Manu Devassia



Manu Devassia


The Bitter Sweets

The Bitter Sweets

10 mins

I was in third grade when this came up. Fights between my father and mother were more frequent than the monsoon. I heard them saying 'it's your ego' while they were at the peak of their rage. I could hardly figure out what ego really meant.

Both were IT professionals working around the clock with the dream of owning a mansion in the city of Ernakulam. The presence of us in the house was often blamed as a headache by them. I don't know in what manner we were a disturbance. I felt I was born into the family by someone’s mistake…… no idea whether it is of God or my parents. But I never bothered them, nor did my little sister Kavitha. 

Days passed and as usual, my parents were busy, and we were left alone in our own lazy, mischievous world. There came a sudden change in the daily schedule of my father; he began taking frequent leaves from his office. The focus of fights shifted from the usual ego issues to shirking duties. Unfortunately, I had to be the solitary witness to their verbal squabbles almost all the time.

"Dev, how long are you planning to hatch the eggs here? I can't manage all the expenses alone and take care of the children," my mom complained.

Unlike before, he never raised his voice, but instead, I noticed him shedding a few drops of tears, and he tried not to give us a sight of his rheumy eyes. My mom never bothered to notice them as she had a habit of staring down onto the floor when she was in altercations. Sometimes, it would take her about a week to bring her eyes back to his face.

I wondered why he wasn't going to the office, and there wasn't visibly any reason for his leave. Anyhow, I was happy that I could see him in the house, preparing our drinks and food, playing with us, and reading stories to us. Those were the best days of my childhood. But the happiness didn't last long. Everything went normal until he had bouts of vomiting and that too, blood.

"You started taking alcohol too. Why are you giving me more trouble? " Mom said sternly.

I felt there wasn't any change in her behavior. I even felt shocked seeing him become weaker day by day. She neither advised him nor insisted he visit a doctor. 

"Mom, why don't you take Papa to the hospital?" I asked her once, complainingly.

"He is mature enough to make decisions in his life, and I warn you, Julee, you aren't mature enough to command me what I should and should not do. Understand? " She sounded extremely arrogant and rude this time."

"Julee, never speak in favor of papa and enrage your mom. Mummy said it right. " Papa winked at me and patted my head as he called me to his side. I knew he was trying to justify her, but I didn't know why. The situation became worse when he fell unconscious. Mummy, out of her helplessness, dragged him into the car with the help of our security guard and took him to a hospital nearby. Something awful happened, just as I had feared. The blood test confirmed that he had blood cancer.

"This is the last stage and now the situation is out of our hands, " said the doctor helplessly.

"How did this man not become aware of it so far?" The doctors enquired.

Mom remained silent. I wanted to reveal that it was all mummy's fault. Our family doctor, Dr. Mishra, expressed some suspicion about his case. He was the head of the medical department in the hospital, so getting personal attention and treatment was just a matter of making a call. It was unusual for a person to get infected by cancerous cells within such a short span of time. Later, the matter was taken up by the police, followed by the doctor's intuition about the possibility of a virus war, which would be deadly if discovered to be true. We were kept away from all the investigations going on. However, we knew something suspicious was lingering in my daddy's case. When the assumptions were solidified, we were summoned by Dr. Mishra to his private office in Delhi Central. As I entered his office with my mom, he was negotiating with a team of medical specialists.

"It takes at least a few months for the virus to spread and infect the body, but in his case, it was a different issue altogether," he pointed out with a helpless expression on his face. The expressions of the others in the office conveyed severity and desperation.

"I suspect someone has injected cancerous cells into his body. I don't know if it was with or without his knowledge," Dr. Mishra said, confused.

"But, is there such a possibility?" My mother asked him, a little more tensed than she had been a few hours before.

" No evidence, but someone with an evil intention could have developed a technology to induce cancer," he implied.

"But who could have given him this cancer, if so? He seems to have no enemies. " Mom was not willing to accept it.

"We have been behind this suspicion for over a week, but nothing struck us in our favor." The doctor expressed his disappointment.

All the possible locations my father has visited were tracked, and finally, a medical report detailing that he had undergone surgery two months ago was discovered from a remote hospital in Delhi. The medical report proved that he had donated one of his kidneys to someone. I remembered that Dad was out of the station for a few days, but I heard it was for a business trip abroad. My mother was uninterested in knowing more about it at that moment. We had no idea who the person was, and we had never heard the name recorded in the report before.

The police investigation was taken more seriously, and they concluded that he was admitted to the hospital with a stomach ache, but something went horribly wrong there. Many startling facts were unveiled as a result of the investigations. My father was totally unaware that he had lost one of his kidneys. They replaced one of his healthy kidneys with a dysfunctional one after the operation. The doctor who performed the operation on him was eventually found guilty, but how he became a cancer victim remained a mystery.

He was a secret agent for a medical institute that donates kidneys. Thus, the police assumed that the doctor had injected cancer viruses into my father's body in order to intentionally kill him gradually, leaving no trace behind of anything. This doctor even runs a charitable institution for the poor and aged. Many deaths have been reported in one year, and investigators suspected that the majority of them were unnatural deaths. This further strengthened the assumption that he worked as a secret agent for the kidney foundation. He was soon arrested, and the investigation continued.

"By the way, had he not informed you when he was admitted to the hospital with a stomach ache?" The doctor asked doubtfully.

"Yes, doctor. But I could not visit the hospital as ....." She tried to justify it.

"Stop that... ...if you had been with him there in the hospital, it would not have happened to him."

" But sir, I thought it was a normal case and he used to drink when he hung out with his colleagues." She vindicated herself.

"Whatever his condition is, it is a case of negligence... and you are solely responsible for it." The doctor blamed her strongly.

"But why hasn't he shown any symptoms?" Mom curiously enquired with Dr. Mishra.

"Perhaps you neglected to notice. Isn't that a possibility? " In an accusatory tone, the doctor pointed out.

But, Dr. Mishra, how did he become a cancer patient? Is it possible for a cancerous virus to be transmitted from an infected agent to another person? One of his assistants raised a doubtful question.

"Mmm...we can't deny it completely. You know this.....There has been a case where a surgeon received a cut during surgery and developed cancer at the site of the cut. And so, presumably, in that way, the cancer cells found a way to implant in his skin and begin to grow."

Yes, doctor, I have heard about that case, "one of the assistants commented."

"The theory that someone could be infected with cancer is not biologically impossible, but it is unlikely. Even if he was infected by a virus, a healthy immune system can combat any foreign cells, including cancerous ones. He was perfectly all right when he met me two months ago at a function. Maybe, if you had observed carefully, or if you were a little more concerned about him, we could have done something. At least we could have given it a try," said the doctor with a helpless gesture.

"It’s all mummy’s fault," I said louder. This time I couldn't resist it coming. I had no idea whether my outburst of rage was inappropriate at that time or not.

"Why? What is the fault she is talking about? " The doctor asked abruptly.

"No doctor, she is just…." I stepped in and said it a little louder.

My mom's cold stare indicated that I should shut up. So I zipped my lips, looking down. She asked me to stay outside. I resisted leaving the office.

"You can silence her voice, but your guilt will haunt you for the rest of your life. "It's too late to do anything now, and you should blame yourself for his awful predicament now," he said a bit harshly.

She was taken aback when the doctor said this in a reprimanding tone because she had never assumed the case to be completely hopeless. My mother's worries mounted as the doctor detailed what would happen to my Dad.

“Your care is just what he requires right now... the cancer is spreading quickly... and I'm afraid to say... you won't have him for long. Make his remaining days delightful... that is what is expected of you now, "he said, gazing away.

After a few seconds of stark silence, he continued.

 "What do you think of your life if something happens to him? Haven't you witnessed your mother struggle to bring you up after your father left? " The doctor went on, feeling sorry for my father. He had a close affinity with our family as he was a good friend of our grandpa.

She spoke nothing... no further vindications or justifications... but a few drops of tears interrupted the silence. She then realized how valuable relationships are. Though late, realizations changed her mind. Her eyes were rheumy, and her face gloomy. She walked out quietly, not uttering anything else. However, that meeting with the doctor could work a miracle — not on a patient, but on my mom. I realized that she then had feelings for my Dad. I really wished my father would survive a few more years. I followed her in silence until we got into the car.

"Mommy, will Dad recover from his illness?" I asked her gently. This time, her cloudy eyes gave the reply.

"The fighting has ended." He's had enough of me. "No, I was the one who started the majority of the fights. "On the way back home, she babbled, weeping.

" Dear, our papa is ill... he requires our utmost care..." She told me while driving. I knew my dad was about to leave me. I felt like my heart was beating a little too fast. 

"Stop the car, Mom." I want to get some chocolates for Dad. He had asked me to get it for him this morning. " She didn't come out of the car, instead, asked me to buy whatever I wanted. She had changed herself completely in a single day, yet the change was futile.

I'm not sure if my father realizes the severity of the situation. Perhaps he is faking happiness. Mom was resolved to make reparations for her negligence of my Dad's condition. But it was too late to stay positive.

Upon reaching home, I eagerly opened the door and rushed to Dad's room with the chocolates I had bought for him. He was still sleeping soundly. A smile spread around the room. Mom sat next to him, softly caressing his feet and crying her heart out. I knew she was sincere when she apologized for her stubbornness. I then realized with a startle that his ears never heard her, his lips would never move, and his eyes would never again see me.

Days and years passed, never disclosing its secrets, and I had just finished tenth grade at the time. Everyone complimented me on my excellent performance in the board exam that day. Our relatives and neighbors had come to the house with sweets and gifts to congratulate me on my achievement. When everyone had gone, I sat in my room with the candies I had bought for my dad on his last day. I tasted one of them, and it tasted really bitter. But I liked the unpleasant taste of the candies since they reminded me of my dad, my sole companion. The taste of the sweets has changed over the years, yet nothing has changed my childhood memories. 



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