Every daughter dreams of mouthing the words her mother repeats to her. As someone who recently had to repeat her mother’s favourite five words to the woman who had given her birth, let me tell you that it is not all that it is made to be. There were often moments when I asked the most common question asked ever, ‘Why me?’ And my mother, in her almost-irritating-optimism, would reply, ‘You are God’s chosen one.’
During the last week of February 2011 after a series of medical tests and visits to the doctors my mother was diagnosed with ovarian cancer (stage three). Over the last four months, I heard my mom complain only once. All she said was, ‘He should have spared me this at least!’ All I could say at that time was, ‘You are His chosen one.’
Stories of cancer, people surviving cancer, doctors dedicating their lives to saving lives of cancer patients and families fighting the disease through thick and thin are not new to me. I had read a lot of pages dedicated to the survivors, the saviours and the people who stand behind, giving never-ending support. I sympathised with the souls that had the misfortune of going through the battle for life. Their words made sense. The world through their eyes made sense. As a reader, their words assured me that my problems were small, the battles of life harsh and I could muster the courage to fight whatever life threw my way with a broad smile. However, all said and done, for me cancer was just a fictional problem that attacked others.
Let me be honest and confess. I had said those words to her and then subsequently several times to myself, my younger brother and even relatives while talking about cancer and her brave fight. However, it took me a couple of months to actually understand why we are God’s chosen ones.
The last four months for me were all about chemotherapies, medicines, shuttling from Delhi to Jaipur every 21 days, the surgery, living in two cities at the same time (mind in Delhi and thoughts in Jaipur with my mom), and several other things with which boring you would not be a very good idea. With my mother’s treatment completing successfully today, with a heart light with relief I want to remember why, ‘We are God’s chosen ones.’
When we first got confirmation that it in fact was cancer, the only thought that ran through my head was to call and consult my mama (mother’s brother) and mami (mother’s brother’s wife). They are the only real family I have apart from my mom and brother. No amount of ink can help me pen down my thoughts for the two people who have saved my mother’s life. Cancer has been the most difficult on mami. The house-work increased overnight, she had to put her own life on hold and throughout she had a smile on her face. She also ensured that she continued to be a pillar of strength for my aaji (grandmother), mama, brothers (Ansh and Akshat), sister (Prasha) and me. No one I know could have been this selfless in showering love over all of us and ensuring that hearts did not break and nervous breakdowns did not happen. She was the glue that held everything together. Thank you seems a very small word to express my gratitude to the woman who saved my mother’s life. ‘We are God’s chosen one,’ to have mami in our lives.
Mama is the closest Akshat and I have to a father figure. He plays the role of a facilitator. He arranges things, makes things happen and sets the carpet rolling. All it took was a fraction of a second for us to decide and call him when we found about the cancer and even less time to pack our bags and set mom’s base at his home for the subsequent treatment. He is the only man I know who generates vibes that help people around him depend on him without thinking twice. Over the years, I have seen him doing his best trying to save lives of several people he knew and even strangers. But I also know that the last few months have been very difficult on him. Seeing your only sister fighting another battle cannot be easy. I saw him brave seeing his sister shrivel to all bones. I wish no brother has to go through what he had to go through. I also wish that all brothers love their sisters as much. ‘We are God’s chosen one,’ to have mama in our lives.
It was a very difficult time for Akshat but his biggest gift to me was not to cry in front of me. He said he knew he had to be the strong one since I really enjoy crying. He managed to take care of a lot of things at home when I was away. Although, we had our share of fights, I know for a fact that I could not have gotten through the last four months and the agony they brought without Akshat at my side. I’m God’s chosen one.
My mother's friends, who are as good as a mother to me--Anita aunty, Maju Aunty and Archana aunty. They were there on stand by. Any time, I needed anything, all I had to do was ask. Sometimes, they would know what I might need even before I asked. How can I not be God's chosen one when I have four mothers.
Even as a child, I was often taught by mom that friends are very important. An introvert, she nurtured my extrovert nature with much love. She encouraged me to be a good friend and often told me that it is the people in your life that matter. Relatives you can’t choose, but exercise the choice of making friends wisely. Till recently, I believed that having good friends just reflected on the fact that I was a good friend. I was certain that friendship was a two-way street. ‘I am God’s chosen one.’ He decided there was no better time than now to teach me that the goodness of people is theirs and the one at the receiving end is purely blessed. In this case, it was me.
Although, Gurneet and Kanchan, who are my friends for life and beyond were not physically present to console me every time I wanted to shed a tear (and there were a lot and a lot more and then a few more times) God was kind enough to surround me with people who went beyond anything I could imagine to help me cope. It just sends a shiver down my spine to even think about what would have happened if I was not working at OUP. I have worked with a lot of people, but so far have not worked with a boss like Lena. She was understanding and did not once question the leaves I had to take. Support from her ensured that I had no pressure from office when I was in Jaipur for the chemotherapies and the surgery. I know that I can go to her with any problem and she will offer a solution. The most important thing she told me when I called her from Jaipur the first time was, “Priyanka, keep the faith.” Every time I felt my faith shaking, I remembered her words, took a deep breath and magically enough my faith was restored. I am God’s chosen one.
Vinata, Lopa and Anuradha became the elder sisters I never had. They gave me strength and ensured that I never lost faith. I truly believe that Vinata’s prayers have worked wonders and played a crucial role in mom’s recovery. Lopa almost took over the role of my mother and was a very patient sounding board. She listened to me for hours and not once refused to give me an ear even at her busiest hour. She took me out on all the days when she thought staying alone would have proved catastrophic. She was so right and I am so grateful that words fail me. I will eternally be grateful to both of you. Anuradha, in her silent way, always held my mother in prayer and would actually fulfil my stupid demands for chips and sandesh at one go. Jessica would always be the first one to message me to ask about mom. She remembered all the dates of chemos, when I was leaving and when I would return. She was always ready to give me an ear when I wanted a five-minute break from work and also opened her magic drawer to give chocolates when I most needed them. She even bought me three pairs of earrings for my birthday, including a dirty one (which I liked and she was generous enough to offer to clean with a toothbrush). I am God’s chosen one.
Sheena and Sangeeta along with the other members of the ‘chillar party’—Athena, Supriya, Hansita, Meghna and Shweta, did not let go of a single chance to make me laugh and smile. Sheena’s jokes are what kept a smile on my face even when my mind was full of chaos. Sheena and her family’s prayers have worked. Thanks a lot Sheena and please thank uncle and aunty as well for the prayers and for the frequent supply of delicious idlis and chutney. Sangeeta, became a friend in a really short period of time. It did not matter that I was missing from office soon after she joined. It never felt that she was new in my life. The pink umbrella and the constant supply of yog kanthika made me so happy that words are not enough and I hope she one day fulfils my foolish demand of buying me a Victorian gown to match the umbrella and of course the ticket to UK for the fairytale dance with Prince Charming :-) Athena’s concern and constant liking of my status updates on FB, Supriya’s happy hanger face, Hansita’s company on chat every night from 9 to 10, Meghna’s good humour to take jokes like a sport, and Shweta’s daily morning rounds to my desk to discuss the ‘rat’ situation in office made my days in Delhi fun. I am God’s chosen one.
I was always told that colleagues never become friends. To those who believe this, I say you are wrong. Colleagues are as good as family, at least mine are. Everyone in my department, made sure that my birthday was a special one. Even when I was all alone in Delhi, everyone made sure that I did not feel alone even for a minute throughout the day. The most precious gifts I got on my 28th birthday were priceless hugs, invaluable wishes and abundant blessings apart from the surprise cakes that the department pitched in to get for me. Most importantly, everyone I knew gave me their time. I will always remember how all my friends and colleagues ensured that I felt special and did not miss my mother. I am so proud to say, I did not miss her much. I am truly God’s chosen one to have Lena, Vinata, Lopa, Samar ji, Praveen, Anis, Anuradha, Sheena and Sangeeta in my life. Samar ji once wrote to me saying, tough times don’t last, tough people do. Words I wish to remember always. I am God’s chosen one.
Some 14 years ago, I became friends with a tall, silent, fair-as-if-a-tubelight-was-lit-inside-her-skin-girl. And after as many years, I came to know why we became friends. It was Parul’s destiny to be my emotional backbone through this ordeal. She took on the role of being on the other end of the telephone line at any given time of the day and listen patiently to my long renditions of,’ why me God’, ‘universe is conspiring against me’, ‘I’m God’s chosen one’, ‘I am so grateful’, ‘I’m lonely’ and several other hits that are lost in the sands of time and fortunately no one will ever have to hear them. She spent hours trying to talk sense to me when I refused to listen, soothing me when I just wanted to bawl like a baby, talking utter nonsense to ensure my mood would alter and I would laugh like a maniac. She has often been described a pure soul, supatra, old soul, and several similar adjectives. Fulfilling a good friend’s duty, I always ridicule all her claims to such fames but the fact is that she deserves all these and then some more. I will never again admit it, so I hope you are saving this one for eternity Parul. I love you so much and thanks for proving all the quotes about friends and friendship correct. I am God’s chosen one to have had you in my life for the last 14 years and I hope to retain you for the remaining years.
Would also like to mention some friends, who have come to my life through the wonderful world of blogging. Some I have never met, and then there are Nitu and Kavita whose homes I have stayed in. Thanks Amit Charles, for your prayers and constant pep talks on gtalk. Patty, for your long mails and frequent inquiries about my mother. You are an inspiration to her and she often talks about you and Abe to her friends. Nitu, for sending your best wishes and praying for my mother. Kavita, for taking the pain and asking the pious lady to light a lamp for my mother's good health. Deepak uncle, for unknowingly encouraging me to continue clicking photographs and channeling my energy into doing something productive. All your wishes worked and thanks to you my mother will be back in Delhi soon. I'm God's chosen one to have all of you in my life from different corners of the world :-)
Thanks is a word too small to show my gratitude to all the people mentioned here and a lot of others I have not mentioned. I am really grateful to have each one of you in my life. Thanks a lot for ensuring that I still believe that I’m God’s chosen one.