I recall from my notes that it was the 30th of March, 2011 when it was time for the first hospital visit. I’d had had to wait for till the end of the final exams for that winter, what seemed to me as unwanted diversion, to be neglected in my purposeful inattention. Examinations were a monotone in my previously very colorful life, always a continuous, familiar dread. They were a cycle of stress and exultation, undulating between happiness, striving and achievement. Exams they were always something to be dealt with. They had always been important. Funny thing is, something had come plain detached from my brain. Disentangled. Unhinged. What the hell? You expect me to understand what happens to a voltmeter connected in series with a capacitor when my father is weak from being injected with dreadful chemicals? Exams didn’t seem to hold any relevance to my life anymore. No bearing. I couldn't connect them to anything that was going to influence my near future. They had shrunk in value and regard before what stood in front of me. Frame of Mind became an alien phrase to me, inexplicable. Because I could never quite find a term that could explain the lack of the frame of mind. I didn’t have a frame of mind. I had with me only a nothingness.
Papa had just reduced to a tiny voice at the other end of the mobile phone, and home, a small, sorry silence. Amma would leave the house before I woke up, and breakfast, lunch and dinner would be lined up for me on the table. And also at the end of the thread, silence, frustrating and impatient the subliminal fear. Fear was a leech, biting and sucking at the idling brain. The days were drugged and weary. Very soon energy, vitality and optimism had vanished from my soul. I didn’t protest the lack of purposefulness. I didn’t complain. I didn’t think. Maybe not thinking was a protection, I was isolating myself from what I perceived as horror. It was meager escape, hardly a comfort. But I choose to walk a thin line rather than dive right in and try to be a shoulder. I refused to explain, even utterance made the fear definite and solid. My acceptance of the situation would be more than gradual.
“How are you?” “Are you good today?” I was afraid to ask those questions, because I didn’t want to hear an “I feel so weak today.” How do you respond to such things? All I was a reassurance, even if it was a blatant lie. I didn’t ask questions, I got down to my knees and prayed. I prayed when I was home alone, when I was scared. I prayed for better days, I prayed for this storm to pass. And as Amma came back from the hospital with absolute exhaustion eating at her, I would just sit there and stare, not saying a word. Later, I would overhear her report the day’s work to grandmother over the phone, absorbing the details, wishing that tomorrow would be so much nicer. I was too afraid to ask.
BCNU chemo was the hardest things that he had to face. Nothing in his life had given him a greater amount of pain, and me, a greater amount of terror. It was when things suffocated me. I felt gagged by the fear. It pressed on me from all sides, so that my anger translated into crumpled bits of paper everywhere. The disquiet was a tear. Elsewhere, homework was crumpled and forgotten.
The days were ruthless in their stray, unguided dissatisfaction. They were days of endless wait, fervent prayers, and crumpled paper. They were days of hopelessness, continual distress and lingering fear. They would also come be the days of my biggest lessons. I would always remember the days before the visits for their brutal abandonment, helplessness and punishing silence.