Last Gift

July 1, 2010 Off By Pramathesh Borkotoky

(* Disclaimer: The following is a work of fiction and it has nothing to do with real life. All characters are fictional and any resemblance to any person alive or dead is purely coincidental. *)

We were meeting after a long time. But, instead of telling about our interesting stories in all these years, we were quiet and neither of us knew what the other had gone through to make them so quiet. We were sitting in the half constructed bridge and watching the sunset and a myriad of thoughts were going through both our minds. I had known Sophia for the past 35 years. We were childhood friends. After the sunset, I dropped Sophia at her home. On my way back I was wondering what might have happened that made the bubbly Sophia so quiet.
We were childhood friends. I, Sameer was sent to boarding school when I was in class VI. After Class XII when I came back, I was 17 and she was 16 and both of us were in the pinnacle of youth. I proposed to her but she refused saying that she never thought of me in that manner. I thought that was the most stupid reply she could ever give but did not say anything. I tried to compose myself and said, “Okay! As you say! But I will wait for you till my last breath. If you ever feel that I can be of any use to you do say and don’t hesitate for a while, I will be there without causing you any problem.” It was a very clichéd dialogue, but that was the best a person can do when he is heart-broken. Then I went to study engineering and she went for medicals. After engineering I got a job in IS Tech. Someone told me that she got married to a doctor. I did not know more details; neither did I try anything to know more. We did not meet for the next 10 years. One day I met her in a marriage party and I must say she was looking as beautiful as she was 10 years before. She was very happy with her life; at least it seemed like that. I also met her husband. “Girls always know, when they have better options”, I thought. He was good looking and very interesting to talk and he settled so early in life. He had progressed in overall. I was happy that Sophia was happy. But, somewhere in the back of my mind, I had memories that were not exactly making me happy. “LOSER!!!”, I felt like shouting to myself but resisted from doing any such thing.
Well, another ten years had passed. We had met after a long time. Time passes so easily, and we don’t even feel it, actually we don’t have enough time to think about it. After yesterday’s meeting, I was very uneasy. So today, I went straight to her home. I wanted to surprise her. Well, it was a surprise but she did not seem to like it exactly, but anyways welcomed me in.
We were both silent for a while. “Why is there so much of a silence? Where is her husband? Her in-laws?”, so many questions popped into my mind.

After a while, I said, “Why don’t all of you join me for a lunch tomorrow? And it is a Sunday!”.
Sophia did not reply. After a while she said, “I live here alone! Last year all of them died within a month…”, and she got lost in her thoughts.
I had the greatest shock of my life. I did not know what to say. I have known about her kid’s death. He was 14 years old when he died. He fell off from a moving city bus, while returning from tuition. It was 2 years back. It was a huge tragedy, but this was gross pain to lose all the family members within a month.
“I am sorry!”, I exclaimed. I wanted to console her, but I was in terrible loss of words. .
“Why are you sorry? You did not offend me. It was my fate who betrayed me.”
“Look Sophia, I don’t know about the depth of the grief that you underwent. And I don’t want to know about it also, but that is Life and since you are still not dead, you will have to live it. You have no other choice other than moving ahead in life.”
Sophia looked at me and gave a meek smile. I could not understand why was she smiling, perhaps it has been a long time since someone screamed at her.
“Stop smiling! I mean I want you to smile but, but …..”, I stopped. “Err… What am I saying?”, I thought. After a while, both of us broke into laughter. But, she started crying. I felt that she should be let to cry and drain out all her anguish. I have always felt that crying helps.
“Okay! What is there for food?”, I asked after a while, trying to lighten up the situation. She wiped her tears and said, “Nothing! You came without notice.”
“Where is the best restaurant in the town? Today it is your Birthday right? You will have to treat me!”
Sophia was amused and said, “Although it is not my birthday, I will treat you.”
The days had passed and Sophia was back to normal. One day Sophia said, “Do you remember, you proposed me once?”
I was surprised to know that she remembered. “Well, I do!”, I tried to keep it short.
“Well,… do you still love me?”, she asked.
“Why do you want to know?”, I asked. In the back of my mind, I was wondering what might be in her mind.
“I was wondering why are you still unmarried.”, she replied.
“You raised the standards of my choice.”, I replied with grin trying to avoid the topic.
“Well, so we should now look for a girl that meets your standards.”
“That is next to impossible!”
“Well, I suppose I know my standards and I also suppose that it is high time that you should get married.”
“I thought about it but now I am old. Next Independence Day, I will be 40.”
“Is it necessary to talk about it right now?”, I tried best to avoid the topic not being sure about what she has in mind.
“Yes!”, she replied.
“Look! Life has not being easy to me either. But, now I have learned to forget the past and move ahead. But, moving ahead doesn’t necessarily mean to pursue the same path.”
Sophia was stunned wondering if it was the same Sameer who brought her from the shadows of grief. I suppose she did not dare to ask as I did not ask her past. Or, perhaps she did not understand the last line. That might also be a reason to keep quiet.
“I need a friend in this point of life. ” I said suddenly.
“Can you elaborate on this?”
“I have very less time left! 2 months at maximum, but those are too high hopes.”
“What????”, she could not believe her ears.
I showed my reports and said, “I actually came for treatment from you. My doctors told that you are the best in this field. They also told me about some part of your tragedy. They were not sure to send me to you. It is only when I told them that you are my childhood friend, they let me come. I thought, anyway I will be dead and doctors can only extend my life. So, I tried my best to hide this fact from you.”
“THEN WHY ARE YOU TELLING ME NOW?”, she yelled. She was crying now and perhaps thinking that what enmity fate has with her. I felt sorry for her.
“My last wish is that you will be brave and always smile till your last breadth.”, I said all of a sudden. How stupid of me.
“Oh! Stop that crap, and let me see what I can do” and she started analysing the reports.
She was one of the leading doctors who specialised in it, but she stopped practicing after her child’s death. I was thinking if I had to die what better way to die than die at her hands. I was cursing myself for overlooking the emotional trauma that Sophia might go through awaiting my death. I have always been so stupid.
Sophia was cursing herself as much of the time was wasted. One of the good thing about Sophia was that she was never carried off by emotions. The emotions attached only made her push her limits.
I was hospitalised immediately. After a few days, I felt better. She was happy that I was progressing; at least it seemed like that. She was fighting with death and it is no easy fight. With each passing day, death was nearer and she had to make an extra effort to save me. One day when I was looking at the calendar, I came to know that 3 months have passed. Voilà, Sophia extended my life. Now, each day is a bonus day for me. This gave me enough hope and it was proving an advantage for Sophia. I now feel that I can be cured of this deadly disease.
Today, I took release from the hospital, I had sufficiently improved. I still feel weak but now, I hope that I would be cured. Sophia gifted me with hope. She also gifted me with a friend that I have ever longed for. Today, we are sitting in the same bridge which has now been completed, viewing the sunrise of a new morning….

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