Smile while you say goodbye.... Though these words came quite casually from him, little did they realize these were his last words.... The very last!!!
23-May-2010, 23:50 hrs, Life care hospital, Parel, Mumbai
It was rather a tough night for her, also for almost everyone there on floor. 'Statistics say majority of casualities happen between 2 to 5 am, so stay alert', she recollected her senior doctor's elrderly advice; advise she recieved on the very first day of her internship & hurried to the hospital..
There were a hundred things running on her mind that night, though her priority was rushing to the hospital, his smiling face as he said Goodbye was occupying majority part of her head; something which she believed isn't right for her profession!
Radhika was tough, She very well knew how to priortise work, for her nothing came between her and her patients; but then it was not a regular day.
In all these years, she had cried for the first time in person and in public as well... He left her with a question & that steal-me-away-n-lets-get-lost smile of his. Cuddling the warm kashmeree blanket she had tried getting a sleep. This was not the first time she had been through a sleepless night but it was for the first time, the reason for her sleeplessness was 'Him'. His question, his smile and his Goodbye!!!
She could not believe her ears, she asked the nurse to repeat it , yet, was not ready to digest 'Berth 27 Raj Singh.' Of all the people on earth, why the plane he boarded had to crash; why he? Chill rushed in through her spine.. His smile flashed in front of her eyes, his goodbye was killing her insides... She felt cold, numb, absolutely dead!!! But she wasn't allowed to.. She had to stand. She had to get him, as well as all the injured souls back to well being. It was her job, it was her duty.
The person half dead with injuries was waiting for her on the operation table; she had no time to go around the hospital searching Raj. She was sure someone might be attending him too, but she regreted her not being there for him, she wished she could be there for him atleast today.
Healer, she called herself aptly, so did the hospital staff.. She had the god gifted ability to heal someone with just a smile, a touch or mererly by her presence, her aura! She would never though meet patient's relatives, after finishing her duty she would just rush back to her cabin, her space, her world. But today after the three hours long operation she rushed straight to find him. The receptionist was kind enough to tell her exactly where to find Raj, also his well being. He was in COMA!!!
As the white room neared her footsteps slowed, she wasn't willing to go in, but she had to. Outside she found his parents talking to her fellow collegue, she was just walking towards the end door of the coridoor which read ICU, never in her life she had hated these words so much; she wasnt really listening to the noise around, to all the chaos to all the cries and sobs... All she could see was the closed ICU door and his smiling face, why he had to say goodbye that day, couldn't he just say 'See you' like always!
She was brought back ho her senses by his parents; his mom just hugged her tight, words making way through tears, 'Where were you? We have been waiting for you, please do some magic, get him back, he isn't speaking to me...' all in a breath. Of all the people, Aunty knew, Raj would only listen to Radhika, his best friend, his confidant since childhood; But today even Radhika didn't knew how to react? How to make him talk? She had seen her aunt stand strong at the toughest time, when uncle had a sroke, when she herself was diagnosed with cancer; but today, her only son, the only reason for her smile was sleeping inside the ICU. Numb. No one knew when he would wake up....
When Radhika entered the white room full of instruments, tear rolled down her cheeks for the second time that night; she moved closer to touch him, his handsome face still had that typical 'I'm-Raj-love-me' smile. She wanted him to speak, sit back and chat with him, her medical books had told her, its useless talking to him, but she somehow knew, he is listening.....
23-May-2010, 19:45 hrs, Chatrapati Shivaji Maharaj International Airport, Mumbai
Raj was flying down to Austria. He had promised her he would never let the time, temperature & distance difference come in way of their friendship, 'I'm just a call away dear' he said smiling. Like always she joked this too away. She had never thought of life without him, after her parent's death, his parents had been her parents; and him, her best friend. Never even as a joke so as to tease her, he had mentioned leaving her side, and now he was leaving for an alltogether different country. She had already started missing him, but somehow like always she managed to camouflage emotions behind her beautiful trademark 'I-am-perfectly-fine' Smile. That moment too, she got away with her perfect smile.
All the important people in his life were at the airport to see him off, Mom, Dad and Radhika. Raj was waiting for just the right moment to tell her, how much he would miss her. He had planned this particular confrontation a million times in head, but never had the guts to speak it out before that one person with whom he had already spent a lifetime with and was looking forward to enjoy the rest of it as well. Finally he got that perfect moment of solace with her, when his Mom wanted to visit loo and his dad went along to escort her.
Radhika was busy checking her cellphone when Raj all of a sudden took hold of her arm, she just stared back at him with a question mark on face. For a moment, even Raj had no words to speak as he was busy catching the little cute details of her beautiful face for the last time before leaving. She broke the silence,
'You will miss me, right?' he was getting a bit sentimental here.
'Of course I will' she replied in her usual tone.
'I love you !' he said. This was not the first time he had said this to her, but today it sounded different. Everytime he said, he loves, it never meant this way. He sure meant he would do anything for her and she would be assured he would never leave her side. He ment he would stand by all the promises they had made. True, he loved her, like always. However, today, it sounded different, a bit intimate, a little demanding, a little romantic !!
'I love you too dear' she still hadn't read between the lines, or maybe she did but tried hiding the blush. He smiled at her as if he wanted a different answer but expected this very statement.
'I want to live all my life with you, Will you please marry me?' he had always been so precise. Radhika was startled by his sudden proposal. She always knew he would ask her out one day or the other, also she was aware of her obvious 'Yes', still she could not muster courage to confess her love back for him. Her heart said 'Yes'. Her lips craved to say 'Yes' . Inside her head she said 'Yes', but words failed to make way through her lips.
After a brief pause, she replied, 'Take care, I will miss you...'
'And....' he expectedly wished she would complete the statement with the answer he would give a lifetime to hear, instead she said, 'Goodbye !'
He was just not wanting to hear that 'Goodbye'. He was looking straight into her eyes. They shared silence, but spoke a thousand words. She read it all, but simply shyed off. She somehow knew, if not now, probably she could never say in words. He too knew her exact answer, her deep feelings for him. Still he wanted to hear it in words. She was fearing commitment, she was fearing those little gifts from life, which life had generously offered and God had often always demanded.. For her, the fear of losing him was far bigger than happiness of having him.
Ofcourse she was stupid to think so, but she did thought so; this being one and the only reason she had failed to speak her heart time again.
The kind lady on the speakerphone announced flight for Austria, only to break the silence between them, only to bring them back to reality, to airport precisely. It was time , he had to go. He just smiled back to her 'Goodbye' saying, 'Smile while you say Goodbye..' And he started walking towards the security guy looking around suspiciously.
She was almost on the verge of expressing her feelings to him. She had almost confronted, but then left the thought midway. She was sure, he would actually cancel his flight if she asked him to, and only so she let him go...
Throughout the journey back home, his smile, his last words his proposal occupied her mind. She was both smiling and crying at the same time, for the same reason. It was the first time, tears had met her eyes after her parents demise.
Radhika was very happy. She had finally managed to find love, with her best friend, also with herself. All through the night she was planning the right words in head to say. 'First thing tomorrow morning', she told herself. She had made her mind to say a ' Yes! I will marry you !' in words. She had promised herself to call him first before he calls up, only ofcourse to confront her bestfriend about her love for him. But some strange constellations out there had planned something else for them....
24-May-2010, 4:00 hrs, Life care hospital, Parel, Mumbai
Back at the hospital, it was 4 am, the next day, no signs of him waking, she desperately wanted him to wake up, she had the answer for his last question. Her sincere answer for his genuine question. She just wanted to turn time, to go back to the moment where she would immediately say yes to his proposal; to where he could hear her reciprocal then and there.
Radhika kissed his forehead softly, took his hands in hers and smiled, 'I love you dear, and I will stay all my life and even after that with you !' she said it finally, and her heart knew he heard it too.
Its been twenty years now, Radhika is still by his side. She is still waiting for him to wake up, so she would again tell him in words like everyday. She is waiting for the day when he would not just listen to her like all these years but also kiss her back saying, 'I love you too, my dear !!'