Heera passed away a few days ago in her village in Bihar. I got the news two days ago. I still do not know what happened and may never know. I guess her young heart could not make up for all the years where it pounded in vain in her frail body in spite of all the holes. The operation had been a success in medical terms in spite of what the men in white called minor complications. She had been sent back to her home with the required medication and was to come back in three months for a check up.
I was numbed by the news, so numbed that it took me two long days to pick up my pen. Somehow this young girl that I met for a few moments touched me beyond words. When I first met her she stood quietly listening to all that was being said about her. She smiled briefly when I told her that she had to resume her studies after her operation. In hindsight I wonder whether she already knew what awaited her. I remember the day she spoke to me on the phone after her surgery and told me she was well and would soon be home. Did I miss something on that day too. I do not know. Even on the day she left, her smile was waned and her eyes evanescent but I quickly assigned that to the heat that was quite unbearable. When we said goodbye, I never knew that that was the last time I would lay my eyes on this brave and dignified child.
Today she has gone. I cannot begin to think how shattered her parents must be. Unlike many parents in India who often consider girls as impediments, Heera's parents, though illiterate and poor, had left no stone unturned for the well being of their daughter. Not only had they educated her in the best available school, but had sold everything they owned to bring her to the big city and the best hospital. Today they had nothing left. Not even the one they fought for so passionately. I remember how her father use to come to us with hospital papers he did not comprehend and how we use to explain what was written to him and guide him on the steps to take. I remember how her mother, tired beyond her years by the weight of life itself, use to look at us with hope and the belief that maybe we were the answer to her prayers. I also remember how we truly believed that all would be well as it had in the past with all the other children with broken hearts. And then did not the doctors say that she would be healed after the surgery. Yes we all believed she would live. But God had other plans, plans we have to accept and live with. We all did the best we could.
Heera was a special being, one who touched our hearts, albeit for a few fleeting moments. I cannot believe she has gone. I share this poem as to me she will always be the laughter in children's eyes.
Do not stand at my grave and weep,
I am not there. I do not sleep.
I am a thousand winds that blow,I am the snow on the mountain's rim,
I am the laughter in children's eyes,
I am the sand at the water's edge,I am the sunlight on ripened grain,I am the gentle Autumn rain,
When you awaken in the morning's hush,I am the swift uplifting rush of quiet birds in circled flight,I am the star that shines at night,
Do not stand at my grave and cry,
I am not there, I did not die.
I would like to thank all those who made Heera's surgery possible. God bless you all. As I said earlier we all did our best.