I woke up.
How could I possibly wake up though?
Is this heaven?
The white walls of hospital seemed like a bright room to be in, for an instant I thought I had been dead and at peace.
Realising, unfortunately my suicide attempt failed, now i not only had to face my parents but also the fears that groped me to take this step.
The memories flooded in like blood being pumped to my brain again.
The break up, the result, the terrified face in the mirror at night and finally the pills before bed.
Breaking my chain of thoughts, i heard a conversation in distance.
“Don’t you think i should try marrying again sweetheart?”
“And who will marry you old guy?”
“If you dont mind, i have a ring in my pocket and a gorgeous lady holding my hand right now”, he laughs.
“Your jokes may never get old OJ, but you are. I will be back with your dose.”
As she drifted, the crooked teeth, bald head and wrinkly eyes from across the bed smiled at me as if I’m his favourite person in the world.
Already suffering from a depression, an old guy’s company was the least i wanted now. His absurd smile met with my ignorance then.
It didn’t bother him. In all the silence of the hospital and stench of medicines, the only thing echoing was his laughter and silly jokes.
For a moment i thought shouldn’t he be pale and just dying now, why put on a show for everyone.
Finally getting enough of him, i decided to sulk back to my depression. Life seemed dull, parents angry and melodramatic, love seemed gone forever.
Few days passed. My doses were intact and so was my depression. I was a failure. For all i can conclude is i failed at suicide too as if life was mocking me down.
OJ as he was famously called for ‘old jolly’ had friends in everyone and now he was looking for a friend in me.
Right next to my bed was his, which made him chatter all day long with his life stories.
His radio at bedside playing the old song everyday (musafir hu yaaron) and him reciting some nonsensical two lines in such poetic way that more than anything it just increased my depression.
But i didn’t want to be around my parents so this old guy seemed a better option while surviving.
“Why are you so quiet my boy?”
“I don’t wanna talk bout’ it.”
“No doubt she left you!” (Laughs)
“This is not funny okay!”
“Don’t be grumpy while you still have the days to be happy young man.”
“You don’t have to teach me about life, I’m sure you lived yours, as much your stories tell.”
I didn’t bother to listen more to his replies until,
“I met a girl too.”
Although i didn’t find anything interesting before, i surely wanted to hear this out. Maybe some more ache to my heart.
“She was everything like a dream. Boys in my days didn’t have the balls to even look at her (laughs). But there was something between us, a spark if you may call it. She smiled at my clumsiness, my pathetic humour and in her smiles i lived my laughs.”
It seemed poetic and old but i don’t know why it flickered the first smile on my face in days.
Maybe that’s how I felt about my love.
Before i was hit back by tragedy, he continued.
“It was like we were always together. I could have asked her to marry me, but i couldn’t. Inspite of that, we are still together.”
I had to ask then where is she and what happened to his story but i guess some things should be revealed with time. Somehow i managed to swallow my question back.
It wasn’t more than an hour i thought but it was almost two and surprisingly i was listening.
For a contrast, his life seemed pretty happy.
“What are those scars OJ?”
“Battle field scars”, he winks.
“Yeah a small battle field of my own when i was a kid. Look boy, no one will appreciate the cocks you have to stand up for yourself.”
His boldness clearly showed how much of a rebel he was.
“If you are thinking I’m some kind of a rebellious hero, boy; I’m not”, he laughs in his own sense of comedy still not understandable to me.
“I wanted the simple things out of life you see. Doing what you love, to yourself and to others. Back in my day not everyone laughed lively, i did. And that’s what i wanted to do. Although my parents didn’t laugh at my nasty grades, but the children living across street, on street; didn’t bother about my grades or magnanimous laughter. The scars at home were healed on streets. That’s where i learned friendship.”
It was quite capturing how he turned depressing things sound so happy.
From playing pranks at neighbours, to helping orphan kids at night, he showed me the kid i was looking for in myself that night.
Without realising how much i was enjoying his company, my medical doses were far less effective than his laughter doses.
“So you say, you still had a pretty good life?”, I asked after he told me how he was thrown out of his house by his father and had to live alone for some time, juggling with career, life, love and his identity.
“You can’t figure out what’s in front of you if your vision is blinded by tears my boy. I was alone to be honest, but that was my biggest strength. I did whatever i wanted, however i wanted. There was no one to tell me if I succeeded or failed. If i was doing any better or worse. And as of me, i had people smiling and laughing along with me. I did shows, sometimes in clubs, sometimes just for dogs. At that moment i realised the power i hold even when I’m alone, because I wasn’t. Now this may sound like a moral story to you but believe me son,”
The word felt like a guidance to me.
“..Most importantly, you live for yourself the most, others are like the stars around the moon, adding sparkle to the sky.”
His life had been so mediocre but yet he made it sound so amazing i wondered if i could feel less like a loser, more than ever now.
The ward and patients may have been a bit of jealous of me as i occupied OJ most of the times.
But the sounds of joy never ended in those corridors.
Maybe the medicine OJ had was why everyone recovered sooner, probably me too.
OJ was almost recovering from bladder cancer. At his age he was doing an exceptionally better recovery.
He was recently shifted in our ward sooner to discharge.
I didn’t know this any before because i was so much engulfed in my sadness.
The wounds inside still ache, but was this some kind of reliving therapy with OJ that made me feel a bit of alive again.
“You didn’t tell me yet why you committed this stupid act? So eager to meet the devil,eh?”
“You should share more often little guy.”
“My stories aren’t so worthy you know.”
“Now why I tell stories my lad,
Coz maybe some kid would be inspired to live his stories of life.
On the plus point, they keep me alive too”, he chuckles.
For the first time, i felt the burden lifting up from me as i told him what had happened.
The story was same which i told myself the first night of taking pills, but it sounded much stupider now.
I was wondering what if some day i could be an OJ living my stories all over again and spreading smiles.
He catched my thoughts as if it were his own, “You don’t have to be so old or on a death bed to tell your stories”, i heard his voice snatching me back to reality.
I passed an awkward smile.
It was the last night together. I was to be discharged the next day.
Finally i asked the question i wanted to since the first day,
“Why didn’t you marry her?”
“Well, she died before i could.”
The shock hit me harder even than my own break up.
“But, you..You said you are, were always together”, i stammered.
“Yes, we are. Now i don’t wanna sound like a hopeless Romeo to you, but yes, she lives in me now.”
I was out of words to say anything. He did sound like a hopeless Romeo, but that’s when i saw a tear smiling through his eyes. I couldn’t have felt more love for him. He still smiled brightly as if he stole some shine from the moon outside.
Quietly, we slept through the night.
I felt weird hearing myself say that it’s sad leaving an hospital! But it was.
“Hope i didn’t bore you much son!”, he laughed like he always did.
This time i laughed too, even though i still didn’t get his sense of humour.
He knew what I wished to say but i didn’t.
He gave me a small piece of paper along with his cassette of his favourite song.
We hugged our goodbyes and i left.
I opened out of curiosity what he must have written in the note.
And for the first time in all this days, i finally understood what those two lines meant.
“Zindagi itni choti b kaha k rasta khtm ho jaye
Zindagi itni badi b kaha k rasta khtm hi na ho paye”
(Life is not so small that you can outlive it but not so big that you can waste it.)