It looked like a rusty piece of metal till I went closer. Once I realized what it was, I had to fight the urge to pick it up from the garbage and take it home. It was part of what was once a Remington typewriter.
I was horrified when the City Editor told me I was supposed to type out my report. First day at work as a very green reporter, I was hoping for some handholding. Maybe I could write it out, the boss could correct it and then I could fight it out with the little monster, one key at a time?
Before long, the beast was my pet. Of course, it was cruel. Press a key and what you just typed stayed on paper, whether you had a change of heart or a belated realization of the correct spelling. Many opted to push the carriage back and make liberal use of the small x to cross out errors and type afresh. The sub-editors never liked it, though.
I felt most elated the day I managed to submit a two-page report without a single correction. The Chief Sub walked out of his room with my report held aloft like some trophy, came to my desk, and patted my back, making loud proclamations that put me on a pedestal. Given that reporters and subs were constantly at war, my personal equation with my fellow reporters took a long while to thaw.
Now, there is nothing cruel about the word processor, my favourite Microsoft Word. It predicts, it corrects. I can change anything I want, whenever I want. Even make it look pretty.
In fact, it doesn’t even expect me to organize my thinking before I start typing. Sad!
“We are bringing Jhini on a scooter to meet Bi.” That announcement was greeted with cheers. Bi was a patient at Karunashraya, pining to meet Jhini. And Jhini was a goat.
Jhini came into Salima Bi’s life when the lonely Bi took to raising goats both for companionship and sustenance. They grew very fond of each other.
Then, one day, Bi noticed a lump in her breast. When the pain became unbearable, she told her relatives who took her to a doctor. She had breast cancer at an advanced stage and was admitted to a hospital.
She found the hospital disturbing. The sight of patients dying in front of her made her lose faith in the doctors and medicines. Bi refused any treatment and left the place.
But something had to be done. One of the relatives had heard of Karunashraya, the hospice. That’s where the family took her.
Bi soon became someone the doctors, counsellors and nurses loved to talk to. All of them made sure that she was not lonely. They kept up a steady supply of her favorite films, TV shows and music.
A month later, the counsellor found Bi lost in thought. Bi was missing Jhini terribly. She knew an animal would not be allowed in the premises, but she begged.
A few days later came the news that Jhini was not keeping well. Bi was now in agony. She insisted on going home to see the goat. However, that was not possible as Bi's condition had worsened. The team resolved to try and get Jhini to Bi.
That was easier said than done. Jhini was not used to travelling by vehicles and would jump out of the autorickshaw every time. Then, for three days, Bi's family unsuccessfully tried to use a car for the two-hour journey.
On the fourth day, the counsellor called the family—Bi was getting weaker. The response was a happy exclamation: “We are on our way to Karunashraya with Jhini!”
This was an unusual reunion even for Karunashraya.
Many members of the team followed Jhini to Bi’s ward. There were smiles and tears. They were ready to control Jhini if the goat got unruly, but she surprised all. She walked quietly along one side of the corridor, calm and composed.
When she saw Bi on the wheelchair, Jhini turned her head away and refused to look up at Bi. Perhaps she was annoyed that her Bi had stayed away from her for so long? Bi looked at Jhini. How could she make Jhini understand?
Suddenly, an overwhelmed Bi picked Jhini up. All the welled-up love for her beloved Jhini flowed out of her. Jhini settled down to sleep on Bi’s lap. After all she had come home to her beloved after a long journey. Bi spent the day with her relatives and Jhini. Her eyes said it all—she could not have asked for more.
A few days later, Bi bid goodbye to the world.
With death none can compete. Yet, before it strikes, with some effort and much compassion, life can get a chance to be complete.
Adapted from Crossing Over: Stories from Karunashraya. Images: Karunashraya