His phone was flashing with a new message. A distant friend needed urgent blood donation at a nearby hospital.
Arun dialed his number that instant and rushed over to aid the patient. The friend folded his hands in deep gratitude; his eyes moistening with tears he struggled to hold in. Arun was the only friend to show up that night. His blood saved his father’s life.
When another friend was wrongfully accused of participating in an offense and held in police custody overnight, Arun was the only one to bail him out of jail.
Though he was born into a family of affluence, he never once demonstrated it to others. Often dressed in plain kurta pajama, he had an uncanny ability to befriend anyone.
His benevolence extended far beyond his friends and family. Even the most distant of acquaintances and strangers could count on him for help, so much so that many succeeded in abusing his generosity for their clever gain.
It was difficult for Komal to imagine anyone as kind as him. Though she had a loving father of her own, and had heard of similarly kind personalities in print, Arun Uncle had a special aura about him.
Originating as a slight numbness in the left foot, the whole family, including Arun, excused it as some minor ailment. He was so absorbed in his charity at home and outside of it that he didn’t even bother to see a doctor about it. Not that a doctor could have accomplished much. Concern grew when the numbness traveled further up and soon Arun was relegated to the use of cane for simple movement. His family had the means to pay the costs for any illness but not only did its treatment carry no price tag, it simply did not exist.
As they struggled to identify the mind-boggling disease that could not be relieved with medication and physiotherapy, the paralysis had already reached the other leg.
Arun Uncle was less of the buoyant spirit he embodied in Komal’s memorable visits to her cousins house. The same Uncle who would take the kids out to the best ice cream shops, amusement parks, and family picnics had adopted a more reserved demeanor on his permanent wheelchair. But there was one thing he didn’t lose – his sense of humor. Despite the monumental challenges that lay ahead of him and the stalemate situation his muscles posed to his routine life, he always managed to cheer those around him.
The doctors, by then, had realized the cruel nature of the rare affliction that had no cure, let alone a sound remedy. How easily they had pronounced his life expectancy as if he were another digit to be added to the list of causalities by the motor neuron disease.
His family had traveled far and wide and tried every derivative of innovative therapies – stem cell, holistic herbs, massages, a range of sanguine mantras, and tantras but to no avail.
Komal was too young to understand that Arun Uncle would never be able to get up. His daughter Hansika would spend her waking hours by his side and narrate instances of her father making her laugh with his bedtime stories. The two sisters would often pray together for him.
Hansika had borrowed almost all of her optimism and humor from her father. Komal knew she was the single radiant joy in his life when others would only show up and offer words of pitiful solace.
Till the time his arms retained their motion, Komal and Hansika entertained Uncle Arun with games like dumb-charades and antakshiri, though his responses grew slower and slurred with time. As months passed and his paralysis continued to consume more area of his body, the only movement his body could allow was the blinking of his eyes.
One blink meant “yes” for any question, a double blink indicated “No.”
No one is guaranteed a life of dignity in this world but no one should have to live their life in perpetual stagnation, especially a noble man like Arun Uncle. She felt deceived by Krishna, Ganesha, Shiva and every other Hindu God whose prayer she knew by heart.
Why weren’t they listening to her family’s cries? They could produce any miracle if they so wanted; restore any disability to normalcy; relieve the suffering of the most troubled souls of humanity; at least those were the wishes granted in their aartis.
Arun Uncle ultimately passed away due to respiratory failure. The day of his funeral; tens of relatives poured into his home to pay their respects. Though many never bothered to show their face at the time of his need, they justified their ego in some form of “sorry.” Even in their ingenuity, they all shared one common thread – the knowledge that Arun was one of the kindest souls to have graced the earth for many had benefited from his aid at some point in their life.
During one of their games, Arun Uncle had confessed that he wished to live and see his beloved daughter get married someday. It ached her heart to know that those who deeply wanted to live could not be afforded such a grace, as if their register of good deeds was insufficient to afford such a miracle. Death was the apt deliverance. The family discontinued their prayers to God. Her own faith had dwindled. Those aarti books were filled with rampant lies.
Hansika was unusually still at the funeral. Komal knew it would inappropriate to mention something amusing at such a somber setting but she used the crutch of a relative’s odd looking T-shirt to break into Hansika’s silence. Hansika showed a glimpse of smile and rested her head on her sister’s lap. Moments later, she asked a question, bereft of any emotion.
“Komal, why did God take away my father so soon?”
A rational mind is a curse, because you wish to explain everything when you can’t. She tried to come up with a fitting response to soothe her sister.
“Because this earth is not meant for angels like Arun Uncle and God decided it is best he is there by His side.
But don’t worry, he is still loving you from above. Always remember that.”
Truthfully, Komal had no rationale to explain why a man like Arun had to depart when other wretched men and women still continued to roam the earth. Her answer served as a mere fluke.
Weeks later, Arun’s family had resumed their morning aartis accompanied with the ambrosial incense of agarbattis and ghanti bells, all in the effort to wish his soul a peaceful rest. A passing of a loved one did not crumble their belief in God because continued faith meant hope for the loving children and kin that Arun had left behind. Komal realized then that some form of enduring intuition was necessary to exist; that the mind should not remain enslaved to rationality in every circumstance.
With the family’s faith partially restored, Hansika also managed to resume bits of her humorous self, her laughter, features, and expression, evolving so wonderfully similar to her father. In the semblance of normalcy so bestowed upon them, Arun Uncle had truly lived on.