In continuation of The Beginning
What was it that made her think what she thought, Sneha did not know but she knew that somehow, for some reason, that made sense. It seemed as if all these days the mother in Smriti was fighting against death to see to it that her daughter would be taken care of after she was gone. It might not make sense to the practical mind but one had to accept that things happened, things that had no explanations. Who other than Sneha would know it to be true?
As she held Ajay in her arms and he continued to shed tears, she made up her mind to visit Smriti and have the one-sided conversation she had wanted to have since a long time. The first time she had seen her from close was the last time she had really looked at her. It felt odd to look at her. Scary, in a way! Just a couple of days had passed since that day but it seemed like a long time. That day, Smriti was a stranger. Today, even though she did not really know much about her than what Ajay had told her so far, it seemed as if she knew Smriti.
It took a while for Ajay to regain his composure and then the awkward silence followed. “Why don’t you go for a walk and free your mind a little while I sit with Smriti.” Sneha suggested. Ajay was about to refuse but Sneha added, “I will call you if need to be here, you don’t have to go far. The walk will really help.” Ajay nodded. Ajay loved walking, too. It did help him to clear his mind just as Sneha suggested. “And later on you tell me more about Smriti, okay?” Sneha said. “Sure” saying so Ajay got up and walked out of the prayer room. Sneha followed. While Ajay walked out of the hospital, she walked to the I.C.U. floor. As she walked past the enquiry desk, the man looked at her and continued staring as she walked towards Smriti’s room. Sneha then realized that she was not wearing the staff badge, neither had Ajay given her his pass. The man at the desk had allowed her to walk past without any questions. On her way to the room, a nurse walked past her, staring at her. When Sneha turned around to look at the nurse, she found the nurse, medicine tray in hand, staring back at her. After a while, the nurse turned around and walked away. The man at the desk was still staring at her. She wanted to walk over to him and ask what was wrong but finally she decided against it. It seemed as if a lot of things had happened on this floor.
She was about to enter the room when a guy she knew from the cafeteria walked towards her, a food tray in his hand. Perhaps attending to the order of one of the resident doctors, because as much as she knew – senior doctors were strictly against eating in the I.C.U. area. She smiled at the guy but he did not smile back, instead he said – “Are you sure you really want to do this?”
The question came as a surprise. It took a while for her to understand and before she could answer, he walked away shaking his head. What had happened here? Sneha wondered. Finally she entered the room and closed the door behind her. The only sound in the room was the beep of the machine that kept Smriti connected to this world. She walked closer to the bed, carrying the stool with her. She had changed too. She was ready to let go, the feeling filled up the entire room and Sneha found it difficult to breathe. She had to say so many things, wanted to talk to Smriti, let words flow out but one look at Smriti, and she could not speak. Instead, she just slipped her fingers through the woman’s and held her hand in silence. She was not aware of the passing time as she sat, hand in hand with Smriti, tears silently flowing down her cheeks. Finally she spoke, “I don’t know why and I don’t know how but I know I want to do it and I will do it. Shreya is as much mine as she is yours, yet she will always belong to you.” Sneha did not know what she was saying but at that moment the words held a deep meaning and a huge promise, which, she felt even Smriti acknowledged. Was she hallucinating or had Smriti really opened her eyes? Sneha blinked. Smriti was staring at her. A content smile on her face! Sneha wanted to get up, run and tell the doctors that Smriti was conscious but she could move. She blinked again, a lone tear trickled down Smriti’s eye and got absorbed in the pillow and then there was silence. Sneha realized it a few seconds later that it was too silent in the room. She panicked. The beep sound had stopped. The green line was flat. She stumbled as she rushed to the door screaming “Help”. Three doctors and two nurses rushed in immediately, followed by two ward boys wheeling in the equipment.
Sneha knew it was already late as the doctors tried to bring her back. Their last attempt of being the saviors that they were! With trembling hands she took out the mobile from her jean pocket and dialed Ajay’s number. When she realized what she had done, it felt as if someone had stabbed her in the heart, she found it difficult to breathe. She had, without really meaning to, snatched the most precious moment from Ajay. He would never get the chance to say good-bye to Smriti because Sneha had asked him to go for a walk. Sneha did not realize that Ajay had attended the call. The numerous hellos brought her back to her senses and she asked him to come over.
Noticing the tremble in Sneha’s voice, Ajay knew that something was terribly wrong. As he ran towards the hospital, he was reminded of Smriti’s words. Never ignore your subconscious thoughts. When Sneha had suggested he should go for a walk, he had hesitated for a moment; he should have taken it as a hint! He scolded himself. Instead, he had agreed to go on a walk as Sneha had suggested. After all that had happened in the entire day, he had needed the walk, needed a smoke but he had failed Smriti. He should have known that she needed him, too.
He did not wait for the elevator and climbed two steps at a time to reach the I.C.U. floor. Thankfully the enquiry guy was not at the desk; Ajay did not have time to take out the relative pass to show it to the guy, let alone search for it. When he reached the room, he found a team of doctors surrounding Smriti and he knew he was already late. In a corner, sitting with her knees close to her chest, was Sneha, tears streaming down her face.
When she looked up at him, he saw it in her eyes. He saw that she regretted sending him for the walk just the way he regretted going. She was feeling guilty. He now had two options – either let her keep feeling guilty or set her free. But, he knew – that could wait for a little while longer. He needed to be with Smriti. He walked towards his dead wife. Finally, she was at peace. The doctors, after their attempts had freed her of the tubes and wires. As he approached, the doctors moved back and walked out of the room and so did the nurses and the ward boys. He was alone in the room with Smriti and Sneha. He sat next to Smriti on the bed and held her hand. From the corner of his eyes he could see Sneha getting up and walking out of the door. He was glad that she knew he wanted a moment with Smriti. When Sneha closes the door behind her, Ajay slid down in bed next to Smriti and placing his head on her chest, started weeping like a child.
.. The New Life