FLORAL HOMAGE TO A LOVING WIFE
The havoc, cancer has caused to a well-knit family
1990 June - time, around 8 in the night - a distress voice from the kitchen! My three daughters and I rushed in. My wife Leela, fumbled and fainted in my hands. My daughters started crying. I was in real quandary! On one side I have to console my daughters and on the other I had to nurse her to consciousness! I poured cold water all over her and in a few minutes' time she was back to recovery. That was the beginning of a two year-old ordeal for a family that was earlier too limping ,solving issues after issues.
She was managing a five-member strength family all alone doing cleaning, cooking and washing besides helping children in their studies being a trained graduate teacher who served different schools of repute in Northern India and Chennai. When she first conceived we decided that she resign and look after home as that was our priority. She did accordingly. So when she fainted I thought she was stressed too much and the burden of managing a home alone, could have caused it.
The next morning I took her to a hospital nearby and like any commercial hospital they wanted to observe her condition for three days. She was diagnosed of slight blood pressure after three days of close observation and was discharged on my paying a hefty bill. It made a dent on my purse. I did not need their luxurious comfort. Further I was staying only two minutes drive, away from the Five Star Care Home - you call it Hospital. O K, she was all right now and we were happy!
Managing a small industry alone and with all the trials and tribulations attached to it, I get tired after hours of slogging and when I reach Home, I go to bed as early as possible. On one night I woke up around midnight and I found my wife reclining on a chair, gasping for breath. She assured me with a smile that there was nothing wrong with her and she would soon go back to bed once she felt sleepy. I was not convinced but with certain feelings of guilt, which now I experience, I say, I retired. I started observing her during nights and found that there was something wrong with her, which she did not want to share with us. On my persistence she agreed for consultations in the same hospital and the Doctor there asked her to stay there for a few days for further observation. When she was discharged the hospital advised her to go in for treatment for back-ache, which this time they found out after a few thousands of hard cash that went into the drain.
Without returning we went to the other Doctor - I should admit he was very courteous - and he fixed an inconvenient time for me in the morning for a treatment lasting over a fortnight. The treatment went on very well and we were assured that she was fit like a fiddle. The drain flooded but my tap became near-empty.
Look at our background! In my business due to low investment built up out of my humble savings I was the peon as well as the boss and around me I had only well-paid but irresponsible helpers. At home my wife was the servant maid, the mother, the wife and the teacher, all rolled into one. Both at home and business fronts we felt the pinch dearly and every thing was shaking under us. All my three children, deeply attached to the Mother - like any girl children - were constantly in tears at their mother's ill health and was praying to spare her life for them. They needed her.
When thing were returning to a shade of normalcy, Leela again showed symptoms of ill health as well as pain all over, particularly at the chest region. Once again the house was in sadness and concern. In the meantime an additional responsibility of preparing the children to go to the College fell on me although the Children were themselves attending to cooking and things like that. At that time we never had many gadgets and we had to toil hard to cook basic things. I could observe the pain Leela was undergoing by just looking at her face. On one day at midnight seeing me coming out of the bathroom with a basin full of washed clothes, she broke down. I consoled her and said we did better and learned more by confronting a hostile life.
When the chest pain aggravated I took her again to the same Hospital. Breathing had by then become very difficult for her. She was admitted for a third time and on going through all the costly tests making use of all available gadgets in the hospital, she was found carrying enormous quantity of fluid in her lungs. The Doctors wondered how she could hide so much pain all those days. Leela was hiding the pain deliberately as she feared it would cause concern in us. She was taken to an emergency room and the fluid was drained out piercing her back with a syringe. She felt a little ease and after a day or two we returned home and thought the crisis was over.
Within a fortnight she was back to the same problem; another visit to the hospital; no tests this time, but the same treatment of draining out the accumulated fluids. We returned; but the problem was recurring and when this continued twice or thrice the Doctor suspected of Cancer in her. He advised us that she had to undergo a mini surgery for certain tests. I asked him to tell me what exactly the disease she was suspected of, but he remained silent. I asked all the nurses around me and they too would not reveal it. When she was taken to the Operation Theatre she looked diffident and till at the entrance of the room she was looking at me while I was walking by her side and she was firmly holding my hand. All my children were around me and I consoled them that she was taken for some minor tests to be conducted on her and they did not need to worry.
She was like any mother; a very loving and doting one and she lived for them sacrificing all her comforts. From the College the children will return straight to her and flock around her. I have seldom come across such a mother-daughters relationship although she used to scold them for even minor disobedience. But they were protected within her wings and to all their fair demands she yielded. I used to scold Leela in my own way and advised her against too much pampering which they might not experience normally in their married life.
Since my experience in the hospital field was limited I was waiting for her return, back to the room as it was only a minor surgery. None informed us otherwise! An hour or so we waited in all anxiety and when I enquired about her I was told that she could be seen in the post surgery ward. So I with my children rushed to the Ward and there I could see her sitting, reclining on a raised pillow. All of us went to her and she looked quite normal. But she had difficulty in speaking to us. We didn't want to disturb her and decided to return to the room. While taking a few steps back my second daughter Asha was showing uneasiness and was about to faint. I held her in my arms and called for medical help, which fortunately was available there itself. She was put on fluids and was lying on another bed just a few yards behind her mother. But the mother was innocently looking at the opposite direction unaware of what was happening behind her.
That moment I should say was the most painful, suspenseful and agonizing experience I ever had in my life. On one side a caring and loving mother in her sick bed just after surgery and on the other side her most affectionate daughter in another bed under treatment. I prayed that Leela should not look back to see all of us there and get alarmed of what was going on there. I was in deep suspense every second. Had she seen her daughter under treatment she would have rushed to be by her side. One will only understand if one imagines being in that position. I was shattered; so were my two other daughters.
The next day the Physician left a message that I should call on him at his room. I was in deep suspense. I went to him blocking all my natural emotions. The test results had by then reached him. He was in the midst of a group of people. When I asked the reason, he without any emotion – Doctors carry with them only profession-formed, frozen emotions – told me that my wife was suffering from Cancer. I stood motionless and broke down right there. My whole world was reeling around me. I just asked whether he could cure her of the disease. He said he would try – the formatted reply.
I did not talk about the diagnosis to my children. They were hoping for the better. But one day, my first daughter Anu, smelled a fish after reading the medical reports on the table that Leela was suffering from Cancer. Somehow or other I managed the situation and I told her that it was only suspected. But how long one can hide the devil in the pocket?
That night without a wink of sleep I was sitting beside my wife in the hospital bed. Looking at me and observing the pain reflected in my face she asked me what the Doctor had said in his room. I hid my emotions and said that there were only some minor problems with her. She was not convinced. 'Cancer', she asked. I just looked down and she understood. She said, 'Don't worry, we have to face life as it comes. I am the least worried. But I have my concerns over all of you". She was exceptionally bold throughout till her end and nearby I stood in awe worshipping her courage!
In the meantime my daughters got a scent about the impending disaster and they cried and prayed that they needed her and she be spared. They started collecting all the names of Evangelists and started writing to each one of them seeking their prayers for her cure. They all assured them that nothing would happen to her as their prayers will stand by her and Jesus Christ would heal her.
So there were a spate of dreams occurring to all of us in our disturbed sleep and we used to share our dreams with her to comfort her and assure her of positive recovery. One night I saw in my dream of a heavenly body pouring a few drops in a pond and my wife getting absolutely cured and looking heavenly beautiful. The next morning I told her of my dream and she in turn passed it over to our daughters. She really believed that something positive would happen to her.
In the meantime she was referred to Adyar Cancer Hospital and the Doctor, a graceful lady told me that only a miracle could save her and miracles seldom happened'. Our hospital now had changed their attitude over us although we were promptly paying the bills without fail. The Doctor would never stop to talk to me and I had to run after him room by room to get some response. I told him to do whatever he wanted to save her and once to a query about the expense involved I said " I will sell even my last shirt to save her'. This term was not of my making, but I just copied what once my father said to a Doctor when my sister was seriously ill. What do we live for? We live for what God had entrusted with us to love and be loved, to care and be cared of, in our life!
We were advised to take her to Tamilnadu Hospital where a cancer specialist was available. It was far away in the suburb. She was admitted there and treatment for Ovarian Cancer started there. There the Doctors were very friendly, humble and helpful which I never had experienced before. They were very sincere and really wanted to help.
They said a surgery would help and I nodded for it. Now with my experience I gained during that period I would never recommend spending for a surgery when the Cancer was in its secondary stage. No hospital or Doctor would ever give a guarantee of cure. Leela told me that she would not have any problem undergoing a second surgery, but told me firmly that it would be a sheer waste. To me and our children her life was the most coveted and precious one which we were not prepared to surrender and money did not play any part in it. It was secondary. The operation was initially fixed for a day and I never knew that it was to take place on our marriage anniversary day. She reminded me of this and I made a call to the Doctor and got it postponed to another date. She was again admitted for surgery in the Hospital. A day prior to that my sister-in-law who had come to be of help to her during the operation got a telegram that Leela's another sister who had just returned from Nigeria expired of heart attack. She said she had to go home on some excuses and she went. Leela was puzzled at her sudden departure, but fortunately did not put questions over it. We wanted the surgery to go on smoothly and we did not inform her of the death of her sister.
The surgery took place as planned earlier. She was discharged and advised Chemotherapy during specific days for which we had to report to the Hospital without fail. This continued for a long time.
Leela was so pretty with a Kashmiri complexion and a lush growth of hair. After the Chemotherapy her face started turning dark and all her hair had dropped. While returning from Chemotherapy she used to vomit and it was a painful sight to see her agony. Still she had kept a smiling face; only we had the worried look!
In the meantime my third daughter Anju came to me with some good news. A healing assembly was on card in Marina Beach where a crowd puller Evangelist would heal all the diseases under the sun on all those who attended the meeting. My children were in desperation. I too was; but I was not convinced. I asked why we should go to Marina with a sick person when he himself can do the healing job praying at his tower-home. My children, fortunately was not that spoon-fed on false faith and they remained silent.
But it caused me enormous guilt of failing in my duty when a few days later, Anju told me that her friend's relation who was on the road sitting in his Car heard the Evangelist calling him by his name and assuring him that he was cured of his Cancer as Jesus Christ did the healing job on him at his request. (Jesus Christ did the job at the Evangelist's command and went back to him waiting to attend to obey his other commands!) In any case he was cured; that was what I was told! While all the time I was grieving on this, a month later Anju came and told me that the cured person was no more and he died of the same disease he was suffering from. Later she came to know that the dead person was related to the Evangelist. In the deal the Evangelist made a few millions and his bank account bloated a little more.
Things started happening in bad shape. Pain started aggravating. She was suffering, we knew. But she never exposed it to us. Determinedly she was hiding her suffering from us. She reached a stage where there could not be any cure and her days were determined. So the Tamilnadu Hospital became distant to us and she was confined to her bed forever. Children used to surround her on their return from classes and they even conducted their studies too sitting by her side. Such a loving relationship; such a binding bond!
Devils show up their faces from different corners when one is in peril. On one night I saw a Doordarshan T V programme of a lady - a News Reader there - testifying that she was a victim to Cancer and the Doctor who was shown along with her - A Sidha Doctor - cured her of Cancer lock, stock and barrel. She presented medical records on the screen - you know that, be Evangelists or native medical practitioners, they never show the hospital name and the Doctors' name and address. She confirmed that the Doctors were wonder-struck on her recovery. Again my lost hope surfaced - the drowning man catching the straw! I came to know that she was the wife of the Medical Director of the State. I frantically contacted him and got the address of the Sidha Doctor with his home in Thiruvallur. Early morning I set out to my target and straight reached his home. There one of his wives told me that the Doctor could be seen only in his clinic and I walked that distance to land there. I went fully prepared with all relevant medical reports and joined the sit-in queue in a majestic commercial complex owned by him. A hour or so later I was called in and the first thing I did was to place the medical records on his table. He just pushed it aside and asked me only one question; how old she was. When I asked him whether he could cure her, his reply was a dry counter-question " What am I sitting here for"?. He then handed over to me 15 days medication - a few black pills that looked like mini goat-droppings. Along with me were an eminent teacher and an ex. Secretary to the Tamilnadu Legislative Assembly. We all returned with hope. The medication was truthfully administered; but the pain increased. I went again to the Sidha Doctor and returned with more expensive droppings. There was no effect at all. Then came the news that the Teacher's wife expired followed by the death of that graceful person. However, my wife was left to suffer more.
Her condition grew worse. One morning I heard a loud scream from the bed room and we all rushed to see what happened to her. She was holding the old Malayala Manorama News Paper in her hand where she saw her sister's picture among the dead. That paper I kept away from her as I was bidding for time to reveal the sad news to her when she would be capable of absorbing the shock.
From there onwards her condition grew worse. The pain was unbearable. When it is at its highest she used to groan suppressing her voice to the minimum. Children used to console her and talk to her about God's mercy. One day she asked in desperation; "God, what did I do to suffer this agony"? God did not respond. At times she used to be very angry with me for no reasons. That was her mental state. One day I too retorted, as my state of mind was also not different. She got down in sadness and sat on the floor for a long time. Later in remorse I went to her and asked her pardon. I said, "I am very sorry". She remained silent. She was graceful to understand me. But later in utter penance, after her death I cried and kneeled at the place where she sat and repeatedly requested her soul to forgive me for my inappropriate outbursts.
The end has now come! On one morning she called me and asked me to call a friendly family who was helpful to us. Her intention was to seek their help for me in conducting the marriage of our children. Before I could take any action she dropped on the bed. I took her to the hospital nearby in an ambulance. Doctors who attended to her told me that the end would not be far away. My second daughter Asha was constantly by her side. I do not know Why; but I kept away from my sinking wife. In the meantime Asha came to console me and said "Doctors would say so many things! But, be assured, God is with us; He will not leave us, He will hear our prayers and nothing would happen to her" She stood a rock in her faith and pretty soon the rock was thrown to bits in the quake – I mean her death. I sat in silence without emotions. While I was sitting dump and numb, my daughter rushed to me to say that she was collapsing. When I reached the door, I saw her turning her head on to the side and vomiting blood. She bade farewell to this cruelworld once for all leaving all her proud belongings in human flesh! What else are we? Asha grew violent and threw away all the equipments out of frustration, being betrayed by faith and faith peddlers. Fate majestically won! Faith crashed in shame!
When her body was brought home Anju could not believe that her loving mother was dead. She shrieked and repeatedly begged her to rise up. No response! She fainted by her side. My weak heart lived to all these situations. Sad situations one after another! In the night a Doctor was called in and she was put to sedation.
That night I sat statuelike near her dead body. A screen popped-up in my mind. There I projected our good and bad times; how she remained without sleep a whole night at my sick bed, how she had kissed my feet one morning after a previous day quarrel, how she used to express her confidence in me and how at the instance of my sister she selected me to live our life together although we in appearances resembled Othello and Desdemona. (The first time we met, it was at the Church Marriage Ceremony. I saw her sitting beside me and she saw me after our marriage. You wonder! Yes, it happened in our case). I looked at her motionless body. We never had any honeymoon. But the first night through a rickety window the full moon shone on her face and I saw and I still remember her pretty, graceful smiling face resting on my hands. And now here, in front of me lays a figure eaten away by Cancer; no hair, burnt complexion, bloated stomach; to sum up, a ghost of what she was.
And days after, I saw this message she left in her diary! "The Lord who has girded me with strength shall keep my ways safe"
The one who stood by me through thick and thin left me forever or did God cruelly snatch her away from us! This question still remains unanswered in front of me! I pictured what was in store for me in future! A blank screen popped up. My children and I have to draw our life afresh with bare hands. The brush has been taken away. Three girls are to be married off. Most of the assets single handedly I built disappeared. I have started losing my nerves. I turned my wrath against God! I started abusing Him. I called Him names. And on one such weak moment I told my children to the dismay of my Mother-in-Law who was sitting next to me that we always seek pardon from God for the wrong we do; but now it is His turn to seek our pardon for the wrong He had done on us. They all remained silent. Perhaps they had thought that I have gone nuts. I did.
It was on March 26th night in 1992 she died and made all of us feel orphaned with her exit, leaving three girls of marriageable age in my frail hands. And the days when my children's marriage took place I cried my heart out in solitude missing her presence, but seeing her compensating in my imagination gracing the function. In my third daughter's marriage betrothal, I was made to stand along with the groom's parents and when I looked at my side for my wife I saw a vacuum and tears flowed through my eyes. What a life is this! A life I did not choose!
I said, God was cruel to us. But He was not. All my daughters' marriage took place. I could arrange it with dignity. But in the process I came across many who carried the Holy Book and conveniently reciting verses from it, but making extraordinary demands. None showed any sympathy for the motherless girls of chracter; good-looking, intelligent and educated. I did not yield to demands and my children stood by me. In one proposal the stumbling block that pained all of us was that the girl didn't have her mother living. How ignorant and cruel are some around us!
Now I live a life alone independent of all the rest and it would take pages to write how God was kind to me and showered His blessings over me. He pardoned me for my outbursts. Perhaps He thought He deserved it! Now He is the only One left to me to communicate with.
What is ordained come up and stay on with us. We are too week to change the course of our life. To be mute is an intelligent option, but who can?