Six-year-old Jayati ran as fast as she could. It was her school sports day, and she was running the Standard-I teddy bear race, with all the children of her class. She wanted to come first, but to her utter disappointment , she actually came the last. She was trying hard, though unsuccessfully, to increase her speed. She was panting hard, by the time she managed to reach the finishing line. Everyone clapped hard for these cute little ones running on the field, and tasting the spirit of competition. After all the events of the sports day got over the children, with small cutouts of teddy bears in their hands, were handed over to their respective parents. An eager and exuberant Leela and Rohit, Jayati’s parents, picked little Jayati up in their arms, as they walked out of the field.
“Maa, when will I come first?” Leela was expecting this. She kissed Jayati and replied,
“You will, my Darling. One day you will and more over, a full hearted participation is as good as winning!”
“No, Maa, but I try so hard, yet I could not come first. I too want to get the medal,” little Jayati was choking with tears.
Rohit now took Jayati in his arms and hugging her tight, said,
“My little, brave girl! You must drink more milk and eat properly and you will see that very soon, your legs will become stronger and they will carry you like wind, to the finishing line, leaving everyone behind.” Jayati now gave a big, hearty smile at the thought of her coming home wearing a medal.
Much as Leela and Rohit tried to cheer up Jayati, their hearts were weeping. From a very early age, seeing Jayati getting tired very easily as compared to the other children and seeing her fatigue, in almost every physical activity, they had consulted a doctor. After examining Jayati and having some tests done, the doctors had diagnosed Jayati to be a Thalassemia minor. He had said that she had very low haemoglobin in her blood because of which she got tired so easily. That explained Jayati’s fatigue and inability to be active like the other kids of her age.
Jayati lived in a small town named Uttarpada, in West Bengal. She lived in her huge ancestral house, in a large joint family that comprised her grandparents, parents, two uncles, aunts and their children. She was the only child of Leela and Rohit and was the darling of the house. She was a very cheerful, thoughtful and loving child whom anyone found it very easy to love. Though Jayati loved everyone in the family, she was specially attached to her elder cousin, Tutu Dada. Tutu Dada was two years older to her but was a special child. He was a slow learner and would speak quite slowly too. At times children lost their patience in having a conversation with him and would go away abruptly, leaving Tutu, red faced and angry. Hence Tutu mostly kept to himself but he simply adored Jayati. She was his best friend. They would spend hours together, happily playing, drawing and listening to stories from their grandmother.
The huge ancestral house had a large pond behind the house. The pond was surrounded by big mango trees and blue berry trees. During the summers, when both the trees would be laden with ripe fruits, both these children would feast on them to their heart’s content. They would watch the parrots flocking the trees to have their share of bites too. Jayati, specially loved to feed the squirrels, scuttling around from tree to tree. There were two big trees of jack fruit and often Jayati and Tutu would climb the jack fruit trees and nestle among its branches. From there they would spend hours watching fish play in the pond. Every day Jayati would pluck flowers and carry them in her frock, for her grand mother to decorate her deities. Though Tutu was older than Jayati, yet he went to the same class with her. This way, both would be together for many hours in the day. Jayati would ask questions that would come to her mind and her Tutu Dada, in all earnestness, would answer them. Neither of the two ever bothered to know if the answers were right!
Lady Fortune is said to be blind. Nobody knows when and where the pointer of its spinning wheel, will stop. Rohit’s youngest brother, Sumit, with his family, moved overseas, to explore business ventures. Rohit and Leela decided to take Rohit’s parents on a pilgrimage. The bus that they were on, skidded on the rainy, mountainous road and fell into the deep gorge down there. All passengers were killed. Jayati was uncontrollable in shock. On hearing about the tragedy, Sumit flew down home. A devastated family awaited him. He was very fond of Jayati so he offered to take her along with him and raise her, with his own two sons. So leaving her home-land, Jayati reached Australia.
Sumit and his wife Sunaina, welcomed Jayati with open arms and an open heart.The two sons were overjoyed to know that Jayati, henceforth, would live with them. But Jayati was never the same again. Much as she tried, she could not get over the loss of losing her parents. Sumit and his family, poured on to her, all their love. She started going to the same school as her cousins but in less than a year, Jayati’s health started deteriorating. Her haemoglobin started falling, gradually. Sumit started her treatment, but there was no significant improvement, even after a span of two years. Now Jayati had become very weak and was getting frail by the day. All possible medication was given but to no avail.
Jayati was now a ten year old. She had become almost bed-ridden. For the past month, she had been having fever too. The doctors were non-plussed as to why she was not responding to any medication. Jayati had started hallucinating.
“Tutu Da, why is the mango yellow and the blue berries blue?”
“Because God coloured the mangoes yellow and the blue berries, blue,” answered Tutu Da and both would roll in laughter.
“Tutu Da, there was such a huge storm yesterday night, the wind was howling and the branches were all swaying like crazy. How did the trees not fall?” quizzed Jayati.
“The trees have big roots, like hands, under the soil. They hold them tight together and do not fall,’ pat would come Tutu Da’s reply.
“What is thunder Tutu Da? Why so much noise?” Jayati would question.
“Oh that! The clouds are playing the orchestra and having a party,” prompt would come the reply. Jayati would clap her hands in joy.
Sumit was sitting on the aircraft with Sunaina and the three children. Seeing Jayati’s condition, Sunaina had suggested they take her home, her home at Uttarpada. The car reached their house at Uttarpada. Jayati lay at the back seat and all the way, would open her eyes from time to time.
“Have we reached?” she would whisper.
“Just about to,” Sunaina would say softly.
Jayati was carried out. Tutu stood there, right in front. His best friend had come. He was so excited to see her after such a long span of time. But what was this? Why did they carry Jayati like this? And why did Jayati look like this? She looked so ill! Jayati was taken to her room and was put to bed. She slowly opened her eyes and smiled.
“Tutu Da! O Tutu Da!” that was barely a whisper but there was the faintest of smile on her lips.
“Yes Jayati, I am here. What do you want to ask?” Tutu was holding her hand and she fell asleep.
A month passed by since Jayati had come home. She was much better now. Now, holding her Tutu Da’s hand, she was able to walk to the pond and again they would sit on its bank and laugh together at all the meaningless things that they spoke about. Sumit, Sunaina and the boys left for Australia, leaving Jayati behind at her home, where her heart always throbbed. She lived to the age of twenty and then died of a massive cardiac arrest. Tutu spread her ashes all around the pond where the two had spent, all their beautiful moments together. Tutu spent many hours everyday, all his remaining life, sitting there, answering questions that were for his ears alone. Everyone in the house, had got used to his sudden bursts of hearty laughter.