Author note: This post won me a runner up prize in the "I am Mardaani" contest

The first time I saw her, she was the least fascinating of the three people in the room to me. Her elderly mother stood by the window sill, her eyes focused on some object beyond the building wall; her mind perhaps even further away. She did not even notice me open the door and enter. On the bed in the centre of the room sat the person I had come to meet- a young man who immediately frowned when he sensed my presence next to him; he had been around my kind before and he knew that it would be awhile before he could leave this unfamiliar building. I use the term ‘sensed’ because he could not possibly see me.
At the tender age of twenty one, he had turned blind.

If our destinies are determined by some divine game of Russian roulette, he had not been granted any favours, I thought to myself, having seen his file before I entered the room. You see, he suffered from congenital rubella syndrome – a disease that afflicted him while he was still within his mother’s womb. It had left its mark on him forever though, both within and without. He was deaf in both ears, had a defect in his heart, suffered from stunted growth and diminished intellectual capacity.


And now his last window to the world – his eyes – had betrayed him too.

The young woman beside him stood up as I entered and nodded with a tired smile. As I asked questions about his signs and symptoms, she answered them with an intelligence that suggested she knew the intricacies of the disease well. I noted that he responded to her touch as she spoke, holding her hand tight and finding comfort in the knowledge of her presence around him.


She was his elder sister by two years. In the days to come, as we operated on his eyes, I realised however that she was much more than that. The stress of looking after a child with learning difficulties and multiple medical ailments had drained the mother of her resolve, resulting in a nervous breakdown over a decade ago. She was a shell of a person now, barely involving herself in discussions and sitting forlornly in the background. Believe me, neither do I blame her nor do I seek to present her as an uncaring mother. She was just a woman who had been defeated by life and had lost the resolve to stay strong. This new symptom – her son going blind – had destroyed her.

Where one angel collapsed during the long battle, another stepped up. And ten years ago, a girl of fourteen took on that role. She nurtured her only brother - giving him unconditional love all along the way. She was responsible for dressing him, feeding him and even shaving him and cutting his hair as he would not allow strangers to be around him. She had to hold his hand at every visit to a hospital before he would consider the possibility of allowing a doctor to examine him. 

At the age of nineteen, she left to join college. A week later, she was back after her brother had grown more violent and agitated in her absence. She was as much a part of his senses as smell and hearing were to you and me. He needed her to be with him when he ate, when he woke up and when he went from room to room.

She never went back to her college. The sister had become the mother and guardian. From my part, I did the only thing I could do – I allowed her to be inside the operation theatre with him, holding his hand till the moment he was fast asleep and making sure she was there once more when he awoke.  But the more I listened to her speak, the more humbled I felt.

Imagine yourself as that woman of twenty three years (in the year 2013) and be honest with me: would you be willing to forsake everything in life for someone who could not even reciprocate to let you know in words that he cares for you too? Would you give up a chance at college or even a basic social life? When you see all your friends from school having a fun college life, going for trips and getting married, how would you feel knowing that you gave it all up? Would you smile as you told his doctor that marriage was overrated anyway and you would not be getting married since there was no way your brother would survive without you beside him? No malice in those words, mind you… there was genuine affection and concern for her brother.

I know I could never do such a thing, no matter how pious I tried to portray myself.
Being strong is not about building muscles or fighting a dozen guys in a filmy style. It is having the inner strength to grow up at the tender age of fourteen and become the responsible adult of the family, tending to your mother and brother even if it meant sabotaging your own dreams and aspirations. It is being able to genuinely smile, knowing that the road ahead will be filled with more unforeseen calamities but choosing to walk the path still.

I always harp about how the strongest people I have seen in my life are usually from my own medical field. ‘The more the degrees in their resume, the more the level of inner turmoil and hardships they have endured’.

I was wrong. The strongest person I have seen is a young woman with no college degree to add to her resume but the inner strength to carry the emotional burden of an entire family on her tiny shoulders and the unmatched selflessness to allow her love for her brother to overcome her sense of personal loss.   

Authors note: This is written as a part of I am Mardaani activity exclusively at BlogAdda.com for Indian Bloggers.
And for those who are wondering: yes, the young man left the hospital with the ability to see again.  

30 Comments

  1. What a heartbreaking, yet beautiful, story of love and sacrifice. I have to believe that she will be rewarded in some way, at some point, for her total selflessness. Thank you for sharing this inspirational story.

    And I'm very glad the young man regained his sight! That is a blessing.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I certainly hope so... I like this venture taken by the contest to showcase unsung feminine heroes. People often just take it for granted but the sacrifices some make are just heartbreaking.

      Delete
  2. Wow. She truly was a WOMAN. A woman of substance, of strength, of solace, a blessing for her brother! I love the minimalist approach to this story and the way you have managed to ink it to my brain.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks Soumyaa.. not an easy story to share. That was possibly the reason I stuck to a minimalistic approach..

      Delete
  3. Your story touched on so many important issues, the greatest being -- what we are willing to sacrifice for others. Beautifully done

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. there are indeed many small factors in that family's story... the mother's side of the story too but it was the sister and what she was doing that affected me the most...I dont think I could ever do something like that.

      Delete
  4. This is truly an inspirational story. Thanks so much for sharing this, Roshan. I am really speechless after reading this.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks Beloo... hope it inspires selflessness in others too.

      Delete
  5. Thank for sharing this, Roshan. I always believe that there are quiet heroes among and we really don't need to look too far. What a remarkable girl is all I can say. You were blessed through her and by sharing this, so are we.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. we dont ever have to look far.. the scenes are all around us. It is just a matter of seeing it and realising what is happening. Many just see it and wipe it off their mind instantly...

      Delete
  6. Touching story indeed. Happy that the boy got his vision.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. it is a minor blessing in a hard life... but yes, a blessing nonetheless.

      Delete
  7. Beautifully written. Some people have such reserves of strength, it appears incredible. Glad that the brother got his sight back; I can't imagine how he lost he must have felt.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. thats the thing... it must be truly terrifying being trapped like this in a body where u cant let your feelings be known.. and then u start to lose your vision. It can really get to u.

      Delete
  8. My heart goes out for the entire family. They are blessed to have such strong willed and sacrificing women around them. Kudos to the young girl - it indeed is rare to see someone as young as her to give up so much in life. I'm happy her brother finally could see again.
    Very touching story. Wish you all the best for the contest!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thats what struck me.. she has grown up her entire life loving her brother.. that kind of selfless love is amazing to watch but also heart breaking for me at some level...

      Delete
  9. Thank you for sharing this story of an extraordinary woman! Respect! Beautiful and touching narration Roshan!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. glad you think that she was extraordinary too. I certainly felt so.

      Delete
  10. Beautiful story of love and sacrifice. Hope she gets a better deal in life now that her brother can see. She has sacrificed enough.
    Best of luck for the contest.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. i dont know how that will work out.. because she seemed quite determined in her belief. as I said above, it is a brave decision but a heart breaking one too.

      Delete
  11. Such a sad but beautiful story indeed! Hope she gets to see the better side of life as well!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. touchwood,, i dont know how but hope for the best.

      Delete
  12. Inner strength and conviction to see and help where many others would have failed. Great post. I cannot call it a story for it is truth, some one's life.
    Very touching and salute to the brave girl.
    Thanks for sharing.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. i would have failed.. i know that for sure.

      Delete
  13. The only blessing God gave this boy was his sister. He hears and lives through her. And this sister whose life is complete dedication to her brother...I have no words to say, she is more angel and less human.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. seriously ya... it was tough to watch.. tougher to relive this now.

      Delete
  14. Hats off to that sister and Glad that he got his vision back :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. ya.. that is true.. some solace in a tough life.

      Delete
  15. very strong lady..hats off

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. she truly is... I cant imagine many doing what she does..

      Delete

So what do you think ?