Wednesday, October 16, 2013

TERMINALLY ILL A S RANJIT, WHO HAS DRIVEN ME TO Unitec Towers, presses the bell on the 19th floor flat of Major Saldana in Tower Four, a slew of disturbing thoughts pass through my mind: how does one greet a terminally ill friend that too after a long gap in time. He had rung me up the other day, ‘I am bedridden’ he had said when I asked ‘How are you? That Saldana was terminally ill I had learnt from an e- mail in circulation. The slider on the grill door moved to one side and it is opened by, as learned later, by his submariner son, visiting on the long weekend. As it happened the difficult moment is held back for some more time, as we are asked to sit in the largish sitting cum dining room, too bright with 17th floor light streaming in from the large glass windows, I move from chair to chair trying to locate a perch, with the site more, comfortable to my recently cataract operated eyes. Glass of water politely declined, the glass Juice left on the side table after a few sips, as we are ushered in Saldana’s bed room, he covered with a sheet up to his shoulders, looking frail and a wane smile on his continence. I extend my hand, he extends his and we hold the soft hold for some time. I introduce Ranjit, take a seat and hand over my book, ‘A Solder’s Journey’ containing a chapter on Kalimpong where we were together in 19 70-71. He accepts the so called gift and places it on the side table. We find comfort and manage to overcome the difficult moment for both of us in talking of the past and the days spent together. He talks about his three sons, with pride, eldest in the Navy, next in Corps of Signals and the youngest in America. Also about his elder daughter- in- law being a sky diver. There is no talk about his wife; I also lacked courage to ask about her, especially with the state he was in. Slowly his already low voice sinks further, I realise that he is getting tired with the effort of keeping a brave face and the conversation going. We don’t talk about his illness, a few more words; I hold his hand, whisper a get- well and shuffle out of the room with Ranjit in tow. As I sip the Juice from the glass earlier left on the side table and ask his son about his affliction. It transpires that it is Cancer of the Prostrate, the expensive chemotherapy which not only was ineffective in controlling the Cancer but in the process damaged his liver thus shortening his life span. With there own litany of woes uppermost in my mind I refrain from loading them by unfolding my experience with cancer and chemotherapy as it effected the near and dear ones in the family. In sober mood we took the lift to ground 19th floors down and with little talk among us drove back home.


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