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Friday, December 19, 2008

For Mark

and Arko.

Priorities: When you are down to your eyeballs in your coursework, the only thing that matters to you is an A or A-. But I heard someone say - the most crucial thing in the morning for him was to make sure that his poop was alright.

For a moment, I was taken aback - you only consider it in mirth- the possibility of your fecal matter becoming your prime focus. In a passing comment- you might even say to a close friend, 'You look constipated today.' But to hear it in a serious undertone, even if said very matter-of-factly, something strikes you.

It was an unusual meeting resulting from an unusual request. I had just got back from my July 4th weekend in New York and my gtalk status read: Back to Boston. Prompt came a ping, from someone I had not spoken to since ages. And never met.

He told me, quite concerned, about one of his best friends getting treated for cancer in Massachusetts. He was living with his sister currently in Cambridge. Now Cambridge is just 15 -20 mins on the T from where I reside and is one of my frequent haunts. I didn't think it'd be too difficult to drop by and pay a visit to his friend. Arko furnished me with Mark's address, mobile number and a photograph so that I could identify him.

I wanted to make sure that I didn't appear like a salesgirl trying to sell laundry detergent at his doorstep,so , over a text message, I duly introduced myself, my intended purpose of visit, and mentioned the person on whose behalf I'd be visiting.

There was a certain discomfort, as you can understand, regarding the way I'd have to get around to ask Mark about his illness and treatment. I am grateful that Arko believed I had the delicacy.

When I took the bus to Dana Farber Cancer Institute, it was raining. And I seriously considered my sanity with suspicion. But when an hour later I walked down to Binney Street and met him, I felt it was worth it. He made the conversation easy to make and while we sat at the institute cafeteria, he offered to let me have something. I didn't mention that I had skipped lunch that day in fear that I'd miss the inbound bus, and be late for my appointment, immediately after which he had a treatment session scheduled. I wasn't really hungry anymore but I picked a box of fruits.

We clicked some pictures so that he could send them over to his friends. He told me about his cancer treatment, his stay with his sister, his house renovation, how much he missed playing basketball and California.

It was like talking to a person you have known for sometime. By the end of our meeting, I was praying that he got well soon. By September, he was much better and back in CA. Though he'll be visiting Boston next August again for some extended treatment, his cancer is almost untraceable now.

Lesson for me: Living someone else's life for a moment lets us make more allowance for the other person's predicament and infuses humility in what we otherwise take a vulgar pride in. Maybe even a certain amount of reverence in what we consider our mundane life.


SOMNATH said...

Time is of the essence. A greater part of it is wasted before we realize the subtle importance of some things which are apparently not important (as in one's poop's well being ) to somethings which have a sublime quality to it (like empathy). This lady has provided a balanced view of the world.While she clearly misses out the leaves in not appreciating the virtues of a sanitised gut she does have a clear perspective of the forest of life in appreciating the finer sensibilities which make human beings the way they are.
I appreciate your precocity of thoughts and feelings (at the cost of progeria and a contaminated gut!!!)
Peace and Isabgol !!!!!

DJ said...

I am really proud to be your friend and a regular reader..!!

Good Job..!

Aparna Kar said...

@ Somnath
I don't undermine the importance of my matinal pre-shower activities. It is just that I didn't really realize it until then. Maybe because I never had issues. You, on the other hand, as a clinical physician would probably apprehend it more than an average healthy man would. Anyways, my point was priorities. And how you can understand someone else's concern if you can empathize. Btw, thank you for appreciating me in your own way. That forest- leaves thing really got me. :D

Aparna Kar said...

Thanks buddy. You make me proud too .

Anonymous said...

Thank you Aparna for such a gritty lesson on life delivered in the softest way possible.really liked this post and I ahve to say this-keep up thgood work!

Anonymous said...

Incredible Gesture !

sangram said...

"Living someone else's life for a moment lets us make more allowance for the other person's predicament and infuses humility in what we otherwise take a vulgar pride in. Maybe even a certain amount of reverence in what we consider our mundane life" - Excellent choice of words. I love it and a very moving post. I will meet him someday soon and we will play basketball together. :)

sam said...

i guess der r times one should stop running in the rat race and get out of it... der is a different world!!