….And I saw him running down the hill with a mouthful of laughter, most importantly, a lung full of breath that gives him the confidence- even he can do it do. I watched standing with moist eyes. I pinned copiously to see him climbing up the small hill top, some day, one day. The last 45 minutes were like the finale of the battle that was being fought for the last 11 years. It was like the final exam of the course that you have been preparing for, all along. Or perhaps the culmination of all the efforts that were put in to make this happen. Rajeev, my better half held my hand. Our welled eyes met, talking more than ever. Nodding with a heartful of contentment. Lips broke into a subtle smile, and he said, “ you did it my warrior woman, you did it’. Before I could react, Abhi hugged me from the back and jumped, “ I did it Mumma”. He breathed fast, I heard it loud and clear. Nothing was more familiar to my senses than his breathing. But he breathed better, for I knew looking at him, he was not gasping for breathe anymore.
What is the big deal in climbing a hill top for a 12 year old boy, you may ask ? Nothing perhaps for many. But for us it was a forbidden dream that had just come true. It was a dream that looked impossible in many ways. A dream that was so distant that even the thought of it looked alien. A dream that was excruciatingly painful. But, today, it is also a dream that has come true.
11 years back, it was a cold chilly evening in Kolkata, when this story began. We were there for vacation along with my nine month old Abhi. One evening, my otherwise full of life boy, was cranky. Rather, unusually cranky. As a mother, I was new to this sudden turbulence, and this worried me. His tummy was buried inside, but the little man refused to eat anything and everything that was tried on him. “ He is hungry”, my aching heart mumbled. And, suddenly, while searching his body for any signs of possible ailment, I noticed his breathing. It was irregular, and something was wrong. Something was amiss. He breathed fast, unsteady. Was it because he was crying? Perhaps yes, that happens, I knew. But what’s this sound? I felt a strange pang. It was already nine in the night, and an impending crisis worried me. This was new. My Abhi’s discomfort was new. His whining was new. And, my fears as a mother were new.
The next thing I knew was that we were sitting in the emergency room of the hospital. The atmosphere was anything but comforting. In the mid december cold, I was sweating profusely. Rajeev held his nerve. But I, I felt numb. I felt like, I mean, something I never felt before.
“He is on oxygen support”, the nurse told hurriedly while passing by. “The saturation dipped alarmingly and the heartbeat was irregular”. Did I hear the right words? I sat, terrified. The eerie silence of the night was deafening. My heart sank with every passing minute. We were not prepared for this. Nothing ever could prepare us for this. I sat burying my face on the palm, Rajeev by my side, totally distorted.
The doctor came almost an hour later. It was impossible to read what he was preparing to say. And, this made those few seconds worse. I wanted to get up and march towards him. Grab him and inspect. But my limbs gave up. I sat glued to the seat, almost lifeless. I was sinking with crores of thoughts raging my mind. That deadpan look was crucifying. Rajeev stood up, and I gaped dumbfounded.
“ Abhi had a massive asthma attack. It was bad. We have put him on oxygen. Gave steroids to bring down the spasm. He is better now, but it will take time to normalize ”, he said pressing his lips, fiddling with the stethoscope in his hand. The fingers were artistic, clean. He looked at me and then to Rajeev, and then again back to me. I stood up. Probably his words instilled life in this dead mother’s soul. A shade of exhaustion on his face. The doctor breathed a lung full and then started again, “ two days we will keep him in the hospital, and then you can take him back”, he looked at me with a gentle node, a smile somehow resting on his dark lips, “ don’t worry he will be fine”.
In those five minutes, my life had tossed up and down zillionth of time. Rajeev looked at me , a sense of relief on his face. “ Can I see him”? I asked almost breaking down. “ Yes yes”, comes a quick assuring reply. “ He is sleeping, but you can definitely see him”, and with that the man in the white coat, blue dungarees and slippers marched away.
We walked slowly towards Abhi’s room. That was a sight I still dread. It makes me weak even now, comatoze perhaps. You would never want to see your child tied to monitors all around and a mask on his face. But, I stood there, helpless, disheveled, holding the end of the bed, with an inspecting why ?? He was still breathing, and that was all I cared for at that moment. But the breath was irregular. Even with the white sheet on him, I could sense his tummy going up and down, trying perhaps to gather enough air to live, and then wake up with a smile. Finally, after three days we took Abhi back home.
Abhi started getting attacks every month. And that was taking a huge toll on his body. His growth stopped. Slowly, he became more and more weak. Forget running, even walking few steps were inconceivable. He was perhaps taking in more medication than the food I gave. And, as he suffered attack after attack, me and Rajeev progressively moved towards an unknown dark dungeon, paranoid perpetually. Least knowing the worst is yet to knock the door.
To get some respite from the ongoing bedlam, we decided to take a short trip. Just three hours from Bangalore, Kabini National Park. We chose this place because we thought, our Abhi would like it. He was and still is a wildlife enthusiast. We took the trip prepared. Yes, very much prepared. From the hullabaloo of our daily life, and mundane routine, the jungle was like a puff of fresh air. It was rather more satisfying to see Abhi enjoying in his little sweet way, savouring every bit of his first forest sojourn. And,we couldn’t have been more happy. Everything went on well till the first day. But, by the evening this simple cough turned into a full blown wheezing attack, that looked severe and threatening in all possible ways. We were in a the midst of a jungle, with no medical facility available. A crisis loomed large.
Sometimes, you become so numb to circumstances that reactions just don’t come easily. We couldn’t have pumped medication unscrupulously, you see. It had doses. It had timings, and we needed to follow that. But what do you do, when the wait becomes endless, and there in no relief in sight. You just sit with your heart in the mouth, gaping at the sky. Trust me…just that. Helplessness had a new name for us that night. Abhi’s condition was nightmarish. He was not breathing, he was gasping for breath. The next dose of steroid was still four hours wait. And before we could think what to do, suddenly Abhi sat up crying. I tried to push him back to sleep, but he resisted. He resisted vehemently. He came close to me and held me by my shoulders. His little hands were lifeless, still the touch felt good. But his breath was heavy. He inhaled…stopped…exhaled. And that stop almost killed us. I embraced him. “Mumma…he whispered. I can’t breath anymore, can you do something”, said almost choking. Something snapped, broke, ravaged inside me. I wanted to wipe out this entire world. I hugged him tight. Not a single word came to my rescue. Rajeev marched out of the room. The door banged. I knew he just couldn’t take Abhi’s words. But I sat there hugging my child. What do I do now….what Mumma can possible do for you baby? What could help him sail through? I held him tight, totally clueless what that ominous night stored for us.
There is something about nights. At times, it does so much justice to its name that you start believing in its darkness. That night was one of those. It was too dark to even fathom if there would be another day. But, I had to do something. I can’t give up. And, then suddenly I decided to take a plunge. Taking few drops of oil in my hand, I started stroking his back. I don’t know why, but I did. Continuously, sometimes, slow, at times fast. I kept on doing it. And, for the next four hours I kept stroking his back, nonstop. And every time, he would doze a bit… I whispered in his ears, “ Abhi you there”? In a frail voice he would reply, “ yeah Mumma”. And, I sighed in relief. For few seconds, minutes perhaps, the warmth of my body, the touch of my palm and my whispering lullaby was helping him. Slowly and steadily the night faded away and morning brought a new hope. I kept brushing my palm over his back till he opened his eyes with a tired smile. Light beckoned on the other end, and a new day broke on the horizon.
Life- how we take for granted many things we have in life. We breathe without a second thought. Hardly pay any heed to it. Insignificant in many ways. Just there. But ask someone who is gasping for breath. Struggling to make it through. Pinning to see the next day. For me, that night changed everything, for ever. I discovered a new me. I knew what I am capable off. My son taught me to be a warrior in true sense. I took to writing again, my passion. Something, that I left untouched. I reinvented myself for the sake of my boy. I made it a mission of my life to give my Abhi a normal life. I strived to make it happen what most doctors denied. I went from strength from strength taking tiny steps. Nothing was easy. Perhaps nothing can be easy. But, you need to find your strength to make that happen. What was once my weakness, became my strength. Everything else was insignificant. What was perhaps the weakest moment of my life, turned me into a fighter. A fighter, a warrior whom I had never met before. Abhi and me inspired each other. And to give him a life of purpose and dignity, was all I dreamt off, and achieved.
The horn of our car called out for me… I jerked back to reality, a beautiful reality this time. “ Come Mumma, let’s take a winning lap”, Abhi giggled. Did I ask for anything more from life….naah !!
When a Greek pirate ship sails in to loot the wealth of the Cholas, it is brutally defeated by the navy and forced to pay a compensation. A payment that includes a twelve-year-old girl, Aremis. Check out this new historical novel Empire (http://bit.ly/DeviEmpire) with a warrior woman, Aremis at the heart of the novel.