Whirring of Wings
by Tanuja Chatterjee
Its about two months back, when I went to visit my grandma, who was fighting her battle with the strange disease of modern life, I was overcome with unfathomable emotions. I had heard that the going was getting tougher for her, with each passing day and that withered me from within. I couldn't bear the thought that she was suffering and I strategized, not to come face to face with her, to witness her sufferings, instead wished to keep those warm and beautiful smiles in my memory for ever. Was it cowardice or the fear of losing someone I loved so dearly...I wonder! Everyday, I made an attempt to touch her heart through my earnest prayers. But, that day... something strange happened! After offering prayers I felt confident enough to face her and I made a visit.
I entered a home, whose owner was a doctor himself, who had dedicated his life and also his house to the hopeless and terminally ill patients. He lived on the topmost floor of the building and the lower three floors were turned into an abode for these special people. "What a strange concept!" I thought, as I took the stairs for the first floor. From the door I could see my grandma, vacantly staring at the ceiling as she lay in her bed. She didn't appear to be in pain. On entering the room I found myself floating amidst an ocean of terminally ill patients. "My god, so many are suffering with the same disease!" I thought. They all belonged to various age groups.
On coming closer to her bed, I preferred to stand at her feet, to be able to see her face clearly. The sight of me made her eyes twinkle and she gave a million dollar smile. Every body from the family had visited her here,except me. She asked me to come closer to her and extended her arm towards me. I quickly leaned forward to hold hers. That fragile arm clasped mine so tightly that I couldn't get away even if I wanted to. She reminisced her journey so far, her weal and woes and blessed me to become the salt of the earth. She turned into a queer fish as she talked smilingly and expressed her love for me in innumerable gestures. I was overwhelmed and my eyes moistened. She admonished me saying "Why! Do you want me to live longer like this and suffer! I've suffered enough. Now the time has come to start afresh and return anew. I've no regrets at all. I've lived the best way I could."
A sudden surge of strength possessed me and I cleared my chocked voice and wiped all moisture from the eyes and returned an electrifying smile. "That's my girl!" she said.
"Look around me and see, do they deserve to be here! I'm old and have lived my age but she..!" she pointed at the young woman sitting on the bed next to hers, "...she has two children. Her eldest daughter is five years old and the younger one not even two. Pray for her and her family... not me! Look at that gentleman!" she directed me through her eye gesture,"Hope he survives this night! With him his family will die if no one comes up with selfless help. All the family finances have been exhausted in his treatment. He is still so young with many unfulfilled dreams and desires. They are the ones who need every support from all corners....not me!" she said. "I'm happy that you came. I wished to say all this, just to you. I know you have the heart and the willingness to be the change in such lives. You've been the sunshine for me always. So, I want you to become the pillar of strength for those who are needy. Will you Babli!"she continued.
I embraced her tightly and promised that I'll be for those who are lonely and suffering. I resolved to uphold her wish, come what may.
"She looks younger today. Look, she is no more in pain" I heard others saying when they joined us. I even heard that till the day before she looked exhausted and tired of suffering for so long but I never saw any gnawing pain in her that day. It appeared quite strange but it was true! I stood witness to that mystical moment.
"Will you have some tea with me?" she asked, over looking every one present. I nodded and it pleased her. I could see all eyes turning at me with innumerable questions but I stayed tight lipped. After having tea together I asked her permission to leave and promised that I would return the next day. She bade me a lovely good bye and kept waving her hands till I disappeared out of the door. Later I learned that she had asked all to leave, as she wished to see or talk to no one but wanted to sleep.
It was five by my watch and I knew I had arrived a little after four in the evening. In an hour I seemed to have lived my past, present and future.
Next day, as I prepared to leave I got a call from my sister informing me that she breathed her last at four that evening. I rushed back to see her. Her tiny frame lay in rest with her mouth wide open. I quickly ran in to hold her in my tight embrace and quietly I whispered into her ears "I've kept my promise...see I've come! I've kept my word...see there are no tears...see I'm the only one not crying!" As I said, I could feel her spirits floating on the whirring of wings of my breath.