The last few months had flown by, I remembered neither date nor month. All I recollected was Bhagya’s eloquent speech which summed up her mission. “The battle is ours too! At Saaisha Foundation India we bring light to people’s lives, each breast cancer survivor is very special. And we honour them in our unique way. This Pinktober, each volunteer will spend two days with four survivors.” 

Then several older volunteers had handed over a wad of paper to each of us: consent forms, size lists, and pattern sheets. 

I was a newcomer who had volunteered in Saaisha because of  a friend. A senior ushered me into another room and my training had begun. She showed me different sized knocker sample sets. And instructed me to crochet Size A. Within a few hours I marvelled at the prosthetic that I’d created. Saaisha reached out to cancer survivors through oncologists, volunteers and counsellors to help them cope with the changes wrought about by this fatal disease. 

I had envisaged today’s meeting, rehearsing it mentally several times. I walked into the first chamber allotted to me very confidently. And then my eyes fell on the lady facing me…I froze. Dark brown under-eye bags, a sallow skin, and not a single strand of hair! 

Bhagya nudged me, she whispered, “ Go ahead, meet Mrs Vaishali Sheth.” I was dumbstruck, my tongue wooden, all the weeks of training failed. I looked into her teddy eyes, they were not weary…but full of life. That sparkle had not died. I began to weep helplessly. Vaishali’s counsellor  rushed in, but Vaishali asked her to leave us.  

“Vai..sh, Vaishali More- our school’s leading athlete; my bestie, right?” 

She gently wiped my tears, as I continued, “ I’ve been longing to meet you, but not here, not in these circumstances!  Vaish, what a strange coincidence, we’re meeting after thirty years and that too in the Heritage House, Pondicherry.”  

 “Sri I won’t let cancer threaten my soul. Throughout these years, I have turned towards the sun so that I’d not see shadows, they do haunt me, yet I choose to turn away. And here is my bewildered classmate hesitant to give me the knockers she crocheted with care.”  

She looked at my handiwork and beamed, “Shri, your hands have some magic in them! Give me a minute, will you? ” 

I waited as she changed. Here was a glamorous Vaish dressed in a saree that showed off her contours, looking chic with a little touch of makeup, and a fuschia lipstick on her full lips. She grinned as if she didn’t have a care in this world. I couldn’t believe Vaish had helped me overcome my bewilderment today, like in school days. 

I hugged her tightly, a warmth rushing through my body. Slowly she smiled, “Shri, you haven’t changed a bit, I can see that school girl with two pigtails who cowered down when scared. I used to rush to rescue you then and so do I today!” 

Mumtaz Khorakiwala

06-03-2024

 

 

 

 

 

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