Yes, life had been kind. The fairy-tale romance from college ended in a happily-ever after marriage. Sanoli continued as a lecturer in the college while Manas’s career in Tata’s company grew at a comfortable pace. They had their annual breaks with the children. But this time they were alone, ‘a second honey moon’. Since Manu and Tanu both adults with jobs and careers of their own had not been able to accompany them to Trivandrum. They would spend it on a health-farm. A spa-cum-holistic healing place. Sanoli had read the colorful brochure. It was publicized as India's Only Holistic Healing & Rejuvenation Centre "God's Gift", a unique health retreat, developed by Swastha Health Farm. It claimed that it had a panacea for all ills. The ‘retreat’ mixed ancient trusted Indian therapeutic cures and modern medicines to achieve well-being in body and spirit. She read on with growing interest that the resort was set in a 50 acres pastoral retreat near the river Naem in Parjas. Parjas was well known for its untouched panoramic natural beauty, peace and tranquility.
Swastha’ s medical center treated patients of a variety of ailments, both severe and temporary. The term “patient” is a word only since all who visit the resort are welcomed guests. Then it listed all the VIPs who had availed of their facilities. This included the Prime Minister, several ex- Presidents and various Chief Ministers. It also had a ‘Shrine of Compassion’ that was open to people of all faiths. Despite the fact that the people from the VIP list didn’t appear any the better for their stay, people flocked to the place. Sanoli wondered why Manas had selected this out-of-the-way place. Somewhere in her mind Sanoli remained uneasy.
Now watching Manas in the hospital bed with the oxygen mask on Sanoli felt her worst fears embrace her. So many thoughts jostled in her mind together. The next moment Sanoli wondered whether she would have made a better heart. She wouldn’t give him so much pain or break down so suddenly. ‘No not true’ whispered a small voice in her head, recalling all the fights and sulks she had put him through. Sanoli watching her husband lying in the hospital bed felt like giving him her heart. Sanoli was confident that hers would definitely be healthier and sturdier than his. The sudden sharp pain, agonizing in the night had come on all of a sudden. Manas was such an active person, tall handsome, with a cleft in his chin and eyes which were always filled with eternal joy. Last week he had turned fiftyfive. Yes the children, now young adults had celebrated it with much fanfare.
Sanoli was initially too dazed. She had called the resident doctor in the hotel. Dr.Menon had recognized the symptoms and had him rushed to the spa’s hospital. The long lonely vigil at night in the hospital. Praying, with a frantic intensity, ‘O god make Manas alright.’ She had heard of the silent killer, ‘heart attack’. But it was like a distant thunder. She had never imagined someone like Manas would get it. He was tall and slender, vegetarian, teetotaler always full of fun. No nothing could get him down, not even when there was the imminent threat of downsizing of the company and people were losing jobs. They had overcome that and myriad other problems together.
Tanu was the first to arrive catching the morning flight from Bombay. She was a tall, light-eyed like her father and although the baby of the family she showed surprising calmness. After the initial tears and hugs Tanu spoke to the doctor and took over command.
“ Mamma, Appa’s fine he will pull through. I have spoken to the Bombay hospital doctors and as soon as they allow him to be airlifted we are going there.” Tanu was working with the Times of India as a news reporter. Manu was a scientist in the Bhaba Atomic research center. Yes gods had given her so much happiness, now they had pulled the rug out of her feet. She felt as if she was falling into an endless pit of darkness. By evening when Manas was not responding to the drugs she felt she could take it no further. “Mamma the doctor says he requires an immediate transplant.” “Take mine, god let him live.” Was that hysterical voice hers? Manu who had come in later held her comfortingly. There was no question of taking him out. Bombay appeared too distant. She broke free from his arms and clutched the doctor, “Please, please take mine….”
From a distance she heard faint voices, “ …but she might not survive. An artificial heart, this is still at an experimental level.” “ This is the only way your father might survive.” “Why can’t you put an artificial heart in him?” “There are even lesser chances of survival in such a case.” That was definitely Dr.Menon the accent was recognizable.
Sanoli opened her eyes, to find the room bathed by a dim light. She lay on a hospital bed alone with blurred figures moving outside. There was an acute searing pain in the chest. The load of grief and anxiety came rushing back. Was she never going to awake from her nightmare? Where was Tanu? Manas, how was he? She tried to call but no sound came. Sanoli felt weak, drained out. Her body and mind hurt like hell.
The room was suffused in an eerie light. She could make out a faint outline of a tall sturdy man. Then the picture became more focused. He sported waist length henna-dyed hair. He wore a grim smile and raised his hands in apparent blessing. Sanoli felt relieved as if some unknown weight had been lifted from her heart. Again the room was plunged into a gloomy darkness and she heard or rather felt the cackling laughter of a young girl. She imagined a beautiful face with luminous eyes stare at her with animosity. She was covered in a cloak. Sanoli was shivering with fright and sorrow when the night duty nurse came to check her pulse and all the gadgets that were inserted in her.
It was six weeks later that Sanoli and Manas entered their home in Delhi. To all their well wishers and friends nothing appeared changed. In fact both of them looked well rested and Sanoli had even managed to shed the fat in the middle. Life began to take on its routine pattern yet nothing was the same. Manas tried to smile, “You are really my heart now. Do badan ek jaan hai hum…” He sang the line of an old Hindi film song that appeared appropriate. “Ek dil ke do armaan hai hum,” Sanoli completed the song. Could it be possible, Manas appeared so happy with life, so well adjusted to the new heart in him. Rather her old heart within him. He was like a twenty year old romantic young man.
Sanoli was tired of teaching in the college and decided to take voluntary retirement. Nothing appeared to interest her any more, she felt rested only with her electronic gadgets. The washing machine, the microwave, the computer, video camera, even the electronic thermometer made her happy. No, she didn’t spend time washing clothes or baking exotic dishes. She just dusted and cleaned them, and covered them with dustsheets and put them to bed. Yes, that’s right she put them to bed in Tanu’s room. That’s how Manas discovered her one afternoon curled up besides these gadgets, giggling and talking to them. The electronic heart that beat in her had found a family in these machines….