The air conditioned hospital cabin didn’t do any good for Raghvir Verma, the cold sweat formed on his forehead and his palms . Taking a huge gulp of water to calm his nerves, He tried his level best not to show the worry on his face but his heart contracted as His year old Friend Dr. Narayan Pathak held his report with grim expressions .
It wasn’t long ago when he started feeling out of breath without doing much, feeling a severe tightness in chest, hoarseness and then Coughing with blood which immediately brought him to Pathak .
Raghvir never had any medical history and suddenly being witness to these many indications, A fear had taken place in his heart and mind . The fear of something happening .
How small does the happiness live ? He thought to himself, just an hour before he sat in his Room seeing Akriti jumping on her toes, grinning like a dog with two tails. And the next instant he rushed here on a single phone call from Pathak . Leaving Akriti stood up for the dinner . He knew he had an explanation to make but his mind and heart have irregularly muted themselves . Not even a single thought as Pathak read out his CT scan and other reports.
“Enough of suspense, say something Pathak?” Raghvir voiced out, trying to sound as normal a person could when you see your doctor having deep expressions A sign of fright .
“Verma….Your lungs have traces of carcinoma in them, your bronchioles have been damaged and….. Node Cells have mortified” Pathak quaked with outmost difficulty . Even for a normal patient it is hard for a doctor but for a friend it’s wrenching .
“Cut the medical terms Pathak” Verma snapped at him, His mind not able to process a single word .
“In layman, You’re suffering from Lung and Bronchus Cancer” Pathak in stuttering and slow voice said it all, if not for the stillness, Raghvir wouldn’t have heard .
“Cancer? What? How?....Which….Which stage?” Raghvir stammered, his eyes filled and his heart ached as he himself spoke the word, What was he suppose to explain to Akriti? Even how will he straighten his own mind .
“Third, it has spread fully to your lymph nodes and has started spreading to your Lungs .” Pathak glanced at the report again, praying to the deities for All this to be a bad dream, A nightmare, but not a single one of his wish was heard .
“No early Symptoms ?” Verma still wanted this to be a joke, A prank which he and Pathak used to play on others during their young days .
“Because Your eating habits helped, Even you never smoke” Pathak took few deep breaths, and Raghvir Nodded .
“What should I do now?” His mind fogged but still he tried listening to him .
“Tell Akriti, She needs to be prepared, and Then get admitted here, I’ll talk to some experts in the field to get you best treatment .” Only if it was as easy to say rather done .
“Muffin…I fear her reaction, You know her well enough” Raghvir said In a low tone, His mind Going through past half an hour .
“You need to give her heads up, I promise to do my level best Verma, Keep hope” Pathak said.
“Pathak? Clearly tell me, What is the survival rate?” His stern voice was enough to scare the living shit out of the person .
“less than 50%” Pathak added .
Averting his gaze as his eyes turned watery . He already lost a friend before and now he can’t lose the last one . Sandeep's lose was enough of pain, Raghvir can’t leave him alone . They promised to stand each other’s ground, not leave unsaid .
Raghvir gave a final nod as he took his leave, His thoughts revolving around those few words – ‘Cancer’; ‘Third’; ‘Less than 50%’; ‘Akriti’ .
It was almost 9 at night when Raghvir walked inside, His steps faltering and his eyes staring nothing in Particular. He walked across the living room when he noticed Akriti and Ladoo sprawled on the couch . He noticed Akriti moving her fingers in the fur ball and he whining in her lap .
Akriti was waiting for Her father from past few hours, He left so quick on receiving a phone call, he was supposed to be back in an hour when left at 6 in evening . And Now after 3 hours she and Ladoo kept on waiting for him.
He cancelled their dinner plans dropping a message and then had no other communication with her, too strange for her father to act this way .
When her eyes were fixed on her phone and Ladoo she felt someone behind her, moving she quickly turned only to see her Father, Raghvir Verma, his expressions disturbed, His eyebrow dropped and his shoulders slumped, First time Raghvir Verma looked Broken .
“Dad…You’re home” Akriti announced getting up of the couch and walking towards him . She looked at the file he had held on to, When he felt her gaze traveling to the file, his report file, He immediately covered it, tried hiding it from her line of sight .
“What file it is?, What are you hiding from me?” Her voice questioned as she analyzed her father behavior .
“Nothing which concerns you” Raghvir snapped at her. Was he angry? But he never showed his anger to her, she was his Precious Muffin .
Akriti was super confused at his strange act and Raghvir felt guilty snapping at her daughter, but he can’t tell her, At least not now, when he himself can’t accept it . He need to push her away for the time being, He can say it to her later, but right now he needs his room, his confined space to think, Keeping Akriti off his back .
“Dad?, Is something bothering you ?” Akriti wanted nothing but to hug him, Persuade him that whatever he was tense for, will be okay, everything will be fine .
“Stop asking me the questions, Akriti, I don’t owe anybody an explanation, Not even You” Raghvir yelled at her, loud and stern enough for her to shudder not from harshness but from fear and…pain .
It was after years that he called her 'Akriti', even around people he never stopped using ‘muffin’ as name but today, after years he called her , yelling at her and indirectly telling her to stop bothering him.
“ I have work to get done with, I prefer not be disturbed”
He himself realized his words, The harsh words but didn’t ponder more, knowing his façade will be off and he’ll end up embracing his daughter . Pulling his indifference mask he walked to his room, closing the door with a bang.
Ladoo who witnessed the scene being a mute spectator wanted to be with both.
“Not Now Ladoo” He snapped at the dog who was following him to his room but was left out.
Getting no hope that his master will take him in he turned and walked towards Akriti who still stood at the same place, She gulped and tried stopping her eyes from tearing but those stupid tears rushed down her cheeks. Wiping them off she looked at the dog who rubbed at her calves, assuring her down, and telling her to give Him time and space .
“Dad is upset Ladoo, he’ll be okay” Will he be okay? A question she couldn’t help asking herself . Let’s wit and watch, Let the destiny show its cards .
Time and space which mends everything, wounds, , situations, hearts and even souls .