Love takes courage

(This short story is entirely a work of fiction.)


Rohan honked his car as he reached Pooja's house. It was about 6:15 in the evening. A cool breeze was blowing but Rohan had his air conditioner on. Pooja hurriedly walked out of her house and got into the car. Rohan smiled.

"Hi jaan!"

"Hi!"

"You are looking too good today!"

Pooja smiled. "Thanks!"

"No comments about me?"

"You always look good Rohan. Whats is the point in telling you again and again?"

"Haay!" Rohan exclaimed and started the car.

Rohan drove towards Colaba Causeway. They were heading to their favorite hang out place, Mondy's, short for Cafe Mondegar where they were meeting some friends for a beer before heading out for dinner. They reached in about fifteen minutes. Rohan handed over his key to the valet and took Pooja inside. Rohan could never help smiling at the “Reality is an illusion caused by Alcohol Deficiency!” quote that greeted them as soon as they entered!

"Let's get out of our illusions now Pooja!"

"Yeah right!"

They found that their friends Rohit and Neha had already come and taken a table. They greeted each other and sat down. They ordered beer for all and some onion rings and french fries to go with the beer. Over the next couple of hours, they chatted and caught up with each other. Rohit and Neha had just got married about a year back. Rohan and Rohit were best buddies from college. They had studied Marine Engineering together and though both eventually moved away from this field, they kept in touch and hung out every weekend.

It was about 9 o' clock when they thought it was time to head out for dinner and Rohan and Pooja said their byes to Rohit and Neha and left Mondy's.

"So where do you want to go?" asked Pooja.

"Hmmmmm.... I don't know, where do you want to go?"

"How about Indigo?"

"Yeah, sure, let's do Indigo today."

Rohan drove straight to Indigo which was hardly any distance from there. They had to wait for about half an hour to get a table which was quite short considering it was a weekend. They waited and chatted in the meantime.

When their turn came, they took the table and ordered the food.

"Pooja," Rohan began, "you realize that we are getting married in eight months? God! I am kinda psyched yaar!"

"Why? What is there to get so psyched about? We know each other for two years now."

"That's right. But somehow, this whole marriage thing na, it is really scary. See, now I stay with my parents, you stay with yours. We meet regularly while both of us have the freedom to do what we want. It is all so nice. Why change anything?"

"We have discussed the freedom bit right, Rohan? Both of us have promised to give each other the freedom to have our own lives. What is the problem?"

The waiter brought the appetizers and the drinks.

Rohan took a sip of his drink and continued.

"You're right Pooja. But I don't know. I am really scared. What if you and mom don't get along? I mean, I know both of you are great friends and all. But staying in the same house is different Pooja."

"I think that should be the last of your worries Rohan. I love your mom more than I do my own!"

"Yeah, whatever."

They finished their dinner talking about their plans for the week and then Rohan drove Pooja home. As Pooja was getting out of the car, Rohan kissed her gently on her forehead. Pooja held his hand and said, "Don't think too much. Everything will be all right! Trust me."

"Yes. Good night!"

"Good night!"

-----------


A week passed by quickly. Rohan and Pooja talked a few times in the night. Both were completely busy with their work. It was Friday night again. Rohan was to pick Pooja up in the evening as usual. Pooja got ready and was watching television.

She was thinking about her relationship with Rohan. She thought about the first time she met him at Rohit and Neha's party. She was totally floored by his drop dead good looks. She couldn't take her eyes off him that night. When she was introduced to him, she found herself fumbling. Very few guys could do that to her! They spent some time together that evening and she found him to be an intelligent and mature guy with a terrific sense of humor.

They kept meeting a few times at Rohit and Neha's house and then one day, Pooja gathered the courage and asked Rohan out for a coffee. Rohan instantly agreed. Rohan later confessed to her that he was planning to do something similar very soon! From then on, everything went smoothly. They fell totally in love with each other. Rohan proposed to Pooja with a diamond ring about eight months after they had first met and Pooja immediately agreed. Both parents met each other and they decided to have the marriage in a few months time.

Pooja did not realize that it was already 7:30. Rohan was never this late. She called his cell phone. There was no answer. "Maybe he's driving", she thought and waited for some more time.

After another half an hour, she called again. No response again. "This is weird!"

She then called Rohan's landline. Again, no response. She was surprised. "What is happening?" she wondered.

She called Rohan's mom's cell phone. No response. She began to grow worried.

Within a minute, Rohan's mom called back. Pooja answered the phone in one ring itself. "Mom, where is Rohan?"

"Pooja, we're all at Breach Candy Hospital. Rohan is not well."

"What? What happened to him?" Pooja started panicking.

"Don't worry. Nothing serious. They're doing some tests."

"Tests for what, mom?"

"Listen, don't panic. I think it would be better for you to come down here. Not that anything is serious but you would be more comfortable. Do you have anyone or should I send the car?"

"No, no, I will come mom. I have a car."

"Ok beta, please drive slowly. There is nothing to worry. It is something very minor, ok? Drive slowly please!"

Pooja's heart was beating very fast. What could have happened?

She drove down to Breach Candy Hospital, parked and then called Rohan's mom to check on where she should come. 

When she met Rohan's parents and his sister, they all seemed to be calm and composed. They smiled and greeted Pooja and hugged her. Rohan's father explained to her. 

"As Rohan was getting ready this evening to come to you, he suddenly just collapsed! Luckily, Bittu was around and saw him and shouted out to us. We were all at home, thank God. We sprinkled some water on his face and he came to. He was telling us he had a severe headache. We rushed him here. The doctors are monitoring him. They say his Blood Pressure is very high! They are now doing some other tests to figure out the problem."

"Why is his Blood Pressure high? He never had high Blood Pressure! Do you know anything about this?" his mom asked Pooja.

"No! He never mentioned anything and he never had any symptoms."

"Anyway, don't worry, I am sure it is something that can be taken care of. Let us not panic", said his father.

"Can I see him?" Pooja asked.

Rohan's sister led him to the casualty ward where Rohan was being monitored. He was sleeping. Pooja went up to him and a sense of calm descended on her after seeing his angelic face. He was looking so amazing. She couldn't help stare at his face continuously. The milk-like color of his skin, a tuft of smooth, black hair caressing his forehead all made for a very vulnerable picture of calm. She said a prayer. They were asked to wait outside.

-----------


It was about 11 in the night. The duty doctor came out and walked up to Rohan's father. He said that they would like to keep him here for some more time to monitor him carefully. Once all the test results came, they could take a decision on the plan.

"Sure, Doctor!"

Rohan's dad, Atul Karmarkar, had already called a close friend and a very senior orthopedic surgeon at Breach Candy, Dr. Vasant Desai and informed him about Rohan. Dr. Desai had called the casualty and got an update. He also made sure that the doctors who were monitoring Rohan were very good.

They went to the hospital canteen in groups and quickly had a bite each and came back to the waiting area near the casualty ward. In the meantime, some of the Karmarkars' close relatives also reached the hospital. It was decided that two cousins of Rohan would stay at the hospital and the rest of them would go back home to get some rest. Atul Karmarkar talked to the duty doctor and made sure that Rohan was stable and they would not need him in the night.

The next morning the Karmarkars and Pooja were all back by about seven o' clock. Rohan was sleeping. He was given a mild sedative. At around 9:30, a senior doctor at the hospital, a General Physician, Dr. Pitambar Moolay arrived at the casualty and went straight to Rohan. He saw all the reports. He asked for Atul Karmarkar. Mr. Karmarkar went in an introduced himself.

Dr. Moolay took Rohan's file and walked into a room with Mr. Karmarkar.

They were closeted in the room for almost half an hour.

Mr. Karmarkar came out looking quite pale. He walked up to his family and said, "Rohan's kidney function is not normal. That is why his BP is so high."

There was silence. Everyone was too shocked to react.

"They are going to shift him to a room now but he will need to see a specialist. He will need to be here for some time until they understand fully what is happening."

The Karmarkars and Pooja were very well-educated, intelligent and mature people. Though they were absolutely shocked, they knew that they had to be very, very strong at this time. Pooja asked, "Does Rohan know?"

"No, they haven't told him yet. I will talk to him myself."

---------

Rohan felt his bed shaking. He awoke with a start. He saw the lights of the ceiling going past him one by one. There were three people pushing the stretcher he was on. They went into an elevator.

"Where are we going?" he asked.

"Special Room 43", one of the hospital staff replied.

"Why?"

"The Doctor will come and meet you and explain everything to you", the man said in Hindi.

Rohan was wheeled into Special Room 43. His parents, sister and Pooja were all already in the room. The hospital staff lifted him and placed him gently on the bed in the room. The room was nice and spacious. It was air-conditioned and had a television set at one end. It also had another smaller bed for a family member to sleep.

"What did the Dr. say, papa?" Rohan asked his father.

"There is nothing to worry, he said. They find something a little wrong with the kidney. Nothing that can't be treated with medication, thank God."

"Kidney?" Rohan was puzzled.

"Yeah but don't worry at all. The doctor said that they are still investigating and will let us know soon."

Rohan looked at Pooja. She smiled at him and nodded.

---------------


That evening, the Chief Nephrologist of the hospital, Dr. Yogesh Mehta came to see Rohan. A bunch of junior doctors accompanied him. He was fairly short, almost completely bald and wore spectacles. He greeted Rohan and asked him how he was feeling. Rohan said he was feeling much better and ready to go home!

"Yes, of course. You will go home."

He reached out for his hand and felt the pulse.

"Let us just make sure you are totally fine."

He checked the Blood Pressure.

"Since you are already here, might as well make some money off you!" Everyone in the room laughed at the doctor's self-deprecating joke. If nothing, it made the atmosphere much lighter.

He then examined him thoroughly. He placed his stethoscope on different locations of Rohan's chest and with his hand felt his stomach.

"Tell me Rohan, have you felt anything unusual at all in the past few months?"

There was complete silence in the room.

"Not that I can think of Doctor."

He reached for Rohan's ankle and pressed it with a finger and then felt the ankle with the same finger.

"Any feeling of exhaustion? Loss of appetite? Urinating more than usual? Or even less than usual?"

"Nothing at all Doctor."

"Hmmmm.... that's all right. Don't worry. You will be fine!"

Dr. Mehta made some notes in Rohan's file and looked at Mr. Karmarkar and said, "Can you come and see me in my OP, Mr. Karmarkar?"

Rohan protested, "Doctor, please tell me what the problem is. I am grown up now and would like to know."

"Yes, of course. I will tell you. But first let me discuss my fee with your dad. I am fairly expensive, you know?"

There was laughter all around.

------

"Mr. Karmarkar, Rohan has a kidney problem."

Dr. Mehta pronounced this shocking verdict after examining all of Rohan's reports. Some of the tests were repeated to be absolutely certain. The diagnosis was very clear now.

"Rohan's kidneys are working about 30% of normal. He will need some form of treatment very soon."

Mr. Karmarkar's worst fears had come true. Last night, when he went home, he couldn't sleep one bit. He scoured the internet for information on this. The fifty four year old Chairman of Shweta Electronics, Maharashtra's leading manufacturer of electronics components was a worried man. He systematically wrote down the possible reasons for this and one of the possibilities was Kidney Disease. He had convinced himself that this was impossible however.

Yet, as he heard Dr. Mehta's voice explain the situation, he couldn't believe his ears. Rohan would need to get onto dialysis immediately.

Mr. Karmarkar could see his son's life changing dramatically in front of him. He felt completely helpless.

Dr. Mehta added, "In many cases, the kidney function does improve and this could be a temporary setback. We will treat him with medication and dialysis and hope for the best."

------------


Rohan was waiting patiently for his dad to return from Dr. Mehta's room. There was a knock after what seemed to him like forever. Mr. Karmarkar put on a smile to hide his worry. "Good news!", he exclaimed.

"I had a detailed conversation with Dr. Mehta. He says there is nothing much to worry. This is temporary. There is definitely a problem with your kidneys. Their function is not as good as it should be. But the best part according to Dr. Mehta is that in most cases, the functioning returns in a few days. So, we have to hang on for a few days and then everything should be back to normal."

Pooja hugged Mr. Karmarkar for what seemed like good news. Mrs. Karmarkar was also relieved. She quickly called Shweta to inform her about this.

Rohan was not fully convinced however. He managed a smile but deep down he did not believe his father. His father was generally a big optimist. Somewhere between what Dr. Mehta conveyed to his father and what his father had just conveyed to them, the facts of the matter became painted with a more positive hue.

The next morning Rohan was wheeled in to the Operation Theater for surgery. They were going to insert a catheter in his upper chest. This was called a perm-cath. This would provide an access to his veins to be able to draw out blood for dialysis and put it back again. This was the first time Rohan was having any kind of surgery and was a little nervous. His parents and Pooja were by his side. When they reached the Operation Theater, they were asked to wait outside while Rohan was taken inside.

The three waited outside very tense. They were told it is a very minor surgery but this was Rohan's first ever surgery and the entire shock of diagnosis was quite a lot for them to take with equanimity.

After about two hours, a nurse came out and told them that the surgery was over and that they could come and meet the patient. They were relieved to see him feeling fine. By late afternoon, Rohan was wheeled back to his room.

That evening when Dr. Mehta came to Rohan's room, Rohan asked the others to leave the room and addressed Dr. Mehta.

"Dr. Mehta, I would like you to tell me the truth. Please understand that I have many plans for the future. Both professional and personal. I was going to get married to Pooja later this year. I need to know the truth Dr. Mehta. What is the prognosis?"

"Rohan, I completely understand your point. Please realize however, that in medicine, there are few things that anyone can state with 100% certainty. But I will tell you what I know. Your kidneys are functioning about 30% now. There are some types of kidney disease that can be reversed. There are others that cannot. We cannot say for sure which type you have. We would need to do a biopsy to be able to do that. I will plan a biopsy after a few more days if we think it is necessary."

Rohan thought that was a reasonable explanation. When the others came back in, he seemed more relieved than before. More relieved at knowing the truth.

When you suspect someone is lying, you fear it much more than the truth. The fear of uncertainty is probably more powerful than any real fear. When you know the truth, there is fear only to the extent of the facts. When you are not sure whether to fear or not, the fear that overtakes you can be limitless.

---------


Rohan was started on dialysis the next day. He was taken to a separate hall which was meant for dialysis treatments. As he was taken in, he was surprised at the number of people in it. Pooja and his father accompanied him. Rohit and Neha were also there. They were out of town when this whole incident happened and as soon as they got back, they rushed to the hospital. They were asked to wait outside by a young, energetic man who was wearing a blue uniform, a mask and a cap. He was introduced to them as Kunal, one of the technicians at the dialysis unit.

Kunal looked at Rohan and instantly felt sorry that he had to undergo dialysis. Kunal had seen many patients in his career and was always sad when he saw a young patient. He felt that this disease was a really cruel disease even for old people. However, when young people have to undergo dialysis, he felt it was totally unfair. He felt even more so when saw Rohan. He thought to himself, Young, old, rich, poor, good looking, ugly looking, this disease makes no distinction!

Kunal made sure Rohan was comfortable on the bed and then started the dialysis process by connecting a couple of long tubes to the catheter in Rohan's chest. After about half an hour of starting dialysis, Rohan's family was allowed to come in. Pooja went up to him and held his hand. Rohan was feeling very nauseous. Kunal explained that this was a common occurrence in the first few dialysis sessions and would soon settle down.

The explanation sounded horribly ominous to Pooja. What did he mean by 'would soon settle down'? How long would he need to be on dialysis? Wasn't this something reversible? Maybe he does not know what Rohan has. Maybe what Rohan has is different from what others usually have.

Rohan felt a little better and watched television. Pooja sat next to him holding his hand throughout the two hour treatment. At the end of the two hours, Kunal disconnected the tubes and moved him back to his room.

Rohan underwent dialysis sessions the next two days as well. The second session was three hours and the fourth was four hours. Pooja accompanied him to both sessions. Kunal made sure he was always there when Rohan's sessions were scheduled.

The next day, Dr. Mehta came to Rohan's room and said they were planning to do a kidney biopsy that afternoon. With this, they would come to know exactly what the problem was. What was the reason Rohan's kidneys had been affected? Rohan was very happy. At least some questions would be answered. Knowing the primary disease, Rohan felt, would give them the much needed clarity about this horrible turn of events. It would also give them some direction for the future.

A kidney biopsy is a small procedure by which some tissue is 'plucked out' from a kidney and then examined under the microscope to see the exact tissue-level changes that have occurred which will let the doctors know what the underlying disease is that has caused the kidney function to reduce.

The biopsy was performed that afternoon. Kunal assisted Dr. Mehta. The collected tissue was sent off to the laboratory for testing. It would be a week before the reports arrived. Until then, Rohan would need to undergo dialysis every alternate day for four hours.

The dialysis sessions were more boring than painful. Lying on a bed for four hours was extremely frustrating for Rohan. There was a television to kill time but he was not a huge television watcher at all.

Pooja stayed with Rohan most of the time during the day. She would go home at night and return early the next morning. Rohan's cousins and father would take turns staying the night with him at the hospital. His mother and sister would come for several hours during the day. Everyone was waiting for the biopsy results.

---------------


One morning Dr. Mehta walked in with the biopsy report. The primary disease was thought to be Focal segmental glomerulosclerosis (FSGS). The bad news this brought was that this was unlikely to reverse. Rohan's heart sank. His parents were shocked. Pooja held Rohan's hand. She couldn't believe her ears.

Dr. Mehta said that we should immediately plan for a kidney transplant.

"With a kidney transplant, you can lead a totally normal life!"

"How soon can I undergo a transplant?"

"Let us stabilize you Rohan. In the meantime - "

Rohan interrupted Dr. Mehta, "I am not going for even one more dialysis session!"

"Rohan, don't get upset", his father told him.

"See Rohan, I understand it is very difficult for you. You must be patient. We will start doing the tests immediately. We will make sure you get transplanted soon."

"If I get a transplant, will I need dialysis?"

"No, no dialysis once you get a transplant."

"Why can't we do the transplant today?"

Dr. Mehta smiled. "Its not that simple Rohan. We have to identify a donor. We have to make sure the donor is a good match with you. Only then will the transplant be successful."

"Doctor, do whatever you want. I am not going to do any more dialysis."

"Mr. Karmarkar, can I see you in my OP this evening. Let us start planning for the transplant."

"Sure, Doctor."

As Dr. Mehta left the room, Rohan couldn't hold his tears back. His parents and Pooja all gathered around him and consoled him. What solace could they offer someone whose entire life had taken such a horrendous turn? A few days back, they wouldn't have ever imagined that life would have this in store for them.

They tried telling him that a transplant would solve all his problems. Each of them offered to donate a kidney to him. Rohan was inconsolable.

Rohan's father signalled to the others to let him cry. It was necessary that he let out the bottled up feelings of despair within him. It would help to lighten him up. When such an event happens to anyone, it can lead to enormous frustration and feelings of helplessness. It was important that you cry to become light within.

------------


Dr. Mehta asked for Rohan to stay in the hospital for a few more days. He wanted him to settle into a thrice weekly regimen of dialysis. He also wanted to get started with some of the tests for the transplant. It would be much easier if they were in the hospital.

Rohan protested at first but gave in because he wanted to do whatever he could to get a transplant quickly.

Pooja stayed with him most of the day and one of the cousins would be with him at night. Rohan's parents and sister would keep coming during the day or whenever something important was happening like a test or a discussion with Dr. Mehta.

Rohit and Neha, Rohan's close friends would also visit every week. Rohit also stayed with Rohan at night every once in a way.

Kunal made sure he was there for every dialysis session and did everything he could to make the experience more pleasant for Rohan. Whenever Rohan was feeling low, Kunal would do his best to cheer him up. Pooja would do her bit too.

On one such occasion, Pooja was sitting next to Rohan's dialysis bed and was trying to engage Rohan in a conversation to get him out of his bout of depression. Kunal joined them and Pooja recounted something she saw that morning as she entered the floor on which Rohan's room was located. She saw the nurses arguing agitatedly about something. She heard "Rohan sir" being mentioned and she stopped. The nurses hadn't seen her coming so they continued.

After a couple of minutes, Pooja burst out laughing as she realized that the nurses were arguing about who would give Rohan a sponge. They all wanted to do it and had actually made their own little private duty roster! One of the nurses was on leave and the argument was about who would fill in for her!

Pooja and Kunal laughed out loud while Pooja narrated this episode. Rohan also managed to smile.

"Good looks can be dangerous, you know Kunal!" she exclaimed.

"Very dangerous!" Kunal replied.

They all laughed. This time Rohan laughed too and mockingly hit Pooja's hand.

-------

Dr. Mehta began the process of getting the tests done for Rohan. He also had a discussion with Mr. Karmarkar about the donor. The easiest way, he said, would be if someone from within the family donated. They quickly realized, however, that Rohan's blood group did not match any of his immediate family's. Couple of his cousins had the same blood group but they were considered too young to donate. They were completely ready though. But Dr. Mehta did not think it appropriate.

Dr. Mehta then suggested that they get Rohan onto the waiting list for a cadaveric kidney.

When Rohan heard that his only option was a cadaveric kidney for which he would need to be on a waiting list, he was devastated. There was no definite period before which he would get a transplant. The wait could be a few years or more. No one knew for sure.

Rohan did not cry any more though. He knew what his future was. He now had to take some important decisions. Decisions that would impact not only him but also those around him. Most importantly, Pooja.

For the next couple of days, Rohan thought very hard about his life. He thought about his work, his family, about Pooja. He realized that his life would revolve around dialysis for an unknown period of time. He did not want to let his problem affect any of his family members or Pooja.

He finally made a decision about Pooja. This was the toughest part about his entire fight with kidney disease.

------------


(This is the ninth part of a short story - Love takes courage)

The next morning when he was alone with Pooja in his room, he started talking to Pooja.

"Pooja, you know how life is going to be for me now. There is no guarantee on when I will get a transplant. For many years, I am going to be on dialysis. Dialysis is not a pleasant thing. It suckes out a lot of energy. I will hardly have the time or the energy for something else."

Pooja replied, "Yes, I know, Rohan. We will deal with this. Don't worry. We will try to get you a transplant very soon. We will register in multiple hospitals. We can also look for someone to donate to you for money. It is possible."

Rohan said, "All that is fine Pooja. But I don't want you to go through all this. It is not fair."

"What do you mean Rohan?"

"Pooja, don't get me wrong."

"Tell me directly what you are saying", Pooja raised her voice, sensing what was coming.

"Pooja, you must move on."

Pooja was shocked. She froze for a moment. And then she suddenly burst into tears.

Rohan was shocked at her reaction. He got up even though he did not have the energy. Pooja signalled to him to wait there itself.

Pooja said, "Don't do this to me Rohan. You have no right to do this."

"Pooja, we must be practical. Things are different now. My life has changed completely. Please understand. You don't need to go through all this. I am not the same guy you loved until a few days back."

Pooja was still crying.

"Pooja, Pooja, please listen to me. You should find another guy and get married. You must basically get on with your life."

"Pooja, do one thing. First stop crying."

Just then, there was a knock on the door. Rohan's sister and mother entered the room. They were surprised to see the usually composed Pooja crying so bitterly.

"What happened?"

Rohan explained to them what he had just told Pooja. Shwetha sat next to Pooja and consoled her. Rohan's mother berated Rohan for saying what he had just said. Turning to Pooja she said, "Look Pooja, you don't listen to what this fellow says. But you should think about it yourself. Think about the changed circumstances. Not now. But in the future, if ever you decide to move on, remember one thing, it is ok. We will all understand."

Pooja hugged Rohan's mother and said, "Thank you aunty!"

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That evening at Pooja's home, Pooja narrated to her parents and an aunt very close to the family about what Rohan had said to her that day and everything that happened after that.

Pooja's father told her, "Pooja, we know how much you love Rohan. You are intelligent enough to understand what has happened to him and what his future is. Honestly, this decision is entirely yours. We can advise you all we want but you are the person in the middle of this. You know best what is good for you. Let me tell you that if you choose to stay with Rohan, life is not going to be simple. Kidney disease is a lifelong illness. Even if he gets a transplant, no one can say for sure how long it will last. I looked up the internet and read up a lot about this. You must have done that as well. Take whatever decision you want keeping in mind the reality. We will obviously support you whatever you decide."

Pooja's aunt said to her, "Pooja, you are pretty, intelligent and have good job. Don't sacrifice your life for a boy you have known for hardly a few years. You will find many other much better boys. Right now you are in a confused state of mind. Mohan, let us send her to the US for a few months. Once she goes there, she can think peacefully and objectively. These kinds of decisions should never be taken with a clouded mind. And imagine the best part of the situation - you have not yet got married. Just think what would have happened if you had got married and this would have happened?"

Pooja was irritated. She asked her aunt, "Aunty, let us say, we would have been married and this would have happened. Would you have advised me to leave Rohan?"

"Of course not! But now you are not married! It is very different!"

"No, it is not. Marriage is a ritual which formalizes what two minds have already decided. It is mainly for society's consumption."

"Pooja, you must be -"

Pooja's mother interrupted her aunt.

"Di, it is Pooja's decision. I agree with Mohan totally. Let her think about it. We must not put pressure. She is grown up, intelligent and mature enough to decide this. We are always there to give her advice and support. But at the end of day, Pooja, whatever you decide, we are totally with you."

Pooja smiled and went into her room.

------

The next morning Pooja came to the hospital room. Rohan and she were alone. She locked the room from inside and came towards Rohan's bed, caught his T-shirt collar and said very seriously, "Mr. Rohan Karmarkar, we are in this fight together. I will never leave you. Transplant or no transplant. Dialysis or whatever. I will never leave you. So, please drop all your plans of eloping with one of the nurses that sponges you every morning. Because you're stuck with me! For life!"

She put her hand around his head and pulled his face close to her's and kissed his lips passionately. Rohan reciprocated.

After a while she got onto the bed and lay next to Rohan with her head on his shoulder.

------

Rohan was soon discharged from the hospital. They had completed all the formalities of registering for a cadaveric kidney. He would now have to be on a regimen of thrice weekly hemodialysis at the hospital. This would be until they had a matching kidney from a cadaveric donor. Rohan asked for the late evening shift as that would cause minimal disruption to the rest of his family and Pooja's work schedule. Pooja had already taken many days off from work and it was important that she got back to work as quickly as possible.

Pooja would arrive at around 5 and they would reach the hospital by around 5:30 and Rohan would get onto the machine by 6. The session would go on for four hours during which Pooja would do her office work. Her boss gave her that flexibility, something she was very thankful for.

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Whenever Rohan went for dialysis, Kunal was always there. Kunal had adjusted his duty times with HR so that he would always be there when Rohan would come in for his session. He made sure Rohan got a bed he was comfortable in. He also made it a point to start and close his session and in between his work, he would always come and spend time with Rohan, checking on how he was doing and the progress on the overall plan with Dr. Mehta.

Whenever Rohan had any side effects during dialysis, Kunal would attend to him personally and make sure he recovered quickly.

Rohan became very dependent on Kunal and would be comfortable only when he was there. He wouldn't let anyone else start or close his dialysis session preferring to wait till Kunal returned from an errand he would have to run sometimes for the dialysis unit.

Rohan hated the two day gap between dialysis. Most dialysis patients get dialysis sessions thrice a week. They opt for either Monday-Wednesday-Friday sessions or Tuesday-Thursday-Saturday sessions. So, everyone got two one-day gaps during the week and one two-day gap during the weekend. Since the kidneys of dialysis patients do not work well, the toxins and fluid that kidneys usually remove are removed during the dialysis session. During the week, since there is only one day between the sessions, the build-up of toxins and fluid is not as much and patients usually are able to tolerate the excess amounts in their bodies. However, during the weekend, the build up of toxins and fluids becomes quite difficult for some patients to tolerate and they have to watch their fluid intake and intake of substances that contain large amounts of some of these toxins.

It was an ironic contradiction in his life. He hated dialysis. He was on a Monday-Wednesday-Friday schedule. During the weekend, he would hate the fluid and diet restrictions even more. So much more that he began to yearn for dialysis!

On one such Sunday afternoon, Rohan indulged a little too much. There was this bottle of 'Aam Panna' (a drink that is made out of raw mangoes) that was made and kept in the refrigerator. Rohan took one sip of that in the morning. He began craving for that in the afternoon after lunch. Everyone at home was taking a nap. Pooja was also not there. He went over to the refrigerator and poured himself half a glass of the 'panna'. He sipped it slowly, relishing every sip as it went down his parched and deprived gullet. As he took in every sip, he swished it in his mouth to wet all parts of his mouth and to feel every bit of it. He loved it. The tangy and sweet taste was so good! It also had a pinch of rock salt added. This made it even more tasteful. He poured himself out another half glass. He gulped this down all in one shot. He felt like having more but he knew he would get into trouble. He went back to his room and tried to distract his mind. He started watching television and fell asleep.

That evening, at dinner too, he had a full glass of the 'panna'. His parents told him to be careful. They did not monitor his fluid intake too much because they realized he was a grown up and any such restriction imposed by them would only backfire.

Rohan went to bed at around 10:30. After about an hour, he woke up feeling uncomfortable. He felt like someone was holding a pillow on his nose and not letting him breathe. He was feeling suffocated. He sat up on his bed. The feeling was still there. He went and sat in front of the air-conditioner trying to take in the the air that it was letting out. No respite. He went out on the balcony. Every breath he was trying to take was more and more labored. He was now beginning to panic. He cursed himself for having so much 'panna'.

Rohan came back and in, sat on his bed and called his father on the cell phone. 'Papa, I can't breathe! I can't breathe!" Rohan was gasping as he uttered those words. His father said, "I am coming!"

Mr. Karmarkar was in Rohan's room in less than half a minute. His wife followed. "What happened?" he asked.

Rohan signalled that he was unable to breathe. Mr. Karmarkar immediately called Dr. Mehta on his cell phone. Dr. Mehta understood the symptoms and asked him to go to Breach Candy Hospital and get a session of dialysis immediately. Dr. Mehta said he would call Kunal and make the arrangements.

Mr. Karmarkar helped Rohan to the car and they rushed him to Breach Candy immediately.

Kunal was waiting there very anxiously. He had the machine ready. He held Rohan by his shoulder and helped him onto the weighing machine. 79.4 kgs. Rohan was 6 kgs above his dry weight! Kunal took Rohan to the dialysis machine and made him sit on the bed and raised the backrest of the bed so that Rohan could sit and allow the fluid to flow downwards from his lungs. He started dialysis immediately. He also attached a suction machine that would help pull out the fluid faster. He also put on an oxygen mask on his face which would help him breathe a little easily. He sat next to Rohan.

Rohan was still feeling very bad. Kunal did all he could to help ease the symptoms. Rohan was gasping for every breath. Not due to the dearth of air but due to the fluid that had literally soaked up his lungs.

After about half an hour, they had pulled out about a liter of fluid. Rohan started feeling better. He was very tired. The whole experience had left him totally shaken. While he was getting into the car a couple of hours back, Rohan thought that the end had come. He was gasping for every breath. Every breath he was taking took so much effort and yet offered no relief. Rohan never thought he would make it.

Unable to get over the harrowing experience he had just been through, Rohan couldn't hold back his tears. Kunal comforted him. Rohan was really down. He felt he couldn't take it any more. He said to Kunal, "What is this life, Kunal? I don't want to live, Kunal. Can you please end it for me? Please do me a favor and end it. I know you can do it. Please help me Kunal. I don't want to put my parents through all this. I don't want to put Pooja through all this. Do me a favor, Kunal. Please end it all."

Kunal held his hands and said, "Rohan, this is not the way. This a temporary phase. You have to be strong. Just think of the day when you will get the transplant. After that, all this will be a thing of the past. You will look back at this phase and laugh at yourself! You have to be patient. I am sure you will get a transplant very soon."

Kunal comforted Rohan and slowly diverted his mind. Mr. Karmarkar came in to see how he was doing. By then he had settled down. Kunal told him to go home. He said that the session would be completed by around 5 in the morning. Mr. Karmarkar said they would stay there. Rohan and Kunal both insisted that they go back home. Rohan assured his parents that he was feeling much better.

After Rohan's parents left, Kunal sat next to Rohan's bed on a stool. Rohan fell asleep soon. So did Kunal. The dialysis machine continued to whir as it cleaned Rohan's blood of all the excess fluid.

---------


(This is the twelfth part of a short story - Love takes courage

When the Karmarkars got back home, they called Pooja and updated her about the happenings. Pooja was shocked and worried. She insisted that she would go immediately to the hospital. After a great deal of convincing by Mrs. Karmarkar, she agreed to wait till the next morning and go and pick up Rohan from Breach Candy and bring him home.

Pooja woke up early, prepared some tea and put it in a flask and drove down to Breach Candy Hospital. She reached there around 4:45. She went straight to the dialysis unit and opened the door. As she went in, she saw Rohan sleeping on the bed, still connected to the dialysis machine. Kunal was sitting on a stool, his head on the bed, sleeping, and his hands were holding Rohan's hands. Discomfited by what she saw, she called out to Kunal.

Kunal awoke with a start. He immediately got up and said, "Good morning Pooja ji!"

Pooja returned the greeting with a smile. Kunal looked at the machine and said, "Almost done! I will close right away and then you can take Rohan home."

"Sure! I will wait outside."

In about fifteen minutes, Rohan emerged from the dialysis unit, looking tired and weak. Pooja held his hand and led him to the car. 

"How are you feeling?"

"Feeling fine, Pooja."

Pooja drove him home and served him a small cup of hot tea. Rohan had the tea and lay on the bed. Pooja sat next to him and gently caressed his forehead. Rohan fell asleep.

That evening, Pooja came home after work and went up to Rohan's room. Rohan was watching television.

"Hi!"

"Hi!"

"Feeling better?"

"Yes, much better!"

Pooja sat next to Rohan on his bed and held his hand.

"Please don't start lecturing me on fluid!"

"Did I even mention it?"

"Yes, so don't even think about it. I learnt my lesson."

"Sure!"

 The two of them spent the rest of the evening in each other's arms watching television.

-------

Kunal went up to Dr. Mehta that evening. He gave him an update on Rohan's case and how the dialysis went. He also enquired from Dr. Mehta on what the long term plan was for him. Dr. Mehta told him about how his family was not a match and he was on the cadaver transplant list.

Kunal couldn't sleep that night. He thought about the enormous suffering dialysis patients have to go through. The sight of Rohan coming into the dialysis unit gasping for breath with a pleading look in his eyes to help him haunted him. 

Was there something I can do? My blood group matches Rohan's after all. Why can't I donate a kidney to Rohan? If I don't donate, he will have to wait for many, many years. What will happen to Pooja ji? She is so amazing to stand by Rohan despite all this. Why can't I help them out? But what if something goes wrong? What if something happens to me? What about my future? What can happen though? I have seen so many transplants happen in this hospital. Has any donor ever been harmed? I know only the initial story however. I have no idea what happened to the donors after many years. If anything could happen to donors, we would definitely know about it. It should be safe!

Kunal kept debating this in his mind and finally went to sleep.

-------


(This is the thirteenth part of a short story - Love takes courage

"Can I donate a kidney to a patient?", asked Kunal the next morning to Dr. Mehta.

"You want to donate your kidney to a patient?"

"Yes, Doctor. What would the procedure be?"

"Who do you want to donate to? And why?"

"I want to donate to Rohan Karmarkar. He is suffering a lot. He has a very good life ahead of him. He was about to get married. I think he deserves a transplant."

"That is all correct Kunal. But we have already registered him for a cadaveric transplant."

"That may take many years Dr. Mehta, based on his blood group. I have the same blood group."

"Hmmmm. Have they offered you any money to donate?"

"Doctor, what are you saying? No doctor, not at all!"

"Hmmmm. Really sorry for asking Kunal but in my many years of experience, I have never seen a technician wanting to donate to a patient! That is why I asked. I am sorry about that!"

"No problem Doctor. The thing is he has a full life ahead of him. I think it is very sad that he has to suffer so much."

"I totally understand Kunal. Have you discussed with your family?"

"Not yet Doctor. I am talking first with you."

"Will your family be ok with this?"

"I will convince them. Don't worry about that Doctor. Please let me know what the procedure is for this."

"Yes, sure. Does Rohan and his family know about this?"

"No Doctor. I was hoping you would tell them."

"Kunal, all this seems too strange. Are you really sure you want to do this?"

"Yes Doctor. I really want to do this!"

"Do one thing. Let us keep this lying for a few days. Let us meet again after I return from the Aurangabad conference. Let us plan after that. Remember, if you change your mind, it is totally ok. Ok?"

"Sure Doctor. I am sure I will not change my mind."

Dr. Mehta was leaving for Aurangabad for a Nephrology conference that evening. He saw Rohan in the dialysis unit on his way out. He was doing fairly well. Dr. Mehta agreed with Kunal that Rohan really deserved a transplant. He was in the prime of youth and would really do well with a transplant.

On his way to the airport, he thought about this whole new development on Kunal wanting to donate to Rohan. He was still at a loss.

Why would Kunal want to donate? Surely, it is not merely altruism at work here! I know technicians only too well. Could the Karmarkars have struck a deal with him? But why him? There are dozens of touts that are roaming the market ever willing to find donors for patients. It is very easy to get a kidney these days! Why Kunal? Why would Kunal want to donate a kidney?

Dr. Mehta could not get over this. He kept coming back to this on and off during the conference as well.

-------



Dr. Mehta was back from Aurangabad in three days. That afternoon, Kunal came to him.

"I want to donate Dr. Mehta. Please make this happen. I badly want to donate my kidney. I want to see Rohan lead a normal life!"

Dr. Mehta sensed a tone of desperation.

"Did you think about it seriously?"

"Yes, Dr. Mehta. The more I think about it, the more I feel I should donate. You keep saying, right Doctor, that God has given all of us two kidneys even though we can easily survive with one and that is why every human being should consider donating a kidney to someone in need! You always say that there is a solution to the shortage of kidneys today! I want to donate Doctor. I really want to donate."

"Ok, ok. We will plan. First let me talk to Rohan's family. They should be willing to take a kidney from you."

"Sure. Thank you so much Doctor."

-------

The next day Mr. Karmarkar came to meet Dr. Mehta at Dr. Mehta's request.

"Mr. Karmarkar, Kunal came to me a few days back and said that he wants to donate a kidney to Rohan!"

"What?"

"Yes, Kunal wants to donate a kidney to Rohan. I wanted to check with you. I am very sorry for asking you this but have you or your son, by any chance, you know...."

"No Dr. Mehta. Not at all. Absolutely not. We would never do such a thing!"

Dr. Mehta could make out that Mr. Karmarkar was not lying. "Can you confirm with Rohan and your family as well? I mean, I know this is awkward but please understand that offering money is illegal and I really don't want to get involved in anything of that sort."

"Dr. Mehta, I assure you. No one in my family including Rohan would do such a thing without checking with me!"

"But still, Mr. Karmarkar. Please check with them. We may be onto something here. I have seen desperate times call for desperate measures!"

"Sure, Doctor. I will check."

-------

That same evening Mr. Karmarkar called Dr. Mehta and assured him that none of his family members including Rohan had offered any money to Kunal for a kidney.

As soon as Rohan got to know about Kunal's intent, he called him on his cell and said, "Kunal, Hi, This is Rohan. My dad just told me. Why do you want to do this Kunal? I mean, I am so thankful to you for even thinking of this. But why, Kunal?"

Kunal did not know what to say. "I am busy in a case Rohan ji, I will call you back."

Rohan immediately called Pooja and said, "You know what? You're not going to believe this. Kunal wants to donate his kidney to me!"

"What? Really? Hmmmm"

"Come home quickly na, we need to talk about this!"

"Yeah sure."

Rohan waited for Kunal to call back as promised but Kunal did not call back.


--------

Dr. Mehta scheduled a meeting with Rohan, his father and Kunal. He discussed the entire procedure. He explained to them the process for doing this transplant. The state of Maharashtra requires a panel to approve all such transplants and this panel would include two nominees of the Government. They would have to convince the panel that no money was being exchanged in the process. The panel would interview both parties and then take a decision.

The Karmarkars and Kunal were aware. They understood that the process was complex. The Karmarkars felt really indebted to Kunal. Who would do such a thing these days? Kunal, whom they had known for barely a few weeks! Why should he offer a kidney? Mr. Karmarkar had tears in his eyes  outside Dr. Mehta's room. He hugged Kunal while Rohan looked on. Mr. Karmarkar could not say much.

"You are proof that humanity still exists in the world today!"

Rohan hugged him as well and said, "I don't know why you are doing this Kunal. All I can say is thanks so much. If there is anything you need, please don't hesitate to ask!"

"Don't worry Rohan. Let us just get this approval so that we can go ahead with the transplant!"

------

During the next few weeks, the paperwork was all put in place. The panel would have to be convinced that no money was being exchanged and that this was a genuine case of altruistic donation. In times such as these, this would be a difficult task. Nobody would believe that a dialysis technician would donate a kidney to a patient who is not related to him without any financial consideration.

Dr. Mehta thought about what could be done to make this happen. He discussed this with a few colleagues. Everyone felt it was impossible to pull this off. The panel would never agree. Dr. Mehta read the rules again and again looking for some way he could do this.

The Government had some pretty stringent rules in place. This was done to curb the rise of illegal sale of organs. Many poor people in the state had been tricked by brokers who would promise them lakhs of rupees for a kidney and would be duped after the surgery where much less than the promised amount would be given.

It was not like this had stopped illegal transplants completely. They still happened. Money was still exchanged. It was just that the rules made it more difficult for such genuine one-off cases as well.

Dr. Mehta called a nephrologist who sat on the panel. He told him about the case. Dr. Mehta was a respected nephrologist. He was quite senior and everyone had great regard for him. When the nephrologist heard about the case, he told Dr. Mehta that he believed him 100% but the rest of the panel would highly doubt the genuineness.

"What can be done?"

"Let me think about it and get back to you."

Dr. Mehta followed up with the nephrologist over the next few weeks. Finally, one day, the nephrologist offered a solution.

"Mehta saab, I believe that this is a genuine case but I am very sure that the rest of the panel will not accept it. So, unfortunately you will need to do the regular stuff. I will SMS the number of one fellow called Bhatavdekar and he will help you with whatever needs to be done."

"Thanks so much!", said Dr. Mehta.

Dr. Mehta called the guy, Bhatavdekar. He seemed to be a rough guy. He was talking like he was doing them a favor. Dr. Mehta decided to hand this over to the Karmarkars. He called Mr. Karmarkar and passed on the number and also updated him about his conversation with the nephrologist on the panel.

---------


Mr. Karmarkar called Bhatavdekar the next morning and explained to him what they wanted.

"You see, my son is on dialysis. Now, the dialysis technician of the hospital where he goes for dialysis wants to donate a kidney to him. So, we wanted you to help us with the paperwork. Nothing is being paid to him for the kidney."

"Yes of course. Nothing is ever paid for the kidney!" He chuckled.

"No you see, this time really nothing is being paid!"

"Yes, yes, I understand. Good good. Nothing is being paid. Very good!" He chuckled again.

Mr. Karmarkar gave up.

Bhatavdekar asked Mr. Karmarkar to collect a whole lot of details and write it on a piece of paper and keep it ready in a day. Bhatavdekar would come and collect all the information the next day at 10 a.m.

The next day when Bhatavdekar came to their house, Mr. Karmarkar was quite embarrassed to see the guy. He looked disheveled. For once, the face matched the voice and style on the phone. Mr. Karmarkar gave him the paper with the details he needed. Surprisingly, very few details of Kunal were needed. Bhatavdekar told Mr. Karmarkar that he would charge one lakh rupees for the paperwork. Mr. Karmarkar was taken aback but he did not want to take any chances and agreed immediately. He wanted an assurance that the paperwork would all be perfect which Bhatavdekar readily offered.

Mr. Karmarkar did not value an assurance from this thug-like fellow but he had no choice. He was told that the paperwork would all be ready in ten days.

Rohan was going for dialysis as usual. He strictly managed his fluid and diet. There was an extra bounce in his step these days. There was light at the end of the tunnel after all. Pooja and he spent many hours together. Mr. Karmarkar kept Dr. Mehta updated on the progress of the paperwork with Bhatavdekar.

One evening Rohan invited Kunal over for dinner at their home. Kunal refused saying that he did not want to jeopardize the process at this point. If anyone suspected that the Karmarkars were enticing Kunal with any kind of allurements, there could be problems. Rohan understood.

Rohan still couldn't fathom why Kunal was doing this. He asked him again and again. Kunal would just shrug his shoulders and change the topic. Rohan discussed with his family about this as well. No one had any answers.

Rohan brought this topic up with Pooja as well. Pooja would always get a little irritated whenever this topic was brought up. It was as if there was something about Kunal donating his kidney to Rohan, completely altruistically, that she was uncomfortable about. Obviously, she was very happy that Rohan would lead a normal life again. The way it was happening however was something Pooja wasn't totally happy about. She kept visualizing the scene she saw when she entered the dialysis unit when Rohan was breathless and rushed for emergency dialysis with Kunal holding Rohan's hand. What was it with Kunal? Why is he doing this?

She had no clear answers however.

-----

Mr. Karmarkar got a call from Bhatavdekar on the ninth day itself.

"Papers are ready saheb", the voice said on the other side of the phone.

Bhatavdekar was to bring them and come that afternoon. Mr. Karmarkar kept the cash ready.

Mr. Karmarkar waited anxiously for him. When he came, he handed over a file that had a bunch of papers. Mr. Karmarkar handed over the cash to him and led him to the door.

When he got back, Mr. Karmarkar examined the papers in great detail. He was shocked when he realized what was being done.

The papers established that Kunal was a distant relative of the Karmarkars. They showed him as being the son of Mrs. Karmarkar's cousin sister who stayed at a village called Thul, about 1100 kilometers from Mumbai. It had ration cards, photographs, electricity bills - all fake!

Mr. Karmarkar was worried that he had agreed to be a part of such a web of deceit. Mr. Karmarkar had a sleepless night. What if we are caught? What if the police comes to know? Until now, we have not done anything illegal. This is totally illegal. We are not even paying money to Kunal. Why should we indulge in all this? Let us not lie. If God wants Rohan to get the transplant, he will get it. But I will not risk my entire family's life and my life for this.

---------------



Mr. Karmarkar talked to his family the next morning. He communicated his thought process to them. They all agreed. Rohan told his father that he did not want to get a transplant in this manner. He would not endanger the entire family for this.

Mr. Karmarkar was happy. He headed for Breach Candy Hospital to meet with Dr. Mehta.

When he showed the file to Dr. Mehta, even Dr. Mehta was surprised with the level of detail to which these things are planned these days. Mr. Karmarkar also told him of his family's decision not to go ahead with this.

Dr. Mehta understood entirely. "Let us do this, Mr. Karmarkar. Let us apply for the transplant. Let us ask the committee to hear us out. I will testify myself. Rohan, Kunal and you can also testify. We will plead with them to understand the case. Kunal can explain to them why he is donating. Let us see how they reject this!"

"I totally agree Dr. Mehta!"

Kunal was called in by them and told about the plan. He was not at all convinced. He had heard of many cases with paperwork being rejected. Without the paperwork to prove that Kunal was related, the committee would never approve the donation. Dr. Mehta and Mr. Karmarkar explained to Kunal the extent to which the papers were fabricated. Eventually they prevailed upon him to go with the right approach.

Over the next week, they got all the genuine paperwork ready and submitted it to the committee. The interview date was fixed. On the date of the interview, the trio walked in to the room where the committee was waiting.

After the initial introductions, the committee asked Dr. Mehta about the case. Dr. Mehta explained how he had known Kunal for long now and what a good technician was. He then explained about Rohan, his disease and the reason a transplant would really help him lead a normal life. He explained about Pooja, the fact that they were about to be married when Rohan was suddenly diagnosed with kidney disease. He explained that the family did not have any matching donors and about how Kunal one day walked up to him and told him about his decision.

Rohan went next. He mostly corroborated what Dr. Mehta said about him. He explained how his life would change after a transplant and how thankful he was to Kunal who despite not being related to him or not benefiting from this donation in any way was actually donating a kidney to him.

It was now Kunal's turn. The committee put him a simple question, "Why do you want to donate a kidney to Rohan Karmarkar?"

Kunal began, "Sir, I was born to a farmer in the village of Javkhede. My parents always taught me the importance of doing the right thing. Despite having very little income, my father made sure I was educated. Beyond the fifth standard, there is no school in the village. My father made sure I went to Amalner to complete the rest of my schooling. After my high school, my father sent me to Mumbai were I joined a hospital where my cousin worked as an assistant in the dialysis unit. I slowly learned all about dialysis."

"I soon realized that corruption is a way of life in big hospitals in Mumbai. Everyone from the people who order stock to the ward boys to the managers - everyone is corrupt. People think corruption exists only in Government hospitals. The corruption in private hospitals is on a much higher scale. It is much less acknowledged and talked about. I saw my seniors indulging in all kinds of small corruption. It was easy money. They tried to involve me as well. I resisted at first. But soon, the allure of extra money without doing too much extra work got to me as well."

"I soon grew in my center. I became one of the senior technicians. With increase in my stature, the money I started earning from corrupt practices started increasing. However, every month, I dread the first week. That is when we have just received our salary. Ordinarily, that is a time when we are all very happy. But for me it is a time of dread. The reason is that my father writes a letter to me every month. It usually arrives in the first week. My hands tremble when I read the letter. He extols the virtues of being honest and talks about being grounded despite growing in wealth and position. I read the letter again and again but I am unable to shake off the wrongs I am doing."

"When I first met Rohan Karmarkar, I was very sad that he was undergoing all this at this age. I have seen many dialysis patients in my career. Most of them are fairly old. There are some young as well. The young are either already married and have support in the form of a wife and sometimes, kids. There are other youngsters who are not yet married but they do not have any plans as yet. They are still in college and some even in school. Rohan Karmarkar is in love with Pooja and they were scheduled to get married in a few months. They make such a good couple together. I felt it was horrible that their story was interrupted so harshly by this disease."

"Then I heard from Rohan about how Pooja decided to stay with Rohan no matter what when Rohan asked her to move on. I cried in my room when I heard this. What kind of girl is she? I have seen many people leave their spouses after they get onto dialysis. And here was a girl who was not even married and she continued to stay with this guy! I was really moved by this sacrifice and started thinking of donating my kidney to him. I already knew my blood group matched his. Then one day, Rohan was brought into the hospital in an emergency and had to get dialysis urgently. He suffered really badly that day. That was the day I decided I would donate to him. It would make my father proud. It will at least partly make up for the sins I have committed in the past."

By the end of the testimony, everyone in the room was spellbound. Rohan had tears in his eyes. So did his father. There was silence for a whole minute.

The nephrologist on the panel spoke. "Very good Kunal. I am happy that you all did not resort to the false paperwork we see regularly here."

"Please give us a few days. We will communicate our decision to you", said another member on the panel.

The meeting was concluded.

--------


After three days, Mr. Karmarkar got a call at around 10 in the morning from Dr. Mehta.

"We are through, Mr. Karmarkar! The committee has approved the transplant!" Dr. Mehta was almost shouting on the phone with joy! "This is unprecedented in the state of Maharashtra! For the first time this is happening! I have Kunal with me here. He is also very happy!"

Mr. Karmarkar couldn't believe his ears. He immediately went up to Rohan and gave him the good news. Rohan was ecstatic. He called Pooja and told her. There were celebrations all around.

The date for the transplant was fixed. Kunal and Rohan were admitted in separate rooms. They were both wheeled into the Operation Theater on the morning of the transplant. Dr. Mehta had his best team on the surgeries. While the Chief Urologist of the hospital was operating on Rohan, the second in command was working on Kunal. Deftly, Kunal's kidney was removed and placed in Rohan's abdomen. There was instant functioning of the grafted kidney.

Outside, the Karmarkars, Pooja and Pooja's family sat patiently, a little tense waiting for some news of the progress. On a bench not too far away was an elderly couple wearing simple clothes. They were both less tense. They were smiling and talking softly. They were Kunal's parents. Kunal had gone to his village a few days before the transplant and told his parents about his plan. Both were initially reluctant but when Kunal finally convinced them that it was a command from Dutta, the famous deity of Javkhede, their village and he really wanted to do this, they agreed.

On this day, they felt extremely proud of what their son was doing and were extremely confident that Dutta would make sure everything went well.

About seven hours after they began, the surgery was concluded. Dr. Mehta came and informed them that everything was fine and both Rohan and Kunal were doing well. There was jubilation all around! Kunal's parents thanked Dutta for keeping both Kunal and Rohan safe.

Mr. Karmarkar went over to Kunal's father and with folded hands thanked him for what his son had done. "Me and my family will be indebted to you for life. I don't know what good deeds we have done in our past life that we got to know you and your great son. It is proof that goodness is still there in the world today!"

Kunals father replied, "What are you and me, Karmarkar saab? It is all His bidding. We have to simply follow His orders. I have one small wish - the two families must pray jointly at the temple of Dutta at our village Javkhede. It will ensure long lives for both our sons!"

"Definitely saab! We will definitely do this."

-------

Epilogue

About a year after the transplant, as promised, the Karmarkars including Rohan, and Pooja drove down to Javkhede to visit the temple of the deity Dutta. There was one more reason. Rohan and Pooja were getting married in about a month. They also wanted to invite Kunal and his family. Kunal had gone to Javkhede the previous day itself. He had no clue about the impending wedding.

After completing the visit to the temple where they all prayed for the long life of both Rohan and Kunal, they gathered at Kunal's house for a meal. After the meal, Mr. Karmarkar took out the invitation card and gave it to Kunal's father and told him, "Thanks to your son and his selfless sacrifice, my son is going to be able to get married. We would be honored by your family's presence!"

"The honor will be ours", said Kunal's father and accepted the card.

Rohan and Pooja, a little distance away handed over another card to Kunal. "Kunal", Rohan said, "you have given me a new life. It is only because of you I am leading a normal life today. I am getting married to Pooja next month. I want you to please be a special guest of mine, stay in my house along with my other relatives and be a part of my wedding!"

Kunal responded, "Rohan, you know why I did what I did. It was not for you. It was for myself. Yes, sure, I will come for the wedding. Thanks so much for the invitation!"

The Karmarkars left Javkhede.

A week before the wedding, Rohan called Kunal on his cell phone to check when he was coming. It was switched off. He called the hospital. He was surprised to hear that Kunal had resigned from his job the day he got back from Javkhede. They said he had landed a job in Singapore in a dialysis center and was to leave very soon. Rohan was shocked to hear all this. He did not have the telephone number of his parents in Javkhede. Rohan felt helpless. He hoped Kunal would show up soon.

The days went past quickly. Rohan got completely sucked into the wedding preparations. He also had to look after his health - his medication, his diet. His mind kept going back to Kunal and why he would not have even informed him about his plans.

He talked to Pooja about this. Pooja did not seem confused at all. She seemed to understand.

The wedding day came. Rohan kept looking out for Kunal. He badly wished that Kunal, because of whom this wedding was possible would be a part of it. But Kunal never came.