This article has been submitted by Ishaan Shariff for the CLATGyan Blog Post Writing Competition. If you think this article is a good read, ‘Like’ this article on Facebook (the button is at the bottom of this piece) or post a comment using the ‘comments’ section below.
There are some things that change your life forever, and one of those was the news of my aunt’s death this May. Although I did know that she was battling cancer since early last year, I had no clue that it would get that drastic. Co-incidentally, the time-period of her misfortune of suffering coincided with the life-changing experience of my stint at National Law University Orissa last year.
She was diagnosed with cancer sometime in January, 2010 and the application forms for NLU, Delhi and Orissa had come out somewhere around that time itself. Right from filling in the form to procuring my hall ticket to calling up Orissa to stay updated, my sweetest aunt was there with me. Though tough in her ways with the world and blunt and rigid as she was used to being all through her life having always been self-sufficient and independent not having married, even in this case her tough approach seemed to work perfectly in getting the results.
Orissa, being new to conducting admissions and examinations when it comes to law, goofed up and failed to send my hall ticket for their entrance exam until even one day before the date of the examination. My parents were not there at home that day as they were away at our farmhouse owing to the mango season of the year i.e. summer time.
Ironically the month was May and my aunt picked up the phone and dialed the no. as soon as I told her my plight. In her trademark style, she told me that these people in India know only one way to work, by pressure from higher authorities and people in powerful positions, and since it was a state-funded university, this was probably the only reason why there was the unnecessary delay in dispatching the hall-tickets. And it wasn’t like they hadn’t collected the processing fees, it was no cheap was the application form having paid Rs.2000 for it. She called up and once they picked up, she blasted them off, introducing herself as Dr. Fathima from Tata institute of sciences, Bangalore which she was(A Phd in sociology and a social scientist). They shuddered now and told her it was lunch time and told her to call after 10 minutes. She said okay and that she would call sharp in 10 minutes. She told me to look out for the time and also to keep my application number ready. Then she called again after 10 minutes and repeated the query and when asked for my application number she quoted it to them when I read it out to her. There are some things that change your life forever, and one of those was the news of my aunt’s death this May.
They said there was a delay in the dispatch of the hall-tickets so students are requested to come to the examination center directly and collect their hall-tickets from there itself the next day on the actual date of the examination. She didn’t leave it at that and asked them to give her my roll number for the exam to which they obliged and she took it down on a piece of paper. She kept the phone and told me that the job was done and that they don’t bother to respond to students’ queries since they take them for granted and heavily criticized them for this.
She told me to go there half an hour early the next and quote my roll no. there to procure my hall-ticket. Such was the way my aunty worked her way through things, not only for herself but for her near and dear ones and I can proudly the say that in her case, it was us, that is her youngest sister, my mother’s family. There was my mom, dad, her mom, that is my granny, and there was Alisha, my younger sister and I. I cracked the entrance test and decided to pack my bags and leave once the letter of admission came home. It was again my aunt who read out the contents of the letter and congratulated me. However, she was also the first to warn me that Orissa is not exactly the place to be in as it was hot, backward, under-developed and dirty.
The tag of a National Law School got me carried away and I decided to go. She was the most concerned about my studies and wished me all the luck and prayed for me with all her heart. She had some contacts there too from one of her colleague’s and best friend’s side whose husband was based there. His family was still there so she advised me to stay in touch with them and seek their help if there was to be any problem.
Reality is always harsher and bitter compared to dreams and expectations as I found out after going to NLUO. I was building castles in the air when I thought that everything was settled for good just by gaining admission at a National Law School. However, I was shocked to see the plight of the university there as it was newly opened and there was hardly any infrastructure just as my aunt had predicted. I was thoroughly disappointed but after having gone through so much, I decided to stay on and give it a shot.
The first few days were very difficult and seemed impossible and I didn’t know how to face my parents but my aunt being the street-smart and intelligent person that she was, knew exactly what I was going through and always used to call me very often re-assuring me that they are all there for me and that I could always try for a transfer to Bangalore next year and it was only a matter of time. I just had to get through that one year. Tears used to roll down my eyes during such conversations as I didn’t know that my family cared so much for me, especially my aunt. Though she was ill, she used to take the pains to call me up often and talk to me very comfortingly and lovingly, like a mother. I heard from mom that she was shifted in and out of the cancer hospital for chemotherapy treatment and that her condition was deteriorating day by day.
Though she was responding well to the treatment compared to most people, it was a very advanced and complicated stage of cervical cancer that she was going through, which stats show hits unmarried women like my aunt the most. My aunt fought like a brave tigress not letting the cancer get the better of her. She was a fighter. I came back home for 2 weeks in August-September and all were over-joyed to see me and hear that I had managed to get through the initial phase. I was the happiest person too. There is no better feeling than conquering a victory and returning home as I found out.
I told my mother I didn’t want to return but I don’t know what was going on in her mind at that time-she told me to go back and complete one year first and then we shall see. I looked at my aunt and felt determined to return. It’s not that I went back and settled in completely as I continued to struggle but it was more re-assuring and relaxed now as all I was thinking of was my aunt’s plight. I got through another session and came back home for Christmas holidays.
This time it felt even better as it was a longer stint away from home, almost 4 months. I had to return on January 3 and this time my aunt was very low and mom told me in person that before I had reached home she used to stay only in bed, it’s only because I had come home for holidays that she took the courage to get up and sit up for me in the hall and she didn’t want to ruin my holiday. My throat had a lump and my heart bled. My aunt, how much ever tough she looked from outside, was such a sensitive and compassionate person from inside.
I went back by Indigo air on the morning of January 3, not realising that was the last time I WOULD EVER SEE MY AUNT AGAIN. I took her blessings and touched her feet and left again for Orissa. This was to be the toughest session of the year as I felt uncomfortably low and for some strange reason was missing my aunt a lot. She continued calling me every weekend and used to make me feel embarrassed by thanking me for taking her calls. I used to do so whenever possible without fail as I had my own share of problems in the hostel.
Time passed and come February 19, the Cricket World Cup began which proved to be a good distraction for me as I got completely immersed into it, not knowing that it was also to be my aunt’s last ever Cricket World Cup and phase in life. She had got hospitalized for good and was never to return. India went on to win the World Cup and we were all over the moon and she called me to congratulate me:) April 2nd was the date. IPL then started in a week’s time(April 7) and I got involved with supporting RCB. Studies took a back seat and our end-semester exams began on 25th April. She called me on 23rd April to wish me luck,but sounded extremely and unusually weak. She called me on April 26th, evening at about 8 PM, but I missed that call as I was having dinner and I didn’t bother to call her back, The exams got over on April 30th and I took the flight back home the same evening. I was feeling so happy. However, when I reached home from the airport, there was a surprising silence which loomed large; I couldn’t see anyone at home until next the next morning. It was late-night and I was too tired so simply slept off. Next morning, all greeted me and the day passed by steadily. May 2, in the evening, when all of us were sitting in the hall, my dad broke the news to me that aunt was no more and I was stunned. Tears rolled down my eyes as visitors started pouring in. My aunt had refused to call me home for she didn’t want to disturb my exams. She had left her last gift for me, the greatest sacrifice a well-wisher or a closest one could make. I was too shocked to react and remained numb and still am about her demise. I don’t know what to say.
Heck. I should have taken that call as I was told that I was the last person she wanted to talk to. I didn’t fulfill her dying wish. The doctors apparently said that she should have died long back but was waiting to see someone close for the last time before she died. That someone was me but I was too late. She passed away on the morning of April 28th by the side of my mother and her elder sister, my aunt from England who had come to India just for her. I was 2 days too late as she had been buried on the evening of the 28th itself.
And today is her first death anniversary. We all went to the graveyard right behind my college early in the morning and put a garland of flowers over her grave as she loved flowers. I had college as it was a Saturday so my family left as I went to college from there and sat quietly in the compound reading from the Holy Quran. I was silent in college for the enitre day as i dropped back a senior on my scooter who lived closeby to my home. I felt at peace as I had done some good on that day atleast. RIP.