Thursday, November 10, 2011

chapter 4: The Dusk lamp- the final goodbye.

Read part 1 part 2 part 3 here

The Rishab who was once so full of life, was now lost somewhere. He hardly smiled, and looked like a pack of bones. He always had a faraway look in his eyes, and cheering him up was getting to be difficult each day. She had never seen him so depressed before. They had just come back from one of the satsangs, when Rishab asked Aaratrika to get him his files.

"Here Aaratrika, These are some documents of our house, keep them carefully. These are certificates for Fixed deposits, mutual funds and Life insurance. This is our locker document. These are my cheque books and bank account details. You are my nominee for all my accounts, so keep these papers safely."

 “Rishab, why are you telling me all this?"

 "I don’t want you to run around when I am not around, my love".

 " Stop talking like this Rishab",she cried,"you are not going away anywhere, we have a whole life ahead of us. You have to take me to Khandala  , remember? We have to raise our children, put them through college, get them married. How can you even talk of leaving me alone?''

 "I don’t want to ever leave you, but I know, my time has come." 

Aaratrika held on him in a tight embrace, like she would never let him go, and they both cried at the fate that await them.

Rishab was in bad shape and the pain was intolerable, he had to admitted again. The doctor confirmed their worst fears, when he told them,

" I am sorry to be saying this, but you have no longer than 6 weeks to live. The relapse is acute and no amount of chemotherapy will do any good. The body has also become too weak to tolerate this high amount of radiation." 

It was a heart wrenching moment when Rishab held on to Dr.Ravi`s hand and begged,

"Doctor, please do something, give me some strength and extend my life for another 6 months. I want to spend the time with my wife and family. All these years I have kept working myself without taking time out for them. I had always thought, there will time later for all this. I wanted to pay off my home loan, get a promotion, get a hike in salary, do everything but spend quality time with my family. I had the energy, but no time. Today I have neither the time nor the energy. And yet my heart craves to do all that I always wanted to do, but never did. I want to take my wife on a long holiday, I want to do some adventure sports together with her, I want to have my own children, I want to sleep on my mother’s lap and hear her sing, eat delicacies that she so fondly used to cook up for me....."he said chocking under his own tears.

Dr.Ravi was visibly moved and patted Rishab`s hand softly unable to say anything hopeful. Aaratrika was surprisingly calm, as if in a trance. She was making up her mind to give Rishab at least some happiness in his final days, so that he would not be so overburdened with guilt for a life lived less. When she went home that night, leaving Rishab in the hospital, she felt an overwhelming sense of loss, looking at her empty house, and cried till her eyes were so swollen and red, that they looked bit by a bug. 

She called her in-laws and Saurabh so that they could be near him in his last moments. They all arrived the next day, before she could leave for the hospital, and on her insistence, her mother-in-law prepared some almond kheer, some biryani and carrot halwa for Rishab. He was extremely happy to see his entire family, especially his mother.

"Rishab, beta, see what I have cooked for you, your favorite kheer, halwa and biryani. Come let me feed you some."

He tried to eat a little of everything, looking gratefully at Aaratrika. His dad read out few chapters of the Bhagwad Gita to him, while Saurabh updated him on worldly matters. They had all vowed to remain as cheerful as possible when with him, so that he did not feel additionally burdened by their grief. They stayed by his side all day long each day, taking turns to keep him cheerful, bringing him food cooked by his mother, Aaratrika wearing clothes of his choice, his father and brother spending quality time with him .The doctors time line of 6 weeks got cut short by 4 weeks, as Rishab passed away sleeping on his mother`s lap, just 2 weeks after being admitted.


This temple had brought back a lot of old memories, she remembered the dozens of times she had come here seeking divine intervention, every time Rishab had been admitted in the hospital.

'Why didn’t you ever listen to my prayers? Were my prayers not worth answering? Rishab passing away at such a young age, he was not even 30.And me being widowed at 25, how can you explain this god?'

Aaratrika sobbed softly as if it all this had happened just yesterday. But a whole lifetime had passed between that time when Rishab had left her and today when she was leading a normal life with Avinash. Life indeed goes on and tough times don't last forever. She wondered whether she should let go of those memories that continued to haunt her. But then, those times had made her stronger and more prepared to face the world. It had given her the courage to face life with a renewed determination. She was glad she had found Avinash who had been a pillar of support during her mourning. She was grateful that she could let go of Rishab and marry him.

"Aaru, why didn’t you pick up my call, I must have called you a dozen times, hey, what happened? Are you crying? Are you ok?''

 Aaratrika wiped away a tear, and looked at her husband not answering his questions. He was holding two packets of food and handed over one to her. He placed an understanding hand over her shoulder and they ate in silence.

 "Aaru, we’ll try to get back home at the earliest, we’ll go to Bandra some other day, ok?"

 " That’s fine by me ,Avinash, I am not in a mood to shop today anyway." 

They finally got a cab and went back home, she was silent for most part of their journey and Avinash presumed it had something to do with their shopping being cancelled for the day.

"Don’t be so upset, we’ll go tomorrow.” he said.

Aaratrika gave him a wry smile.


chapter 3: the dusk lamp- memoirs of the days of happiness

Read part 1 part 2 here

Dr. Ravi wanted to continue with chemotherapy and radiation as surgery was not enough and so he told Rishab he was leaving the sutures on for some more time and not removing it before discharging him. He told Saurabh,

"For the first three months, Rishab should avoid bending, twisting, or lifting. he may do general conditioning exercises, such as walking or cycling on a stationary bike, or swimming. He should limit lifting to no more than five pounds to allow time for the bones to heal." 

They went home together after what seemed like a lifetime in the hospital. The hospital bills were enormous and in the absence of a medical insurance, Saurabh had paid it off with his savings. Reality struck them when they took stock of the situation and realised that Rishab would not be able to work for quite a long time now. After a prolonged discussion they decided to sell their penthouse and buy a smaller apartment near to the hospital .It was an emotional moment when they looked at their home one the last time and thought of the wonderful moments they had shared together.

Rishab had named their home, 'The Love Nest.' It was a cozy 3 bedroom penthouse, on the top floor of an eight storied apartment. There were 10 such blocks, all blocks having penthouses on the top floor. The view of Mumbai from above was astounding, especially at night. Rishab loved spending time with Aaratrika in the beautiful terrace garden which she had converted into a mini garden plush with a lawn and several bonsais, not to forget the umpteen varieties of roses and chrysanthemums. Both of them shared a common love for greenery and Rishab admired Aaratrika for the loving tenderness with which she looked after her "children" as she called them. She had always wanted children of their own, but Rishab thought it was too early to have any.

"It’s not even a year since we got married, what’s the big hurry? Let’s enjoy our freedom, once we have children, you will devote all your time to them"  "Oh Rishab, I promise, you’ll always be the first love of my life, don’t be so selfish!" Love, let`s get settled first, I have a huge loan on this apartment, you are just 22, I am just 26,we are too young to take the responsibility of a child now. Things will happen when the time is right." 

One night Rishab was completing his project report, when he suddenly had a shooting pain in the neck and back, followed by numbness of the arms and legs. "Aaratrika", he called out in pain,

" I can’t move, come help me"

" See, this is what happens when you are working all the time. Don’t push yourself so hard, Take some rest." 

She helped him get into bed and went to fetch some spray for the pain.

"Ok, madam, point taken, let’s go out tomorrow night, we’ll spend a long weekend in Khandala. Hey, kya bolti tu..."

and broke into the song,"

....arre hey kya mei bolu..." she giggled back.

They spent the night making grand plans for their weekend getaway. Of course the plan had to be shelved the next day, as Rishab`s boss put him in charge of a prestigious project and Rishab had to brief his team that weekend, so that the project could be started "asap" as the boss had reminded.

Many such moments came, where plans made for vacations never materialized. Either Rishab`s appraisal was due, or, his promotion was due, or there was a last minute request from the client to hasten the project or the boss had made Rishab in charge of the office(in his absence!)Or his parents had come over to stay, or the endless other things that came in between. Somehow, they had to be content making plans rather than the actual enjoyment of it! It was not difficult to pacify Aaratrika, because she always understood his problems. He made it up with a trip to the shopping paradises that made her so happy in a childish way. A bag load of goodies, a hearty dinner and that was enough to soften her heart. He loved this child-like quality in her, free from all egos and so understanding.

It was Rishab`s birthday and he had just opened his eyes. The entire room was decorated with flowers, beautiful blue orchids, that he loved the most. Overhead he saw a huge balloon, and at that very moment Aaratrika burst it to send thousands of little red paper hearts showering on him.

"Aaahhhh...."he screamed."

You are such a dramatist, Rishab" ,she giggled.

 But he continued screaming, and it took a while for her to realize that he was in acute pain. She bent over to help him and he felt warm. He had some fever too.

"Let’s go to the doctor, Rishab."

No my love, I’ll be alright, just get me those painkillers, its nothing, maybe its the workload".

He looked ok after almost an hour.

"Darling, the decorations were awesome, when did you do all this?"

 "Last night after you slept, how are you feeling now?"

 "fine...hey what’s that?"  

It’s a gift for you, open it...but first come here, cut this cake"

Fresh cream pineapple, yummy, "and he cut his birthday cake.

"Happy birthday sweetheart" and she kissed him tenderly.

He opened the box to find a gold chain with a heart shaped pendant and a miniature picture taken at their wedding stuck to it.

 "It’s beautiful, thank you”, and bent over to give her a kiss.

The pain came shooting back and he couldn’t move again and was promptly sent back to rest by Aaratika. Over a period of time, the pain kept worsening on exertion, he felt weaker, and sometimes the pain would be accompanied by bouts of nausea and vomiting. Back pain was worse in the mornings. It was during one of those shopping trips that Rishab had collapsed and had to be admitted to the hospital. But when he finally saw a doctor it was too late. That was where the agony had all begun. And now as they were leaving their "love nest" it was even more painful. Memories of Aaratrika entering the house for the first time, her sweet smile and unadulterated giggles at almost everything he said, Aaratrika running down the steps at his one call, the time spent together in their garden which she had tended to with so much love and devotion, looking at her waving him goodbye in the mornings when he left to work, there was so much their home had been witness to, and now leaving it ,he could take away nothing more than beautiful memories.

The surgery, the loss of job and house, and the mental agony of it all started taking a toll on Rishab`s health and he started experiencing shooting pain within 6 weeks of the surgery. The chemotherapy, radiation and medications were of little help. It was agonising to watch him in pain everyday. With each passing day, he looked weaker, the rich ,luxurious hair was slowly giving way to a bald pate, he could not sleep and did not want to eat. Aaratrika tried her best to look cheerful and to cook something good to cater to his palate everyday. She took him to satsangs of their guruji  and that helped a great deal in overcoming the pain. This continued for two years, but the physical condition kept worsening.

Read concluding part here


Sunday, November 6, 2011

chapter 2: the dusk lamp- hit by a hurricane

Read part 1 here

Aarartika and Saurabh returned to the house leaving Rishab behind in the hospital.

"Bhaiyya can we eat outside, I don’t know if I’ll be able to cook tonight."

“Sure my dear", said Saurabh sensing her distress "what would you like to eat?" 

They walked into an eatery near her house but she hardly ate anything and waited for Saurabh to finish his meal.

 "Bhaiyya, I am so scared .Should we tell Mataji and Pitaji", she asked, referring to her in-laws.

"Not yet Aaratrika, lets wait till we get the reports, they might become anxious ,who knows whether they will have the courage to bear the news or not." 

That night, Aartarika could not get a wink of sleep.

"Bear the news? What did bhaiyya mean by that ?Did he know something that she did not?"

 She chanted the Hanuman Chalisa and asked Hanumanji for strength.

The next morning they were having tea, when they got a call from the hospital, asking them to come over and collect Rishab`s report. They rushed to the hospital without even finishing their breakfast, all the while uttering a silent prayer. When she saw Rishab at the hospital, he looked as if he had suddenly lost a lot of weight overnight.His eyes looked sunken and he looked too weak for comfort. Dr.Ravi Chatuvedi walked in ,his face not giving a clue as to what he would say next.

"Mr.Saurabh,I am sorry to say ,the tumor is malignant. Not only that, it is metastasizing. The pace at which it is growing  is faster than I expected and..."

 " Doctor, Can you please explain in common terms?" ,Aaratrika interrupted ,"I do not understand medical terminology"

 "Sure madam, let me explain. Tumors are of two types, they may be benign or malignant. Benign tumors may grow but do not spread to other parts of the body and their treatment is comparatively easier. On the other hand, Malignant tumors spread to other parts of the body. Malignant means that the affected cells in the body are cancerous. The tumors which are malignant can attack the tissues lying the surrounding region and spread in the body. When I say metastasizing, I mean that it is also spreading to various other locations. The malignant tumors grow faster than the benign tumors and cause major health concerns.” he continued, "Mr. Rishab is already in stage 3 of the disease and is rapidly moving to stage 4, as the cancer is spreading to other organs. I suggest that we have to perform a surgery. Patients with cancers that cannot be cured or completely removed by surgery, usually,  we start with a combination therapy of chemotherapy and radiation therapy." "It is also my duty to tell you that Mr.Rishab will be experiencing some side effects of the treatment, like loss of appetite, loss of sleep, pain, vomiting, hair loss....and the prognosis...that is the outcome of the treatment may also not be as desired..."

 Aaratrika looked as if she had just been hit by a hurricane. She looked at Rishab and caught the pain in his eyes. Saurabh looked too distraught to say anything except,

" saab, please do what you consider best for my brother,give him the best of treatment...please make him well again."

 The doctor nodded and left and the both of them sat next to Rishab`s bed and the three of them held hands, closed their eyes and sat silently for what seemed like eternity,  no one speaking a word. It seemed like each one of them was trying to pass their strength to the other two and also trying to take away the others grief. Their peace was disturbed by a nurse who came in to call Saurabh to the doctor’s chamber. Saurabh left the couple alone and went to see the doctor.

 "I did not ever think we were fated to be together for such a little time, my love.." 

Aaratrika put her hand on Rishab`s mouth, tears rolling down her cheeks,

"...don’t ever say such things ,Rishab ,you will be fine, I promise."

But somewhere deep down, she realized he could be right, after what the doctor had told them , she wondered if Rishab had a chance.

‘Would he survive this fight against cancer ?No, not him alone ,she would be his pillar of support, they would fight it together. And one day he would come out of all this successfully. All this would seem like a bad dream then. ‘

Saurabh walked in and announced that Dr.Ravi wanted to start the treatment right away and so Rishab could not be sent home. Then he called their parents in Rampur,

"Pitaji , pranam,....,no I am in Mumbai.....yes with Rishab and Aaratrika, ,nothing to worry,......,can you and Ma come down to Mumbai for some days?, its nothing really,....ok Pitaji, I’ll courier you your tickets tomorrow , ,don’t worry ,I’ll come and pick you up......ya they are fine., they are not here, they are out shopping,...ya sure ,I’ll ask them to call back...pranam."

"Its better to tell them when they are here" ,he said ."Rishab  ,don’t worry ,everything  will be fine"

"Bhaiyya ,thanks for being here with us."

" Don’t be silly ,Rishab, get some sleep."

Saurabh had been a great moral support to her and Rishab in those trying times. She closed her eyes, as if doing so would erase all that grief. But coming to this temple today, even if by chance, had brought all those memories back.


"Aaratrika, you are dozing off again, are you? It looks like this rain is never going to stop .I am hungry, aren’t you?"

Aaratrika looked up at Avinash and nodded," get me something to eat .I am very hungry too"

"Ok let me see what I can get. You be here and don’t move till I come."

"Ok, I’ll be here .She looked at the idol of the elephant god and exchanged some unspoken words with him.


Just like she did that day when Rishab was being wheeled into the operating theater. She stood before the black granite idol of Ganapati Bappa in the hospital lobby, and strangely felt the lord was communicating with her

Be strong my child, don’t lose hope, whatever may happen, you must go on....She came out of her trance.. whatever may happen?......why would the lord say that?

 She didn’t realize that it was almost night time when she saw Dr.Ravi emerging from the OT.

"Mr.Saurabh,the patient has tolerated the surgery well, but we have to monitor him because there is a huge possibility of wound infection or the tumor recurring or any other complications arising out of it.”

 Saurabh knew what the doctor was talking about as he had been briefed before the consent for surgery was taken. He silently prayed Rishab would not have a stroke, paralysis, or heart attack as the doctor had said that these were the risks of the surgery. Rishab was in the hospital for a week more and in the meantime his parents arrived from Rampur. There was a lot of drama and tears and Aaratrika felt more burdened than ever. In a fit of emotion, her mother-in-law began accusing her of not taking proper care of her son. Luckily , Saurabh intervened before the matter could go out of hand and spared Aaratrika further humiliation.

"Ignore it Aaratrika, Ma is shattered, as you can see, she doesn’t mean what she’s saying."

 And then, "Ma come here and sit down, let me explain Rishab`s condition to you." 

Read part 3 here

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