I believe it was in the 9th. grade, when I read the story,'The Monkey's Paw'. I still remember the chill of horror that descended over me when I first read it. Up until that time, I had never considered any 'side-effects' of wishing.
Like everyone, I wished, in various degrees of desperation, for many things, some trivial, some not so. There came a short lived phase when I fasted and prayed, trying to sometimes please one God and sometimes another.
Time brought with it, many changes. Studies, work, later, marriage and moving to the USA shortly.
Many people around me remarked how lucky I was. Maybe I was. But there were times, when I confess, this 'lucky' feeling did not mean a lot. Do you get that feeling too?
I missed my parents a lot. I met them 3.5 years ago, when we went to India, for my son's second birthday. I would keep begging them to visit us. They would say yes, something would come up and it would get postponed. I'd beg again, something else would come up, they would alter their plans. This went on and finally I started planning, daydreaming of what I would do when they visited me. I would dream of driving them around, going shopping with them. At times, I lost it, I would have imaginary talks with myself in the car, imagining them with me. I'd come home from a small holiday and when I spoke to my parents, I'd tell them how beautiful such-and-such a place was, how they would have enjoyed being there and maybe we can visit once they were here.
I would envy my friends when their parents visited. I just desperately wanted to see my parents.
That was all. I just desperately wanted to......
Then on 4th October, I called my parents, as usual, around 9:00 pm, knowing my father would be waiting to talk, before the news began. His cell phone was switched off. this was highly unusual. His cell phone is always switched on and near him. I called on the home number, sense of unease increasing with every second. My Mother answered the call on the 4th. ring. Her first 'Hello' sounded like she had been thru a wringer.
With all my senses tingling (yes, yes, tingling sense is not just for spider-man) I tried to find out. All she said was, " oh, it's all okay, Baba is a bit tired today and has taken a tablet to sleep" Sleep? why so early? I can understand him missing dinner but not the news, what is wrong?
And then in a slightly shaky and almost squeaky voice she said it was all okay. I knew she was not telling me something. I lost it. I knew something was terribly wrong and she was being very evasive. The last time she did this, my Father was in the hospital with a broken arm. I hung up on her abruptly and called my cousin and told her to get it out of her. After that , unable to sit still, I rang my BFF Lisa and asked her to find out too.
Within 10 minutes, I had the information I wanted. Wanted, no... no! This is something one NEVER wants to hear. But, I got the truth. My Father was in the hospital. He had suffered from a stroke, one, luckily confined only to his facial muscles and vocal chords. The moment I heard those words, my head started swimming. My cousin had to bellow on the phone to make me conscious of the fact that she was talking. I wanted to see Daddy. He is alive and in the hospital. I want to see him. Nothing else registered.
Making a call and asking M to come home was the work of an instant. But what about everything else? What about Little S? In times like these, we realize who our real friends are. The minute my friends Sujata, Sonali and Sunanda heard of the news, they pitched in.
Within the hour, my plans were finalized. I was going to India, for 12 days. M and I got down to planning, you see, I had to have my VISA stamping done. Now those among you, who are on a VISA, like me, will know the trouble and anxiety that this topic raises. Paper work, documents to carry, photo copying, panicking. We placed a call to my co-sister and arranged for her to pay my VISA interview fees and then made the appointment, it had to be done the first week I was in Mumbai. By 8:00 pm, my ticket was booked and on Saturday morning, I flew back to India. As the boarding was announced, I called my Mother and told her I was coming. I did not want to say anything before that, she would have tried to convince me to stay back and wait as my father was getting better. I was not having any of that.
My close friend picked me up at the airport and was very supportive throughout. Thank you. Exhausted and terribly anxious, I met my Mother at the hospital gate, who as she met me looked like a huge mountain-load of tension had rolled off her! As I stepped quietly in the room, I saw him, dozing, pale, his cheekbones standing out, a slight droop to the mouth that always smiled and made jokes and related funny anecdotes, a feeding tube inserted through his nose. I had made up my mind to be strong and cheerful and oh, so many things! All that flew out of the window at this sight. All I could manage was a "hello, Daddy" in a tearful voice and just hug him and weep. And he kept patting me, re-assuring me, even in that condition and saying he was going to be 100% okay.
His vocal chords were affected. He had very little control over those. Little by little, after the first meeting I found out what had happened. My parents had gone to the doctors office, routine visit and when my Mom went to get the case-paper (like signing in), within seconds, my Father had had the stroke. Things happened rapidly, but Somebody up There, loves us! Help was also given with equal rapidity.
I am so proud of my Father. He could not talk, but he wrote down everything that he was feeling and gave it to the doctors. They said it helped them diagnose and give medicines quickly. In fact, he did way, way better than a regular patient. The clarity of thought and lucidity of language left the doctors amazed. He was in the hospital for a week and getting bored. Oh yes! That's my Daddy. He wanted to go home and when the doctors started the semi-solid food and took that offending and intrusive feeding tube off and would sign his discharge papers, the first thing he told the nurse was to set the IV drip a little faster, he wanted to go home for dinner! I did a little jig!
He is home now, recovering a little more, with every passing day. I am back home with my boys.
The two weeks I spent in India went by like the wind, full of tension and worry over my Father's health and at how M was coping handling Little S on his own, for the first time.
I got to meet my parents, but not in the way I had imagined. Not the way I wanted to.
I want to thank my dear, dear friends, from the bottom of my heart, for all their help. Without their support it would have been impossible.
While I was in India, I did not contact anyone, did not intimate anyone, I know you will understand, but I apologize for not communicating at all. My focus was different.
For all those, who were not near to help- physically, I want to thank you for your concern and prayers, they helped.
I am a *very* lucky girl. I have a loving family and loving, concerned friends who are with me, always. I cannot wish for more.
I do not want to.