Muskan limped out of the isolation ward of the hospital. Befitting her name she had an angelic smile on her face, though a constant flow of tears bathed her face. Patients as well as the staff were all in tears, bidding Muskan a fond farewell. Waving to each one of them, Muskan kept moving towards the Exit, where she saw Dr. Mahesh standing near the door, with tears in his eyes. Muskan turned to him and fell on his feet but Dr. Mahesh held her, and to her astonishment, bent and touched her feet. He held her and looking into her eyes, he said,
“Muskan, you are like my adopted child. I am so happy that you are now cured of the illness, and are going away. I will never forget you.”
“I will never forget you too, Dr. Papa,” saying this she went out and into the waiting arms of her sobbing father. Shortly the father and daughter left the hospital, on their way to their village in West Bengal. Dr. Mahesh let out a sigh, thinking if he would have ever got to meet this amazing, terminally ill girl, who had taught him one of the most important lessons of life:
“The best way to forget your own unhappiness is to spread happiness around you.”
Muskan, a twelve-year-old chirpy girl, was suffering from osteosarcoma of the knee bone. She had come to the Tata hospital, Mumbai, for treatment. She had come with her father Shyam, and was in Mumbai for the past two months. Her mother had stayed back in their village in West Bengal, looking after her younger sister and brother, their small plot of land, and their cattle. They were farmers, and farming was their only livelihood. At the Tata Hospital, the doctors had performed a surgery on her right knee and she was recovering in the hospital from the same.The doctors though, had told Shyam that this would help her only for a few years. The cancer will be back, and her maximum life expectancy would be five years. Her wound was healing satisfactorily and, after a few tests, she was to be discharged. From the time that she was told this, Muskan’s joy knew no bounds. Besides her father, she had not seen her family for a long time and how she craved to snuggle up to her mother!
She greeted the nurse, who had come to do her tests, with a huge smile. Through all these days of her hospitalisation, she had become very friendly with the staff out there. She always wore a big smile that immediately won hearts. The nurse did her routine examination and took blood sample for the tests. Suddenly she frowned! Why did Muskan have temperature? The doctors too checked, and they all waited for the reports. Muskan unfortunately tested positive for Covid-19. It came as a shock to everyone, and immediately arrangements were made to shift Muskan to the Dedicated Covid Facility Hospital. As per the Government rules only a person testing positive could be shifted there, and no attendant was to be allowed. Muskan was inconsolable. Her father Shyam kept begging everyone there with folded hands, to be allowed to go in with his daughter. Muskan kept screaming that she could not live without her father, but nothing could be done. The ambulance took away Muskan, weeping bitterly, to the hospital about twenty kilometers away.
A distraught Shyam followed the ambulance and soon reached the gate of the hospital. In order to be allowed in, he even lied at the gate that he had tested positive, but had misplaced the report. They did a swab test right away and, as expected, the report came negative. Shyam pleaded and cried to be let in, to go to his daughter, but nothing worked. He was not allowed in. Muskan was in extreme distress. She wanted her father, at any cost. Her crying and screaming moved many hearts, but no one could do anything. Dr. Mahesh was the doctor in charge of the isolation ward. He tried to be firm with her, but her heart-wrenching cries tore his heart. He was helpless but he sat near her, and counselled her for a long time. He promised her that in the hospital, he would be his father. He would talk with her for long durations, will answer all her queries, and that she could even call him on his mobile, any time of the day and night. But, nothing satisfied Muskan. She wanted her father!
Dr. Mahesh returned home with a heavy heart. The face of a wailing Muskan, never left him at peace. Despite such a stressful work day, he spent a sleepless night. Twice at night he called Muskan, but she never took his call. Dr. Mahesh was so disturbed that next morning, he reached the hospital an hour early. With fast, long strides he reached Muskan’s bed, but the bed was empty! His heart missed a beat. He hurriedly went to call the nurse when his eye caught a glimpse of something at the corner of the hall. Muskan was holding the hand of an old lady, while the nurse was taking her blood sample. Dr. Mahesh could not believe what he saw! Then Muskan went to all the beds, one by one, and enquired about every patient’s health, spent some time with whoever wanted to talk, consoled someone feeling very low, helped someone get up and sit. She was not even wearing the PPE (Personal Protective Equipment) like the care-givers, the nurses there, for she herself was Covid-19 positive. All the patients felt very comfortable with her and loved her warmth. She gave them the feeling of being one of them.
Dr. Mahesh was watching this incredible transformation in Muskan, over the course of just one night. The inconsolable girl had made peace with her situation, and had resolved to try and spread as much of happiness around her as she could. What a miraculous attitude! Then onwards, Muskan never cried. The whole day she would help the nurses to give care and support to as many patients, as possible. Everyone, be he/she a patient or a staff member, loved Muskan. One day, with the sweetest of smile, she cheekily said,
“ Dr. Papa, I really wish, with so much of love and blessings from so many people, God decides to change his mind and not take me away so soon.”
“I am sure, the love of so many people will not let God take you away anytime soon,” lovingly replied Dr. Mahesh. He fervently prayed so, from his heart.
Muskan tested negative and she was free to leave now. She left the hospital, leaving everyone with a heavy heart. Dr. Mahesh was sure though, that like him, none of these people in the hospital would ever forget this amazing girl named Muskan.
Anahita kept the phone down. She was reading this true story, sent to her on WhatsApp, by a dear friend. She lay there, frozen. Visuals of Muskan had filled her mind. She too was lying on a hospital bed, in an isolation ward, for the last three weeks. She had tested positive for Covid-19, and so had her only sister, Shweta. The sisters stayed together, and both had tested positive for this virus that had created a pandemic. They were in different hospitals. Shweta was more severely affected, and was in the ICU for the past two weeks. Her progress was extremely slow and Anahita was unable to take it any more. They had lost both parents in an air crash five years back, and now this! Shweta was not in a position to talk too, and this total non-communication was driving Anahita crazy. She herself had not been cured yet, but she was getting more and more impatient and fearful for Shweta. She was becoming a bundle of nerves, and did not know what to do. Her anxiety and depression was delaying her recovery too.
She had some very good friends. They were all trying to keep her sagging morale up. One of those friends had sent her this story on Muskan. Anahita kept lying there for a long time, not dreading about Shweta, but thinking about Muskan. The girl who fought Cancer and Covid-19, while knowing that she was terminally ill and had a maximum lifespan of five years more, could rise above her fear and pain and unhappiness, because she chose to spread happiness around her! Would being fearful or distraught help in any way, she asked herself. Would losing complete control over self, help in any way, she further questioned herself. Questions kept coming up, and the answers too followed. What lesson had Dr. Mahesh learnt from Muskan?
“The best way to forget your own unhappiness is to spread happiness around you.”
Anahita’s face lit up with a smile.