“Samarth is no more,” said my father. OnJuly 4, 2007 my father brought the terrible news along with him on his way back from office.
“He is going to land at Jaipur tomorrow morning around 5 a.m. from Jaslok Hospital, Mumbai. By7 am he would reach Kishangarh,” he continued.
Endless silence gripped us all four. Everyone seemed to be engrossed in recollecting the last moments spent with him. Finally cruel destiny took away my most adorable and charming five year old cousin. Samarth was the cutest kid in my maternal family.
“Come on children go to your beds. We got to leave tomorrow for Kishangarh at dawn,” my mother said sensing our deep sorrow and hence assuring her that the deep sleep would devour all anxieties.
July 5, 2007.
Heavy downpour delayed our journey. Vivid collection of my childhood stories were floating in my head which says that whenever a pure soul transcends to heaven, holy spirits show felicitation in the form of heavy rain.
Two hour stretch was enough to reiterate all the precious moments I spent with my cousin. Fair, chubby, pinkish kid met us when he flew back to Jaipur from Bangkok. His alluring and captivating face and habits were enough to bore a place for him in anyone’s heart.
One day came the news that he wasn’t keeping well.
I came face to face with the reality when on my third last visit to my uncle’s house during my summer vacations, my aunt disclosed all his FISH (Fluorescent in situ hybridization), blood and other medical reports. Three year old Samarth was suffering from Chronic Myeloid Leukaemia.
“The reports show Philadelphia chromosome, which is cause of 85% cases of chronic myeloid leukaemia. Philadelphia is a condition of chromosomal aberration where reciprocal translocation occurs between q11 arm of 22nd chromosome and q34 arm of 9th chromosome,”
I said in a wavering voice as my aunt continued to listen fully absorbed. Her fixed gaze showed her intention of grasping every single word that left my mouth about the deadly disease.
“Dr. says it is in his cent percent cells,” she said diverting her eyes for the first time in twenty minutes.
“How is it caused?” asked the curious mother.
“Radiations, disease any ill habit of smoking, drinking or even drug intake by the pregnant lady could lead to the genetic abnormality in the foetus,” I answered.
“But I never suffered from any of the above mentioned diseases/ ill habits,” aunt replied.
“Some unknown reason may exist,” I replied in a convincing tone.
“Presently he is on chemotherapy,” aunt glazed at me.
I averted my eyes from her’s preventing myself from breaking down in front of the burdened mother. Tablets given to Samarth used to release gamma radiations for killing the unwanted cells.
“This month the Leucocyte count and plasma report is better than last month,” said my elated aunt ignorant about the in curability of the chromosomal aberrations. Phenotype (expression of genes governed by physical environment) is dynamic but genotype (genetic chromosomes) could only be altered by mutation (sudden and inalterable change in the genetic material). Aberrations are irreversible.
Leukocyte report firmed my Uncle and Aunt’s faith in chemotherapy.
On my second last visit I saw Samarth fighting with my uncle for curd. Curd, banana, ice- creams, juices, outside food and other cold items were strictly denied to him by the oncologist as he was comparatively more prone to infections than a normal individual. Even a mild infection was enough to raise couple’s heartbeat and give them a good run.
A good friend acquainted my aunt about the specialization of Wheat grass juice in fighting leukaemia. She blindly commenced the schedule sticking to it firmly all her son’s lifespan. Sight of Samarth gulping that awful juice used to leave every individual bewildered. Quest for medicinal plants with anti-cancer properties used to consume most of my aunt’s time. There wasn’t any herb, shrub or tree left at any of the site she went for outing which have not been scanned by her big sharp eyes for hidden therapeutic features.
The last my family met him was on his fifth birthday onApril 29, 2007. He was silent, sitting on the couch, feeling uneasy. His face clearly portrayed the agony the little heart was fighting within.
I tried to have a word with him but any sound was doubling his pain. To find him in such deteriorated condition was disgusting and that too on his grand day. I kept on looking into his face as to understand his unsaid words. Chemotherapy disrupted the simultaneous movement of the iris. By the end of the party he had fainted due to high body temperature. Quick dose of paracetamol was administered.
“When will you take me to the Doctor, when I’ll die? Don’t tell me later that I didn’t tell you,” narrated my uncle with filled throat what his son said a couple of days back.
The words spoken by the little kid left us all rooted. An elderly person could express his sentiments with ease but how would a child explain who isn’t aware of much words.
“He always denied wearing jeans. Used to say that it hurts its belly,” uncle continued.
Later symptom of full and painful belly aided oncologists in diagnosing leukaemia. Enlarged spleen was the cause of Samarth’s trouble. Finally the family left for Jaslok Hospital, Mumbai next morning. Samarth’s condition kept on deteriorating.
For two weeks he was at I.C.U. and one day came the news of him being no more. By the time we reached my grandfather’s place, Samarth was already taken for cremation. I consoled myself on not getting a chance to bid him adieu for his new journey by thinking that his pure soul didn’t want us to see his lifeless little cold body.
Later that evening my other cousin Alisha narrated me the whole sickening episode of Samarth’s two weeks stay at I.C.U. He entered the state of unconsciousness. Oral intake of solids and liquids ceased. Only milk was given nasally. That too was discontinued as Samarth started blood vomits. Condition worsened with three to four blood vomits a day.
He was shifted on to life supporting system. Adding to the agony, Doctors gave up. In their mechanical voice asked the helpless parents to take away their unconscious son. Uncle simply refused.
He called our saint. Jain saints are renowned worldwide for their austere life.
“I want you to make my son vow for Santhara,” he said in a choked voice.
Santhara is the extreme point Jain rituals when a person willfully pledges to give up food and water for the rest of his life. It is the process of getting over the past deeds and preventing the accumulation of karmas in future. Food and water is hub for numerous minute microscopic organisms. As per Jain mythology consuming them would lead to addition of karmas. Hence Santhara is the means of purification.
“I think Samarth has served his life’s purpose,” uncle continued remorsefully.
Vague of sentiments flooded the couple’s eyes which reflected the immense and pure love for their beloved son in their heart.
As Samarth lay on the bed with glucose drips and polybag attached for collecting blood vomits, his father was busy reciting hymns and stories of Tirthankaras for him, sitting nearby him.
For around ten days the couple hardy ate anything.
On July 4, 2009the soul escaped the mortal body.
One of my elder cousins showed us the last images of Samarth lying peacefully in the coffin. He was unrecognizable. His physical appearance underwent transformation due to hospitalization. Body swelled, hands enlarged imitating an adult’s forelimb, lip turned from soft pinkish texture into dry and chapped form.