It was a smile of victory, of contentment. The most genuine smiles are often priceless, as they are not easy to come by. Sometimes it takes years of hard work, sometimes a happy memory. In Prawal’s case, it was the former.
Excellence is achieved not only through hard work, but by being passionate about something; by being crazy about something you love the most. Prawal had somehow known this since his childhood.
When he was just a five year old little brat, all he wanted to do all the time was play cricket. One evening when he came back home after a game, his mother, like everyday, had immediately dragged him to the bathroom. She had then asked him casually while giving him a bath, “What do you want to do when you grow up, my dear?” And Prawal, who was wearing nothing but a smile, had replied in the same casual manner, “I want to play Cricket.” His mother had simply laughed, and he had kept mum.
Now, fifteen years later, he was still smiling, holding the cell phone in his left hand. It was just seven-thirty in the morning, and he had woken up to the most exciting news of his life. He had been selected for the National Cricket team. Only his mother wasn’t alive to enjoy his success.
He was enjoying the moment. Though the call had gotten over, he was still holding the phone and smiling. Some of his friends noticed him and whistled. It was February 14th. Love was all around, and his friends’ thoughts were that of a conventional mind.
He finally kept his cell phone back in his pocket and walked back into his hostel room. He needed to be alone. The first few moments of one’s greatest happiness should be spent with oneself, and that’s exactly what he was doing. It was Valentine’s Day, and he was in love – with himself.
Falling in love with oneself is the beginning of a lifelong romance.
He loved himself very much, and that’s the reason he could give so much love to her – to Ananya.
He had to tell her the news. She would be so happy for him, he knew. She had dreamed of it along with him. Except for her, there wasn’t anybody in his life. She was one, she was all.
He got dressed up, and just when he was about to go, his cell phone rang. It was an unknown number.
“Tell me one thing. If you have to choose between me and cricket, what is it going to be?”
“You know, people love a lot of things in their lives. For me, there are only two things I love with all of my heart: You and Cricket. But if I have to choose between you and my game, I shall have to choose the latter.”
At that particular juncture her respect for him grew, and she kissed him on the cheek.
“Would you have kissed me on the lips if I’d said that I’d choose you over my game?” Prawal asked, grinning from ear to ear.
“No, you idiot. I’d have slapped you hard across your face if you’d said that. If you can’t love yourself, if you don’t have any respect for your dream, how can you ever love me?”
“Hello,” Prawal said into the phone.
“Yes, this is he.”
“I’m Dr. Pradeep from Ashraya hospital. I was rather hoping you might be able to come to hospital now?”
“Oh, my test results have come, haven’t they? I’d almost forgotten about today’s meeting with you. Sorry. But sir, I was on my way to somewhere else….”
“Just a matter of few minutes, my boy. Anyhow hospital is not too far, is it?”
“Yes, all right. I’ll be there in a while.”
The rays of the morning sun were reflecting on the lake with iridescent brilliance. For some people that were strolling along the bank of the lake, the day had just started. But for Prawal, it was over. There would be no more mornings for him. The doctor had said two more months; two more months filled with darkness. Two months, only if he got admitted and started getting the treatment.
A week ago when he had complained of severe abdominal pain, constipation, nausea, and some blood in the vomit, the doctor had subjected him to various tests.
“I was just over-reacting. I’d eaten like a glutton the previous day. Maybe it’s because of tha…..” he had begun to say the moment he saw the doctor in the morning.
“Stomach Cancer,” the doctor had cut him off. He knew no tricks could make Prawal feel any better.
He had listened to the doctor in silence for the next half hour, without reacting. And then he had just gotten up and left.
Now, he stood staring into the void. His life had come to a stand still.
“What is love, Prawal?”
“I don’t really know what love is, my love. All I know is that I want to spend the rest of my life with you. I want to grow old with you. I’ve heard people say that a man should find a woman to die for, but I’m proud to have found a woman to live for.”
And they hugged each other tightly as tears rolled down Ananya’s cheeks.
He stood there incapacitated, listening to the horrific thoughts in his mind. He shuddered at the thought of Ananya.
People find love on Valentine’s Day, but Prawal had lost it.
He came back to reality when his cell phone rang. It was she.
I’m sure to go through a lot of pain in the next couple of weeks, but the pain would be unendurable for her if she ever came to know.
The phone was still ringing. He held it tightly as if he was trying to crush it, closed his eyes, and switched it off.
Copyright © Karthik 2010