Mother Nature bathed the evening sky in a resplendent orange hue. The sounds of automobile horns, screeching brakes from vehicles on a nearby main road were subdued on the ears. I was in front of the television watching for the umpteenth time some Hollywood movie. The coffee cup in my hand was almost empty.
The harsh buzzing of the doorbell startled me. I trudged the few feet to the door and opened it. I was surprised to find a girl who was unmistakably a foreigner. A teenager, she was wearing a pair of shin-length, blue denim, tattered capris pants, a white silk shirt tucked into the capris, and a pair of light tan leather thongs. She was carrying a backpack that looked rather heavy. She was very fair, and had shoulder-length black hair. Her only embellishment was the infectious smile that was cavorting on her pink lips.
“Can I help you?” I inquired politely.
“Yes, sir, I am looking for a Mrs. Latha.”
My heart skipped a beat.
“What for, may I know?”
“Sir, can I come in? I won’t take long.”
I hesitated. Evening time, a young girl, and I am alone…
“Please come in.” I opened the door fully, stood aside, and let her in.
She started speaking after we settled in the sofas in the drawing room.
“Sir, I am Estelle…Estelle Miller. I am from USA. You must be Mrs. Latha’s husband, right?”
“Yes. How do you know my wife?”
“Actually, I don’t.” She smiled rather sheepishly.
I looked at her rather quizzically.
“You see, sir, I suffer from cancer; have been for the past few years.”
“I’m sorry to hear that, Miss Miller.”
“Estelle. I don’t have time for formalities, sir.”
Again, I gave her a quizzical look. I seem to be becoming somewhat of an expert in giving quizzical looks.
“I was diagnosed with cancer a few years ago. I have been on chemotherapy. Among others, I have lost lot of hair due to the side effects. I was depressed more with the hair loss and its effect on my looks than with the fact that I could be terminally ill.” Again the infectious smile.
“Again, I am very sorry to hear that, Miss Mil…Estelle.”
“Don’t be. I don’t want to cry my way to the grave. Anyways, my parents appealed to this organisation (she mentioned a name), which helps cancer survivors, burn victims in so many ways. They have supplied me with a wig made of natural human hair, donated by many compassionate, caring, loving women,” she said, pointing to her hair.
I nodded in appreciation.
“A miracle seems to have happened in my case. The cancer has gone into recession. I seem to have beaten the disease, at least for the present.”
“Very happy to hear that, Estelle.”
“I started making inquiries about my donors. With great difficulty, I could find out details of my donors; there are three, two from the USA and the third is your wife, sir.”
I was stunned!
I recollected our visit to the USA a few years ago, during which she donated her hair to the organisation Estelle mentioned. She had even received a “thank you” letter from them.
“I left on a pilgrimage. I visited my two donors in the USA and conveyed my eternal gratitude to them. I am in Chennai, India now, to meet your wife and personally thank her for her kind and compassionate act.”
I gave her a blank look.
“Well, sir, where is she? Can I meet her, please?”
“No, Estelle, you cannot.”
I sounded rather brusque to myself ! She was taken aback at my bluntness.
“Sir, I’ll just thank her and leave; won’t trouble you people at all. Please, sir.”
I had no option but to tell her the truth.
“No, Estelle, you don’t understand. You can’t meet her because…” I choked. Tears started streaming down my cheeks.
“Sir, are you okay?”
After a few moments, I regained a semblance of composure.
“Yeah, I am okay.” I paused. “You can’t meet her because she passed away…three months ago.”
It was as if a sandbag hit her. Tears welled up in her hazel eyes instantly.
“Complications after a major surgery. She was suffering from the problem even during our visit to USA.”
There was complete silence for a minute. Estelle wiped her tears and stood up to leave. I stood up, too.
“I am sorry Estelle; I could not be of any help. My wife is dead.”
She stood still in the doorframe for a few moments. She turned back to face me, and spoke in a calm and composed manner.
“You are wrong, sir. Your wife is not dead. She lives on.”
Estelle ran her slender fingers through her soft hair and disappeared through the door.
The story is inspired by my real-life experience. However, Estelle Miller and the situations are fictitious. Any resemblance to persons living or dead is purely coincidental.
There are many benevolent organisations doing yeoman’s service to such survivors. However, no organisation would divulge information of any donor; it would be impossible to, anyway. I have created the situation only for dramatising my point.