Being Saleha Akhter
Perhaps it was for Saleha Akhter, "lecturer, poet, writer, journalist," that this new post was waiting to be written.
When I met Saleha, a Bangladeshi college teacher and her husband Rafique, last year, I was busy trying to figure out what she was saying. So much so, I missed seeing what a beautiful person she was and that I'd be a part of her life "as long as she lives."
Speaking a mixture of her native Bangla and broken English, she tried to tell me that she was dying of cancer. "Can you help please? Somehow?" She was breaking down constantly, only saying again and again, how ill she was and penniless. Could some one treat her for free?
There were problems with this: The Government sector, where free care is available, might not be interested in treating a Bangaldeshi national and she did not have even a few thousands that a private hospital might expect.
It was hard to crack this one. It did not help that she would call us, three of us: me and my colleagues Saptarshi and Shivakumar: several times a day just to cry. We had sent out feelers to see if someone could help her, but frankly, we were getting tired of this. It was then that Sankara Hospital, (formerly Tamil Nad Hospitals) decided to treat her free of charge.
Saleha went back to Dhaka a better person, physically, than she came away from it. And when Saleha came back to Chennai for a checkup today, she dropped into office to thank the three of us with little "Bangladeshi gifts," warm hugs and handshakes. She is a completely new person no: beautiful, happy, effusive, cocking a snook at canceer, cocking a snook at death.
Maybe stopping at death's door and passing on does that to you. To some people perhaps.
Thank YOU, Saleha.
* * *
Since this is about cocking a snook, I have sold my five-year old Scooty ES for a grand sum of Rs.10,000. To all those who made fun of my good ol' machine, here goes: HAH!