“What’s up, Mom?” I ask, sensing something horribly wrong in her voice over the phone like she might’ve just had a breakdown.
“Meera..your.. your.. dad..” she stammers and begins to cry.
“Mom, stop crying! What happened?” She doesn’t stop. Chills run down my spine.
“Your dad is admitted here in City Center Hospital. Come here as quickly as possible,” she speaks up after crying for about a minute.
“Mom, why? What happened? Is everything-”, she disconnects.
I drive to the hospital as fast as I possibly can. I’m afraid to call mom, perhaps because I don’t have the courage to hear her cry over the phone again. Having no clue as to where she might be, I decide to look for the reception area. The hospital corridor is stuffy and the air smells like disinfectants. The color of the walls is pale and gloomy and scrapped off from many places. What I see is a total chaos- paramedics wheeling in patients on trollies, children crying and screaming, doctors running everywhere. My heart starts pounding. I don’t like the vibes that I get from here. I don’t want to be here.
I wander without any clue for about 10 minutes, and finally, find something that looks like the reception.
“I’m looking for Mr. and Mrs. Roshan.”
She checks up the details in her charts.
“Ma’am, Mr. Roshan is currently in the ICU. He is scheduled for a brain surgery.”
ICU? Brain surgery? What the hell happened?!
As I process all this, it seems that the ground beneath my feet has shifted drastically.
“Where would I find the ICU?”, I turn to her again.
“Ma’am, you are not allowed to go in there.”
“Why?” is all I can choke out, as my mind fills with a succession of horrible outcomes, each worse than the last.
“You must wait in the waiting room like everybody else,” she says and gestures to where she was talking about.
There she is- Mom, sitting on a chair with her hands on her forehead, crying hopelessly.
3 hours have passed, in which every second spent has seemed to be equivalent to a year. After the long duration of tormenting waiting, a doctor clad in green gown finally approaches my mom.
“If I’m not wrong, you are Mrs. Roshan, isn’t it?”
“Yes, how’s my husband?” My mom asks impatiently.
I stare at the doctor, who hesitates to utter a word.
“The thing is, the accident has caused massive internal injuries. And-uh-we did everything we could.”
“What do you mean you did everything you could?” My mom grabs him by the collar and starts shouting at him, crying simultaneously. “What happened to him?”
“Ma’am, please, I understand your situation. Your husband is in a coma. We can only hope for the best.”
I fall back on my chair, struggling to judge whether it’s just a bad dream or reality. How did this happen all of a sudden? My mom is crying with her head buried in my chest. How do I console her? What should I do? Why is this happening to us?
On the second day, I somehow gather the courage to go into dad’s room. He’s laying there quietly, his eyes closed, his breaths matching to the beeping of the machines that surround the bed, probably the only indications of his heartbeat, his existence.
“Dad?” I sit beside him and whisper softly. Of course, I don’t get a response. His innocent and weak face makes my eyes well up with tears.
“Dad? It’s alright. You’ll be fine.” I somehow manage to say with my shaking voice, stroking his hairs. I begin to cry. There’s no one else in the room to hear me cry, except the nurse, and she won’t care I guess.
On the third day, after several examinations, a team of doctors declares my dad to be brain dead.
“Ma’am, your husband may appear to be alive, he may have a heartbeat, he may look like he’s breathing, but the truth is that there’s no life when the brain ceases to function. We have two options here, either to unplug the organ support system or to continue in the same way and wait for some miracle to happen. I’m extremely sorry that you have to go to through this, but then no one who has met the criteria for brain death has ever survived. I’m sorry, but we need you to make a decision.” The doctor says to mom. She’s static, not giving any response to him. She has probably already gone into depression.
“Unplug the organ support system”, I say and sign the papers.
“Also, ma’am, there’s another thing I need to discuss with you,” the doctor now talks directly to me, “your father’s heart will be viable for the next few hours. And I completely understand that you might not be comfortable hearing anything about it, but it’s our duty to make the patients family aware of it.”
“Okay, what are you exactly going to talk about? Just blurt it out.” I say impatiently. Talking to anyone is probably the last thing I want to do right now. He puts his hands on my shoulders and begins to speak softly.
“Meera, you are just like my daughter, and I know how unbearable the pain is. But I don’t think there’s anything good in cremating him without first seeing whether his organs could be of use to anyone else. It would be such a terrible waste if another life could’ve been saved or improved.” He pauses and lets out a sigh. “There’s a way through which your father’s heart can live for even longer. Do you want to give it a thought?”
Donating my dad’s heart? Really? This is what this doctor can come up with right now to comfort me and my mom?
“Please go and do your job. We’ll think about it.” I say.
As mom and I take a look at dad for the last time, my mom collapses on the floor and begins to cry. I’m standing there. Still. Not knowing what I should do right now.
The nurse approaches me with a form in her hand.
“Ma’am, this is the organ donation form, if you would like to…” she pauses, not knowing what to say next, her voice shivering as if I might just slap her any second now.
I look at the form, not knowing what to do. The doctor’s words echo in my head. My dad’s heart would live longer. Someone else’s life might be saved because of my dad. This is what he would’ve wanted too, I guess.
As they unplug the organ support system step by step, my mom holds my dad’s hand throughout the process and cries uncontrollably. I can’t cry. I have to be a man for my mom now. I’m the only one left to console her. I’m her only family now.
I control like hell to hold back my tears. I bite my lip so hard that they begin to bleed. It seems as if all my organs would explode right now. I feel like throwing up. When the doctor finally unplugs everything, my dad lets out a final breath.
This is it, I guess.
5 Years Later
I’m staring at his picture, hung up on my warm beige colored wall. He is standing with me in the photograph and we both are smiling, with cherry red curtains in the background and giving a straight boring pose (as most fathers and daughters do perhaps). I can’t help but laugh and cry at the same time. I miss him, especially today. He had always had such great plans for this day, and we all made sure that everything went according to what he had often casually planned back when he was there between us. I keep staring at his picture, reminiscing about our past memories together, for god knows how long. I lose track of time.
“Meera? Meera! Are you ready, finally?” My mom shouts outside the door.
“Almost mom, just give me a minute more!” I shout back.
“You’ve been asking for a minute for about an hour now! It’s your wedding Meera, please be quick! People are waiting to see you downstairs!” she shouts again.
“Yes, mom. I’ll be there real quick.”
I look at myself in the mirror. I’m wearing a beautiful red and gold bridal saree adorned with various embroideries, with the most breath-taking yet light jewellery. I look so good, I must admit. He had always wanted to see me like this.
This is your wedding, Meera. It’s your day today. Be happy. I remind myself.
As I walk down the staircase, I see the colors, flowers, music, food, people, everything. All eyes turn towards me. My heart starts pounding. Am I even ready for this?
I see my mom, who’s looking at me with smiling eyes. Her daughter is getting married, finally! I look at him, my childhood sweetheart and my husband-to-be. He looks gorgeous in his outfit. He smiles at me with an oh-my-god-you-look-so-stunning expression on his face, and I smile back. Looking at both of them comforts me, but there’s still a huge void that doesn’t seem to be filled.
The hustle and bustle begin again, and relatives and friends begin to congratulate and hug us even before the beginning of the ceremony.
“Meera, there’s somebody here to meet you.” My mom tells me after bringing me to a corner.
“Yes mom, I know. Everybody is here to meet me. It’s my wedding day.”
“No, you’re not getting what I’m trying to say. Just turn around. He’s here.” She says with an emotional smile on her face.
I turn around to find a man, perhaps in his early sixties, standing in front of me and he’s smiling too. He’s wearing a tuxedo, is almost bald and a little plump, and looks somewhat cute. I have never seen him before, yet there’s something familiar I can find between us, an unexplained connection. I look at my mom, puzzled. How does my mom know him?
“You look gorgeous, honey.” He speaks up and keeps his hand on my head to bless me.
“Thank you sir, and who might you be?” I ask him, in my most polite tone.
“I’m your father.”
I can see my mom smiling with tears in her eyes. That’s not even possible! What’s happening?
“Uh-I’m sorry- but I didn’t get what you meant to say. You can’t be my father. He’s-”. I pause. Why am I even telling all this to him?
“Here, give me your hand, honey.” He takes my hand and places it on his chest. And suddenly things begin to make sense. Tears begin to crowd my eyes.
“5 years back, you and your father saved my life. This heart that is beating right now is your father’s.” He pauses, and somewhat nervous, begins again. “It would be an honor for me if I could get the privilege of giving you away today on your wedding as your father.”
I look at him and hug him tight, and cry my heart out. The warmth of his hug is so comforting, just like my dad’s. I can sense everyone in the hall looking at me, but that doesn’t bother me anymore.
“Where were you all this time?” I ask and cry at the same time.
“Was just waiting for the right time, honey,” He smiles and holds my hand and takes me through the crowd near my to-be-husband.
“I have an announcement to make”, he turns to the crowd, who are already looking at him with suspicious looks.
“Ladies and gentlemen, I’m standing here alive today in front of you all because of this girl’s family. I’m the one to whom her father donated his heart. And in order to repay in an extremely minute way, I proposed to this girl to give her away today as her father, and she consented.”
And the crowd begins to cheer and clap loudly. I can’t help but shed some tears of joy as everybody starts hugging me all over again.
“Okay, let’s not exert the bride already. I’m not yet finished.” He says. People stop where they were and start laughing, and turn their attention to him. “Since I’ve been given this opportunity, I’d like to utilize it to my best. I think it’s fair that I speak up something honestly about myself today.
Long before I received this heart, I wasn’t the way I am today. I was a rich and egoistic person, not taking responsibility for anything, not even my family for that matter. I was this rash guy who would break things and beat up their kids in anger. I wasn’t even a human being, according to my wife. Then as time passed, my health started deteriorating due to several reasons. My condition was recoverable, thankfully, only that I was suggested by my doctors to get a heart transplant.
I feel blessed to have been given this heart by her dad. It transformed my life. Today, I’m not even a percent of what I used to be earlier. I have a happy family who takes extreme care of this heart along with me. Look at me, I’m healthy as hell today! I’m here with my wife and children, and we’ve covered a long way to be here. And we can’t thank you enough Meera for doing this. Here’s a gift from my family to you both. May you both have a happy married life.”
He gifts us a cheque of 1 crore. Oh my god!
He raises his glass, finally. “Cheers to an act of courage and novelty, and let’s all contribute in transforming lives, no matter how insignificantly we do it.”
“Cheers!” The crowd shouts back.
And so my wedding happens just the way my dad had always dreamt.
And I couldn’t have asked for anything more.