Heena and Sameer, both hailing from middle-class families, were childhood friends. As they grew up, they realised a spark of love blossoming. They informed their parents, who readily agreed to their children’s wish, and got them married.
After two years of marriage, they were, blessed with a baby boy, and as their happiness had no bounds, they named him “Aaradh” (meaning love.) Eight years later, Heena and Sameer welcomed their second child, a baby girl. Aaradh was overwhelmed with joy and insisted on choosing a name for his sister. So his parents gave him a few names to choose from, and he chose “Deepa” (which meant spreading light). Initially, everything seemed to be alright. Aaradh took care of the little munchkin, and she also enjoyed his company. But when Deepa turned 1, both realized that there was some problem with the child. She did not seem normal, and this raised an alarm on their minds. They decided to visit a paediatrician without further delay.
The doctor had gone for his routine rounds, so they waited outside his cabin with worried faces. As soon as he entered, they both stood up. The receptionist asked them to go in.
“Yes, Mr Sameer, what brings you here?”
Heena’s eyes welled up with tears. With a shaky voice, she explained about their daughter’s health. The doctor calmed her and advised them to get a few tests done. The reports were, expected, after two days. The following 48 hours were going to be tough for them. Each minute felt like a year.
The bell rang. The maid opened the door and collected the envelope.
“Who is that?” screamed Heena.
“Madam, ek envelope aya hai. Shayad koi hospital se” informed the maid.
Heena put off the gas immediately and stormed out of the kitchen. She rushed towards the hall and took the envelope and tore it open. It was Deepa’s test report. The word “POSITIVE” was highlighted in red. She suddenly felt giddy.
“Saheb,” the maid shouted. On hearing her voice, Sameer came down instantly. He calmed Heena, but the pain was throbbing in his heart, and tears were brimming up in his eyes. How on earth was he going to handle that?
In the meanwhile, Sameer’s phone rang. It was Dr Navneet.
“Hello Dr Navneet,” greeted Sameer.
Dr Navneet greeted him back and asked them to visit his clinic. Both Heena and Sameer quickly got ready and left to meet the doctor. Heena’s tears were flowing ceaselessly.
On reaching the hospital, the receptionist asked them to wait for a while. Their turn arrived and they rushed in.
“We received the reports this morning,” said Sameer. “What does ‘positive’ mean, Doctor” Inquired Heena in a choked voice.
“Yes, coming to that, Mrs Heena.” “She is suffering from a rare disorder, Mosaic Down syndrome”, informed the doctor. “This is a case where the brain is not completely developed. She will grow like any other child, but the brain growth may be a little slow, as per the age”.
“But she seemed to be ok all these months,” replied Heena.
“Yes, Mrs Heena. In some cases, this is detected between 1 to 4 years. As parents, you will go through some challenges, but you will have to accept this and move ahead. We have therapies and treatment to take care of this condition which will help her lead a good life.” They could not digest the doctor’s words and stood in shock and felt their world turned upside down.
Sameer consoled Heena and both came back home. They decided to start therapy with immediate effect. Dr Navneet referred them to Dr Nutan as one of the best therapists for children. Soon Dr Nutan started her visits to their home thrice a week.
Aaradh was 9-years-old now, and things were all smooth and peaceful, until one morning, Heena discovered a lump in her left breast. It had turned red and big in size. She had noticed that earlier also but did not pay any heed. This time she felt she should visit the doctor once and get rid of this. Without informing anyone, she visited her gynecologist, and after examination and tests, she found that it was breast cancer and that too at the last stage. She broke down into a cold sweat and felt helpless. The challenges were stubborn and would not allow them to live in peace.
She had no choice but to share this news with Sameer. It was 10pm. Sameer was going to take an hour more to reach home, so she decided to share the following day.
The night was still young and refused to pass. She tossed and turned on the bed struggling to sleep. Finally, around 4am, her eyes caught up with some sleep and the following day she got up a bit later than usual with worry on her face. Seeing this, Sameer took her hand in his and inquired if she was alright. Tears rolled down her cheek as she continued to speak. “Sameer, I have something serious to talk about, but promise me, you won’t break down,” she said in a sad tone.
“What is it Heena, please tell me”, Sameer requested in a concerned tone.
“Sameer, I found a lump in my left breast and had been to the doctor yesterday morning and it issss diagnosed as breast cancer”.
Whatttt! Sameer screamed. All hell broke loose on him. His eyes popped out and his heart almost stopped.
“How is this possible? Were there any symptoms or pain earlier? We will take another opinion,” he added.
“Sorry Sameer, I did notice a small lump earlier but ignored it as it was neither painful nor did it increase in size. But yesterday, when I noticed the size, I visited the doctor”. Heena said in a worried voice.
“How could you just ignore this Heena?” he whispered.
Seeing his pain, Heena did not dare to tell him that her cancer had reached its last stage. Nevertheless, she started chemotherapy. The treatment itself was very painful. She lost all hope and prayed for her death. Finally, her prayers were answered and one fateful day she succumbed to death and her soul departed in peace. But for Sameer, the world came crashing down. He couldn’t believe he lost her, but he did.
The family stumbled down and rose up again several times to move on in life. Aaradh took care of his little sister in every possible way, be it feeding her, playing with her, taking her to school, and so on. As she grew older, Aaradh, after his classes, would go to her class to guide her (with the permission of teachers) as the school was not for special kids. Things started getting better with time and Deepa’s condition improved. She started doing quite well. Sameer felt very proud of his son. She was 10 now and Aaradh was going to turn 18 in a couple of days. Sameer wanted to do something special for his son on his 18th birthday. So he booked a bike for him and invited his family members and a few of his friends without Aaradh’s knowledge.
Finally, the day arrived. Aaradh had his classes in the afternoon and was to return only in the evening. Sameer had all the time in hand to decorate the house. Deepa also helped him. Around 6pm his family and friends arrived. Aaradh came back home at 7pm and was surprised to see all his loved ones. Everyone wished him in unison. The party went on till late in the evening. One by one, all the guests left except Sameer’s parents. They stayed some 15 km away. Sameer asked them to stay back, but they couldn’t as they were going out of town the following day and had to do the packing. So Sameer decided to drop them.
Aaradh and Deepa cleared the table, cleaned the house and went off to sleep.
A few minutes later, the phone rang harshly. Aaradh rushed to the hall to answer but the line went off. He turned back to go to his room when it rang again. This time Aaradh answered and stood in shock. He felt a lump in his throat but soon gathered himself. He didn’t want to wake Deepa. So he wrote a note and kept it beside her table and rushed out.
Aaradh reached the hospital where the cops were waiting for him. On inquiring, the cops informed him that, his father’s car met with an accident and all 3 passengers are critical. Aaradh’s head started spinning. He didn’t know what to do. The doctors were trying their best. But destiny had a strange plan in store for him. None of them survived. Tears brewed up in his eyes. He felt completely devastated. But when Deepa’s face appeared before his eyes, he controlled his emotions. He informed his relatives, who turned up soon for the last rites. Deepa was alone at home. So Aaradh requested one of his aunts to stay at their place and take care of his sister till he returned.
One of Sameer’s close friends was an agent in an insurance company. He knew about his policy and helped Aaradh to acquire the insurance money without any hiccups. This money took care of their studies. Their life moved on, and things were falling into place like before. He dropped and picked Deepa from school every day, tutored her studies, cared for all her needs, and did all those possible things that his mom would have done. On some days, he used to get exhausted but ignoring all his pain he just continued doing his best. He continued to drop and pick her up even when she started attending college. He never left her alone. She wanted to go with her friends to college, for movies and outings, but Aaradh never permitted and this, resulted in rifts between them.
“I know you are concerned bhai, but I can manage alone and take good care of myself.” she stuttered. But he remained stubborn. He even stopped her from going to college if she insisted on going alone. She didn’t have any choice. Moreover, she was aware of all that her brother did for her right from childhood. So she didn’t want to hurt him. But as months and years passed by, his controlling behaviour and extreme jealousy soared high. He did not like his sister mingling with anyone.
Deepa started feeling caged and helpless. She was now 22 and wanted to lead a normal life. She was in love with a boy from her class and wanted to marry him but was scared to share this with her brother. So she took one of her cousins into confidence and asked her to speak to Aaradh.
One Sunday evening, Misha, their cousin came over to their place when Deepa was not around and managed to spill the beans. On hearing this, Aaradh got wild and yelled at her. She tried her best to calm him down but in vain. Deepa was in the neighbourhood. She heard her brother’s voice and rushed in. He gave her a hostile glare. His face was contorted with rage.
Aaradh continued, “I sacrificed my childhood for you. I never went out with friends but played with you. I did not get married since I didn’t want to share my love, and you want to move ahead in life, leaving me alone. You can’t do that. I will not allow you to go anywhere. Look Deepa, we don’t need anyone. We both can live the rest of our lives happily.”
“Look bhai, I understand all that and I really respect and love you too, but you can’t cage me like this. I Love Tanush and he too loves me. We want to get married. I suggest, you also get settled in your life.” Pleaded Deepa.
“No, I will not allow you to share your love with anyone, and if you try to do, I will kill you and then kill myself too,” screamed Aaradh.
One day, Deepa took her belongings and left the house without informing anyone. When Aaaradh returned home and did not find his sister, he called on her mobile but it was switched off. He tried several times, but in vain. He went to all her friend’s places, but she wasn’t there too. He was about to file an FIR, (first information report) when he received a message from his sister saying she is with Tanush and absolutely fine. Hope suddenly crowded into his eyes, but soon was replaced by disappointment when he received another message from her saying, she was getting married, and would be with him from now on. He screamed and begged and wailed his head off, but nothing helped.
A deep melancholy descended upon him. He wanted to bid adieu to all the pressures that were building up but couldn’t. He felt as if his head would explode. He sent several messages but did not receive any reply from her. Days passed by. He stopped going to work and stayed at home all alone, hoping she would come one day and apologize. Days turned into months, but she did not return. Her absence started killing him from within. He started getting suicidal thoughts, probably suffering from acute depression but in deep denial. He felt horrified by the thought of visiting a psychiatrist.
He had read about some helpline in a recent newspaper. He rummaged through the drawers to find the piece and luckily got it. He dialled their number and told the agent about his thoughts, but hung up soon, even before the agent could console him and give him some solutions. He sat in the dark comforting silence, but his mind was not at peace, and finally, he took a harsh step. He was lying on the ground, unconscious.
The maid rang the doorbell, but there was no response. She had a spare key, so, she entered the house. Seeing Aaradh lying on the ground, she called Deepa and informed her about Aaradh’s condition. On hearing this, Deepa couldn’t control her emotions and rushed home to take him to the hospital.
He was looking pale and very weak. On examination, the doctors found that he had consumed sedatives. They quickly started his treatment. By evening he regained consciousness. On seeing Deepa, he hugged her tightly and started weeping like a child. She consoled him and served him a glass of water.
“Deepa, I knew you would come back,” murmured Aaradh.
Deepa just smiled and nodded her head. Within a week, he was discharged. The doctor also advised him to visit a psychiatrist for counselling. Deepa invited him to her house and took good care of him.
One afternoon after they finished their lunch, she sat with him talking about all the bygone days. She then saw his mood and said, “bhai, we are two different souls, and you have to learn to give space. I know you love me and I too love and respect you. But your love and concern are making you a control freak. This is alarming. Be my mentor, but don’t be overprotective and guide me in every matter of my life. Please try to understand, it is suffocating to constantly be under your surveillance. Trust me, I will definitely come to you if I need any help. I will also come home on weekends and spend time with you.”
You start going to work, make friends and chill out, and if that is not helping you, let’s go to a psychiatrist. They will guide you and I am sure you will come out of this. Eventually, he agreed to meet with the psychiatrist. After a couple of sessions, he realized that deliria is like a virus that will sluggishly kill relationships and one’s existence.
Aaradh had to come out of the shackles, which had engulfed his life so sinuously. He remembered the psychiatrist’s words of taking up some hobby. He loved to play the guitar, so he enrolled himself and started learning and enjoying. He continued his job again, made many friends and started living for himself.
As promised every weekend Deepa came home and stayed over. Aaradh slowly mingled with Tanush and became friends. He also cooked for them and they relished it. This brought solace and peace not only to Deepa’s life but also to his life.
Connect with Penmancy:
Penmancy gets a small share of every purchase you make through these links, and every little helps us continue bringing you the reads you love!