Something I’ve realised during my fifteen years of wisdom, is that to be someone in this world you have to have a good story. Not just any good story- a gripping one. One that inspires people. One that makes them fall to their knees. Have you read The Game of Thrones? If not then too bad, but if you have there’s a spoiler ahead. Why did Bran get the Iron Throne? Because he had the best story. And if you don’t have one- create one. The only thing you have to be good at, is the art of storytelling. So I’m going to tell you a story. It may not make you fall down to your knees, but then again I’m only fifteen. It’s not like I’m wise or anything.
It’s nine o’clock in the morning. I’m the normal, frustrated teenager that you would see walking on the road in Mumbai, one of India’s busiest cities. To top it all off, I was walking under the scorching heat of the sun, completely drenched in sweat. And where was I going? A hospital, of all places. My mind just could not fathom the thought of waking up at eight in the morning to go to the hospital and teach children. My stone cold heart would not soften itself one bit. As I walked into the hospital I noticed that it said ‘cancer research hospital.’ Spoilt child that I was, I waltzed inside completely unaware of the fact that I was going to be teaching children suffering from cancer.
It’s now ten o’clock. I realise that I have to go to my friend’s house at twelve for lunch. I’m as ignorant as ever. I’m never coming back to this place, I think. Shaking my leg impatiently, I look around. And that’s when they walk in. Slowly. As if they’re afraid that their next step will not lead to another one. They all have small masks and caps on. We’re sitting in a dimly lit room with blue, rectangular hospital beds. There was one boy and two girls. They all looked as if they were around ten years old. They were looking anywhere but me and that’s when I realised how utterly scared they were. I looked at their tattered clothes, their worn out shoes and their faded caps. And then I looked at myself and realised how utterly stupid I was to wear my new watch, jeans and top.
It’s now ten thirty and we all introduced ourselves. I remember this moment clearly. That moment when I realised that these ten year old children were suffering from cancer. These children, who haven’t even started living yet, are probably never going to get a shot at it. Their families who have given up their entire life in their villages to come live in this hospital so that their child has the tiniest chance. The tiniest bit of hope of survival.
I wanted to scream. I wanted to yell. How was this fair? How was it fair that these children had tumors in their ovaries and their brains while people like me lived in ignorance?
As I continued to teach them and spend time with them, I realized how smart they were. How capable they were. And most importantly how strong they were. I’ll never forget the day I was with one of the girls for her CT Scan and I was so scared. Realizing this, she reached for my hand and gave me a reassuring smile. I wanted to scream again. I was supposed to be the one comforting her. And here she was. Walking into all of her CT Scans, MRI Scans and examination rooms with a brave smile, confident as ever. “I’m not scared anymore,” she said in Hindi. She didn’t say anything else and I didn’t press further. We just sit there holding hands.
I went to the hospital every Saturday. I taught them every Saturday. I laughed with them every Saturday. 10-12am was probably the best time of my life. I don’t know what kind of a relationship I had with them. That of a teacher and her students? Or that of a big sister? All I can say is that we loved each other and that was enough.
It is now the 25th of August and I do not live in Mumbai anymore. Writing this letter makes me miss them even more. I consider the day I met them, a day of growth for me. A day where I learnt the power of empathy. A day when I met three extraordinary children.