Tuesday, October 9, 2012

A Beautiful Necklace

We were on a ferry from Gateway of India to Elephanta Caves, the sea was sounding solemn like the lines "miles to go before I sleep.....". My elder sister Swati, her husband Harish. our mom and I, all four of us were busy weaving a massive net of thoughts interlocking with each other at some place or the other, consciously avoiding to exchange glances and failing in attempt multiple times, followed by an instantly baked smile that said “darn! I just missed a knot in my net”. There was more in our collective minds than the waves of the ocean we were now part of…..hoping not to see a droplet in anyone’s eyes was the abrupt wish we were constantly making in tandem. I witnessed for the first time that an ocean could reflect so deep on our lives, until this time I always thought ocean is either about the pleasure of sailing through or the fear of drowning down, there is so much in between the two that I was unaware of– a thrilling ride of hopes, negations, affirmations, wishes, introspection and retrospection, peacemaking and prayers to call the most identified emotions.

The little-one who is the fifth count of us, exclaims oh! for how long?! and rest four of us look into each others eyes (intentionally this time) echoing her anxiety, for how long?
While we temporarily had no answer to the child as to how long it would take to finish the journey (we were contemplative of) and not the excursion we were on, a co-passenger replied 45 minutes. At 45th minute the steamer anchored at the island and the little-one hopped off the boat first to hop on the toy train.

Wish the life was this easy, smooth and sailing in harmony forever. But life, the fairer half of it, is never so. There are choppy waters, rough rides, jerky drives, mystifying deserts and wearing walks. One of these or sum of these was already running in all four minds and of many more back home. She among us and very much a part of us is diagnosed with an ailment called Cancer and we are in Mumbai to fight this off or rather to be able to find peace in it.
It’s in some stage that we don’t really care about as someone has brutally said its’ the emperor of all maladies. How I wish it could be unproven, denied and dismissed. We have an ambition of making a great holiday, a day before the treatment procedure is scheduled to start in Tata Memorial Centre which we don’t know when to expect ending. On our holiday walk together, she as usual preferred to keep the little-one in the center but we denied and kept her in the center instead, making a star formation with the 2.5-year-old angel as one arm, a very strong arm that promises to keep the star shining even when the rest three stop radiating.

Like any other beautiful day it was a bright sunny day with small cloud paying a sober visit on and off. We were clicking pictures and feeding monkeys while making a not so obvious attempt to pull the drifting center to the center. Never realized joy-making could be this challenging. As an educated reader of human emotions, I could clearly read what was going in her mind and as the sun goes over the head, merging the shadow with the sole, I thought of standing as her shadow and having that candid conversation with her. My voice echoed as her voice – not sure if this day is the last day of certain things, not sure if my eyes would respond to the rising sun, to those doorbells and phone calls, in the same awaken way, not sure if this artist would again be able to paint the picture of a woman wrapped in the colors of dawn, a content village girl working in paddy fields, a potter shaping his best creation in absolute bliss. I told her in my own voice, Your sketches and brush strokes have always spelled it bright and beautifully and suddenly today you look lost in the shades of grey, I hear you saying you don’t know how to cut this messy thought off, while you have cut them a hundred times to give that classy curve to the fabulous dresses you designed.Your finest art has been your identity and you want to give it up to a shady illness the longevity of which I want to dispute badly, I heard myself screaming.
Conflicting within and reflecting as calm as the sea around, she walked to a shop and I followed her. There were prolific displays of antique and countrified ornaments that I felt were just the right things for the moment as I knew they have been her favorite fantasies under the sun for ages, however I noticed the sun taking a directional shift, changing the color of the world its been shining upon. While the shopkeeper kept asking me if we liked their collection, I continued to count on her eyes and so wished if she picks up something and I proclaim yes! We like this. I took a necklace in hand and thought how jewelries for me have always meant her. When it comes to me making a selection, I create in my mind her first likely reaction - a charming yes, a critical no or a pesky well…lets see more.

While I was still on with my one on one with her shadow, she claims the control of the shadow back and declares “I don’t think I’d ever be seeing such pieces of beauty again because I am no more entitled for them.” It clinched all the patience out from me as I said in speechlessness “Beauty means you to me and all the jewelries I have ever been able to appreciate have deserved being so because it’s you who define their beauty” As she walked away I was left behind with the scattering beads of necklace in hand.

Series of surgeries and chemotherapy on their way were gradually dragging the beads of patience away, ruthlessly mixing the colors on her pallet splashing and making gloomy and grossing images, no matter how hard we tried to alter it for better. I had personally gone artless in correcting the sketches and undoing the cuts that time had registered in her brilliant art gallery. Sitting next to her I could see the world from her side, there were loud returning echoes of all the 'Whys' and there was a large wall replacing her favorite painting with blankness. She loves mirror but didn't allow it on the wall this time, for the fear of meeting a face she wasn’t familiar with. I saw her staring at the flashing constant question “what would I do now”.

While the therapists and counselors talked about distress-turned-stress as one of the root causes and frequented their insistence on the need of believing in life and the person’s own attempt to restore it, there was hardly much being talked convincingly about how to do that. It was the time when I discovered the need to DO it differently, instead of trying to undo or redo things. Living the ‘To whom so ever it may concern’ life in a different way by making it ‘To me it does concern’, by not trying to change the circumstances but changing the perspective, asking hard for what it takes to make it complete and completing it to make it happen, walking out from what claims to be capable of turning it around without giving you a choice. I told her never to give up and she taught me how not to, I told her what integrity is all about and we together learned how to stand for it. I was imagining what an alternatively beautiful life could be and she discovered it herself without asking for assistance. We agreed that life is too short to count on problems and long enough to clinch on a dream and wake up everyday to make it happen. A little about the ailment and more about the rare vivacity emerging from the experience and this article together - is a testimony to it. I from her eyes and she from mine started seeing the life together, closer and clearer.

After 18 months of all that takes to treat the malady, she stepped into the old world of normalcy, fully clad in her pristine self-belief with a brand new outlook that she otherwise was  totally unaware of. The new birth of hers in a jet black curly hair makes her stand out and stand tall with a beautiful smile that celebrates the discovery of a new life and her two little children with the entire family celebrate the come back of a fighter Swati. Swati means the first drop from the sky that falls on the seashell and turns into a pearl. Always wondered why they said that Cancer can make someone what all the distress of the world cannot. I have come to realize now that it sure does because it gives birth to a new mind, body and soul that makes many more lives stronger, fearless, momentous and memorable. After the years of finding the life’s answers together we still attempt to answer the challenge “what would I do now” everyday, with that unconquerable spirit born in the hospital room.

I am so proud she is my sister....my beautiful necklace.

I sign off with an appeal to do everything possible to keep the distress away from you and from those around you, at home, at work and on streets…..because most maladies caused by distress take more of it to get cured, leaving the scars nonetheless.