Me and my co-intern were cribbing about how weird our boss was being that day. We were served our special ginger teas by Maushi at exactly 3.00 pm – the one thing that would make the workplace memorable.
Suddenly we got a notification on our phones saying the results were out. We logged in to our portals to view them and were more than elated to know we scored a perfect 10.00. That was the measure of success for us back then. We were planning how we would celebrate it.
By 4 pm, we had finished the tasks for the day when suddenly my boss, who is also a family friend called me in his cabin. I was worried about what could have gone wrong when he told me my cousin had passed away. A news I was not prepared for.
He asked me to get ready so that I could go with him to her place. I had lost sense of what I was supposed to do or even say. I called my grandmother who asked me to stay put until she called back. My parents who were visiting a relative of ours were heading back to the city.
I sat at my desk doing nothing. I was not able to cry. I was just numb. To lose a kin so young and a person who had been so jovial all her life was unacceptable to me.
She was suffering from cancer for around a year. She was being treated and was getting better. The night before she was happier than she had been since the unwanted foreign bodies had made home in her. She made her mom cook her favourite meal and headed off to bed with a big smile not knowing what awaited her in the early hours of dawn.
I reached home, got picked up by mt parents and headed to her house. My uncle’s sorrow knew no bounds. People were offering condolences but it was evident he was unable to handle the loss as would any other parent on the face of earth.
My cousin was not an ordinary person. She fought cancer bravely. She would joke about how this disease is changing her life – from her hair to her daily routine. She was a girl with no inhibitions and that was always something that amazed me and would later inspire me to follow my heart.
There were a lot of conversations we could have had, danced at each other’s weddings, held each other’s babies and everything else we would joke and dream about that we could do. There were apologies and gratitude to be expressed to each other that would remain unsaid.
What hurt the most was someone who wanted to apologise her for mistreating her was unable to do so. The regret would remain was to remain with them for the rest of their life. She had never held grudges against her friend and tried in many ways to make the best of the time she had left but to no avail.
I would keep thinking what she must have been thinking in her final moments. What is the use of people now regretting their behaviour? I did not realise the impact of this as severely until a year later my mother discovered I had developed a fatal health condition due stress. I was put on antibiotics for a month but with no assurance that the episode would not recur.
I remember just before the diagnosis, I was not able to touch any surface from bed to floor. My body was burning and had started swelling. I became twice my original size in a span of 8 hours. While I did not sleep I had passed out around 4 am in the morning and when I woke up, I was unable to comprehend much of what was going around. My eyes were again beginning to close as I struggled to lay myself down on the couch.
My brother was trying to wake me up while I was preparing myself for the worst.
I was moved to Sahyadri – a well known hospital and a renowned dermatologist was contacted. After 3 horrific hours, they diagnosed it to be a severe case of stress impacting my body. The word fatal and the inability to identify the root cause led to my mother’s panic. However, being the strong woman she is, she left the room to get the medicines and necessary supplies.
In those moments, that I laid on the couch at home and then while being diagnosed, I had flashbacks of my cousin, flashbacks of many mistakes I made in the twenty two years of my life and memories of few people I thought I would never see. In that moment, all i wanted was to meet each one of them and apologize and thank everyone.
What I learnt from my cousin’s death was only emphasized by my own experience. The two days stripped me off of my little ego that I had and resentments I held. In that moment I wanted to meet every person possible who had graced my life with their presence.
Relationships became a major part of my routine. Communication became much more important and leaving things unsaid was the first thing I wanted to erase from my life in every encounter with any person. I struggle with it sometimes but the goal is to overcome.
It is almost five years since that incident changed my life for better. She passed away not completing all milestones of her human life but her death resulted in a turning point in my life.
A lesson I shall carry into the coming years of life.