Friday, 19 September 2014

A Treasure Chest of Memories

Dear Friends,

It is said that there is only one ultimate truth in the world : Death.

Well, there are, then, a number of penultimate truths too. Like illness. Hardly anyone goes through life without falling ill. It is like, whoever has a body will fall ill. Mathematically, body implies illness, at time t=unknown.

Yet, we as a society, have a very queer attitude to illness. Employers think the employee is faking it to steal a few days of leave. Parents think children are faking it to escape school. Teachers think the same too. Doctors want to ensure that their patients are not faking it. Primary care-givers at home are praying that their loved ones are faking it because they want to be spared the anxiety and the work that comes with caring for the ill. Only God knows that his creations are not faking it.

That was on the lighter side. On a more serious note, most people react to illness, especially serious illness, with shock. Arrey, aapko heart atttack kaise aa gaya? Kal tak toh aap bilkul theek-thaak they! (How did you get a heart attack? You were absolutely fine till yesterday!). Or, maybe, how did you get cancer? We met only last month and you were fine. Or, how did you get depression? You have always been a very cheerful person. It is a little like asking a corpse, how did you die? You were so full of life yesterday!!

Yes, the shock is a natural human reaction. Illness and death are difficult and morbid concepts to wrap our heads around. We often hear people say, Mujhe toh marne ki bhi fursat nahin hai (I don't even have the leisure to die). We are so busy fighting for things like getting to a meeting on time that if Yamraaj himself were to come and stand before us, we would probably say, "Come back later. I have to reach office on time else my Boss will kill me". Any knowledge like that of someone's illness is like a rude shock, which brings us back to the reality about life. Its frailty and uncertainty.

So, just imagine the plight of the ill. Having to wake up everyday with their illness. Having to spend the whole day with their illness. Having to go to bed every night with their illness. Not for them cares about the next office meeting. Not for them the care about their next promotion or their child's top position in class. Not for them the woes of the whole world sitting upon their solitary pair of shoulders. Getting by morning to night and night to morning itself is a struggle.

What matters to them is every act of care or kindness that someone shows towards them. A few words on the phone. A few minutes spent laughing, looking into their eyes. A small treat, a light touch, a loving caress, a tight hug. Who knows. Everyone has their own ways of collecting such a treasure box of memories, which they open and look at when they are lying alone in bed. Maybe flowers brought them by a friend. Maybe a sibling's night spent fussing over them. Maybe a relative's hand cooked food, fed with love. Maybe a co-worker's two hours spent with them over coffee and donuts. Maybe a parent's love shared over tea and cookies. Maybe a neighbour's evening spent watching a movie together. Maybe a Boss's surprise visit with the implicit promise of help. Maybe a child's clumsily drawn card. Moments wrapped in the tissue of acceptance, kept in the chest of feel-good emotions. They give the ill the strength to get by the challenging days, the motivation to get well, and the belief that the world is a good place; a place worth hanging onto with dear life.

They don't need anyone's shock reaction. They don't need the crocodile tears. They don't need forwarded jokes and talent-show videos. They need a touch, a humane touch, a human touch. So, when you are preparing for that next big promotion or meeting tomorrow, remember tomorrow may never come. The ill are still fortunate. They know pain. They know that their time may be limited. Life has given them that chance. Not everyone is so fortunate. All it takes is just one second of inattention at the wheels by someone, or a second's delay in reaching the hospital. It may be time for someone else to ask your corpse, "What happened? You were so full of life a second back!!"