She worked from 8 am till 6 pm, tending wounds and healing bruises of old patients and registering new patients in the hospital. The smile never quit her innocent face and the kind words never failed to show up whenever needed.
“Good morning Mrs. D’Souza. Has the pain gone?” She asked soothingly to one of the patients, checking her fractured legs and the elderly woman nodded with a smile floating all over the wrinkled face.
“Sharma Ji, aren’t you going to sing something for us today? C’mon sing something for us. It is NEW YEAR’S EVE today!” She headed towards another patient in the corner of the ward.
“Sure, sister Neeta. But am I allowed to make that much of noise?” He asked in a hush.
“Don’t worry about that. I’ll handle it.” She winked at him as she closed the ward door.
Jindagi ek safar hai suhanaa..yaha kal kya ho kisne jaana..
A low frail voice echoed in the room while the others joined him soon.
It had been quite a busy day for her but then when it is not! Her face reflected the same weariness that comes from a usual hectic day. She lazily glanced at the clock. Another ten minutes to go. She came back in the staff room, handed the reports to the next shift nurse and gathered her belongings and purse and left the hospital with a satisfaction in heart and soul.
The routine had been there since from the day Neeta took up the job as a nurse in a reputed city hospital. For the past two years of her life, she had been nursing sick people and bringing smile on their faces. “Together, we will make it happen.” She would console the bruised souls in the hospital.
And today was the New Year’s Eve. She hired a taxi instead of commuting by a bus. She could afford that much of luxury on a special day after all. On her way to back home, she stopped the taxi for few minutes and bought a beautiful strawberry cake with fruits topping on it. A special treat, for a special occasion; she smiled to herself.
It was nearly dark when she arrived home. She unlocked the door of her two-room apartment,which was dark and cold. Neeta switched on the light and the instant feeling of loneliness hit her right away.
She had had a boyfriend for the whole one year and they had a great time together until he ditched her for another woman this summer. Never mind. She shrugged and cheered herself up. I am not going to ruin this special day for anybody.
Soon the smell of hot brewed coffee kissed every corner of the room, from top to bottom. She took a shower and got her new blue dress on.
For the next an hour or so, she strengthened her blonde hair, put on her best perfume and lipstick, wore her newly bought mascara, eyeliner and eye shadow.A high heel sandal adorned her foot.
After decorating her nails with a matching nail-paint, she glanced one last time at her reflection in the mirror.Perfect.
She blew a kiss towards the mirror.
Next she set the dinner table, the cake lying between two scented candles and turned on her TV set, fumbled between channels and settled for one, which was showing her favorite comedy movie.
She poured down some hot coffee in the coffee mug and prayed in her heart.
Thank you God! For the kindness you bestowed on me throughout the year and I pray the same for the next year.
“Happy New Year Neeta.” She wished herself and was about to cut the cake when the doorbell rang.
The clock showed 8 pm.
Who could be this at this hour? Surprised with this unexpected interruption, she opened the door.
A poor little boy stood at the door, with bare head and naked feet, carrying a bunch of colorful balloons. His feet and fingers were quite red and blue with the cold. His tattered sweater and cotton pants, that had numerous patches on them, were not of much use.
Ah! Poor soul.He was thin to emaciation. His eyes were too large for his skinny face.
Shivering with cold and probably, with hunger, he asked, “Madam, do you want balloons for the decorations?”
She threw a look at her lonely and dull place. Not an idle place for the New Year celebrations. Doesn’t matter.Who is visiting me anyway?
“No Kid, I don’t need them.” She said aloud.
“But madam, I have got them in all the colors and they all are at a throw away price, just Rupees twenty for ten big ones and rupees ten for ten smaller ones.” He insisted as his voice quivered with cold.
She gave him a thoughtful glance.
“Okay,tell me,What will you do with the money?” She inquired playfully.
“I’ll buy cup cakes for my grandmother.” He announced proudly. “She is there, sitting under the lamp post.” He pointed towards a corner of the street.
Neeta peered into the dark outside. In a corner of the street, an elderly woman huddled herself into a bundle, trying to keep off the cold. The old lady was herself so wan and thin that she pitied on her.
“It’s her birthday today.” He said wistfully. His sad eyes pierced her heart. “Had she not been sick today, we would have sold all the balloons by now.” His eyes sparkled once again.
“I had promised her that I would present her cup cakes on her birthday,but..It was a hard day indeed!” He said in a low voice barely audible.
Her face grew grimmer than ever, as the boy seemed to shrink in cold.
Neeta stooped and took the whole bunch of balloons from his cold, dry hands.
Five minutes later two ladies, one young and one old, and a child were sharing delicious cake and the hot coffee together,their last feast of the year. The house was filled up with different colors of happiness and joy. The New Year embraced all of them with a loud bang of crackers.