Mani walked into his apartment complex with a smile. For the first time in five years since he was diagnosed with cancer, he felt pain free. He hummed his favourite tune and walked with a skip in his step, eager to go home and see his beloved Bhanu. The children were all due to visit that week. It had been a while since the entire brood had been able to coordinate their leaves and breaks and land at the same time in any given place. He couldn’t wait to see them all. Although he needed a walking stick these days to support himself and had grown older and wiser, his strength of spirit hadn’t waned one bit.
The smile died on his lips as he spotted the ambulance at the building entrance. I’m getting too old for this, he thought to himself. The protective instinct took over however, and Mani used the time in the lift to compose himself and be strong to face whatever awaited him. As always, his gut told him the ambulance was for a member of his family.
The lift doors parted, but Bhanu was not at the door. The door was open though and he could see many of his neighbours were already in the house. He shoved past them, not giving a care for etiquette or good manners.
No God, not Bhanu, please… he thought, with each advancing step, his eyes searching for the reassuring presence of his wife. He entered their bedroom to find his entire family surrounding the bed, but even among his children, sons-in-law and grandchildren, he couldn’t spot Bhanu. Yet again he tore through the crowd and finally saw his Bhanu sitting on one side of the bed, tears streaming down her eyes.
“Bhanu, what’s the matter? Why are you crying?”, Mani cried out, worried for his wife’s health. Had she hurt herself? Was she in pain? Why wouldn’t she look at him?
He turned to his eldest daughter and said, “What’s wrong Kavita? Why is your mother crying?” But she wouldn’t answer either. One by one, he looked at all his family members’ and realised they were all sobbing. His eyes finally fell on the other side of the bed.
And it was then he understood. Life had come full circle. And the ambulance below was waiting for him. Only it had arrived too late to save him.
But it wasn’t too late to see all his family members one last time. He sat next to Bhanu and whispered, “I love you darling. See you on the other side.”
And Mani went into the light. And life? Life still went on. Until… they would all be together again.
Illustrated By: Indira Anand