Beating Hearts

Beating Hearts

Sebastian was making a presentation to one of the most important clients of his start-up marketing farm. His partner cum wife Dakshina was in the field, servicing clients. His office manager Sarala, was waving her hands from the back of the conference room, desperately trying to catch his attention. He handed over the presentation to his deputy, Rohit Panchal, excused himself and asked Sarala, “What is so urgent, Sarala? Can’t it wait until I complete my presentation?”

Sarala stammered,” Boss! Madam, madam…”, she burst into tears.

Dakshina had been in a terrible accident. Her small car had been rammed by a huge truck, driven by a drunken driver. Sebastian cancelled the meeting and asked Rohit to drive him to the Grand Central Hospital. He was in no position to drive himself.

Even as his mind was practically dysfunctional, his past rolled in front of his eyes in technicolor and super-fast mode.

***

The induction period was over and classes have begun in all earnestness at the National Institute of Management. Sebastian was at sea because he appeared to be one of the very few bachelor degree holders, that too majoring in English literature. Most were full-fledged engineering graduates or science post graduates. Mathematical formulae, diagrams, graphs were Latin and Greek to him. He spent all his after-class hours in the Library; several nights even skipping dinner. As a particularly complex Venn diagram left him thoroughly confused, he noticed a simple looking girl in the next cubicle looking at him with unbridled curiosity.

“Hi, I am Dakshina. I have noticed you in our class. You seem to be uncomfortable in math-oriented classes.”, she said. Sebastian looked at her. She was petite, wheat complexioned and had a very intelligent face. 

“Nice of you to have noticed me. I am Sebastian. I am one of the very few who does not have engineering or science background. I am an MA in English. That’s why I have trouble following these “scientific methodology”.

“Then we should complement each other. I am pretty weak in language courses. Ironical, because I want to set up an advertising agency.”

“I don’t believe this. I have the same idea; but I was puzzled how I am going to implement these marketing techniques”

They felt so comfortable with each other. They retired to the Student’s Centre and found a table in the cafeteria. They talked for 2-3 hours non-stop. Thus, sprang a joint venture which grew by leaps and bounds in their minds. By the time they finished their MBA course, they knew exactly what they are going to do with their future. The highlight of their course was their joint project report on independent marketing organizations. The whole faculty was impressed. They had fabulous job offers from every famous advertising agency in the country. Venture capitalists were lining up to support their project. They decided to take corporate financing from a nationalized bank, carefully staying away from private banks and dodgy financial institutions. 

Unicorn Marketing Services Private Limited was duly incorporated and picked up clients quickly. Within two years, they were well known in their circle and had garnered a couple of prestigious accounts.

They were so busy during their studies, setting up the agency and establishing it that they hardly knew personal details about each other. When they had built up a reliable second line of executives, they decided to take a break together for a month. Vijaya their account executive and Breganza their creative genius, assured them that they will take care of the business in their absence. They had an agreement that Seb and Daksh (as they were known now) will not be disturbed unless a catastrophe occurs.

Daksh and Seb stayed in a seaside resort in North Goa. They studiously avoided any shop talk. 

Daksh was from an orthodox brahmin family from Udupi. Her father was a Sanskrit scholar and her mother was a lecturer in a local college teaching math. She was a philosopher in her own right, absorbing insights from her husband. Unfortunately, Nilakanta Shastri passed away when Dakshina was only a  six-year-old. Her mother had brought her up single handedly inculcating true values in her.

Sebastian was an orthodox Syrian Christian, hailing from Kottayam. His father held a respectable position in the Church Hierarchy. His wife had passed away just a couple of years ago. He fully devoted himself to God’s work.

During the course of their retreat, Seb and Daksh found that they had so many common interests besides their business synergy – their love for classical music – Carnatic for Dakshina and Classical Western for Sebastian. They found music does not recognize boundaries of language and systems. Concord of sweet sounds delighted them in any form. Although their feelings for each other cannot be classified as love in the typical sense, they grew closer to each other. They agreed it will be prudent to solemnize their hereto platonic relationship into matrimony.

Knowing their respective parent’s involvement in their respective religions, they expected spirited opposition from them. They decided to take the bull by the horn. Before leaving Goa back to Mumbai, they scheduled a get together with their parents for a week after their planned return. It helped that Daksh”s mother and Seb’s father had met each other several times during their student days as well as during their business venture time. They seem to get along well enough despite their cultural differences.

Their dinner went well. Rev. Ferdinand and Dr. Sitalakshmi had a pleasant interaction with each other. The menu was vegetarian in deference to the diet habits of mother and daughter. With trepidation in their hearts, Daksh and Seb jointly announced that they were planning to get married.

Dr. Sita reacted first. “Do you love each other? Is it so strong that you are ready to face how the society will react to your proposal to marry outside your faith?”

Sebastian answered: “I know I am speaking for Dakshina. We do not love each other in the classical sense. We respect each other. We have tremendous synergy in what we do. I am sure that we shall develop Love as we go along in our journey together”

Dakshina added,” As far as our religious faith is concerned, we have talked about it at length during our break in Goa. We will respect each other’s beliefs and value systems. Neither of us will convert”

Rev. Ferdinand enquired, “Have you thought about what will happen to your Children?”

Both answered in one voice, “They will be exposed to both the faiths. When they reach their majority, they can make their own choice. Society will have less and less to say as the time marches on.”

Dr. Sita said,” Our scriptures say, “Ekam sat, viprah bahuda vadanti”. There is one truth. The learned speak of it variously.

The reverend concurred immediately. He gently remarked, “Children, we wish you all the best. The path you have chosen is a hard one.You are underestimating the nuisance value of society. There will be snide remarks. There will be strident opposition from our very families. But I can assure that you have my complete backing. I cannot speak for Dr. Sita, but I entirely agree with her philosophy. All roads lead to one goal. A god-fearing person, no matter which God, can face any obstacles. “

Both Seb and Daksh had tears in their eyes. “Mama and Papa, with your blessings, we can face any situation.”

 

They were all startled by an enthusiastic “Hi Guys!”. It was the boisterous couple from their office, Kamini and Ravi. They rushed to their table. “Sorry to barge in  your family dinner. It seems to be serious. What gives?” said Ravi. As an after thought, Kamini added, “ Hello, Dr. Sita and Reverend.”

Dakshina and Sebastian exchanged startled looks. Within a second an amused smile of agreement passed between them.

Seb said, “Yes, guys. We have something interesting to share with you. Daksh and I are going to be married”

Kamini and Ravi looked stunned, but they recovered fast. After admonishing their bosses for being so secretive, they promised to organize everything.

Ravi said, “Just give us some signed cheques. We will take care of everything, from the engagement party, to the wedding and of course, the honeymoon.”

***

The car screeched to a halt in the portico of the hospital. Rohit said, “Boss, you rush to the emergency. I shall park the car and be with you in a minute.”

Seb rushed to the emergency and asked about Dakshina. They directed him to the Operation Theatre 6B, on the third floor. He reached the nurses’ station and blabbered, “My wife! Accident victim”. 

“Name please”

“Dakshina”

The staff nurse spoke on the phone for a minute, put it down and said,” She is undergoing an emergency operation. Dr. Sethi, the Director,  will be with you in a minute. Please take a seat. Would you like the duty doctor to take a look at you? You have just undergone a terrible shock”. He declined with a polite shake of head and slumped on the chair in the waiting room. 

Rohit approached him breathlessly and asked,” What’s happening, Boss?”. Just then a middle aged, tired looking doctor came to him and said,” You are?” Sebastian said,” I am Dakshina”s husband, Sebastian” 

The doctor told him that she had a severe head injury besides multiple fractures. A top line of neurosurgeons is performing a complicated operation. It will take minimum 8-10 hours. 

He further said, “There is nothing you can do here. Your friend can take care of administrative matters. You go take rest and come back early morning. I shall prescribe a sedative for you.”

“Doctor, no sedative can work. I love her too much. She is my life. Let me wait for her here. Please inform me the moment any news is there”. Doctor gave him a sympathetic wave and trudged wearily away.

***

Sebastian’s mind switched to the wedding. In spite of objections from Kamini, Ravi, Rohit and Sarala, Daksh and Seb opted for a simple civil ceremony in the registrar’s office. Dr. Sita and Rev. Ferdinand signed as witnesses besides Kamini and Rohit. They celebrated their first night in the new condominium jointly presented by Dr.Sita and the reverend.

They reached the office a little later than their usual 7am. There was an eerie darkness in the office. Sarala who usually received them with a cheerful “Good Morning” no matter how early, was conspicuous by her absence. They slowly opened their office, then entered the meeting room. Seb put the Coffee percolator on. 

The door burst open. The whole staff shouted boisterously. Rohit announced in a solemn voice,” By the power vested in me as the office flunky, I declare today as a holiday in honour of a wedding that took place surreptitiously yesterday! We are all taking the ferry to Alibaug leaving in an hour. Thanks to Ravi and Kamini, a resort is booked. This wedding will be performed in a proper manner, as it should. Dr. Sita and Rev. Ferdinand are being picked up by Sarala. Move it, Guys.”

The newlyweds were flabbergasted, true and proper!

They all had a great time in Alibaug, A smile escaped Sebastian’s lips at the thought.

The honeymoon at Seychelles was a dream. The pristine beaches, clear skies, the waves! It was pure magic. They had a wonderful time. They opened their hearts to each other. They found they were fully synchronized and their hearts beat as one.

***

“Boss”, shouted Rohit. Seb woke up in a panic and cried, “Daksh, where is she?”. The doctor looked at him somberly and said, “Mr. Sebastian, the operation is over. The trauma is worse than we thought. We have induced coma, giving a chance for her to recover. Next 24 hours are critical.”

Sebastian begged, “Can I see her?” 

Doctor said,” You can see her through the observation glass. We do not anticipate a recovery in the near future. We are doing our best. Keep your hopes up and pray hard!”

Accompanied by Rohit, Sebastian walked like a zombie and reached the lobby. Dr Sita and the Reverend stood there without uttering  even a single syllable. Both of them were frozen in shock. Seb with his voice failing him, let out a heart wrenching cry. “Mom, Papa. My Dakshina! She..she…”, he broke down.

Ravi came in and took all the three in Sebastian’s car to their condo. 

Next morning, Seb was in the hospital. 

Dr. Sethi informed him that the team of neurosurgeons are reviewing the test results. There is a conference headed by the world-famous Dr. Parikh and five other equally eminent neuros. Dr. Parikh will personally brief you. It may take some time. Have your breakfast. Are you sure you wouldn’t like something to calm you down?”  

Seb warily shook his head.

At noon, Sebastian was called to the conference room. All six doctors were bone weary. Dr. Parikh, a distinguished looking man in his sixties wearing surgical gowns, cleared his throat. 

“Ahem, Mr. Sebastian. Your wife is very sick. She had a severe trauma to her head. She is on life support systems. In all our collective opinion, a chance of recovery is very remote. In fact, we are going to declare her brain dead. You can keep her on life support systems endlessly but she will never recover. You consult you elders and let us know your decision”

Sebastian literally dragged his leaden feet to the waiting room. Daksh’s mother and his father were looking at him anxiously. A sob escaped his lips. Rohit held him by his shoulders and forcibly poured some lemonade down his throat. Sebastian described the situation to them in broken words.

After a silence of few minutes, which looked like hours, Seb spoke in a barely audible voice, “During our honeymoon, both of us promised each other that we will offer dignity in death to each other.”

Their leisurely stroll one evening on the Seychelles beach played out in his mind’s eye. Daksh had said, “Seb, promise me one thing. I shouldn’t bring this up at this happy moment. But, if anything happens to me, you will not cremate or bury my precious organs. They will continue to live for you in someone else’s body. I promise you, I will do the same thing for you.”

Sebastian continued in a choking voice, “I love her too much to let her be a vegetable without any hope of revival…”

Both nodded their heads somberly.

Sebastian met Dr. Sethi, the head of the hospital. He confirmed that there was a zero chance of a revival. Seb offered Daksh’s organs for donation. Dr Seth said, “I wish there was any other way. But you have made the right decision. As a matter of fact, we have our senior Cardiac Surgeon, Dr. Arif Khan, waiting for a heart. He can survive for barely a week. He is such a selfless surgeon. He has literally saved thousands of patients. With a new heart, he would save several more. Further, she will give eyesight to a 4-year-old girl and an eighteen-year-old boy. Her liver and kidneys would be given to worthy recipients”

With a heavy heart, Sebastian signed the necessary papers.

A week later, all the organs were donated successfully. 

Sebastian’s heart was in perfect sync with Daksh’s heart beating in Dr. Khan’s body.

With eyes filled with tears, Seb was deliriously happy!!
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