Archive for June, 2015


While the whole country was busy in peeping into controversies of LaMo (Lalit Modi) and striking some innovative Yoga poses, a gentle and compassionate soul associated with Missionaries of Charity—that runs various leprosy centers, soup kitchens and home for women across 134 countries–breathed her last.

Nirmala Joshi, recognized worldwide as Sister Nirmala, who in 1997 succeeded Nobel Prize winner Mother Teresa as superior general of the Missionaries of Charity, passed away yesterday i.e. 23 June 2015 in Kolkata.

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Serving humanity selflessly with the aid of Missionaries of Charity was her only goal in life. Being chosen to fill in the shoes of Mother Teresa could have been highly intimidating for anyone. However, if someone is passionate about the realm of responsibility they are getting into, nothing can pin them down.

No wonder when she was questioned about carrying forward the legacy of Mother Teresa, she was quick to respond, “I never try to fill her shoes. I have to wear my own small shoes. I don’t have to be Mother Teresa, just Sister Nirmala, and being Sister Nirmala isn’t so difficult. If I had to be Mother Teresa, I would have collapsed.” Such was her level of willpower and fortitude when she sunk her teeth into this challenge. In the year 2009, she was awarded the second highest civilian award—Padma Vibhushan—for her immense contribution and devotion to underprivileged people.

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The legacy of superior general position of the Missionaries of Charity will continue like always. However, the act of serving humanity is not just restricted to a position. Her legacy can be continued by each one of us. How? Practice kindness and compassion to the best of your capacity. Look around and see if there is anyone who needs your help. Patronize people who show the impetus to break out of the confines of stereotypes. Raise your voice against wrongdoers and above all try to be a better human being. Sounding little theoretical? Well, benevolence is more like a volcano; it remains dormant unless a ghastly situation tries to trigger and shows you the mirror. Are you willing to wait for that?

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Her loss can only be replenished by accepting and following her true virtues. For her painstaking efforts, true free spirit, and altruistic body of work, my appreciation for Sister Nirmala knows no bounds.

“We don’t know who we are until we see what we can do.” – Martha Grimes

P.S: All pictures are a result of Google search and I have no copyright over them.

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It was an unfussy Monday morning where getting reading and reaching timely on office was the main agenda of the day. Until my phone rang; it was my father on the other end. “You try to come by today or tomorrow. Your mom has suffered hyponatremia, it’s something related to very low sodium level in blood, due to which she is in ICU and unable to recognize anyone.” Can you imagine the throttle when someone tries to stuff pile of cotton down your throat? Yes, it was exactly the same sensation that I felt after putting down the phone call. We knew that she was unwell, but a call like this from an optimistic man like my dad was totally uncalled for.

I rushed to the other room where Ratul, my husband, was occupied in selecting the ideal Monday blues shirt for him. “I need to leave right now for Kolkata. Please book the tickets for me. Mom is not responding well.” I fumbled in despair.

“What? Okay, wait I am doing right away.” And as he switched on his laptop to book the tickets, he continued “I will also go with you. I will not leave you alone.”

A drop of tear trickled down my eyes as I said, “But, you are not left with much leaves. You already took more than 20 holidays for our wedding.”I could sense the determination in his voice and see the commitment in his eyes when he said, “It doesn’t matter. I will see what can be done”.

The 2 hours run from Vapi to Mumbai airport on that fateful Monday morning is something that transferred me — now I feel– to the world of farthest trance. On one hand, my devil side was having negative thoughts that what if I fail to make it on time, while the sanguine side kept praying endlessly on a loop. It was the most genuine, sincere and longest prayer to god in my life. Your mind tends to bring to table all possible awful consequences in situations like this. And I, just like any ordinary person, was terrified that my phone, when switched back to normal mode from flight mode, will act as a harbinger of bad news.

It was nearly 5:15 when we landed in Kolkata. I was told that the visiting hour in Apollo Hospital ICU is from 5 pm-6pm. The distance from airport to hospital was almost 15 kilometers. On an average day, it would have taken good 40 minutes in Kolkata’s infamous traffic. Reaching hospital at or after 6 would have meant waiting for another 12-15 hours to see my mother, who was on a totally slippery slope. It was a battle against time in every sense. Ratul kept requesting the taxi driver to accelerate like it was his last drive, while I kept gazing outside the window tight-lipped. Finally at 5:45 I entered the Apollo gate and saw all my relatives, brother and father standing and waiting for us. Without looking at my eyes directly, my father handed me the ICU visiting card and told meekly, “Its 2nd floor. Bed No. 230.” Only one person is allowed at a time to visit ICU so naturally no one would accompany to help you search that chaotic, confused place in a big hospital, or no would be there to hold your hand when you slowly walk towards the place of resurrection.

I had just 10 minutes in my hand now. Overlooking the ever-waiting lift, I stomped up the stairs as fast as possible. With every passing second, my mouth was getting drier and mind was getting burdened with illusion of self-pity. Finally I saw bed no. 230. My heart refused to believe it was her; her face had become considerably darker, whole body was swollen, hair was mucked, lips had black and blue patches and saline drips attached to two places. Worst, her hands were tied to bed and she was struggling to get them released. According to the nurse, her constant attempts to remove all her drips last night made them do this visibly callous thing.

“Ma, aami eshe gechi.” (Ma, I have come).

“Ma…Ma”

I kept calling her until she looked at me. At first she failed to recognize me. No matter how strong you are, when your own creator looks through you, all your reservoir of confidence dries up instantaneously. My eyes welled up, but I tried not to make it apparent.

“Aamar hath e batha. Malish kore de.” (My hand is paining. Massage it). She kept repeating these lines constantly. Later that night, I came to know that she was saying this same and the only thing to everyone.

It was a horrifying first-hand experience when you could see that your life was descending into pits and yet could not show any movement. Amidst all the genuine concerns, prayers, some worry-coated gossips, we strolled in the hospital lobby for hours. The situation was such that you could not even show your tears since it will make your old father more weak and frail. There was a roaring lion inside who was waiting to come out and fly into a rage; as an alternative, I decided to stay calm and make the situation light with smooth talks.

From Tuesday onwards our lives had changed. Eating properly, taking bath like your usual self, sleeping till 8 in the morning, going home, checking facebook and responding on whats app took a back seat. It seemed my father, my brother, Ratul and I had rented a small place permanently in the hospital lobby where we took turns to sit in the two seats available (sometimes not even that). Whole day we were roaming with the luggage that came with us from Vapi. We didn’t even have time to go home and leave our luggage at home. A guest house near the hospital was our new habitat for sleeping.

Tuesday was scariest of all days; she didn’t wake up the whole day. All we could hear was her loud, shrill snoring, which was unusual because she doesn’t snore in normal days. My brother started with some Google search about low sodium level and blurted that it can even lead to coma in severe situations. The last nail in coffin was when the doctor said that the condition is so critical that even they can’t comment anything concrete anything at this stage. I would have sunk deep had Ratul didn’t held my heart gently on that day. Some circumstances are difficult to put down into words.

Wednesday started with usual coming of relatives and lined up ICU visits. Suddenly I noticed that my dad was wearing the same shirt since last two days as he didn’t go back home after Monday. Ratul took charge of bringing a new shirt from nearby shop and without any hullabaloo he did what was need of the hour. As clock struck 5, the ICU visits commenced. I didn’t know what I was getting into, but keeping all the apprehensions aside, I walked inside again. Today, I knew she recognized me as she smiled at my glimpse. Today her hands were not tied. It felt as if someone pumped oxygen into me.

“Kemon acho” (How are you?). That’s the only thing that came out of my mouth at that instant.

In an unclear and stammering way she replied, “Energy nei.” (No energy). Those two words were feast for my spirit because at least it meant she was back to her senses. I rejoiced and said, “Tumi bhalo hoe jabe, chinta koro na.” (You will be alright. Don’t worry). She just kept staring at me for a while and then said, “Ekhane kobe obdi rakhbe? Thakur rokkha koro aamake”. (For how long they will keep me? God save me.) “You are fine Ma”. I said. And with that two security guards came to take me down as the visiting time had ended.

Suddenly, I saw people rushing with camera in their hands from one corner to other. I could not fathom what was going on. A scene like that in a hospital area was bizarre. One of the patient relatives looked at my puzzled expression and yelled, “Arey Raima Sen shooting korche”. (Hey Raima Sen is shooting here). For a second, I got flabbergasted when I saw Raima Sen right in front of me. She was enacting a scene wherein she was there to visit a close person and thus was very sad. It was a surreal experience as what I was going through in real life she was performing out there through her gloomy expressions. We usually say that movies are a reflection of our real life, but today I felt it very closely. The scene required her to walk down the stairs sullenly, while I did something similar in lift. This was perhaps the epic example of fiction meets reality.

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Thursday arrived and we were anxious to know whether the treatment and medications were working as expected. My vigor reached a crescendo when her latest morning report stated that her sodium level is now gradually increasing—though still far from the normal range, but she was coming back to track at least. The usual lobby-waiting sequence continued till evening. Suddenly, my father was called by the doctor upstairs. Alarming!!!! I started sweating. He handed me the bottle of water and ran hastily. Every word fell sharply on my ear at that moment. Before I could dig more deep into pessimism, my dad called to inform that the doctors are planning to shift her from ICU to general ward as she was out of danger.

This was Room no. 515. Ecstasy and seventh heaven would be an understatement to describe that moment. We were allowed to meet her now anytime. In another 3 hours she was shifted to the general ward. We wasted no time in going and talking to her, this time at 5th floor and room no 515.

Tora kothae thakish? Aamake chere jabina. Ekhane thakbi aajke.” (Where you all go away? Don’t leave me and go. Today you live here.) As soon as we entered the room she said in an irritated voice. Even her impatience and anger seemed adorable and amusing now. Four of us surrounded her and the week-long buried emotions and conversations started flowing.

I came out of the room, then the corridor, then the lobby…..to breathe the whiff of fresh air at last. However, it was interrupted by unruly mob. Yes, again some shooting. This time it was the Sarathi Rana of the movie Kahaani (Pramabrata Chatterjee).

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My phone beeped. It was my colleague. Apparently I had won the Employee of the month award for May 2015. I looked at the hospital building, the luggage on one hand and Ratul’s hand clinching my other hand….our eyes met and we smiled. My mother got discharged 2 days after that i.e 13 June 2015. I hugged one of the aunts with whom I had a bitter relationship and didn’t talk for years. I got closer to many of my cousins during this tough time. Most importantly, after five months of marriage, I fell AGAIN in love with Ratul.

I don’t know if it is true that everything that happens is for a reason, but I came back feeling a lot more light and affirmative than before. Tough situations are your ammunition because they are designed to make you a better person and propagate compassion. There is no point in sulking in grudges because you may never know when the opportunity of evoking hearty laughs comes to an abrupt end. Every day now when I wake up my only agenda is to be more considerate and kind than yesterday. Writing is my only way of catharsis and today, after putting down the journey from Room no. 230 to 515 on paper, I feel a weight is lifted off my shoulder!

Dylan Thomas was right in saying………..

“Do not go gentle into that good night. Rage, rage, against the dying of the light.”

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