1 year, 2 months and 2 days ago, on 14th April 2016, 334 staples sealed together my cut open stomach and my fate. Life had changed, and hardly did I realise back then, that it was actually for the better.
I spent the 3 months after a life altering and life saving procedure, tied down to my bed and to the haunting memories of the 7 days that had actually preceded the finale; the blackouts, the pain, the shuttling between 4 hospitals and 3 cities and of course, the final showdown: the 18 hour surgery that led to the one permanent thing I would carry out of my hospital room, my scar.
I had always wanted my life to turn out like a movie. Too bad I wasn’t very specific about what type of movie.
After 2 days of incessant puking, 6 hours of a very difficult train ride home, an evening of moderately distressed parents, 2 days in the care of a very concerned but equally clueless family doctor, half a day in hospital ward number 1 in city number 2 (that we had to fight and flee with me groggily piled in the front seat of my father’s car), a teary mother’s fight to be on a flight to Delhi, two highly alarmed relatives; my aunt and sister waiting to receive a mysteriously ill girl, an ambulance ride to hospital number 3 in city number 3 (that I have minimal recollection of), an emergency room that I vaguely recall by the series of intrusive questions the doctor hounded me with on drug habits and pregnancy, 3 days in an ICU at hospital number 4 that was home to multiple heart breaking conversations with my absolutely distraught parents, a black shadow that I kept seeing lurking over my head, about a dozen confused and bewildered doctors, one thousand and one antibiotics that factually made my blood feel bitter, uncomfortable and painful medical procedures that made me bawl and the military strict rules of the hospital about family visits that prevented my parents from hearing those cries as I lay in a white bed thinking what a huge mistake it had been for us to have reached that horrid place.
But again, little did I know that the place I thought would end my life, actually ended up saving it.
And even though I spent every waking moment of the next several months hating every second of the unimaginable pain in every possible corner of my bony body, every agonizing step that my physiotherapist make me walk, every doctor’s visit where they refused to discharge me, every midnight desire to pee that entailed me waking a family member up to help me pace the 5 steps to the bathroom door so I wouldn’t end up in a pile on the floor, every staple and every inch of the scar that bled, and ached and just burned crimson every time I looked in the mirror that seemed to mock the kind of existence I was bound to have in this world hence forth.
But the funny thing is, sometimes, reflections lie; especially when you’re looking at them with the wrong eye. It took some time, loads of effort, a million fights with my family who were just trying to look out for me and were hardly realising that the more they kept me confined to that 4 walled bedroom with a nightstand that only carried the multiple medications I was required to take if I wanted to continue living, the more I kept sinking. Sinking with every drop of sanitizer that fell on my hands, with every mask that covered my nose and my mouth, with every step that I couldn’t take on my own, with every tablet of steroid that made my limbs frail and my face and belly bloated with fat that made me want to refuse to recognise myself, with every tangle in my hair that I had to chop off, and with those little details of my life… eating road side pani puri or taking the local train… that I was told I would never get back.
Time heals all wound they say, and it was the passage of a lot of time to myself and with my family and friends and well wishers, that finally made me realise that the confines of my room didn’t represent the iron bar cage I thought it did, it in fact gave me a comfortable bed and a much needed break to heal.
With every party that my friends attended and I missed, with every slice of pizza that my cousins ate and i didn’t, with every day of college that my friends attended and I couldn’t, my petty, childish, vain brain often went back to that sinking feeling… but with time, medicines, mom’s yummy food, dads immense pampering, my sister’s attempts at understanding and comforting me and the frequent visits of my friends… that feeling started to fade away.
And as it did, I started to fight to get my life back.
It took a lot of convincing and a whole lot of arguments with supporting evidence to prove to my family that I was ready to get back to college, to get back to life. And then it took considerable effort on my part to build that new life.
A life where I was constantly aware of the prayers that had led to me still being alive and the love that I had to hold close as I learned to live with the medicines, the restrictions, the various pains, the subsequent surgeries, and most tangibly, the scar.
The people around me sometimes fail to realise what this life is for me. Those who are close to me try their best to understand, while those standing at the fence… looking in… afraid to get too close, often judge my decisions. Why I still crave and eat pani puri sometimes… why I return after every surgery to finish college… why sometimes, when I am having a terrible, terrible day, I can’t for the love of me… in words explain to them that I don’t feel too good because of those things that I now face, fight and force myself to forget every single day; the headache, the stomach ache, the shaking of my hands… And there are still times when I want to scream from the rooftops and somehow tell all those standing at the fences to stop making my decisions for me and to stop judging what I do…. but then I think back to this crazy journey that life has been so far… and I know that it’s just not worth it. Just like it’s not worth crying over the crop tops I can’t wear or the trains I can’t ride or the hands that won’t stop shaking or the dreams left behind.
I am now learning to take pride in the simple fact that I have made it to today. And my scars are proof that life tried its best to knock me down, but it failed… and I am here… still breathing… still fighting… still learning to accept every imperfection of my new existence.