THE PILOT WHO FLEW AWAY Twelve-year-old Aniket who had dreamt of flying passed away on January 2
What goes on inside the minds of people with terminal illnesses. Ketan Tanna goes that side
On Thursdays, 37-year-old Ankita Anil Gurav used to wake up at five in the morning. She had to be ahead in the queue for tokens issued by the outpatient department of the Tata Memorial Hospital in central Mumbai. The token enabled her only son, 12-year-old Aniket to get his dose of chemotherapy. Only 20 tokens were given every day and they were exhausted by 7:30 am, minutes after the counter opens.
Life had been tough for Ankita but some choices are easy to make. The Gurav family sold almost all its possessions for the treatment of the boy and were ready to sell the oneroom home if necessary. But they did not curse their fate. â€œWe donâ€™t feel angry with god. We know that our son has uncertain span of life. God has given us life. He has his plans for us,â€ said Aniketâ€™s father, Anil Gurav who gave up his job as a diamond polisher to spend more time with his ailing son.
A few weeks ago, the family had gathered at the Make A Wish Foundation to celebrate a simple moment of joy. The Foundation had gifted Aniket a 5-in-1 music system. The boy, with a cloth tied over his mouth to avoid infection, tinkered with his new gift forgetting the intense pain which had impaired his sense of sight and speech. â€œI want to be a pilot once I grow up,â€ he said feebly. On January 2, Aniket died.
Death terrifies us all. But there are many who live with it as an immediate prospect. How do they deal with it? How do children, especially, deal with it?
Children are aware of the concept of death but somehow they isolate themselves from the fate and very often make deep future plans. Thatâ€™s why, with great effort, seven-year-old Arjun Jalandhar Naik folds his fingers to make an imaginary pistol. Because of surgeries, Arjun can barely speak. â€œI want to be an inspector,â€ he mumbles. It has been four months since Arjun and his father have been uprooted from their home in Vasco, Goa to the sterile rooms of the Tata Memorial Hospital. â€œI canâ€™t dictate terms to god. What he has planned for us has to have a meaning. It is important that we go through what he has planned,â€ says the boyâ€™s father Jalandhar Naik. Arjunâ€™s grandmother calls from Vasco and the kid asks his grandmother how she is in Konkani and reassures her that he is fine. His father begins to cry.
In the palliative care department of the hospital, scores of cancer patients await their turn with crumbled bits of paper and files. Vasant Kadam, who says he is 50, though his file says he is 45, can barely speak. He has throat cancer and every time he tries to speak, there is wheezing sound. A pipe is attached to a hole made in his throat. Kadam has to press a small button on the tube so that he can speak properly.
â€œI know that I am very ill. But I am not blaming god. I am just asking him to give me some time so that I can see my daughters settled.â€
The left eye of 62-year old Kabir was burnt during radiation and what is left of it is one deep hollow socket. The right eye just about functions. Endless rounds of treatment since 1995, when his eyeballs started getting enlarged, saw him down painkillers on a regular basis only to discover that the medicines were causing more damage. Radiation and chemotherapy followed. Kabir says he is not disheartened. â€œI try to live a normal life. The more you think of your difficulties, the more you are bound to feel miserable. All I can say to those who do not have illnessse or have been given disease free bodies is please donâ€™t complicate your lives over trivial issues,â€ he says, smiling.
The head of Tata Palliative Care department Dr M A Muckaden says that the common thread that runs through most of the patients is their ability to meet life head on despite having a limited lifespan. â€œIâ€™m amazed at how they cope with their life when I see other human beings crumble at small problems,â€ she says. TNN