(21st May, 1999…. Pune)

“Aai, I don’t want to be a doctor anymore! Even if I end up being a doctor, I will never be able to get my Ajoba back…” I bawled in agony as I hugged his lifeless body wrapped in white— set upon the floor, tears cascading through my eyes like a river.

No one dared to pick me up. After all, I was Ajoba’s most favourite naati.

His words resounded in my ears, “Even when the entire world breaks down, NEVER GIVE UP!”

But with him gone, my whole world had crumbled down. I simply couldn’t bring myself to appear for the medical entrance exam scheduled the next day. Ajoba had been my role-model and a living inspiration. I aspired to be just like him— relentless in efforts, unconditional in love and selfless in services. More than twenty hours of wailing had left me weak and wobbly. I simply refused anything that anyone offered me— food, comfort or advice.

The only memory that flashed as salty tears blended with water under the shower were, ‘Had I not left the hospital to go and pray to Gannu bappa that evening, Ajoba would have lived. He wouldn’t have left me because he loved me too much to leave me.’

***

(20th May, 2009 22:58 hrs- Indore)

The darkness of the forlorn night comforted me as it enveloped my form into oblivion. The mattress upon the attic floor offered my now plump body the much needed cushioning and support. Those squared pillows with orange flowers against a dark brown background easily soaked my tears into their depths. I had lost count of how many times I had sniveled into them. This room was a rescue spot for binge eating and wailing whenever I felt miserable. I hardly realised that I was spending more time than ever at this place.

Today, instead of the regular packet of chips and cake, I sat here with a pack of sleeping pills and bottle of water in hand. The time was just right. The clock on the wall chimed eleven times; a perfect time and a painless way to pass in one’s sleep. When I was mad and agonised, no one ever bothered to check on me. Not even my significant other…

The internal dialogue was waiting for this moment to jolt me back to the regular conversations I had. Was I hallucinating? I couldn’t tell…

‘So, why are you here? Again?’

‘I can’t handle this anymore… It will be best to simply end my life!’

‘Wait! What happens to your daughter then? She’s still an infant. She needs you more than you know. Leaving her is not the solution.’

‘There’s nothing to live for. I’m a complete good for nothing. I couldn’t save my Ajoba, I couldn’t be a doctor, I couldn’t make a living and now I am not worthy of any role I play. I keep feeding my wounds with food and more food. Besides, I’m neither a good bahu, nor a good wife or mother. It’s best I end my life.’

‘Ajoba wouldn’t have ever imagined that you would be a loser like today. Is this what you learnt from him? Would he appreciate you giving up on life so easily? He had believed you to be a fighter.’

‘I used to be. Not anymore… Not after he left me without a hint. I don’t see any reason to live. If I die, I can at least get to meet him on the other side of the realms and ask him why he left me devastated…’

I opened the bottle and was about to gobble the pills down when…

‘Hey! Wait. Do you remember what day it is today? It’s the 20th of May. In less than an hour, it would be Ajoba’s tenth death anniversary.’

‘Huh! What’s this… a signal? I don’t know what to make of this!’

‘Well all I can say right now is that I am reminded of the popular saying, “Sometimes the questions are complicated and the answers are simple.” Hope you can get a hint.’

(And I lived…)

***

(4th January, 2024… 16:30 hrs, Delhi)

The host announced, “Honoured to welcome Dr. Pradnya Chandke whose contribution in psychology and social work has taken the country by storm. Her efforts in ‘Cognitive Behavioral Science’ stands as a testimony to the extensive research and development made by her in this field. She is a perfect example…”

The anchor’s announcement was muffled by the thunderous applause of the audience. With a perfect figure, adorning a crisp, indigo cotton saree, neatly draped and pinned to perfection, complete with those khol lined deep, brown eyes, I stood up gracefully to walk towards the stage. With my hair pulled back in a neat bun, the small, round bindi on my forehead and the glossy, pink lips just completed my looks. I looked resplendent with a graceful smile that spoke of my confidence and gratitude.

My ears shut off to the sounds in the background as I constantly heard Ajoba’s voice in my head, “Pradnya, majhi baarki! Finally, you are a doctor. I can’t believe that you finally lived up to your promise to Ajoba. Today my lessons feel complete. All that I taught you was put to good use. My blessings are always with you child. Rise and Shine!”

The media and paparazzi gathered around the platform. The sounds of camera ‘Click! Click!!’ resounded through the massive auditorium. The shine of a thousand spotlights seemed to capture my presence on stage. I felt elated, yet humbled; exhilarated, yet blessed.

As I walked up the stage to receive the honour, I was reminded of that night when I decided to give myself yet another chance at life. It was a rebirth; metamorphosing through the darkest confines of self abuse, depression, anxiety and insomnia to blossom into the brightest and most beautiful form of me. I don’t regret the chance that my internal better self gave me that portentous night.

 

Word Count: 999 words excluding the title and glossary:

 

Glossary:

Aai- Mother

Ajoba- Grandfather 

Naati- Grand-daughter

Baarki- My dear little one

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