By Neel Anil Panicker

For a very long time, long after the doctor had gone, Prakash continued to stare at the sheaf of papers that lay on his lap. They were his medical report.

Hepatocellular                          Carcinoma…Cirrhosis…Chronic hepatitis C…

The words, all Greek to him, stared out, locking eyes with him.

Nothing had registered.

Only, the doctor’s words, words he had overheard.

“I’m sorry…he has liver cancer. Third stage…just about six months…even less, maybe. “.

“The very last words of the doctor before he was discharged with the reminder to continue with his medicines were, “Mr Kelkar, there’s nothing anybody can do, maybe, except pray.”

He knew the tone. It was one of utter resignation.

Long after the room had emptied of the spartan visitors he had had ever since the news broke out, and long after he had come back from the hospital, he did nothing except lie on his bed and stare blankly at the walls, his mind refusing to part ways with his fear stricken and increasingly frail body.

How quickly and suddenly the wheels of fate had turned against him.

There he was, at 50, at the prime of his life, in the pink of health, (supposedly), with a career that was going exactly as he had wanted it to___a prized promotion and an exciting new role and responsibility seemed manna from heaven___and then this___ boom followed by bust.

Finally, after very many sleepless days had made way to nights and very many sleepless nights had made way to days, there came a day when realisation dawned.

Prakash, the once abandoned child who was cared after by an orphanage and who struggled and hacked his way through school and college and ended up making a life and career for himself reflected on his current predicament. ‘

He had cancer. So what? Many in this world have had it, have it, or will have it. He will die in under six months. So what, he’s led his life, the pluses and minuses, warts and all. Lived for five decades. Many don’t live that long. And even if they do, what’s telling how many years they’d live more. In short, what’s gone is the known past, what’s coming is the unknown future, but what’s happening and real is the present, the throbbing heart beat that you can feel and hear.

It’s your hear and now.

It’s the only thing that you have. The words of his childhood idol  resounded in his ears.

“The greatest glory in living lies not in never falling, but in rising every time we fall.” –Nelson Mandela

No, he would not give up, he decided. He had always stood up and faced every single adversity in life. This too, he would fight. He would fight till his last breath the scourge called liver cancer not by harboring any false hopes that he would survive it.

That much was clear to him___he was pragmatic enough to realise and accept the full import of the doctor’s words. He knew he was dying. That death was knocking on his door and any moment would enter smashing through it, and snatch him.

But he also knew that when it came, it should not find defeated, it should not find him despondent, pensive and pessimistic.

Instead, death should find him boisterous, even bashful.

And busy.

Yes, death would find him busy in the pursuit of life.

That’s the best way he would turn this adversity around.

”He would take it as a challenge.

Then and there Prakash decided that he would do all things, fulfill all the dreams he had ever dreamed of while busying himself with the serious business of living  and celebrating every moment of life.

And with that realization, he picked up his phone and dialed his travel agent.

“Please book me a first class ticket to Paris for tomorrow”

He was about to tick the very first off his bucket list.

There would be more to follow.

#neelanilpanicker #flash #fiction #shortstory

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