(Based on a true story)
14th March Brijesh Gupta was sitting in his office completing a report when the phone rang.
"Mr. Gupta, Mohanty from Plant Control. I just received a phone call from our Bombay Liaison Office.
Your son Pramod is serious. Please make arrangements to leave immediately for Bombay."
After that everything was a blur. Frenzied packing, rushing to the railway station, scrambling into the train to Howrah; next morning hurrying to the airport and then boarding the flight to Bombay -- Brijesh felt he was moving in fast forward.
As the plane took off, Brijesh's thoughts raced to another phone call around two years ago.
"Papa, Pramod here."
"Yes beta, bolo?"
"Vinod is in ICU."
"I am speaking from Thane nursing home. Please come as fast as possible. He needs you."
Brijesh and his wife Reena had rushed to Bombay, just as they were rushing now. Brijesh was swamped by an eerie feeling of deja vu.
Vinod and Pramod were identical twins. However, though they were physically alike, in mental makeup and emotional tuning they were completely different. Vinod was shy and extremely sensitive. Pramod on the other hand was an out and out extrovert. While Vinod was into painting and poetry, Pramod loved action movies and rock music. But they shared one common trait and that was their love for each other. Their bonding was really special. They were not only united by ties of blood, they were also bound by the bonds of friendship.
After completing their post graduation, they had started working in Bombay. Pramod was a marketing executive for a pharmaceutical company while Vinod was a computer programmer for a publishing house.
Brijesh and Reena reached Bombay in the afternoon and rushed to the nursing home. They found Pramod in front of the ICU sobbing his heart out. Vinod was no more. He had died of 'deep vein thrombosis'.
Brijesh and Reena were shattered but the worst affected was Pramod. He seemed to have suddenly matured. The young man with a happy-go-lucky, frivolous and devil may care attitude had disappeared and his place had been taken by a serious, sombre and responsible human being. He seemed to have realised that he now had a dual role to play. He was now both Pramod and Vinod to his parents.
A few months later Pramod came to visit his parents. Brijesh would often find him sitting in the room he had shared with Vinod, staring at Vinod's photograph or going through the photographs of their childhood.
One day he told Brijesh. "Papa, you know something strange happened yesterday."
"You remember when we were kids, Vinod and I would often go cycling to Koel river."
"Yes, I remember."
"There on the river bank, Vinod would often sketch and I would build sand castles. Well, I had gone there yesterday. As I sat there brooding about old times, suddenly I saw Vinod."
"Yes, Papa. He was wearing his favourite red T-shirt and light blue jeans, and was sitting and sketching just as he used to. I ran towards him shouting his name. He turned, our eyes met for an instant, and then he disappeared." Brijesh looked at his son. "Pramod beta, Vinod is gone and you have to accept the fact just as your mother and I have accepted it."
Pramod shook his head. "No, Papa. He is here with me. And I think he is calling me," he said, a far away look in his eyes.
When Brijesh and Reena entered the airport lounge at Bombay airport they found quite few people waiting for them. Officers from the Liaison office and Pramod's friends were all there.
As Reena looked at their anxious and worried faces, a few lines from her favourite bhajan seemed to float in her mind: Tera tujhko arpan, kya laage mera (Whatever is yours is offered back to you -- there is nothing that belongs to me).
At that instant she realised that it was all over. As she neared her son's friends she could see it in their eyes. They were taken to Khandala and on the way they were told the tragic truth. Pramod had gone for a meeting to Khandala. On the way back, while getting into a taxi, he had suffered a stroke and collapsed on the spot. The postmortem verdict was the same -- 'deep vein thrombosis'.
The next few months were hell. Brijesh couldn't believe this could happen to them again. Two young, bright, and apparently healthy lives snuffed out just like that! What sins had the youngsters committed and what wrong had he and Reena done? Everyone knew they were god-fearing, kind, gentle and honest people who had never harmed anyone. Then why had fate dealt them such a cruel blow -- not once but twice?
Brijesh wanted to end his life but he knew he had to hold on for Reena's sake. They both had only each other in the world.
Reena was a teacher in Saint Paul's but after Pramod's death, she had stopped going. Three months later, Father Robert, the Principal of Saint Paul's, suggested that she resume her duties.
"Mr. Gupta, it will help Reena forget her sorrows," he said.
After a lot of persuasion, Reena agreed. One Monday morning, she went to the temple, offered her prayers and went to the school. She was to teach Class III-A.
As she entered her class, she saw a sea of expectant faces gazing at her. She looked at them and froze. It couldn't be. She closed her eyes and looked again. Yes, what she was seeing was not a mirage but reality. Sitting in front of her were Pramod and Vinod -- not just the two of them but many, many more -- looking at her with love and adoration. How could she feel she was lonely, how could she curse God for snatching away her sons? He hadn't taken them away, he had merely multiplied them.
A few days later Anju Grewal, Reena's colleague in school, had come home. She looked at a flower vase which was on the dining table and exclaimed, "Reena, such a beautiful vase. Where did you get it from?"
"My Pramod had bought it for me for my birthday, from Bombay."
"Oh! So sad! But Reena you should not keep it with you. Every time you look at it will remind you of poor Pramod. And poor Pramod will remind you of poor Vinod. You mustn't keep it."
Reena stared hard at Anju and then said very softly, "Anju, in that case I should destroy every pore of my body. Because every pore of my being reminds me of my sons. But tell me why should I be terrified of their memories? They are all I have left now. I can't shun them or run away from them.
Rather I shall preserve, nurture and treasure them for as long as I live."
Brijesh and Reena had gone to visit their neighbours Kalyani and Mohan Nayak. As they were leaving, Kalyani told Reena, "Bhabhiji, you shouldn't mind but can I ask you something?" And without waiting for her answer continued, "Some people often ask me how you can continue to lead a normal life after what happened to you? I too am really surprised. Had this kind of tragedy befallen me, either I would have gone mad or I would have committed suicide."
Tears sprang to Reena's eyes, but controlling herself she said, "Kalyani, I am thankful for your concern. But I don't want to pine away for what might have been. Rather I am grateful to God for giving me my sons' company for at least twenty-five years. And moreover, I don't feel Pramod and Vinod are dead. I see my sons in my students. And I am so lucky that every year I get a new batch of Pramods and Vinods to love, care and adore."
Brijesh saw Vinod sitting at his study table. He was bending over writing in his diary. He could clearly see the words of the first line: "You shall always my presence feel."
Suddenly the words started faded to a blur.
He woke up. He was lying in his bed. It was still dark. He went to Vinod's room. The study table was just as he had left it, with the diary on top. He sat down and opened the diary. He then picked up a pen and started writing:
"You shall always my presence feel
I am an indomitable spirit no one can still
My strength emerges from His mighty will
Your scars, your wounds, HE shall heal."
An hour later when Reena came looking for Brijesh, she found him sitting and staring at the pages of a diary lying in front. She read the words -- the handwriting was his but the words weren't. The words were their son Vinod's.
She placed a hand on Brijesh's shoulder and whispered, "I have found my God in children. You find our children in God."
He looked up and tears started rolling down his cheeks.
(This story is based on the life of Mr. G.P. Verma and his wife Renu of Rourkela, and the fate that befell their twins Vineet and Amit. It is now more than six years since Mrs. and Mr. Verma's idyllic world was blown to smithereens. They then had several soft options. They could have wallowed in grief, sunk in the morass of cynicism or even sought refuge in death. They chose a far tougher option -- the option of surviving and fighting. And they continue to fight every day, every minute, every moment -- with resolve and dignity. Truly they are a profile in courage.)