A team of doctors at St.John's Hospital pronounced the verdict. Ram was terminally ill with Esophageal cancer. He has only a couple of months to live at the age of twenty six. He accepted the truth philosophically and resigned to his fate worthy of a Brahmin boy.
Luckily for him the monster within was not paining him too much. He discarded heavy medication. He devoted his time for reading and praying. He had no dearth of novels at home as his diseased father had bequeathed him a mini library. He decided to read as many as he could before he would bid farewell to the world.
For diversion he visited the college book stall. He soon became familiar with Tulasi, the sales girl. She was polite, gentle and good looking. She seemed hailing from a lower income group. He liked her. His liking gradually turned into loving. He did not dare tell her about his passion for her. He was afraid to disclose her anything about his ailment.
Every alternative day he visited the small shop and chatted with her for several minutes. They often shared a cup of coffee, by-two and a pack of Marie biscuit. She too liked his company and was eager to listen to his musings. Every time he bought a book. She would religiously and beautifully wrap it and give him
as if she was offering a gift.
A month passed by like a twinkle of an eye.
When Ram failed to show up for a week Tulasi got worried. She went in search of him. The nurse on duty of the ward informed her that Ram has left the hospital ten days ago. Following his snail mail she turned up at his house in an agrahara in one corner of the city. Janaki Amma, his mother, received her in his room. She asked for Ram.
After a long while Janaki told her that he died a fortnight ago. She was shocked and sat on his bed. Her quivering eyes noticed shelves filled out with books. She also saw the stack of books on the side of the table neatly wrapped. She found none of them was open. She suddenly wailed hysterically. The bewildered mother asked,
“What happened? Why are you crying?”
“Amma, why didn't Ram unwrap those book packets?”
“Why, you ask?”
“I knew he loved me dearly. I loved him twice he loved me. I could not open up in public as I was from a poor Dalit family. I kept my love letters inside the books. He never spoke of his disease. I never knew he would leave me so soon”
She wept bitterly beating on her chest.
Janaki Amma stood stunned and stony.