(I wrote this six years ago in October 2007)
It is true that not all relationships have a name. It is also true that most of the relationships that we spend our entire lives improving and caring about are the ones that we are born into. It is not very often that a person who has been known to us for a short period of time succeeds in forming a long and loving bond.
For me Bhavya is one such person. I still can very clearly recollect the first time I saw her… standing near the long and crowded corridor of the college with her mother, very bored and tired waiting for the never ending formalities for new admissions to the college to be over. In a group of students who were from the local community she stood apart in her faded jeans, a bright short top and an ‘I don’t give a damn attitude’. I was standing in that line with my daughter who too was dressed identically. Both alien to the language and the process of the college but similar to each other. As had to happen, both got talking and in a short time I could see a sense of relief in both of them on having found each other. While I was talking to Bhavya’s mom, both these girls had discussed their choice of subjects, favourite music, movies, cell numbers and other details that are so important to them at this age.
Not only were both of them in the same class, they also ended up sharing a room for the next year and a half. They had a lot in common which could keep them awake till two at night – discussing friends, watching downloads of latest serials on the computer, making packets of instant noodles, dissecting every page of cosmopolitan and other things which we adults can not comprehend. They had also found ways to tolerate each other over the issues in which they were poles apart. Sometimes they could be in the same room for hours and not talking to each other, each one absorbed in their own little world.
Being in Mumbai and closer to their college in Pune, many of their long weekends were spent at my place. Bhavya who came from
was happy to find a home-like place where she too could come over and get her
laundry done, eat home cooked food and just chill - things all youngsters long
for when they live on their own. In fact I would joke with my daughter and call
them a package deal – ek ke saath, ek free! Delhi
One Sunday in September when I got a call from Bhavya saying that she wasn't feeling too well, I told her to come over immediately. She came alone and straight away hit the bed. She complained of a very severe headache. I knew that she had been having headaches before and had reprimanded her many times to get herself tested for migraine and eyesight. Soon after the doctor came and gave her some painkillers and she slept. Next day she seemed better, had proper food to eat, checked her email and we both even watched an episode of ‘’Friends’ for the nth time. I had been in constant touch with her parents and even they seemed relieved that she was with me and not alone in her room in Pune.
I will never forget the next day and have replayed it a million times in my mind. She was feeling much worse by early evening and the doctor immediately suggested moving her to a hospital for a thorough check up. The wait for the ambulance was a long one and by the time it did come some forty-five minutes later she was in a lot of pain. I managed to keep calm while a thousand thoughts were reeling in my head – collected essentials like my credit card, called her parents and told them to come immediately, called my daughter who was waiting for Bhavya to get back to Pune. The doctors at the hospital were quick and efficient and within minutes they had her on the IV and wheeled her in for a Cat scan. I sat outside and went over the turn of events in my mind. What happened to her in just a day? How could a young energetic girl who had barely seen or done much in life be lying in a semi-conscious state? Life had never seemed more unfair. Had I missed some sign? Should I have got her to the hospital on the first day itself? But then my rational mind told me that there were no apparent signs at that time which could have caused me to panic. After all most of us have had headaches and even a few severe ones which get better without rushing to the nearest hospital. In fact I would say that a headache is easily the most ignored ailment around us. And even the doctor had seen her twice and not seen anything alarming. What was I going to say to my daughter completely bewildered by the seriousness of the situation and was waiting two hundred kilometers away for some news? And most of all what was I going to tell Bhavya’s parents whom I had ensured that there was no cause for panic just a day earlier?
I remember my thoughts being interrupted and the doctor coming out looking for my husband and me. He very gravely explained that the condition was not good and in fact they were suspecting that it was a brain stroke. For a moment I thought he was joking or like in the movies had mixed up some reports. He asked me if Bhavya was on any kind of medication. Like a flash I remembered the pill she would take every night for regularizing her period. She had been on that as prescribed by her gynecologist in
for the last nine months. The doctor noted all this and went to consult with
others. I sat there wondering what connection could there be between that
little pill and her state now. In detail the doctor explained how in many
people susceptible to clotting of blood or thrombosis, the hormone based
medicine; she had been taking all these months, causes clotting of blood in the
capillaries. Mostly these clots happened in legs but in rare cases they lodge
themselves in the brain. This happens to one in a thousand people and
unfortunately Bhavya was that one person. Only a blood test done for thrombosis
can reveal it and Bhavya had never been tested for this. There had never been a
need to get such a test done. And to think of it that a simple blood test could
have saved her from lying there totally unaware of the series of tests being
done on her. Delhi
By the time her parents managed to catch the earliest flight from
and reach the hospital she had slipped into a coma. Her mother just held her
hand and whispered all kind of things only a mother can say. Her father
meanwhile was consulting every possible expert in this area while trying to
keep up a brave front. Both of them blamed themselves for being negligent with
her headaches, got angry at the gynaec who had prescribed those pills without a
proper blood test, both cried on each others shoulder in utter despair.
Together we all went through the next seven days in denial, anger, pain and
above all helplessness. Waiting outside the ICU for hours to be able to spend
five minutes by her side, to see her lying there holding her koala bear, to say
all that had been left unsaid to her, encouraging her to hold on and fight
back, and above all for a miracle to happen. Her condition did not change and
in fact every day the doctor had some bad news – we are putting her on a
ventilator, her body temperature is falling so we need to put an electric
blanket, we are putting her on a water bed so that she does not get bed sores-
so much so that every day in the morning we were not sure which part of her
frail body would be the next to give away. Delhi
She passed away exactly a week later at night surrounded by her grieving parents whose presence she never realized, her young brother who was completely dazed, her friends and my family.
Even now when my daughter comes down from Pune alone, I feel Bhavya’s presence in her absence. Sometimes when I walk into the bedroom I almost see her hugging her koala bear and sleeping soundly. I feel her presence in my home, going through my kitchen cupboards to find a packet of ‘Hide and Seek’ biscuits which she loved. Most people who fall sick and sometimes even the ones who get an unexpected first heart attack get a second chance at life. Bhavya didn't get a second chance. She was only eighteen years old.