She counted the money. She counted it twice, then thrice. With a sigh, she sat on her bed, while all her purses and money boxes lay scattered around her. Even after collecting every last penny of her savings the money wasn’t enough to pay for the injections needed to save her daughter’s life. Her heart sank at the perspective. What would happen now?
Her five-year-old girl was terribly ill. She was admitted to a government hospital. Her father had died in a road accident leaving the mother and child alone in this cruel world. Sapna sat crying, she saw no way to save her Naina. Naina, who was her only reason to live. Naina who loved to eat pastries and patties. Naina, who was fighting for each breath as she lay in that hospital ward. Her tiny hands, her little feet, unmoving and lifeless. Sapna tried hard not to give in to panic and depression.
There must be a way, there has to be one. Life can’t treat her so harshly. She can’t lose the last ray of light in her dark life. She won’t let Naina die. One by one she called each and every one person she knew, all from whom she expected some help, all who were financially well-off. One wasn’t in town, other had just bought a new TV, another had all her money into lock-in period investments. Sapna gazed at the yellow walls of her small home.
Was life so cheap? Were 40,000 Rs more than a child’s life? Has greed and selfishness turned man’s heart so cold and dead to human misery and suffering? She was a woman of 32, who had seen life’s darkest of shades in such a young age. An orphan of 25 who fell in love with a machine man named Harsh and married him and dreamed of a home she never had. He had been everything she desired from her life partner and she left no stone unturned in becoming a perfect wife to him. Two years later they were blessed with a baby girl. Their happiness was complete. For four years she lived in a paradise that wasn’t made of riches and extravaganza but rather love and happiness and hope.
And then one night, the gods decided it was just enough. Her ordeal began with the news that her husband died in a road accident. She was left with nothing. No family, no one to love, no money, no one to wipe her tears that flowed unabashedly. That night Naina had wiped her mother’s tears. Sapna couldn’t bear Naina’s innocence. The poor girl had no idea what she had just lost.
But the mother and daughter picked each other up. They made a small haven for themselves in the one-room apartment and Sapna took up the job of a teacher in Naina’s school. She earned just enough to make ends meet, saving each penny she could to secure a future for Naina, to send her to a good college. Naina was such an understanding child. Sapna never saw her throwing tantrums or asking for toys or chocolates like other kids. Naina’s maturity made Sapna’s heartache.
And now that one fairy doll, that one angel of heaven would be lost too. Sapna cried long and hard, her eyes got misty and she dozed off. In her dream, she saw her husband holding Naina in his lap and kissing her in a land that was made of clouds. Harsh was spinning around with Naina in his arms and Sapna wanted to shout “Look out Harsh, she will fall” but she had no voice. And then she saw Harsh and Naina bidding her goodbye and they went into a thick mist, all she could see was their receding backs as she screamed, but her scream was stuck in her throat. No sound was coming from her. Sapna sat up, drenched in sweat. Her heart was beating like a steam engine. She wiped her sweaty brow and sat there trying to hold on to the dream, to see Naina and Harsh, but the vision was soon fading from the back of her eyelids. She took a few deep breaths and calmed down her heart. No, she can’t let that happen. She needed Naina more than Harsh needed her.
She got up, collected the money and ran to the hospital. Nothing had changed. Naina was lying in her hospital bed. Her frame was bony and lanky as she had lost so much weight in just one week. She sat on a pedestal stool by her daughter’s side and caressed her forehead. Naina opened her eyes. She gave a weak smile to her mother. Sapna gave her a teary smile and showered her with kisses as the mother-daughter hugged each other, clinging together. Holding Naina made Sapna’s insides twist into a knot. She has gone so thin and frail.
“When are we going back home, Maa?” Naina asked in a shaky voice.
“Soon, very soon I will take you with me, my sweetheart” Sapna assured her not knowing exactly how she would do that.
The monitors attached to Naina beeped, like counting her numbered breaths, the IV pouring medicines and glucose in her dripped like life was draining from her. Sapna closed her eyes as she embraced Naina tightly. She felt a tap on her shoulder and looked up. It was the hospital nurse.
“These medicines are needed immediately. Please get them ASAP.” The nurse told her curtly.
Naina looked at the paper and then at the nurse. “How much would they cost sister?” She enquired.
The nurse gave an exasperated sigh “At least 3,000”, she told and left after taking Naina’s pulse.
Sapna went down to the chemist and bought the medicines. Her very last penny was spent. All was lost. Until………
Sapna gave the medicines to the nurse and kissed Naina as she left the hospital and took the bus to Mr Parmar’s office. He was the owner of the factory in which her husband worked. She had met him only once before after Harsh died. She had gone to him to ask for Harsh’s last salary. After clearing her dues the man had placed a hand on Sapna’s shoulder. Sapna had taken it as a gesture of condolence until Mr Parmar said, “You are young and have a whole life ahead of you. A woman needs many things to survive. Love, money and a man in her life. If ever you decide that you are too tired to go on alone, just knock on my door. And I will make sure there is nothing you lack after that.” With these words, he had caressed Sapna’s shoulder and left her alone.
Sapna had run from his office and cried hard after coming home that day. She had sworn to herself that she will never succumb to life’s challenges and would bring Naina up on her own, keeping her dignity and pride intact. But today, that woman had lost that battle and a mother had surrendered herself to her fate. Nothing was more precious than her Naina’s life, not even her sanctity. She took a deep breath and looked at Mr Parmar’s office building and steeled her heart and braced her mind.
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