Neelam faces a new problem in her life…none like she ever had before. She faces it alone, depressed and angry, it is driving her to breakdown…Will Neelam survive? Will she fight?
It was just another overcast day in July. But the sky looked a little too sad that day. The clouds were mourning thunder ever since night left. After a whole morning of crackling thunder, the clouds finally let out their frustration and it started to pour. The raindrops fell in a hurry, glad, as Though to be free from the clouds. They seemed rather happy. Neelam always thought that no matter how dull and gloomy the skies looked during the rainy months, the rain always seemed happy and merry like the laughter of a child. There was nothing as peaceful as listening to raindrops for Neelam .Rain, for her symbolised happiness, freedom. She loved how the clouds let go of their sadness and emotions that they held on for so long. How they wailed their heart out day in and day out. How their tears only made new life possible. The emotions, the tears, funnily, Neelam thought ,were only too happy to be released out into the fresh air. So the rains were her favorite, without a question, the rain was always happy for her, the skies…though not so much. It was a beautiful season, how the clouds cried their hearts out to give the land new life…and how beautifully the land thanked the skies back with the kiss of a rainbow.
It could have been an ideal Saturday for her, she had her day off, it was raining beautifully, a perfect day for her favorite bread pakoras, some chutney and a steaming hot cup of tea to go with it. She made a nice cup of tea for herself in the morning and read the newspaper. She had thought that just one cup would have satisfied her, but she ended up having at least 3 more cups of tea. She went to her bedroom, the most peaceful place in the house, sat by the window, looking at the rain poring down from the skies, splattering down on the trees, dancing in the leaves, filing up little puddles, soaking the birds wet.
She looked at the colourful umbrellas that added little pops of colours to the brown-gray-green landscape. She could occasionally hear kids jumping in the puddles, their giggles and Chuckles.
So it could have been an ideal day for her, had she not been diagnosed…with Cancer. She felt sad, grumpy, frustrated and empty. She felt singled out. The soothing sound of rain no longer helped lift her spirits. She woke up everyday with nothing except sadness and dejection in her heart. She carried on with her activities half heartedly, and dragged painfully through her days. She would light a diya in front of God with nothing but sadness and grief in her heart.
The memory of the day when she first came to know about her disease was still fresh in her mind. All her happy memories felt hazy against it. “it’s the last stage…you were lucky at least you came to know…the chances are feeble…but we could try …chemotherapy four times a week…” the words kept ringing in her head. She had come home that very day sad but determined to fight it out and face it with all her guts…but those tiring chemo sessions, the nightmarish symptoms, she couldn’t handle it anymore. So Neelam sat there, sad, dejected, hoping that the rains could bring her a new lease of life too, literally. She sat there, thinking about death, about how she could not see her parents anymore if she died. Her parents, she left their home when she learnt about her disease. She moved out and got an apartment for herself. She thought, they are old enough, they need to enjoy their life, they need not worry about her , she thought that she would be strong enough to handle and face it. But It had dawned upon her that she could not handle it anymore. Just last week she had collapsed in the bathroom, barely able to move. She remembered of the time when she stood all alone in the middle of the mall, unable to think of anything , her mind going numb , completely lost, she had temporarily forgotten where she was, her mouth failing to articulate words, and her brain failing to form any thoughts.
Neelam was almost on the verge of a breakdown, the depression growing on her like moss on a rock, except it was consuming her little by little everyday, like her cancer. She shuddered at the thoughts, thinking how she had gotten through all of that till now. She made herself another cup of tea and sat by the window. She looked at the rose-bush that she had planted in a pot last year. “ its condition is as pitiful as mine,” she thought. Had she not taken good care of it all this time? But it still never bloomed, it just stood there, half dead, like a zombie. But stubborn enough not to give up and die.
There were days when it grew new leaves but they always wilted before they actually grew properly. She hardly thought it would survive as She started tending to her bush, “ Why don’t you give up ! You either die or you live. Why do you just stand there, rooted to the ground, half lifeless !” she snapped at the bush. But it just stayed there…swaying in the wind. “I mean, what is the point, in living like this ! Just wake up, grow some buds and leaves!” she said again. “but that is exactly what you have been trying to do,” she sighed. She gazed at it, her own words suddenly ringing in her head. “What is the point in living like this half dead, without any will to live,” she kept thinking about it over and over again.
Her little rose bush, though half dead wasn’t giving up…It was fighting the best it could against the circumstances…it wasn’t quitting.
She realised at that moment that the will to move on is the most important. Just like the little plant. No matter how pathetic it’s condition, it still tried to survive and grow new leaves every now and then. She thought giving up is not the solution. You need to move on…and while doing so you need to do it wholeheartedly, she told herself. There is no point in carrying on, dragging your life like a heavy load on your back, and cringing and pitying yourself. One needs to stand up and face the problem head on or else one ends up making the situation even more difficult. This she realised at that very moment. Cancer was a horrible thing she agreed, but she needed to fight on. Weren’t there people who were told that they won’t survive, but they fought it and ended up victorious. Who knew, maybe even she could win, maybe even she could survive. Neelam finished the last bit of tea and got up. Determined to fight, to survive. She would tell her parents, but at the same time assure them that she would get through this. She accepted the fact that she needed help to survive and get through this. Sometimes accepting that fact that you need help is not a bad thing. She decided that she would also make the rose bush live ! She set out then with a new hope in her heart to fix her life. She we out danced in the rain, had a plate of steaming hot pakoras, bought new gardening tools and fertilizers for her little plant.
She tended to her plant everyday from that day on. She woke up with hope, and happiness in her heart. She tried to enjoy her job more. Bought books, enjoyed her favorite movies, went for long walks, got in touch with her old friends, suddenly cancer did not seem that big of a deal now. The chemo sessions were as tiring, the symptoms still as scary and nightmarish…but her determination to fight on proved to be stronger than any of those things.
She decided to tell her parents finally. After a few weeks, she called them home for lunch. It was their first visit to her apartment and she wanted to make it special and memorable. She made their favorite dishes, they chatted the whole afternoon , had a wonderful lunch and finally had desserts. Neelam brought them presents. “I will break it to them after desserts and presents,” she thought. Her parents couldn’t be more proud of her, their faces were beaming with happiness and joy. They were proud that they raised their daughter well.
A thud, something shattered. Neelam’s parents rushed inside her bedroom. She lay there on the floor, motionless, looking almost calm, the raindrops on her face, the dull grey skies…turning pink as the earth presented them with a kiss of the rainbow…and her rose bush…in full bloom.
“We spend all our life waiting for the right moment, being sad, depressed about what we don’t have, complaining and hopelessly daydreaming about what we could have had often forgetting that we already have enough and that we don’t have enough time. We keep our problems to ourselves, refusing to share it with anyone, and are too hard on ourselves. We don’t understand that speaking out about of problems only lets us find solutions to it and lets our mind breathe. There is no point in in suffocating with your problems alone and refusing to accept help before it is too late. We forget that family is the most important thing and talking to our near and dear ones only makes our bonds stronger . Understanding them is important. My daughter’s death taught me so much. I wish I had spoken to her often. I wish I had told her that I am proud of her enough. I strongly appeal to all of you here that, be it cancer or anything else, talking out and asking For help is not a bad thing. Support from your family will only give you strength to fight, not only cancer but everything else. Don’t let cancer let you down. Let it only make you stronger. Talk about your sadness, about your depression…” said Neelam’s father, smiling surprisingly as he finished his speech for the cancer awareness society, as he thought that talking and love could be the better cure for any disease than chemo and medicines with unspeakable names. As he went back to his seat, the crowd wondered whether to applaud or keep wiping their tears.