”, she said. He was silent. Sumi wiped her hands with the tissue and moved towards the study, Rohit followed her.
“Is everything all right?”
“Yes”, Sumi replied
“No, what’s the problem. This is the first time you have not replied to my message,” he said.
Sumi didn’t know what to say, she stood still. She was clear in her mind but had no words to describe her feelings. She evaded the topic and asked if he needed any help in his project work.
“I know you are trying to avoid me, can I know the reason?”
“Well, everything doesn’t need to be reasonable,” Sumi said.
He did not lose his patience and said, “Sumi, we are best friends. We share our work, concerns and if you have any problem please let me know. I have known you for almost eight years; you can’t hide truth from me.” She was unmoved, quiet. Rohit kept project details on the table and left. After Rohit left, Sumi could not control and started sobbing. It was tough for her to hurt Rohit but this was the only way to keep a distance from him. She kept sobbing the whole day, her thoughts centred only on one thing - “Am I beautiful?”
Often, life has its own ways and destiny is not in anybody’s hands. It was raining heavily in the evening, but Sumi was adamant to visit Sai temple. She took her bike and hurried. The roads were water logged; she was paddling hard to make her way.
Suddenly, a speeding truck came from behind and hit her. She fell unconscious on the road. A gentleman in his car stopped and quickly took Sumi to the nearby hospital. He also informed her parents.
Her mother rushed to the hospital. “How is my daughter?” she asked in panic to the doctor attending Sumi.
“We are trying our best. It is head injury, we can’t say anything”.
She was shaken. She immediately called Rohit and told what had happened. “Aunty, please don’t worry I am coming”, he said.
The operation took more than three hours. “We could save your daughter but….”
“But what doctor, please tell me”, her mother said.
“Sumi has lost her eyesight, she can’t see anymore.”
Her mother was shocked. It was not easy for her to register the new reality of her daughter. She was in tears. Rohit held her hand and comforted her. “We will surely find a way out. There is no problem without a solution,” he said.
Meanwhile, Sumi was shifted from operation theatre to the ward. She had no idea of what had happened; her eyes were wrapped with bandage. “Mama, I am sorry I shouldn’t have gone out in rain. I trouble you so much.” Her mother hugged and said “You would soon be fine and then we would go home.”
She was curious to know about the bandage around her eyes. “You have a slight injury near the eyes so it needs protection”, her mother said. She didn’t know how to tell Sumi that she could see no more. She was feeling utterly helpless so she came out and sat on the bench.
“Don’t worry aunty, she would be fine,” said Rohit.
“Sumi did not want to see her face as she felt she was not beautiful. She was trying to distance herself from you as she knew her physical attributes would never appeal to you,” her mother shared with Rohit. He listened to her and said, “For me she is the most beautiful person I have ever come across.”
It was getting late and this was the second night when Rohit was awake.
“You go back home, I would sleep in the hospital,” she said wiping her tears.
Rohit could not sleep the whole night - the time spent with Sumi, her talks, their fights kept flashing in his mind. “No matter what, I have to get back her eyes. I will not let her fall in darkness,” he said to himself.
Next day, he opened his laptop and started searching for a donor. It was not easy as the number of patients were much higher than the donors, but Rohit did not give up. In the afternoon he came to the hospital and spoke to the doctor if a donor could be found. The doctor assured Rohit that they have already started the search and soon Sumi would be able to see.
Destiny was on Sumi’s side. A patient with brain haemorrhage passed away. “Good luck! We have a donor,” the doctor said Sumi’s mother. Her mother was excited and tensed at the same time. She prayed for the surgery to go smooth.
After a month, Sumi’s bandage was removed. “Mama, I can see”, she said happily.
“My dear daughter you had lost your vision, Rohit made all the efforts and finally we found a donor, so you can see.”
She could not believe what her mother said. “Rohit is in the next room; you can go and meet him”.
Sumi was in tears. She went close to Rohit and said “Thank you for my eyes”!
“Now, you can look in the mirror and see how beautiful you are!”said Rohit as he embraced her. *******