The Fine Line of Life

There is a victory here that I am still trying to understand
"Why do we, even in loss, try to feel stronger? Crave for a shoulder to cry upon? Brace up even when broken." [Representational Image]
"Why do we, even in loss, try to feel stronger? Crave for a shoulder to cry upon? Brace up even when broken." [Representational Image] Pixabay [Creative Commons]

Life is a fine line and so delicate. It’s a balance of opposites: life and death; rich and poor; healthy and sick; happy and sad. At any moment, the scale can tip either way, and you cross the line. But in life, crossing the line is usually temporary–we just don’t know how long the temporary will be!

A constant push-pull of ups and downs, life is the name of passing over all that comes in the way. And this is what Nidha knew precisely. She was a sparkling spirit, made to live only bravely.

Much off beam to her beliefs of life, I had thought joy itself would die when Nidha died. I was wrong. She had given so much to everyone, her family and friends. Yet her death is not the end of joy, after all. It’s somehow another beginning.........

Nidha was in her twenties when she lost her four-year struggle with leukaemia. While she left everyone with deep grief, she left all with much to celebrate, too. There is a victory here that I am still trying to understand. Why do we, even in loss, try to feel stronger? Crave for a shoulder to cry upon? Brace up even when broken.

Or attempt to see life anyway amazingly precious? Nidha’s death gave this realisation. This wasn’t easily bought or quickly accepted. In addition to leukaemia, Nidha was suffering from ‘youth’, and there were times I thought this the more serious ailment. A young girl who may not live to become a woman was suddenly in a great hurry.

She wanted instant independence and no compromises. Time was quite short for her, and she had to bear out her passion for life. It was a great challenge: Struggling with the fatal disease and, simultaneously, accomplishing the feats in a normal way.

Nidha’s leukaemia was diagnosed only two days before she was to start college. Packed, ready to go, full of plans, she suddenly had to watch all her friends leave her behind, very ill. Tripped by fate, she had fallen. But, quickly, she picked herself up and tried to rejoin the play of life.

She was determined to go to college, study hard, and find out what she wanted to do. To these goals, she simply added one more : to stay alive. She began to read and work and grow.

Without words, she as a close friend ruthlessly demanded that I too must grow. If her courage was to hold through the ordeals ahead, my own courage had to try to match it. I was caught in a painful trial. The best thing I could do was to listen.

I learned to hide my concern, my tenderness, and I observed that she got strength by my calm. There was no way to wrap her in cotton wool. To make her scared of the ultimate end.

She had to run free to be a woman. I wanted that. And if there was to be no alternative, I pledged to help her die like a strong woman eventually. I knew she wanted that kind of Death.

Her study and blood transfusions went side by side. Her life was on the line. ‘Attitude’ and ‘Desire’ were the words chalked up in her mind. These would bring her through.

“You don’t die of leukaemia, you know”, she said to me. “Something else goes. Your heart. Your kidneys. Your moaning. I am going to be ready when it comes for me. I am going to win”. She was not at all confused about the nature of her fatal enemy.

She had already spent several weeks in the Cancer Ward and had seen patients become gaunt and hairless from the effects of therapies and drugs. The disease had its remissions, of course. Hope, with the end-to-hope implied. Months later, tests showed that Nidha’s remission was at an end.

Even as I had watched her, wild cells had been springing up in her marrow like dragons’ teeth–always more than could be slain. Nidha endured and survived many crises. She learned to live on the brink of the ledge and not look down. Her usual way of living life didn’t change.

She continued reading books, which was her favourite pastime; topped in the college; attended marriages; visited shrines; and communicated with relatives and friends as normal. Nobody could believe that she was broken within, that she knew she was going…

The disease gained on her. To prevent infection, she was finally put in a windowless, isolated chamber with everything sterile. And then sudden severe haemorrhages. Six days of unconsciousness. Surely, I thought, this is the end.

I watched the doctors jabbing for veins, packing the haemorrhages, shaking her from stupor. And I thought: Enough! Let her die in peace. She has proved herself and beyond. Please let her go! Nidha finally accepted her own death.

This acceptance was her very last, most precious gift to me; it made my own acceptance possible. There was no bitterness. She said in a feeble voice, “There comes a time when you say–Well, that’s it. We gave it a hell of a try”. She mumbled quietly, in the past tense, telling me without telling me–Be Strong.

Her last day was poignant. Thinking the light coming from the windows was hurting her eyes, I started to draw the curtains. She stopped me, “No, no! I want all the sky”. She couldn’t move in her bed, but she looked at that bright ball in the blue sky with love. “The Sun”, she said. “It was so good but.…”

It grew dark. She grew tired. Then she whispered, “Do something for me? Leave a little early. Walk a few streets and look at the sky. Walk in the World for me…..”

And so I do, and so I will. Loving life that little much, a fine delicate line, Nidha gave it to me: new and strong with unshakable faith upon Almighty the Great, even as she was dying. That was her victory. That was my rebirth. 

My hopes are with the Dead;

Anon my place with them will be,

And I with them shall travel on

Through all Futurity.

Yet leaving here a name, I trust,

That will not perish in the dust.

(Robert Southey)

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are the personal opinions of the author.

The facts, analysis, assumptions and perspective appearing in the article do not reflect the views of GK

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