Ankit hates my habit of taking up night duties. He is always found scolding me for some thing or the other.
“Why do you choose night duties?”
“Why only YOU have to go as a replacement when others cannot make it at night?”
“Why don’t you hang out often?”
“Why don’t you get maried?”
And I only smile like an idiot in reply. Then that guy would put both his arms on his waist and look at me with anger. I would burst into laughter and he would eventually give in and join me.
I had no answers to give. They were not even needed. He knew everything already. He knew I was battling insomnia, he knew I was so depressed that I was almost suicidal, he knew that drenching myself in work helped me forget everything. It made me so tired that I involuntarily slept for some time. Yet, he kept on trying. What else could a best friend do?
Today is another such night, I am in the hospital. ‘Dr. Sameer Sen’, I look at the name plate that adorns my desk. All my colleagues are proud of their name plates. But I don’t even know what to think about it. Everyone thinks I am a Bengali; they expect me to know the language. It is funny when I tell them that I have grown up in Mumbai and I don’t know it. They don’t really buy it, considering the fact that Bengali should be my mother tongue. But I cannot help it.
“Dr. Sameer, A new patient is transferred to the ward,” the staff nurse broke my chain of thoughts.
“Coming in five,”I told her grabbing my sthetoscope.
I ran through his file. He was in the ICU for three days and now transferred to the general ward. An old man, accident case and nobody to look after. It wasn’t a situation foregin to me. I saw such cases very often in our government hospital. But this patient, there was something that made him differnet, his name.
Appareantly he had some ID proofs with him at the time of accident which said his name was Dinesh Kadam. His name made me look at him. I recognised him in the very first glance.
He was my father.
I sat on the stool beside his bed. I caressed his hair, kissed his forehead, held his hand. I knew once he regains his consciousness, I would not get to do it.
All my life, I had wanted this moment more than anything. I wanted to see my father.
Till the time I was five, I’d thought Sen Uncle was my Dad. At five, I realised he wasn’t. He was the caretaker of our orphanage. He had found me outside the orphanage building and named me Sameer because the last kid who had entered our orphanage was named Rohan and the next letter in the alphabet was ‘S’.
Till the time I was there, I cursed my life. I hated that place. I hated the rusty walls that dripped four months a year. I hated the limited food that we got. More of water than milk, the watery daal and saltless rice. I hated the visitors, who came up to us to give used things and false hopes. For years I stood in line, trying to look presentable so that I could be adopted. Eventually I realised the futility of it and would always lay back.
However, now when I think about my childhood I feel I was luckier than most other orphans. At least, Sen uncle was not a criminal. At least we were not stuck into child labour or human trafficking. He provided for us as much as he could. He introduced us to books and that acted as a foundation stone for a better future.
My longing for parents never really came to an end, but at least I had accepted myself. I knew it was not MY fault if I was an orphan. I got busy preparing for medicine and made into a government granted college. I did odd jobs to afford my fees, applied for scholarships and did every possible thing to get my degree in medicine. Ankit, being my hostel roommate was a great, great support throughout. He would treat me at good eateries, take me to his home town in holidays. His mother and grandmother were very fond of me; and I, I have always been fond of all mother figures. When she would bring in food for me, or wash my clothes, iron them my vision would get blurry. Ankit had let me taste everything I could possibly never afford on my own.
And so, I had accepted my life the way it was. I was beginning to feel happy.
And then, the Delhi trip happened which changed my life completely. We were at a hotel. As usual I wasn’t able to sleep at night. I was standing with a coffee mug in the lobby balcony when I heard foot steps. I turned around to look at the frail doll who was walking towards me from the other end of the lobby. I couldn’t help but stare. She was in her pj’s, her hair all messy and yet I couldn’t take my eyes off her. I’d seen her at least a hundred times during college in past one and half year but never felt this way.
I got a little freaked out when I realised that she wasn’t walking towards me but infact walking up to me. I quickly shifted my gaze but it was too late. She had seen me looking at her like that.
“Sameer, do you mind accompanying me to the nearest medical store?”she asked.
“Yes sure, what happened though? I am sure we’ve got enough medicines.”
“Umm.. actually…I don’t know how to say… it’s just my midnight chocolate craving.”
I couldn’t help but laugh.
“The hotel doesn’t provide for chocolates?”
“Not the one I am particularly craving for!” she said and then after thinking continued, “actually let it be, I know it is stupid! I’d have gone alone but…chill let it be!” and she turned away.
“Oh no no!” I held her hand in reflex just to stop her. Though she didn’t mind it, I quickly realised what blunder I had made and let it go.
“Tell me which do chocolate you want, I’ll get it for you. It’s very late and this city is not very safe!”
“It is risky for you too… you know there are a variety of crimes that can happen?” she said mischievously.
“It’s okay, nobody would cry if I die,” I smirked, “so which chocolate?”
She told me to get her Cadbury Gems and I got it for her. Next day when we were going for sightseeing, she sat next to me in the bus. I still remember Ankit’s face when he saw us sitting together. That guy is a joker indeed!
She told me she found me cute after that night. I couldn’t tell her the same thing in spite of desparately wanting to. Half the time I only blushed and smiled. But she would always stick along. Eventually, I opened up to her. She asked me why had I said that ‘nobody would cry after my death’. I told her my story. I told her that I was an orphan, I described my journey to her and told her how I’d reached upto that point.
She empathised with me, she respected me, she wanted me to be her friend and eventually she fell for me. My situation was pretty much the same, only the falling part did not come eventually. It had happened the moment I had seen her walking towards me the other night.
I was too shy to confess it to her. She was the one who proposed to me and what did I do? I cried. For the first time ever, someone wanted me in his life. Someone who loved me to this extent that she wanted me to be a part of the rest of her life. I was on cloud nine. Life was perfect.
After our UG, we thought of tying the knot. I remember how nervous I was when I was going for the first time to meet her parents. I was expecting a hundred questions, a thousand promises and giving a million proofs of how much I loved her. But I was not expecting being called a ‘bastard’. Akanksha’s father could not accept me because I did not know my father’s name. Because I was probably an illegitimate child. I broke down.
He rejected me out right. His rejection did not hurt me as much as his degrading statements did. Akanksha was standing on cross roads. She had to choose between me and her parents. I made her job easy by backing out. I knew what it was like to not have parents; and I could not cause the love of my life to go through the same thing because of my jinx.
However, Akanksha’s Dad led me to another quest; finding out the name of my father, rather both my parents. I met Sen Uncle. He told me about a hospital tag that was still tied to my ankle when he found me. It was the local hospital. My mother did not even bother to look at me enough to remove that tag from my body. The hospital was like 10 yards away from the orphanage. I could not believe that I was so unwanted that I was thrown away as soon as possible!
I went to the hospital and checked out the hostpital records. Perks of being a doctor, I could do it easily. There were three boys born on that day. I called up on each number one by one. The unanswered one was of course my mothers’. That day I found out my mother’s name; Sujata.
There was an address written on the hospital records. I reached that address and asked for Sujata. Her brother told me she did not live there. She was married to someone. I made some survey story and got her address. As I think about the moment when I reached the door of her bunglow; I feel the same anxiety, the same fluttering of the heart, the same sinking of the chest, the same tremors. I knocked the door and a woman opened it.
“Umm.. does Mrs. Sujata stay here?”
“Yes, how can I help you?”
I gulped, my stomach churned, I was looking for my voice but could not find it.
“Y..yy..ouu are Sujata?” I confirmed.
“Yes, who are you?”
“I am Dr. Sameer, Mom.” I was dying to use that word for someone. It felt as if a heavy stone was lifted up from my chest when I said ‘Mom’. Tears started rushing out of my eyes. I couldn’t say anything else. She looked confused and scared.
I handed over the copy of hospital records to her.
She looked at them and broke down. She hugged me tight. I am finally home, I thought. Little did I know she could do that only because she was alone at her place at that time.
She asked me in. She was crying continuously. She apologized. She told me that she was proud of me. She told me that my father had left her after her pregnancy got confirmed. She told me that it was too late to abort me. She told me that she could not accept me back then. She told me that she couldn’t even accept me now.
All the castles that I had built in air were falling down again. Even after all the wrong that had happened to me, I was the one who was ready to even beg to be accepted. No one, just no one could accept me. Why? Because my parents did not marry each other? Yes of course it was my mistake. Totally my fault!
I couldn’t say much. I really did not blame the woman in front of me. I could not expect her to give up on everything and everyone to accept me. Especially when my father was not willing to do it.
I just asked her the name of my father. Dinesh Kadam, she told me. She handed over an old photograph of his and told me about the area he lived in lately. Appareantly he was a successful businessman and quite famous; at least in high society social circle.
So finally, I knew the name of my father. How I wished knowing the name was enough for Akanksha’s Dad to let me marry her.
I traced down my father easily. I did not go up to him. The man who couldn’t accept me back then; he wasn’t going to do it now either. I just came to know that he had three children, all boys and he was educating them from reputed institutes.
I could not help but be jealous of my parents’ kids. They had everything.
I had nothing.
And today, he was lying right there and I was supposed to treat him. My entire life moved like a slideshow in front of my eyes. I couldn’t help but cry.
I realised that before I break down completely I should let his ‘legitimate’ children take over. It was shocking that his family had not arrived in three days. I came back to my desk and opened my diary to contact his children.
I know it is weird that I had their contact numbers. But I liked knowing what my family did. Rohan was a doctor, he had his own clinic which of course my dad financed. Ravi was a lawyer and Rajesh was a filmmaker. They were quite famous and successful. It was easy to have their contact numbers.
I composed myself. Before dialing I thought that I could prolong calling them and steal some moments for myself. I quickly supressed this greed and dialed.
“Hello!” Said a sleepy voice on the other side.
“Hello, I am Dr. Sameer from City Hospital. Mr. Dinesh Kadam is admitted here, am I talking to Dr. Rohan, his son?”
” Yes you are. But he doesn’t live here, you can contact Sharda Ashram”
The line was disconnected.
I stood there, numb. I did not know what to do, what to feel.
Ideally I should have been happy. Karma had done its deed. My father was facing exactly what he had led me to; abandonment. He had left me on the stairs of an orphanage. His children had left him in an old age home. But I could not feel happy about it. I could never hope for the same pain I was going through for anyone. Even if it was entitled upon the same person who caused it to me.
I did not know what to do. I thought of calling Ankit but I knew he would oppose and not let me take care of him. I decided on not telling him.
For the next two days I did not go home. I was happy. I was happy that my father was all alone. I was happy that his children had left him. Now, I could finally have him. I spent two days taking care of him day in day out. Even the hospital staff got suspicious. I told them he was a relative. After two days he regained consciousness. I did not tell him who I was, I was too scared to.
When finally he had to be discharged I asked him where would he go? He named his old age home. I told him that I wanted to take him home with me. I told him that I had no one, that I was an orphan and left outside the orphanage just after I was born. And that I’d be glad if I had a father figure at home.
It was an offer he could not refuse. After all he had no one too.
I brought him home. It was all going well. I loved taking care of him. He would occasionally say,
“Here you are, who is doing so much for me and look at my own children; after doing everything for them they left me at the old age home to be on my own for the rest of my life!
Your parents are really unfortunate, for they’ve let you go!”
I would just smile and feel happy about it. I knew it was stupid, weird, may be wrong to do so much for a person who was the reason of my life long suffering. But at times; the heart wants what it wants.
I have not even told Ankit about he being my father. Occasionally, he visits me and they both talk for hours. I know they just talk about me. How I over work, how I neglect myself and what a great person I am! There is no end to their love for me. And I love it. I am sure Ankit is planning my marriage with him. Like he would portray him to be my father and I would easily get wedded. This time I am not going to stop him. Because I won’t really be lying. He IS my father, after all! Now, I finally feel like moving on.
Yes, maybe my father doesn’t deserve my love. But I see it the other way round. Maybe I deserve his love. Maybe it is not about how he should pay for his mistakes, it is more about being happy. And I am, for the first time being selfish and choosing my happiness….