A Worthy Life

Anupam Patra
blog- http://anupampatracontemplates.blogspot.in/

 Nothing changed about Vikram, during an epoch span of almost four years, who lay like a vegetable on the foldable bed in Cabin No. 11 of Sri J.J. Naidu Hospital, bound to the tubes and pipes galore. His zealous eyes, blinking in quick succession followed by an undue hiatus, suggesting a faint forgetfulness and unmatched intrigue alike, were the only moving organs of his frail form. In a stark contradistinction to his being, everything outside the window always moved and changed in a predestined fashion. In this change there was indeed the sense of freedom due to the ability, of those who moved, to do what they willed. In that way they tormented Vikram, reminding him of how indetachably he was tied to his still fate. But the brazen optimist, that Vikram was, he saw beyond the obvious and noticed how the sun always set at the same distant horizon outside his window, the myna couple alighted at the window near that bed at dawn and chirped loving confessions to each other. But they eventually flew apart in obedience to bereaving obligations, for their survival. He thought of hundreds of men and women who seemed perfectly free, but ran to their mundane servility every day and how even the seasons never changed their course, even if they were beyond the restraining mortal bounds. He had taught himself to believe that nothing in this word enjoyed absolute freedom. Every entity and being is inescapably tied to its destiny under nature's command without fail. This gave Vikram a delusional sense of relief as he considered himself similarly placed as all those perceived free creatures and therefore considered himself free & hence no less endowed than them. Despite such an insensitive interpretation of their purpose by Vikram, the seasons displayed their kindness to him, by offering themselves in a minuscule yet significant ratio to his senses, who otherwise remained deprived of similar pleasures inside the air conditioned cabin. When the rains beat against his window panes, he tricked himself into reminiscing moments from yore when he too had let hundreds of heaven's drops spray on his face. When he saw the winter forcing everyone into increased layers of clothing he too stepped up his ask for woolen stuff to keep him warm. Though the ones he requested , knew very well that it was a gimmick inside a cabin adequately warmed by the ever humming room heater, they nevertheless obliged him . And in the summers he would often pretend to be irritated at the heat, which barely presented itself inside the cool ambience of his cabin.

Over time, Vikram's condition had gotten better and then worsened back. When Vikram was rushed to Sri J.J. Naidu Hospital after his tryst with misfortune on road, he was unable to move a limb, except for his eye lids which blinked to an abstract stimulus felt only to his deepest sense which miraculously remained unhurt and uncrippled by the peripheral damage. The doctors had written him off keeping nobody on any fantasy land about his condition. But who knows the mysterious ways of life. In a span of only six months Vikram had shown a remarkable zeal to get better. His fore limbs had shown intermittent signs of sensitivity and exhibited progress in their sensory motion now and then. But still the doctors could say nothing with certainty about the likelihood of his recovering to a state as normal as before his accident. Since they were palpably aware of the equal probability of his slipping back into a condition which could be worse than the one in which he was priorly. Their fears won as Vikram's condition alarmingly deteriorated within the next couple of months. Most of his body parts stopped responding to treatment. Visitors often witnessed his relatives sobbing just outside the cabin where life played a heart shattering game of hide and seek with his frail and motionless body. Finally on the last Sunday of October, 2010, when winter was just around the corner and he was due to finish his fourth year on the same bed, doctors gave their final word concerning his survival. The prospect of being unable to take back their son home after waiting for almost four endlessly long years, shattered his parents. Their twenty two year old son was going to die and there was absolutely nothing in this whole wide world that could change this reality. They cursed their sordid fate howling and screaming in utter agony.

But Vikram had other plans. He wished to ensure that he'd live on till long, after his life was over. When opportunity presented itself, he seized it with uncanny enthusiasm. He agreed to donate his eyes post his death, at the first instance when he was offered the choice to do so. A part of the reason why he decided on doing such charity was that he was filled with a sense of a vague purpose to see all that he had missed in those four bed ridden years of his life. No one could talk him out of it. He was determined to stay alive after his heart stopped beating. And what better way of going about it than through eyes, the doors to this picturesque world. He'd often fancy about the quintessential treats for eyes, those hued phenomenons of life that he never paid attention to when he was living a regular life. He would, for hours, dwell in those colorful, scenic places that everyone said, existed outside his cabin. It wasn't like Vikram hadn't seen places with vibrant natural imagery. But he believed that his short life robbed him of so much more that he could have witnessed. In donating his vision to another, he pretended to be motivated by an outright desire of serving his own self, howsoever implausible that may have sounded, rather than any intent of being kind hearted and charitable towards the needy. But deep down he was naturally relieved and gladdened by the joy of being able to give someone his eyes back. Laying on that bed, bereft of motion for so long, he had realized the value of relishing life, in his own inability to do so. Vikram dissented when life was nicknamed a gift because nobody knows how good or bad, fortunate or unfortunate, pleasant or horrible, life would ultimately turn out to be. Vikram thought of life more as a chance. A chance at experiencing things, good & bad, loving and hateful, pleasant and horrid, sweet and bitter, comical and frustrating. Diagonally opposite experiences, all of which fill life with undiluted fragrances and make it the mysteriously complex yet worthy experience that it is. He was overwhelmed with a sense of immense pleasure when he thought of donating the source of all that experience, his eyes, to someone who so desperately needed them. Experience was all that his vigorous soul howled for within the confines of his withered mortal frame. Oblivious to the engulfing grief that his folks succumbed to, Vikram lay still, his breathing body rising and falling with a tranquility uncommon to those at the gates of death, his eye balls dancing inside his fast shut eye lids, causing a wonder among sympathizers as to the subject of his dreams.

Vikram wasn't offered a choice. They came together like a surging deluge hurled at infinity sans order or destination, like prison breakers running hither tither, never to return. He saw a string of flashes beginning with those of his memorable childhood days spent mostly in his grandfather's jestful company, his first trek with his father, his mother's embalming glance, faces of his friends who never left his side in good and bad, his beloved Labrador barking impatiently, his father's bike which he stole to give his high school sweetheart a ride, their first nervous and naive kiss on it and then it came. He suddenly felt excruciating difficulty in breathing, he could no more afford to play the hero who did not feel any pain. His eye flung wide open, filled with blood and an unusual amount of redness, and his mouth went gaping and gasping for air. His quintessential smile had deserted him. In that numbing momentary pain he saw the everlasting uncanny smile on his grandfather's face telling him "Everything will be fine, I'm here now". Then in a suddenness known to birds who rocket away at a gunshot, Vikram's life flew out of its mortal prison. There wasn't much wailing heard around the cabin, for their sources had bankrupted themselves with time.

Days later, when the frequency of consoling visitors had declined in Vikram's house, two men, who appeared like father and son came searching for somebody to it. One of them pressed the door bell. Vikram's father answered it and as he powerlessly pulled the door open, he froze upon seeing what he saw. The effect was not similar though on the other side of the door. Vikram's father suddenly appeared to well up with anger and palpable resentment. He kept pushing the man, refusing to hear him, till they reached their gates. He wanted to shout out loud, but before he could say a word, the man before him sunk to his knees and touched the former's feet. He went on and on, relentlessly offering his apologies. He begged Vikram's father for his forgiveness stating how much he hates himself for what he has done. He began weeping inconsolably. Vikram's father was indeed, for a moment swept by a feeling of kindness, but turned his back by saying "Forgiveness is not mine to give". He tried to keep upright his grieving structure as he slowly began walking back. The man behind him shouted "There's one more thing Sir, please, you've got see this...please Sir." And then it struck Vikram's father as he abruptly halted. He took ages to turn around. The man and his companion had now moved inside the gates again, and they were just behind him. Upon turning about, Vikram's father looked at the boy. Moistness welled up in the old man's his eyes. He was speechless, as there was no word in any language, that could have expressed what he felt in that moment. 'Is that.." he blurted. "Wait, this can't be...Are you serious?....Did Vikram know..?", he continued, unable to conceal his amazement. The child's father was nodding approvingly all along. "Being a father myself, I knew you would know... And Yes, Vikram knew where his gift was going" he assured calmly. The child, this time touched the feet of Vikram's father. No part of the latter's body moved. The father son duo walked out as he watched their frames dissolve in the throng.

His wife came out and asked him to join her for the evening tea. Noticing her husband looking at the blank distant, she walked up to him and slowly slid her hand upon his hung shoulder and queried softly 'What happened dear ?' Just then a flock of tired birds flew past their heads, returning to their hanging abodes & awaiting kins, and the dusk seemed not far away. Vikram's father turned to her and said "Nothing my dear" forging a smile from his heart as he battled to escape the flashes from that fateful night when the man who just left their house had rammed his car into their unsuspecting son's back thereby irretrievably crippling his spine. It all made sense to him now. Vikram didn't want the man's son, who also lost his eyes in that incident, to suffer for his father's deeds and the moment he knew he wasn't going to make it, he made sure that his eyes went to that boy. It didn't matter anymore if one casualty of that night could not be salvaged. He ensured that the other got back his precious vision and his life. Vikram may have died after living a short life, but it sure was a worthy life. Needless to say he won the deal of immortality, for he'd be eternally remembered by the boy and in the memories that he'd pass on. Remembering his wive's question Vikram's father thought to himself "How could I tell you my love, here stood the man who caused the life out of our son and with him stood the boy who looked at me with the eyes that our son gave him." and glanced at the heavens as if to say " I'm proud of you."




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