Her eyes welled up as his limp body tenderly squirmed in her hands; he finally let go. His pale complexion seemed to emanate a radiant tan with the struggle that had been imminent. Losing him was the hardest experience of her life – he was all she had to look forward to. He had been her friend, her force, her mentor, her coach, her candle in the wind; and now, just like that, he was gone. It took some time for the occurrence to sink in, her heart skipped a beat – in fact, sank to the depth of the ocean, and when she collected herself she gave way to all the pent up emotion she had tried hiding from him the last three months. Seema had grown quite attached to Altamash and had morphed into an affable and social person herself since she had come into contact with Altamash.
But he had been as resilient as her, not once letting down the brave guard he was projecting to the whole world even as the gradually approaching death kept an unsettling hollowness alive in his stomach. He was quite a character; jovial, social, welcoming, funny, perceptive, and understanding, and had all the qualities of an angel straight out of heaven’s leaf. He had the pleasant ability to win over the hearts of all he would come in contact with making friends at the drop of a hat. He had the humanistic appreciation to see the dark humor in life, and yet an Omer Khayyam like quality to be a reckless soul in love. And when he would sing a ditty at the piano, he could make the universe dance along to his notes.
Seema was his last attending oncologist, and he had sort of imposed himself on her forcing his way into her nursing home insisting to spend his remaining days there becoming the heart and soul of that morbid place in no time. The visitors, the staff, the in-house chef, the other in-house patients, all and sundry became his extended family – some claiming to be his best friend, others claiming to be his sworn brother or sister in the way of humanity. They all knew him as Altamash; they were his entourage – his companions in his final journey beyond. The sad reality was that he knew his condition and he was fully aware that he wouldn’t live but merely for another three months and whosoever was taken over by his congeniality, would burst into tears upon finding out that harsh truth about Altamash.
It was almost as if Altamash was her God-send, a friendly angel who had descended upon earth to take her loneliness away and fulfill her heart with joy, and humor, and zeal. Had Altamash not had lymphosarcoma of the intestine in its final stage, maybe his treatment would have borne fruit but despite all the medical science at her disposal it was a lost battle and there was no hope for survival for Altamash whatsoever.
His rapidly decreasing physical health was testimony to the gravity of his disease as he was barely able to walk around or move around much with each passing day. It was burning Seema alive inside to see Altamash deteriorate in that way, and yet she was helpless as she couldn’t do much to avert the impending. And on that fateful day of his death, Altamash had taken unusually more ill than any day before and he squiggled and struggled in immense pain, all the while begging Seema to save him from death, screaming, “Seema! My friend Do something to make the pain stop! I do not wish to die today. I do not wish to die yet! There has to be a way for this to end in a better way, a different way!! Seemaaaaaa, help me live”, and then an awkward silence.
Her eyes welled up as his limp body tenderly squirmed in her hands, and he finally let go, “Altamash, oh my God Altamash!! You can’t die this way. Don’t die, please, please, please Altamash, don’t die! This is not faaaairr! People like you shouldn’t die! Altamaaaash! Oh my dear Altamash!! I never wished for it to end this way” The building tears slowly started to drift downwards over his pale reddish cheeks in a marching procession as if parading in honor of such a loveable human being. Seema squeezed his hand tightly and leaned down to cover herself over her beloved Altamash, as the hallway clock kept ticking along, reminding us that the people we love die physically and it’s the worst pain ever experienced; but, they always live in our memories and nothing can alter that. Time goes on.