“Oh my God, there goes another clump of my hair,” she cried.
“It’s okay, darling, you know it is one of the side effects,” he consoled.
“I am already one-quarter bald, with so many bald patches on my pate.”
“Don’t worry, darling.”
“How can I not worry? There are so many dark patches on the skin all over my body.”
“Side effects, dear; the doctor warned of them; can’t help.”
“I am emaciated, all skin and bones.” Tears rolled down her cheeks.
He sat beside her on the bed, lifted her gently, and hugged her. She threw her arms around him and wept inconsolably.
“Shhh, shhh, there, there, it is not good for you.”
In between sobs she said, “I am no longer the beautiful woman you loved and married. Why don’t you leave me?”
He hugged her even more tightly.
“Your definition of beauty is shocking. You are an educated woman. You should know better, honey.”
“What should I know? I have lost my skin colour, I am sagging, I am losing lot of hair, and I have become skinny.”
“My movements are restricted. I depend on you for everything. I cannot do any work. I cannot even bear children. Is this womanhood? Is this life?”
He made her comfortably lie in his lap, wiped her tears, and caressed her thinning hair.
“The beauty you are referring to is just skin-deep. The one I am talking about is much deeper; the mind, the heart, and the soul give that beauty. According to you a fair and blemish-free skin, long thick wavy tresses, and a 36-24-36 figure define beauty. I feel, no, I know these are transient; they vanish with time. When you are, say, 70, then what?”
“I won’t live to be 70,” she said sombrely.
“Okay. There is no guarantee for me either, dear; just because I am not afflicted, I am not guaranteed to live for 70 or more years.”
“What are you trying to say, that I should be happy and jump around?”
“Look, whatever is, is. We cannot change it. We are trying our best to keep it under control. People think that countdown to death begins only in old age, say after 60 and after retirement, but it is a fact that the moment a foetus falls on Mother Earth, the moment a baby is born its countdown starts. We don’t realise it; we live in a sort of denial, until we grow old.”
“So, are you saying that we must feel sad about it right from birth?”
“That’s my point exactly, darling. As we must not feel sad of the countdown at birth, so we must not feel sad about it in old age or, for that matter, when threatened by an affliction, too.”
“I am stumped. You are good at it, shutting people up.”
“Ha, ha, at last, you agreed. Look, you and I are concerned about it and we are tackling it to the best of our ability. Beyond that, what can anyone do?”
“A very good idea; let’s do that regularly. We can do it at home or, when you are in a position to move around, we can visit a temple.”
“Will it help?”
“Again, I don’t know. Ours is not to question why, ours is but to do and die. The end of any life form is the same, death. It is only a question of when, some sooner and some later. Do not brood because of the affliction. Do not be sad because the doctors have predicted a possible balance of life. Let us celebrate what the Lord has given to us.”
“I guess you are correct, but beauty…”
“You were, are, and will always be beautiful to me. Tell me, if our roles are reversed…”
“Shut up, you son of a bitch, don’t ever speak like that. I love you too much.”
“Whoa, whoa, just imagine…”
“I love you whatever condition you may be in.”
“I may lose all my teeth, go completely bald, skin totally wrinkled…even then? I won’t be handsome as I used to be, if I ever was.”
“You bastard, I know, you want to make me cry. You will always be handsome to me, because…”
“Say it, sweetheart…”
“…because beauty is something else,” she paused, “…not just a 40-inch chest, a six-pack, or a …”
“Whoa, whoa, stop. Censors will asterisk it out. So much of improvement in such a short time!”
“I love you, my hero.”
“I love you, too, my beauty queen.”
“Life is beautiful. I am beautiful. Come; let us celebrate whatever life is left for me…”