Book Review

Autobiography of a Sex Worker – A Book Review

‘Autobiography of a Sex Worker’ by Nalini Jameela translated by J. Devika is the autobiographical account of the famous sex worker in Kerala who chose to tell the world her share of hardships and incidents that led to her being a sex worker and various tales of her survival throughout the years in the sex trade. 
Nalini Jameela, who takes her name from both Hindu and Muslim traditions, worked as a child in the clay mines. She has been a wife,mother successful businesswoman and social activist-as well as a sex worker-at different stages in her life. This is Nalini Jameela’s story, told in her inimitably honest and down-to-earth style, of her search for dignity, empowerment and freedom on her own terms.

The book delves deep into the lives of sex workers, their predicaments, the people they meet it their ‘clients’, the various ‘husbands’ they share their lives with for a couple of years and the stigma of being in a profession that’s a taboo.

It takes great courage for a sex worker to come out and speak about these minute details openly and publish it in the form of a book, especially as lot of their secret ‘business’ locations, client structure, etc., has been revealed.

While reading the book, I almost felt that I am reading the life account of a refugee – so many were the places where Nalini had to go in the course of her life as a sex worker. People who offer mental and physical solace to others have no permanent place to stay and live at the mercy of local police officers and cooperators. Shyam Benegal’s ‘Mandi’ comes to mind at this point. Perhaps, the story of sex workers across the world is more or less the same.

Special thanks to translator J. Devika for bringing out the unapologetic voice of Nalini Jameela, so vividly in this version of the book (the original was written in Malayalam and sold 13000 copies). A revelation of a different sort, the book is both daring and rare in its approach – daring as it’s bringing out the real like incidents of a character who by the virtue of her erstwhile profession (she is now a social worker) is supposed to have kept a secret life; rare as the tonality of the entire book is not in any way seeking sympathy for the miserable state of sex workers. It rather looks at the world around in the eye, through its wonderfully matter-of-fact narrative and shows how life can be lived and won despite being in the sex trade.

What I liked:

Portions where she describes about the time when she brought up her daughter and chose ‘husbands’ for her sake, so that she is taken care of financially are emotionally surcharged. It is passages in a book like these that bring us to a point of unison, where all women are alike. A mother, no matter what is her profession, is a mother, end of the day. More taxing it is, when that mother is a sex worker also.

What could have been better:

Perhaps too many details have been shared about the places where she lived at various points of time. At times, it became a bit repetitive, but overall, the book is a good read.

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Book Review

A Time of Madness: A Memoir of Partition – Book Review

Book Title: A Time of Madness: A Memoir of Partition

Publication : Aleph

Author : Salman Rashid

Blurb : During the chaos of partition in 1947, something dreadful happened in the city of Jalandhar in Punjab. As a result of this, Salman Rashid’s family fled Jalandhar for Pakistan, the newly created country across the border. They were among the nearly two million people uprooted from their homes in the greatest transmigration in history. A time of madness tells the story of what he discovered with great poignancy and grace. It is a tale of unspeakable brutality but it is also a testament to the uniquely human traits of forgiveness, redemption and the resilience of the human spirit.

A well known travel writer, Salman Rashid, takes his much awaited ‘first’ trip to India, the country of his origin, in the bid to visit his ancestral home and meet people (if still alive) of whom he heard so much about, back home in Karachi. After several failed attempts at getting a Visa, when he finally got one, he finally takes off his journey with a ‘grainy photograph of a house on Railway Road in Jalandhar’. He described it thus.

“On the twentieth day of March 2008, I headed home for the first time in my life. I was fifty-six years and a month old. Walking east across the border at Wagah, I was on my way to the fulfilment of a family pietas of very long standing. I was going to a home I had never known; a home in a foreign land, a land that state propaganda wanted me to believe was enemy territory. But I knew it as a country where my ancestors had lived and died over countless generations. That was the home where the hearth kept the warmth of a fire first kindled by a matriarch many hundred years ago, nay, a few thousand years ago and which all of a sudden had been extinguished in a cataclysm in 1947.”

At 127 pages, it is a short read but one that makes you stop and process the amount of pain, grief and anger running through the lives of people across both sides of the Radcliffe line (that divides India and Pakistan). The initial chapters are about the author making way into the country of his origin and exploring villages of Solan and Ughi in Jalandhar in search if his ancestral home. Once he meets his people, some real revelations take place that would shock and surprise you. But that exactly is what partition was all about. It’s a personal journey that the author undertakes to better understand his own kith and keen and his roots.

What fascinated me was that the author being a Pakistani himself was quite critical of his own country and pointed out how Pakistan as a Nation State failed miserably post Partition. Vivid accounts of his family being murdered brutally have been narrated as the author discovers these details from the neighbors of the place which could have been his own had the ‘Great Divide’ not taken place.

Written in a fast paced style, the book at times becomes more of a political and socio-cultural commentary than a memoir.


With some chilling accounts of Partition, interesting comparisons drawn by the author between the two countries and a rather free-flow yet engaging style of writing, I would rate the book at 3.5 stars out of 5.


About the Author : Salman Rashid is Pakistan’s leading travel writer. The author of nine travel books, this is his first memoir.

Tiny Tales

Home Coming – (1 min read)

It took the egotistical Shekhar 10 days of cold interactions, distracted office meetings, dull evenings, irregular meals and lonely, frozen nights to finally send an sms that read

‘Are you OK? I AM NOT’

the message had broken the suffocating silence of 10 days but it still didn’t have the necessary ‘miss you’ or ‘ I am sorry’ in it.

Mansi read through those 6 words again and again. His heartache was screaming out those 3 words – ‘I AM NOT’ it was palpable.

The force of love had finally given way to the vast reservoir of raw emotion breaking the walls of several egos in the process.

Inside her, somewhere, a deep breath that was crushed into silence was suddenly released.

When you remove yourself from ‘home’ (seat of comfort and peace) there is not a moment of respite. The toughest way to home is through the heart, but hey! the way to the heart has to its own wayward courses, its troughs and lows, its crushes and blows. It is only through this journey that the heart learns to ‘open up’.

Perhaps, this laying bare of one’s heart (to another person) is, in a way a kind of ‘homecoming‘ too, where there are no inhibitions, no complexes, no egos, no dual selves. And once you are home, the inner battle of pretending to be someone else is over.

Mansi tapped on the reply button and began typing a long message…

Short Stories

Platform No. 7 – Short Story (Part 2)

(Continued from Part 1. Click here to read the 1st part of story.)

Bhola drank a mouthful of water and then started speaking.

‘So the chawl owner with whom we spoke the last week and finalized upon the rate, suddenly refused to give us the room. I had gone to see him again this morning and had a minor fight as well, but to no avail. He is just not relenting. Room dene ka hi nahi hai usko.’

‘Why so?’ asked Aseefa.

‘I told him that you and I are getting married and we needed the house urgently, but it seems he has got some better customer who is now ready to pay much more than us.’

‘How much more?

‘1-2 thousand more’.

‘How can he do this? I will go and ask the owner myself.’ Aseefa was seething in anger.

‘No point of doing that now. He has decided already. It’s ok Assu, we will save more money and get some other better room next time, till that time our platform number 7 is there for us.’ Bhola smiled and stroked her hair strands that were falling on her face.

They both had planned so much around for the past couple of months for their wedding and so was hounding for a room to stay, suddenly it all went into nothingness. Aseefa sat there, not knowing what better to do, silent.

She shed a few tears and looking at Bhola, said with expectant eyes. ‘I don’t want to live in this platform all my life Bholu, you said we will live in a proper room someday, get married and do our own business. I had believed you. Will that ever happen?’

‘It has to happen. It will surely happen. Have faith in me. Thumped Bhola.

It was quarter to 10 am now and they had still not had their tea together. Bhola went and quickly got the tea. The happy-go-lucky Bhola gave the tea plastic cup to her and said in his inimitable style with a broad smile on his face, ‘Sorry madam, aaj late ho gaya’ (sorry madam, I got late today).

Aseefa couldn’t help a droplet spill over from her eyes. This man gave her the most precious thing that she could have asked for – Love. She would go to any length to be with him, thought she. It was Bhola who had assured her that they wouldn’t live along the platform anymore and would live a better life, like all others. It’s one thing to dream and another to see that dream materialize. However, poverty and homelessness wasn’t something that they feared as they had each other to fall back on. Their love and faith on each other was their biggest strength.

They slowly sipped the hot tea together.

Breaking the momentary silence between them, Bhola spoke, ‘So what if we couldn’t get this room, we will save more and more money, and buy a room soon. I wish to have my own shop of perfumes one day. We will do good; I am sure we will.’ Finishing his tea, Bhola said with a renewed energy. His face blushed as he spouted those words, every vein in his body was infused with the will to see the day they so desperately envisioned together. They were not the ones to give up so soon.

As the day progressed, the two once again geared up towards their daily duties,
shedding the temporary malaise over yet another pitfall. The locals trains were wheezing past the track one after the other, indifferent to the rest of the world. Daily commuters, through hurried steps moved up and down.

Aseefa started calling out to her customers (mostly Hindus) for buying flowers from her and Bhola moved around brandishing the small Attar bottles targeting his own set of customers (mostly Muslims).

Amidst all these people who throng railway stations, bus stops, metros & airports every day, these two minuscule creatures thrusted themselves once again in the vast ocean of life. Their hope – to live a better life, their strength – Love.

Short Stories

Platform No. 7 – Short Story (Part 1)

It was the frenzied morning time for office goers of Mumbai and for daily commuters of Andheri station, there was absolutely no time to spare. Amidst those hordes of people moving up and down the railway platform at dizzying speed, Aseefa made place for herself in one corner, with just enough space to accommodate her slender self and her small flower basket.

Every day she sat there doing her daily task of weaving garlands from mogra and genda flowers. She also had Tulsi and Bilva leaves inside a separate bag, for passengers who bought them on their way back home for ‘Pooja’ purposes.

She bought these flowers early morning from a wholesaler and then sold them here.

It was a daily ritual for Aseefa to settle down at that spot outside Andheri station at around 7 in the morning and then have her morning tea together with Bhola around 7.15. Every day they had their tea together. Bhola, an orphan and a fellow platform dweller, was a hawker at the station who sold attar perfumes across the station. Unlike Aseefa, he moved up and down the platform, went inside trains and sometimes, on days when he failed to earn much, he travelled by train and sold his attar in nearby stations areas as well. At the end of the day, they would again meet at the same spot and discuss this and that overall cups of tea.

Today was no different. Aseefa after settling down on the floor was waiting for Bhola to have their morning tea together, however there was no sight of him, it was 8 o’clock and Aseefa became a little worried now.

Through her thoughts was running many threads. ‘Bhola is never this late, what might have happened to him today?’ She fretted in her mind.

‘He was supposed to meet the chawl room owner yesterday and finalize the deal, I hope nothing untoward happened between them’. Vague, disturbing thoughts breezed past her mind.

Aseefa continued doing her work of weaving garlands, small big, large as her mind wavered from one thought to another. They were together for many years now and never once did they miss their morning tea together, barring the one day when Aseefa couldn’t make it to the station as her husband had beaten her up so badly the previous night that she had fallen unconscious. Though he would abuse her quite frequently, Aseefa never had the courage to move out of his house, thinking about her survival and the future of her daughter. But that night something inside her gave her the courage to make the final move, she didn’t deter. The next day she left her alcoholic husband, took her 7 months old daughter with her and started living on the railway platform itself, where she used to sell flowers for the past few years. Since that day, that small pavement outside platform number 7 became her address. And since then, Bhola, an orphan, who used to polish shoes at the platform and has recently started his perfume selling business, are together, through thick and thin.

Their’s was a relationship that grew from being fellow hawkers at the railway platform to acquaintances to friends and finally to lovers. Either of them didn’t have any expectation from each other, yet there formed a strange bond between them that they couldn’t deny within.

Trains went by one after the other, there was no sight of Bhola today.

“Aseefa, where is Bhola today?’ asked Naseer, Bhola’s friend and a fellow hawker.

Aseefa’s face went pale. Bhola did have a second hand small mobile phone that he had managed from someone, but few days back, that phone had given up and there was no means of reaching out to him now. Already tensed, she didn’t know how to look for him now. In a worrisome, she gestured to Naseer, saying she didn’t have much idea of his whereabouts.

Suddenly, breaking the din of the passing trains, she heard her Bhola’s voice.

“Aseefaaaaa..Aseefaaaaa” came the loud shriek from behind. Aseefa turned back, her eyes finally rested upon the man she so desperately wanted to see since this morning. Bhola, her partner was walking towards her in speedy steps.

All this while, she was fearing something ominous and now, finally after hearing his voice and seeing him, there was much peace within her. Bhola came running to her.

Before he could say anything, she snapped at him, ‘where were you? Why are you this late? What all came in my mind all this while. Just because I have accepted to marry you, don’t take me for granted. Don’t you know I worry so much about you? Everyday, my heart skips a beat as I see you hovering from one train to another.’

‘Are Assu, let me breathe, only then will I be able to answer all your questions.’

Aseefa kept quiet. Even though terribly restless within, she tried to retain the anxiety within her and raised the water bottle she carried towards him, asking him to drink water.

‘Is everything fine?’ She asked.

Click here to read last and Final part of the story.

Short Stories

Broken nest – Short Story (7 mins read)

As he switched off the lights of their small bedroom, the world around Varun Pal and his wife of 3 years suddenly came to a standstill. Neither he, nor his wife Madhavi seem to have anything to give each other anymore. Theirs is a done and dusted, dead marriage now that is reeling under its own wounds. The wall clock blared birds’ chirping sound in eleven rythmic repetitions. They had received this wall clock as a wedding gift. Madhavi loved its chirping sound initially, but now it’s nothing more than an unwanted shriek, that’s sounds disgusting to her ears. Amidst the awkward silence of the house, perhaps these two birds seated on their nest, is the only sound that is heard at regular intervals.

The nest is a beautiful one, tiny, cosy, with few tigs here and there. Varun glances at the perfectly built small nest, while it’s pendulum swung from one corner to the other.

Varun and Madhavi had first met each other years back in Art College. Though his family profession was that of pottery, Varun had a special knack for the brushes and the colors. He loved to take his brush through the various contours of the human body and create those bolder lines on the canvas appear real and alive. Varun was a human portrait painter, an artist to the truest sense.

In his 3rd year in Art college, he had first met Madhavi. A dark skinned, slim figured, tall girl, Madhavi didn’t have anything overtly sensational about her, yet there was something that drew him strongly towards her from the day he set his eyes upon her. The whole day would be spent stealing glances at Madhavi at various instances and the nights would be invested in breathing life into her contours on his canvas.

6 years went by, Varun by that time had become quite an acclaimed artist in the small circle of upcoming human portrait painters in the city. Madhavi, was an art teacher in a school by then. Right from their college days, they were as their friends claimed the ‘made for each other’ couple. They perfectly complemented each other and looked just too good together.

After years of endless waiting, life seemed to be in their clasp finally. Their wedding was just a month away and both Madhavi and Varun were weaving hopes of a blissful life ahead.

Everything seemed to be picture perfect, but then that fateful evening happened. Madhavi was returning after taking her tuition classes when a group of hooligans brushed past her pulling the dupatta away from her body.

Madhavi was totally taken aback, not a girl to take anything lying down, she shrieked hoarse and made vehement protests, assembling quite a few passersby within minutes. The guys couldn’t manage to escape and got badly beaten up by an equally irate public on the street.

As Madhavi walked past them, she snatched her dupatta from the guy who had pulled it off. She noticed, his bloodshot eyes glaring at her with fire in them, they were unapologetic, furious, vengeful. Those eyes pricked something within her. Filled with abhorrence, she spat on his face, pulled the edge of the dupatta one final time that was still clutched in his fingers and rushed off.

Same day night, she was shown her place for what she did. A bottle full of acid was smashed at her.

Next day morning, almost every newspaper had her featured on its headlines, her name flashed on its reels in big, bold letters. Madhavi suddenly became a household name, someone everyone sympathised with but noone actually knew much about.

While the world came crashing on her, life was never the same for Varun too. His colleagues, old friends, almost everyone he knew asked him and enquired about Madhavi. As days passed, instead of the news getting subdued, it became even more talked about due to its continued newspaper coverage in some daily or the other.

In his mind, he felt as if the whole world was witnessing and debating the in and outs of a rather personal trauma, his very own tragedy is now out in the market, a topic open for long hours of discussion. In his mind, Madhavi was now a public topic of discussion and debates and sympathy. The simple, undiluted life of a painter who took pleasures in the little joys of life was lost forever.

After a month in the hospital, Madhavi came back home. She looked like an apparition of her former self, far beyond recognition.

She lost her beautiful round lips, her nose and partly her ears. Almost 80% of her face was burnt. Just those eyes remained. Once sensuous and fiery, those eyes looked tired and spent now.

She had refused to marry Varun after the incident, however, it was he who insisted on marrying her. Varun had said that his love for her is beyond everything else, atleast that is what he thought and believed then.

Few months into the marriage, the nights started becoming unbearable. No matter how much he tried to look at her with love, touch her with care and embrace her with affection, Varun couldn’t bring himself to loving her again, it wasn’t possible anymore.

Things changed and drastically so for both him and her. Her lips were badly burnt, the sight that ignited Varun years back, looked sickening to him now. Her nose are now just two blunt holes. Her ears, a small round of flesh put together haphazardly.

Their first night together had left a bad taste in his mouth, post which their love life turned from bad to worse. Varun lost the courage or the will to go any closer. The woman who incited the manly zest in him once, inspired some of his best creations, is today an object of aversion. The woman he wanted to possess so dearly at one time, he wishes to get rid of now with all his heart and soul

Varun is surprised to see this change in him. As an artist, he found all answers to his artistic quests in Madhavi, but today he feels empty, his paintings are no more alive, when he looks from inside his creations, they look vaccuum. Love has left him, life has left him.

Now that the lights are off, they cannot see each others faces anymore. There in that quiet night, two people, husband and wife, lying on either sides of the bed, made a secret resolve.

They know they aren’t required in each other’s lives anymore and that nothing is left of their marriage anymore. There in that quiet night, two people, now strangers, swore to themselves to break out of this meaningless, hollow societal bond that is throttling them every moment of their wakening hours. The wall clock struck 12.

Madhavi took a deep breath and glanced at the small little pendulum nest that was now swinging to and fro. A perfect nest, inside a broken one, she thought to herself.

________________________________

Short Stories

1 New Message received – 2 mins read (micro fiction)

She considered swallowing the gigantic bottle of pills all in one shot. After hours of contemplation, she could finally come to a logical conclusion, the most logical that she could think of. ‘Take them all and get the job done fast, I need to escape this pain’, she reminded herself. Perhaps, she wanted it like this. No more cacophony, no more creeps wagging their ugly tails around, no more questions, no need of anymore answers, silence and more silence. She felt something overpowering inside her sweep up her throat and as if in a massive thrust, it threw open the floodgates of tears. Warm, salty fluid touched against those cheeks and flowed downwards. She looked at the room one last time and took the bottle in her hands. Just then, she spotted a scrap of paper on her study table. Crumpled badly, it was lying amidst several other stuff, in a dump created probably after a maddening act of pouring out her purse contents onto the table, in search of something. What was it she was searching so frantically? she couldn’t remember it anymore. She kept the bottle aside and took the paper in her hands. It read: Dr. Vijay Bhaskar, M.D, Psychiatrist, counsellor and life coach.

Is giving life one last chance such a bad bet? Something spoke within her. She held the scrap in her left hand and dropped him a text message with the other. She threw the phone on the bed and stared blankly at her yellow wall. 2 minutes passed, her phone vibrated. She looked on. A green light was blinking, it read: 1 New message received

Tiny Tales

40 under 40 (1 min read)

Over glasses of wine, they discussed about ‘him’

It has come in the papers today; he has been named as one of the top 40 entrepreneurs of the country under the age of 40. As the drinks and starters made the rounds in the party that was in, the woman folk began to speak about ‘him’. So many stories of one man, how he helped someone come out of a very difficult situation, how he inspired the youth with his exemplary actions, some huffed, some puffed, the air reverberated with just one name, and why not, he was always the ‘ladies’ man’.

I listened to all of them, quietly, nonchalantly. Then, suddenly someone asked me, ‘hey, are you still in touch with him?’ the ‘still’ in the otherwise inadvertent query, touched a raw nerve somewhere, it pierced me deep. But by now, I have learnt how to put up a blunt face at the mention of his name, or should I say, I have mastered it. Without showing up any bit of emotion, I took a sip of my drink and calmly replied, ‘I used to know him once, not anymore’.

Short Stories

The Window letter – Short Story (4 mins read)

I was sitting at my study table and trying to concentrate on the most difficult and awful subject of all – Geography.

Though my face was buried inside the books, I could sense those large eyes stealing furtive glances at me. That familiar body moving around in the terrace across my open window. I raised my head to have catch a glimpse of her and after few missed glances, as our eyes met, a rush of flood streamed down my adrenaline. That one flash of a moment infused so much warmth in me. My insides were raging as I could feel the sweat in my palms in that chilly, wintry morning.

She was wearing a yellow dress and had covered her head with a brown coloured scarf, making the arrival of winter quite clear through her fully covered dress. There was something in her hands today, some sort of an envelop that she was carrying, trying hard to hide it from me. Amidst looking through my window from her terrace intermittently, she chatted away with her cousins in gay abandon. I watched her, every bit of her, mesmerised. Her eyes, that beautifully crafted brow line, her open hair, her cheeks, her moving lips as she spoke, her hands, all of it. I was drinking every bit of her visually. On hearing the heavy footsteps of my father, I quickly went back to my book. Father entered my room and after few moments of supervision, left. I kept my eyes steadily glued to the lines of the chapter that was opened in front of me, all the while.

Before I could realise anything, she threw the letter at me all of a sudden. I sensed something hitting my nose briefly before falling down at my table. One look at the terrace and she was gone. I caught a glimpse of her yellow dress vanishing in a jiffy before my eyes, as she ran inside. Her other cousins were still there in the terrace.

It was a small letter with a rose stuck to it. The entire envelop had the fragrance of the newly blossomed rose, that she might have plucked from their terrace garden.

I opened it with all my heart.

Words braced me like soft flower petals. I was drowned in them.

Many such letters were exchanged between us after that.

She always aimed the letters really well. Her letters fell right into my study table through the open window.

Dhaniya, our servant called out to me. He placed the evening tea on my table.

I came out of my reverie.

I looked across the window. An old, dilapidated house stood in front of me. The windows of the house are broken now with moss growing from every part of the shattered bit that’s left of this house. The terrace that reverberated with the gaily laughter of my girl, now stood there with bare skeletons, as if crying hoarse over the lovely days gone by.

My son came running towards my room as I took the tea cup in my hands. ‘Is this the window you wanted to show me Daddy?’ His boyish curiosity apparent in those eyes. ‘But you said, there was a wonderful view of a terrace that has a beautiful garden? This is such an ugly sight!’

I was just about to answer him, when my wife entered the room and announced that special evening snacks is being made for me as I have come to my native house after 15 years and I am expected downstairs at the dining table.

15 years. Yes, going abroad for studies and then job and family has taken away 15 years of my life, yet it all seems like just the other day. I took one more glance at that empty, before moving out.

They had left many years ago. Their house too had no one to look after it now. Where is she now? She too must be married with kids? Is she happy in her life? Well, who knows?

Nothing remained of those times anymore, nothing remained of us, except the memory of our stolen glances and those letters that she aimed at me through my open window.

Lessons from Life

Death versus ‘hope’ of life:

My dear ones, one thing that I want to say at the beginning of this article is that, you are all born champions and trust me when I say that. It is the just a matter of time, for you to truly realize that potential and get going towards it. There would be hurdles in the way for sure, but who said that life was a bed of roses?
They say that the path to heaven is through hell. There is always a light of hope at the end of the miserable tunnel. When we suffer and languish in pain, somewhere deep inside us keeps accumulating that small desire to overcome this terrible situation. It is this flicker of hope which needs to be capitalized on our lives. That ray of light in the pitch dark tunnel may have the power of turning the wheels altogether.

Let me tell you all a real life incident here.

Elizabeth (name changed) is today leading a life like any other woman. She has even married and the husband and wife together run a cafe in the US. But 10 years ago, her life was not even remotely close to what it is now. Let us lift the curtain and show you what it was.

Elizabeth in her own words says, ‘my age was around 16 or 17 at that time. I was literally flying. College, friends, all night parties, drinks, drugs, boyfriends and exotic dates with them. I had it all. Life is moving in a super fast pace, of which even I couldn’t keep a track of at times. I had a packed schedule and didn’t realize how time went by. But sometimes, I felt exhausted, there were early symptoms of anemia but I ignored them, until my mother fo9rcibly took me to a pathologist. After few days it was time to collect the report. I was reluctant to go with my mother as I friends were supposed to be waiting for me in the car.

I was getting restless there in the hospital. Are they going to wait for me this long or leave for the venue? What am I going to wear for the occasion? My mind was whizzing with all these details.
The doctor came with the report and placed it on my mother’s hands. Her face turned ashen. She looked at me gravely and passed the report. ‘Leukemia’, it read. The doctor said that the germs have spread a lot and treatment needs to start immediately. I and my mother were stricken by a thunderbolt. We sat there in his cabin, unsure of what life had in store for us.
Parties, dates, fluorescent lights of discotheques, all vanished into thin air in the flash of a moment. The doctor explained to me about the disease in detail. It was worst than hearing a death penalty in a court of law. I was admitted the following day. Life seemed meaningless.

It was as if death was always lingering behind me, like a shadow and I had to fight with every single nerve of my body that was giving up slowly. But what’s amazing is that, amidst the din of catastrophe, I could sense the subtle music of hope in the deep recesses of my mind. In those dark hours when my body was almost giving up, death was almost there staring at my face, waiting to snatch away my life; I realized the value of this life. I had misused it, taken it for granted. I had abused myself and was paying heavily for it now. There is so much more to life. I realized, I wanted to live, much more than ever again. Yes, the willingness to live was stronger than anything else at that moment.

After few weeks, the doctors said that the treatment would get even more painful as they would begin ‘bone marrow’ treatment. In the coming days, I was subjected to 6 hours of radiation which is close to the radiation of 62000 x-rays. Today, even thinking about that pain that I went through gives me shivers. It was totally unbearable. I agree, despite my fighting spirit and the immense support of my family, there were moments when I felt like dying. I couldn’t take the pain. But deep inside someone, don’t know who, kept telling me, ‘I was not born to die like this. I will live’. I was fighting death from each and every pore of my body. On one such day, when my parents came for a routine visit, my mother broke down looking at my bald head and almost skeleton frame. I had looked at her in the eye and said, ‘the day I am out, I will click a picture and trust me I am going to look fab!’ Tears rolled down heavily from her cheeks.

Every time before a new treatment, the doctors came and read out a routine declaration that said, if treatment doesn’t work, and I eventually die, the hospital is not responsible. Everytime they read it, I would close my ears with my fingers tightly and then sign on that paper without reading a single word.
After almost a year, one day the doctors said that my treatment was over and that I could go home. Though there were few restrictions, I was far better now. What’s more, I had defeated death by then. But what made me defeat it? Medicines? Naaah, I just wanted to live and was determined to fight death, no matter what. Today, after a decade, I still follow lot of restrictions post my treatment but life is beautiful 😊😊