“I can control my destiny, but not my fate. Destiny means there are opportunities to turn right or left, but fate is a one-way street. I believe we all have the choice as to whether we fulfill our destiny”. - Paulo Coelho -
Cremation is over and all are back. House is crowded with people - relatives, friends, neighbors, colleagues. All gathered to pay homage. Grave silence is hovering and the air is all still as if numb with the unbearable pain. Deadly silence manifested the irreparable loss by the signature of death.
Srikant, lovingly called Sri left behind his wife and daughter. Padma, a home maker is hardly 35 yr old and her daughter Neetu, just attained puberty. Though his death was anticipated, the inimitable vacuum was hard to get filled-up ever. Both are lying on a cot and are inconsolable. Few relatives and friends are sitting nearby unable to pacify them.
Srikant was an accountant in a private firm. They were not very rich but happiness was always part of their small family until Srikant was diagnosed with renal cancer. One of his kidneys had to be removed immediately to stop the growth of epithelial tumors. He underwent through surgery but all in vain. His health was deteriorating and gradually his other kidney also got affected. When all the treatments failed, he succumbed to cancer. Within a span of 2 years Srikant left his family forever.
Shattered Padma and Neetu almost ceased living after his death. In their loneliness often they broke down helplessly. Many nights they couldn’t sleep. Memories both good and bad kept them awake at night. Their life became a sunless sky and they felt utter darkness all around as if lasting night without hope for a dawn.
Neetu was so close with her father hence her pain was intense. She remembered the time she and her father had spent together. He was a good chess player and he had taught her to play. Neetu had picked it up fast and used to play brilliantly. She even won a district championship trophy. Their evening walks were the most enjoyable. She loved to share almost everything with him. Be it dreams, joys, wishes, pain, doubts, fears, worries etc. With him around she didn’t face any problems because her father could solve all her problems and pull her to normalcy like a magician who seamlessly waves his magic wand and does the unbelievable within a fraction of seconds. He was always the best father and hero for her.
The reality that the kidney transplantation could have saved her father was haunting her deeply. She wished if her father was lucky enough to get a kidney donor, may be then she wouldn’t have lost him forever. This bitter truth put a great impact on her. At the tender age, she became aware of the importance of organ donation.
Destiny brilliantly plays its role whether people are aware of it or not. At times, a tragedy is a catalyst for one’s destiny. This tragedy perhaps was one such. It started seeding the very purpose of Neetu’s life even without her realizing it.
Sri’s absence was unfathomable for Padma as well. As couple they were connected deeply and their bond was beautiful and soulful. Very few have that kind of blissful marriage. He was not only a best father but a best husband too. Padma felt she was the luckiest and was very proud to be his wife. Sri enriched his family with love, joy and harmony and he did all that to make life beautiful and fulfilling. The most virtuous thing about him was, he respected woman a lot and saw them superior to men in many aspects. Unwanted ego or male chauvinism was never a part of his nature. There was not even a single incident she could recollect where Sri lost his temper and made Padma’s life difficult. That was the kind of maturity and understanding he have always maintained in this married life. For him, his family was his everything, his world.
Sri often said. “I would never let you down or leave you alone”.
That was a kind of assurance, a sense of security Sri lovingly provided his family to make them emotionally happy.
But death had torn his promise and sank his family in melancholic tides. Padma stood numb on the drifting wedge sailing away through the slice of time. Her unspoken pain travelled as voiceless whispers in the fading moments. In solitude she longed to get wiped off her tears by Sri and wished to embrace him for a lasting solace to escape her inconsolable pain.
A couple of months had passed by. All the supports which were extended from relatives and friends started to lapse one after other. She stumbled upon unbalanced ground. Future looked like an unconquerable Everest. Like a toddler Padma feared to take the very first step and stood scared in front of it. In the ghostly hours she missed Sri like never before.
“Padmaaa....” A voice called her. It was Sri’s voice and was vivid. She hastily looked around astounded.
“Sriii...... Where are you??” She asked pleadingly.
“Please talk to me. Come to me. I am so alone, I need you”. Padma was literally sobbing while searching around badly to catch a glimpse of him.
“Death is not an end rather a beginning! I am with you always. I love you Padma”.
She again heard Sri’s consoling voice. This time she got goose bumps!
Padma was sure Sri was near to her and feeling how sad, how lonely and how helpless she is.
A soft warm breeze caressed her at once exactly like Sri’s comforting hug. It was so soothing and assuring. A spark of joy filled her instantly.
Sri’s love was so powerful that even after his death he kept his promise. The very thought that Sri is with her ignited the courage to live again. All her fears vanished like mist with the soft touch of sun rays.
“I love you Sri. Let me feel your presence. Be with me and let me forget what fear is!” She said while wiping her tears.
After many months that night Padma slept peacefully. Next day she got up with a new found vigor and courage. She was all set to take charge of her life confidently. She decided to walk ahead in life with firm steps.
Sri’s untimely death helped Padma get life insurance coverage. With that fund she started a tailoring unit with half a dozen sewing machines. She hired few lady tailors. Few years she struggled and finally with sheer will power and hard work Padma was able to make a strong foundation for their life. She secured their life and provided Neetu the best of education and upbringing.
Padma’s transformation was commendable. Neetu was amazed to see the way her mother fought alone with indomitable spirit in the worst phase of her life. She literally rose from ground level and rewritten her destiny. Padma’s fighting spirit and ‘Never-Say-Die’ attitude made her the hardest nut life can never break easily. For Neetu, her mother was her role model and the ultimate source of inspiration and strength. She learnt from her mother the importance of having a goal in life. She saw how a goal can transform a person and motivate one to chase a dream to make it success. Goal is the fuel of life, she understood.
Early exposure to the ruggedness of life made Neetu more sensitive. She developed deeper and broader vision towards life. She grew compassionate and valued humanity a lot. Luxuries never attracted her. Her dreams and priorities were different from normal girls of her age. Getting married and having a family was never in her dream. She wanted to contribute something significant for the society. Only a social activist can do that better, Padma adviced.
This refined Neetu’s ultimate dream. She wished to run a NGO successfully!
As Paulo Coelho said – “When you desire something intensely the whole universe conspires in helping you to achieve it”. For Padma and Neetu it proved right.
Neetu while pursuing studies, found few friends who were interested in social service activities. Together they conducted few blood donation camps efficiently. Destiny was actually leading her towards her dream.
Neetu and her friends decided to pursue with their passion religiously after their completion of graduation. Soon after, a team of eight highly dedicated people formed. Initially they concentrated on blood donation camps and arranged rare blood groups for needy patients. Luckily their works were getting noticed and more people showcased interest to join their team. Slowly they incorporated seminars and workshops to give awareness for ‘Organ Donation’ and its importance. They campaigned at schools, colleges, corporate offices and even went to small villages and spread messages widely and wisely.
Their effective counseling and sincere service attracted much appreciation from people and hospitals. It helped them gain good will fast. Donations from people and organizations poured in and they formed funds for poor patients. During the period they gathered the confidence and ‘Know How’ to run a NGO. With huge enthusiasm they started ‘Sanjeevani’ keeping ‘Organ Donations’ in focus.
20 years had passed, and Sanjeevani turned out to be one of the best NGO in India. The regular aids from India and foreign countries through funds and donors helped them to expand Sanjeevani to almost all states in India. Neetu was the brain and spine of Sanjeevani and she is now heading as Country Director. She travelled extensively all over India and abroad as part of the mission and was highly dedicated towards the cause.
Over the years Padma too expanded her tailouring business and made readymade garment brand ‘Shakti’ and now she was having the work-force of nearly 1000 women employees. She recognized the inbuilt power of a woman and their capability to fight the adversities. She provided proper focus and guidance to helpless women. She inspired many and made them financially independent. She observed a steady income give confidence and courage to a woman. In the society a woman gets dignity along with it.
‘Woman is Shakti. Be Independent’ was Padma’s matra. It was the inspirational message for all women as she had set her own example as an exemplary of her belief through her own life.
Neetu was on a Singapore trip when she got an emergency call from Elena, her close friend and associate in Sanjeevani.
“Hello Neetu, Sorry a bad news! You need to come back with the earliest flight.” Elena said.
“What happened?” Neetu asked in a serious tone.
“Padmaji is hospitalised” Elena said.
“What??!! Mummy is hospitalized??!! When? Why?” Neetu’s voice turned stressed suddenly.
“Neetu, don’t panic, be calm”. In the morning, when the maid went to give Padmaji her bed tea, she found her lying unconscious. She called me immediately and I rushed her to the hospital. Your mom is in safe hands and doctors are attending to her. I am with her so don’t worry. You come here soon. Be brave and have hope. Everything will be alright. Take care”. Elena said and disconnected the call.
Neetu sat there for a while completely stunned. Last night she spoke to her mother and she was perfectly fine and sounding energetic as ever. She even cracked some humour as she was so good in that. What went wrong suddenly? Neetu couldn’t guess the reason at all. Other than age related issues like BP and Cholesterol nothing was there and mom was very particular about her health care.
Without wasting time she booked the earliest flight to India and cancelled all the appointments and headed to airport. All the way she was so restless and tensed.
Neetu reached hospital same evening. It was painful to see her mother in the ICU with Oxygen masks surrounded by monitoring equipments. She was always healthy and enthusiastic throughout her life. Elena made Neetu comfortable by giving assurance that her mother would be fine soon.
By then all test reports confirmed Padma is down with brain fever. Next one week was stressful. Couple of severe seizures made her condition even worse. After one week of near to death struggle, Padma succumbed to brain dead, doctor declared.
“Noooo”!!!..... “This is not true, it can’t be!! Neetu was in hysterics.
“Mummy is a fighter! She won’t lose. She never fails!” Neetu repeated and assured the doctors.
“Doctor, please check her once more. She is not brain dead. l am sure”. Neetu pleaded.
“Sorry Neetu, we tried our best and cross checked before confirming. Padma won’t be back to life. Be brave and face the truth”. Dr. John said in a helpless tone.
Time to time life shake us briskly and imbalance us even when we are hanging on only by a thread. Perhaps it is a peculiar way of testing and confirming how brave or fragile we are!
It was such a tough moment for Neetu. On one side her mother was brain dead and on the other side she needed to take an important decision of her life. It was emotionally taxing because it was related to her mother.
The mission for which Neetu dedicated her entire life was challenging her at that moment through her mother. Whatever she had propagated for the last 2 decades is silently asking proof of her integrity. Whatever decision she takes, would be impactful and reflective. It would enforce things in a larger way to the world. So her decision can’t afford to be wrong in any manner.
Even in tremendous stress, one thing was baffling Neetu,” Why did mummy accepted defeat? “.The word ‘Defeat’ did not even existed in her dictionary. She lived like a warrior and never tasted failure. Midst of these perplexing thoughts, something clicked deeply and suddenly and solved the puzzle automatically.
Yes!! Mummy never failed. In fact she surrendered first time for a bigger win. Everything was getting crystal clear to Neetu.
Padma wanted to prove a lot things through Neetu. The power of the mission, the nobility of the cause, the courage of a daughter, the strength of a woman, the dedication of a true social activist! Apart, there is a hidden message Padma wanted to convey loudly to the world. Death is not an end rather a beginning!
It is the most philosophical, healing and motivating words of her late father given to her mother. It was the spark that helped her raise from a mere home maker to a ‘Women of Substance’. Now her mother is guiding Neetu exactly like her father helped her mother at the crucial hour.
Neetu felt a chill in the spine. She knew her mother would be sad to see a weak daughter getting indecisive to take the right decision at the right time. At last she made up her mind.
Padma’s operation is going on. Neetu was waiting outside OT with heavy heart. Elena was with her providing all moral and emotional support. Even after the best of try Neetu couldn’t keep her emotions wrapped, she was getting more and more restive.
‘Smudging of the last moments hanging at the edge, strings of ephemeral belongings waiting to be free from shallow breaths to thwart and to fade upon the reckless sword of time’…Neetu was all shattered.
After sometime her beloved mother would be no more. The most precious part, the strong hold of her life would be reduced to just a beautiful memory. The thought that she would be left alone in this big world having none to cry on the shoulder for a consoling embrace and pat when she needs the most broke her fully.
Operation over and Dr John came out.
“Padma’s healthy organs were removed successfully. Soon few would be getting new lease of life. You can see your mother before the body will be wheeled out to the medical college as you had wished” Dr. John conveyed news to a visibly exhausted Neetu.
After a meaningful pause, he continued looking at her.
“Neetu you are not only a beautiful soul but a brave daughter too. Lucky are your parents. God bless”. Doctor patted on her shoulder while saying and walked away.
Neetu stood for a while. Her limps were heavy and denied to move. After a while she regained some courage to see the last glimpse of her dear mother.
Padma was lying on a stretcher, looking calm and serene. Contentment reflected on her wrinkled face. Her span of life had successfully completed confirming the noble purpose. Neetu kissed her mother for the last time. A few tears dripped down! Lasting pain condensed and formed perfectly like pearls on Padma’s forehead. It glistened like a memoir of an eternal loss of a daughter.
Neetu entered the house where her mother would never ever enter. She felt so empty so lost. She went straight to her mother’s room. Everything is placed neatly. Her mother was so particular and disciplined about many such things. On the side table there is a night lamp, a Bhagwat Gita, her specs, her father’s photo, a jug of water. Her bed was crease free as always.
Neetu missed her mom’s presence, her smiles, her giggles, her scold, her smell, her love, her hugs, her caresses, her kisses, her food almost everything about her. The fact that she is going to miss all that for the entire life was piercingly painful.
Mentally and physically tired Neetu lied down on her bed. She hugged her mother’s pillow to feel her so close. In the solitude she cried like a kid first time. In the frigid silence night looked darkened. She lies down and found herself so alone. She plainly wished whatever happened was just a nightmare and closed her eyes.
“Neetuuu”.. A sweet voice called her.
Padma is sitting beside her, smiling at her! Neetu stared unblinking. She couldn’t utter a word in disbelief. Before she could say anything..
“My baby, I am so proud of you. You made me happy. I knew you would keep me alive to see your greatness. I Love you so much my child”. Padma kissed her and vanished slowly”...
Mummyyyyyy......Neetu shouted and opened her eyes with a jerk.
It was 3 am in the morning!