This time, the New-Year day came on a Sunday. I was in Mangalore, my hometown. The first thing I did on this day was: I visited my cousin, Francis.
About thirteen years ago, while working in his farm, Francis had a fall. He doesn’t remember from where did he fall… But, everybody assumes it was from a tall tree he had climbed upon. This accident had left him crippled for life… Below his chest, his body has no sensation; it is dead. He can’t move it at all… Hands are now ruler-thin… he can hardly move them. He lies on his bed, horizontal, like a heavy stone… and he is there, in that position, for the last thirteen years!
Yes, Francis’ mind is sharp, speech is intact and his heart is as sensitive, yet strong, as any man’s can be. He remembers vividly every thing before that fatal accident; he also remembers everything after it. What he doesn’t remember is: the accident itself. His wife had rushed to the spot on hearing him cry in pain… But, neither he, nor she, nor anyone else knows from where he had fallen. There was a tall tree nearby… and hence, it is assumed that he had fallen from that tree.
Francis was born and had done his technical education in his village near Mangalore. After that, he worked nearly for ten years in Mumbai. Later, when he was about 30, he returned back to his village and got married with the hope of settling down permanently there. Just about two years had passed by since his marriage, and this tragedy struck his family!
I had not visited Francis for all these thirteen years as I had not been to my home town for a very long time. So, this time, when I was there, I decided to visit Francis. And, what a day I chose to do that!
Francis received me with exceptional warmth… and, he exuded unbelievable amount of zest. He made me feel as if he was normal… “Hey, I am fine,” was the loud message he was sending me.
Helen, Francis’ wife, had just walked into this new household. Like any other young woman, she too must have walked in with the hope of raising a fine family… But, this was what awaited her. What is inspiring for all of us is: the way Helen decided to carry her cross! If that is how one can paraphrase her choice. She had just married Francis… They had no kids… and she was pretty and young. She could have made another decision: to walk out of Francis’ life… Leave him alone… and settle somewhere else, with someone. But, she chose to be with Francis… She committed to the cause of nursing him back, to the best way she could, and for these thirteen long years, she has done exactly that. When you look at her, she comes about as an energetic and content soul… You don’t see the bitterness, the anger or the self-pity. Her dignity and grace makes you humble… and leaves you challenged… “Come on, brother, can you do what she has done?” Yes, you come out being silently challenged by her extra-ordinary life.
“For the first five years,
I cried, complained and suffered,”
Francis told me.
“Why me? Why at this young age?
What mistake my wife has committed
to deserve this punishment?...
I spent my days and nights in self-pity,
blame and anger.”
“It is only after I passed through
this period of helplessness,
that I have now gotten hold of myself.
I don’t cry anymore,
I don’t’ blame any one…
and I am not angry, now.
It is fine… It is fine, and I really mean it.”
An uncle of ours had just passed away the earlier night. This uncle had financially done well for himself and left a large amount of money and property to his four children. But, when he died, it was a lonely death… the children had walked away from him… and he was all alone when died. Referring to this case, Francis said, “What is the use of all your wealth… and where are all your children when you need them? I feel blessed to have a wife like Helen.”
I was trying to hold back my tears. But, I couldn’t succeed.
“How many times I thought, and even tried, to throw myself out of this bed and put an end to my life!” Francis told me laughing. “I am a heavy stone… I couldn’t move even an inch to do that!” He added with mischief, “Those days are gone; I perform all my daily functions lying flat on this bed. Helen did not know farm work… I taught her from this bed… and even now, all the instructions and directions she takes from me. I watch TV and I am in touch with what is happening around the world… I love songs, dance and movies. I like simple good food. I love to speak on the phone… but, some one has to hold it for me.”
Lydwin is about eight. She brought to show me a photo album. “This is me,” she pointed out at a beautiful picture, “and this is my daddy and this is my mummy.” Both Francis and Helen looked at me with tremendous amount of joy. The little one doesn’t know that she has been adopted by them!
“So beautiful you look, dear… You, daddy and mummy - all of you!” I caressed the little Lydwin’s head. “God bless you.”
I am very sure, when the little Lydwin grows up, some one will tell her the truth. But, by then, she will be wise enough to comprehend the depth this unique bond. To whom she was born? From where did her father fall? And, why did her mother not desert her crippled-for-life father?... Yes, she will be wise enough to realize how irrelevant all these questions are…
Yes, if we really love!
The image used in this Post is by Ashok Ahuja. He is a professional Photographer and a very dear friend of mine. He is also one of the founder members of The Dawn Club, and, along with his gifted-artist wife, Sudha, has been helping me, and the Club, right from its inception.