“Cancer is not a problem, its treatment is. I know everything will be fine. I fondly recollect this phrase which was iterated by a 14-year-old girl while I was waiting for my turn to get another painful injection outside the TB center located in Daryaganj. I can anticipate that she must not have any idea when she accidentally gave me this beautiful yet wise piece of advice. Well, this all began when, I, the self-proclaimed fitness junky, was diagnosed with Spinal Tuberculosis. Ironical isn’t it? Spinal tuberculosis is said to be the worst kind of TB as it is said to be self-degenerative. In my case too, I was 5 months late to realize that the cyst that was growing on my spine could be life-threatening.
Well, the news didn’t upset me that much than the idea of renouncing almost everything that I like did. As I have to quit everything in order to get back to the running track.
Doctors said that it will take me at least 1 and a half year to gain full command over my own body. That I should go on a long holiday and take complete bed rest. “Bedridden for an entire year, are you kidding me?” I never said that out loud in my surgeon’s face but I really wish I had because that might have helped me to release all my anger and frustration.
I had many plans that were yet to be executed. I was a student vocalist of Hindustani classical music and was deliriously preparing for my scholarship exam that required 5 years of learning experience and I was only a month away to sit for my 5th year’s final exam. That wasn’t all, that I lost. My Guruji offered me a fellowship in her school that she opened in Germany, that would have opened new learning opportunities for me too. But all that seemed like a ‘Great Domino Wall of My Dreams’ that crumbled down in a click.
The only thing that was positive about Spinal TB was that it’s not contagious and that I won’t be neglected by my friends and family.
Well, I won’t do any dumb monologuing and talk of heroism or how valiantly I struggled throughout my treatment. Hell NO..!!! To be ridiculously honest, the treatment was PAINFUL, really painful. I had a few minor surgeries that were needed to perform without anesthesia. I can’t forget those rooms filled with annoying phenyl smell and then my shrilling screams out of pain after every injection. Sometimes they broke the syringe in my spine; sometimes they inject it with full force and then break it inside it to avoid any medicine leakage. Those horrifying memories still get me on my nerves.
The treatment was showing its effects on me, I looked like a zombie if I had to describe myself then. I turned into a sack of bones, sunken eyes, pale skin and yellow nails and deteriorating conscience making everything difficult that was a child’s play for me earlier.
I turned into a clumsy wretch who wanted to remain in its nutshell like a cocoon. I was confined to my bed, a poor diet and high power medicines that made me weak and fragile. There was this pitch dark despair running through my mind. I had so many things to get done but couldn’t feel any power to do them. My heart was still in music but all I could do to please Goddess Saraswati is to stare at my Tanpura.
Lucky are those who know what they are here for, what are their life goals or what they aspire to become. TB snatched that very hope from me. I was extremely clueless, hopeless and powerless to start from square one. To me, everything had ended.
So while I was waiting for my turn outside the TB Centre, I felt some uneasiness in my chest. I asked my Ma to wait in the line in my place and to call me on my turn and I swiftly went outside.
I sat on the stairs of the Center, still clueless but the little fear of painful injection kept me alert. Little fear because I was habitual to it now.
Suddenly, a girl, I am sorry an insanely thin girl, appeared in front of me from nowhere. At first, I disliked how nonchalantly she bumped in me but I dismissed that thought when I looked at her face, though it seems equally weak and dull I couldn’t ignore the sparkling twinkle in her eyes, yes, her eyes and smile were so full of life. She bid me a cheerful “Hi” then showered me with a series of questions, “What happened to you?”, “Are you too suffering from cancer?”, “Did you get your injection?”, “Was it Painful?” and so on. I didn’t pay any heed to her questions but kept examining her health, astonished at how thin she was.
I told her that I was a TB patient and I too was waiting for my turn; she quickened her steps, jumped on the stairs and sat adjacent to me, legs outstretched freely on the stairs, not like mine, all crouched, knees almost touching my chin.
I felt a little enthusiasm within me as I was talking to this energy bomb, willing to blast. I came to know that she had given her 10th Boards and that she was diagnosed with Blood Cancer and today she came here for the last few necessary tests. And then she will be admitted for an unknown time. I wondered how God could be so merciless to a poor girl. Later she addressed her entire treatment monotonously, that she is going to miss her friends and Ghar ka khana in the hospital, she joked about her south Indian doctor and his funny accent and that we both hated those injections and how raffishly and inattentively she ridiculed her own death.
Then finally I asked her or I would say I was trying to pamper my insecurities that how she could be so happy and ignorant of her illness, and the problems coming along with it. How could she make fun of her own health and uncalled death? How could she be so cheerful despite all that pain?
She again gave that innocent yet mesmerizing smile and said “main itna nahi sochti, what will be, will be. Sochne se koi fayda nahi hai, aap bhi mat socho. Cancer is not a problem, its treatment is. I know everything will be fine”. (I don’t think that much, what will be will be. There is no point in thinking, you also don’t think about it.) She said that nonchalantly, with utter innocence and absolutely no grit and wit.
The girl left and started playing on the lawn. But she didn’t know that inadvertently she relieved me of all my insecurities and worries. I was behaving like a coward and a loser. I understood that I should not be disappointed in myself and should start again with full zest and zeal. That everything happens for a reason. TB was never my fault and that I should pray for a positive and fast recovery. And that there is no harm in starting afresh.
Sometimes, being nonchalant and careless provides that peace of mind. Because what will be, will be..!!!. Don’t worry and embrace the present.