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Thank you Cancer for Making Me Who I Am!

“No, No , No..Absolutely no!” I told my Cancer. You will not define my life. I will.”

My 2nd Breast Cancer sneaked into my life in 2013, when I was just sitting back to heave a sigh of relief. I was just patting myself on the back for having successfully tackled numerous obstacles of my very difficult life.

Some of these included widowhood at 35…the struggles of bringing up two small children single-handedly, financial problems, relationship breakdowns, social stereotyping and a shocking Breast Cancer attack in 1996, following the heartbreak of my husband’s death.

I had worked very hard to rewrite my life script and change my image from “poor widow” to “capable professional”. I was now heading a team of males in a high profile company, had published several best-sellers, had my own Corporate Training outfit, was a successful Life Skills Coach and had got my children married off.

I must admit I was caught unawares when doctors told me that I had Breast Cancer yet again after 17 years. But this time I was prepared. No way was I going to be overpowered by it. By now, my faith in my Buddhist practice had given me a strong inner core.

The first important decision I made was that I was going to live. And live a joyful, meaningful life. That made me shift instantly from “Victim to Victor” mode. I decided that instead of focusing on my pain, I would focus on removing the pain of other sufferers.

I faced the challenge of 6 Chemotherapy sessions and 30 Radiation cycles, by distracting myself with the only talent I have—that of writing books. Unable to find any “happy book” on cancer, I simply wrote one, to cheer myself up.

So happy to share with you that “To Cancer, With Love-My Journey of Joy” (Hay House Publishers, 2015) reached into the hearts of the afflicted all over the globe and became a bestseller. It also zoomed on to become India’s first humorous book on Cancer.

My brave pink book’s success offered me many opportunities to speak at events and gatherings about how to deal with the growing menace of Cancer. Suddenly, I became a soother, healer and consoler to countless afflicted souls as well as their caregivers.

Impressed by the reach and content of my book, 2 icons whom I had never dreamt of meeting, sent funds for me to write India’s first Graphic Novel on Cancer, based on my book. The funds were enough for me to write not one, but 3 books on the subject. These generous legends are Mr Ratan Tata and Mr Amitabh Bachchan.

The bouquet of 3 inspiring books are:

“I am a Sea of Possibilities—A Personal Growth Coloring Workbook” (Notionpress.com)

“To Cancer With Love–A Graphic Novel” (Embassy Books, 2017)

And

“14 Inspirational Survivor Stories” (Embassy Books, 2017)

At a time when India is sitting on a cancer epidemic, it is my dream that my brave books reaches into the homes of the afflicted, survivors, caregivers and supporters, and speaks to them a language of hope, courage and inspiration.

As for me, I have devoted my life and my pen to fellow sufferers. My message is that with faith, humor, and right attitude, you can overcome anything!

Neelam Kumar

Best selling Author, Motivational Speaker, Life Coach, Trainer, Canccer Crusader.

Corporate.lounge@gmail.com

Cancer Survivor, Author Neelam Asks for an Aware & Healthy India

Neelam Kumar is an author of five books, including one with Mr Khushwant Singh. Her latest book, To Cancer, With Love- My Journey of Joy (HayHouse, 2015) is India’s first humorous book on Cancer. Neelam is a Life Skills Coach, Writer, Corporate Trainer in Soft Skills and a twice -struck Cancer Survivor.

My name is Neelam Kumar – fighter of two breast cancers. Instead of fuming about how my immunity succumbed to your pollution-ridden air, pesticide–laced vegetables, growth-hormones-injected poultry, I chose to shift from Victim to Victor.

As a bold, modern Bhartiya Nari, I decided to come out in the open and celebrate life. I chose to talk about the gifts cancer has given me—thick, curly hair, a perspective as vast as the ocean and my wacky sense of humor.

The latter made me write India’s first humorous book on cancer, “To Cancer, With Love-My Journey of Joy” (Hay House , 2015), which readers have lapped up – joyfully.

Since cancer is no longer a death sentence, can we change our attitude towards it please? Can some brave filmmaker please change the stereotype of the powerful classic film “Anand”, in which the sacrificing, silently suffering protagonist dies in the end? Can he/she make a joyous film on cancer? My book actually has a fun, spunky alter ego who revisits established attitudes towards cancer with her witty banter. Can we cut off the grimness around the word cancer?

Having said that, I would like to clarify that cancer cannot be simply laughed away. According to WHO, cancer is sweeping through India. An Indian dies from cancer every 50 seconds. Cancer treatment drives a quarter of Indian households into poverty. Cancer cases are predicted to double in the next 20 years. India is on the verge of a cancer epidemic.

But where’s the awareness? Why do I hear stories of village women getting beaten by their husbands for getting “infected” by cancer, before being thrown out for a ‘new’ woman? Why do I see a father deciding to save his treatment money for his daughter’s dowry? Why do I not see cancer treatment becoming more affordable? Can my government please do something about this?

Dear fellow Indian women, for us, our health is our last priority. Suffering and sacrifice have long been glorified as the Indian woman’s virtue. Babe, can you please drop everything and go for your cancer screening today? Early detection in breast and cervical C can save you. Stop being embarrassed about your breast and its illness! Talk about it, seek help—boldly and selfishly. Please make yourself your first priority.

Dear Indian men (and women), India has emerged as the global capital of oral cancers. Cancer of the head and neck is a killer. There is an increase in cancers among the youth, of which 90 percent is due to tobacco and alcohol. Is a life of excess, progress?

On this Republic Day can you please determine to lay your life down not at the altar of cancer, but for your country instead?

Dear India, as a potential superpower, can you not afford to put stricter laws in place on air-pollution, food adulteration, tobacco ban etc.? Why are as many as 8,00,000 new cancer patients registered with the National Cancer Registry Programme every year? Why not identify and root out the cancer in our very system?

I dream of an aware nation in which the government joins hands with its people to reverse the trend of this rising cancer epidemic. I dream of a healthy country the world can look up to.

My India, perhaps that is the cause I have survived for….

Your Dreamy-Eyed, Joyous Cancer Survivor and Fighter,

Neelam Kumar

How to be an Undercover Terrorist Disguised as a Teenager

Whoopee! At last, your much-awaited teenager years have arrived. And with it, have descended on you the long awaited special privileges!
Here’s all that you can do, once you’ve been afflicted with teenagitis:

1. Scream Blue Murder
Now is the time to open your cupboard and go berserk throwing all your stuff out and screaming at Mom, “I have nothing to wear!” while rummaging through the hundreds of clothes your parents have provided you with.

2. Leave Your ‘Mark’
You can also leave a trail of worn clothes around the house for Mom to pick up as part of her daily obeisance to you.

3. Practise Selective Hearing (!)
Now is also the time to have an adult talk with Dad by telling him you will no longer be guided by his old-aged values, rules, career choices, boring “future talks” or worse, “When I was your age…” monologue. After all, you know it all.

4. Put Your Best Scowls Forward
You become an expert in body language and practise it abundantly, e.g. rolling your eyes when your parents talk to you; shrugging your shoulders when they ask you about your poor grades; scowling, frowning, gritting your teeth and generally spreading misery with your attitude all the time.

5. Get With the ‘Emotional Blackmail’ Programme
Now is the time you can emotionally blackmail your parents for the latest gadgets in the market and fool them into surrendering to all your expensive demands by convincing them that these are all important for you to do well in life. Now that is the key word that turns them into your slave!

6. Rules, Schmules
And once they get you the mobile, PS system, X-Box, etc., with the promise that you will follow their rule of when to use it and for how long – simply agree. And then, once you do get the object of your desire, go wild with it – having a texting party, talking endlessly on your cell on the pretext of doing school work and playing violent games by convincing them that this is the only way you can release the stress of your academic load!

7. Exercise the Right to ‘Be Moody’
Becoming a teenager also gives you the license to be moody. So you can bang your door to say you want your space and then blame your parents for not “being there” for you. You can withdraw emotionally and accuse them of “not communicating” with you.

8. Challenge the Adults
Another privilege teen age gives you is the ability to challenge everything adults around you say to you. That means challenging the teacher’s rules in school; challenging your parents’ peace of mind by demanding money, branded clothes, night-outs, parties, trips with friends and every kind of wild behaviour that can turn the home into a war zone. Any attempt at disciplining you is met with drama of the Academy Award standard.

9. Teach Shakespeare a Word or Two
“Cool” is a word you and your generation have a copyright on. So when your parents disapprove of pierced lips, body tattoos, drugs, all-night parties and general rude behaviour, you instantly pronounce them “uncool”. You even have “cool” words in your vocabulary like F.., Sh.., and abbreviations such as WTF, ROFL, etc. You are convinced that if only Shakespeare had discovered this profound way of communicating, his books would have been bestsellers. If only the dinosaurs around you could understand this insightful language! Ha! So uncool!

10. Yell “At Least I’m Studying” for Everything
Unlike the West, where teens are politely asked to leave the parental home and go fend for themselves, you are convinced that in India, you have given your parents the privilege and honour of being born to them. It is now their bounden duty to look after you and provide for you.

“In return, I am studying, am I not?” you scream. And they dutifully keep quiet so as not to disturb you in this momentous duty you are performing. In fact, they feel really grateful that you choose to study at all. So disrespect, screaming, breaking curfews, all go. Even your shouts of “I hate yous!”

And after all this picnic, when your grades turn out to be low and your parents send you to a counsellor, you roll your eyes and say… “They just don’t understand me!”

(Neelam Kumar has battled cancer twice. A writer of 5 books, including one with Mr Khushwant Singh, Neelam’s latest book ‘To Cancer, With Love – My Journey of Joy’ was published by Hay House Publishers in 2015. It is the first humorous book on cancer to come out of India. Neelam lives in Mumbai and can be reached at neelamku@yahoo.com)

Why Every Girl MUST Marry

So you’ve always dreamt of that perfect partner by your side who will be your life-long, unending supply of cuddles, goodies, holidays, time, attention, understanding, emotional availability and doting love? Well, it’s time you got married.

You’ve finally found your soul mate. You are on cloud nine, dizzy with the romance of the honeymoon and the first flush of matrimony. You pat yourself on the back at your wisdom in finally identifying your Mr Right.

But soon, oh-so very soon, the ordinariness of the daily grind begins to get to you. A little voice inside you whispers its first niggling doubt. Did you really say yes to the right person? And one romantic moonlit night, as you look over your pillow, that guilty doubt becomes stronger. Did you really hand-pick that boring person next to you, snoring in Surround Sound?

And then there comes the day when he forgets your birthday, followed by your anniversary, topped by your father’s special day and your mother’s arrival at the airport. Now that, you decide, is the ultimate insult. You wonder: “Would life have been better if I had married that guy?” “Have I written off my entire life—traded freedom for imprisonment?”

or

“Lucky Sheela, she still has her independence!”

By this time, the gadgets have come out in full swing. Instead of looking into your eyes, he now concentrates deeply on the laptop screen. Instead of lapping up every word you say, he prefers to lap up every word the sports commentator spouts in every cricket, football, tennis match—even kho kho on TV. Help! He even watches old re-runs rather than talking to you.

That’s when you begin spending time on Facebook and get more and more depressed when you see happy, shiny faces of couples cuddling to each other in exotic locations. And where does he take you? To his parent’s town or, very grudgingly, on a budget vacation to a place you would not even agree to die in—leave alone being clicked in.

You have still not wizened up to the unspoken rule of FB that people put up only happy pictures of themselves, even though they might scratch each others’ eyes out immediately after the photo-session. In our self-obsessed, narcisstic times, only happiness gets “ likes”. And the more “ likes” you get, the more important you feel. Makes sense that I scratch your back and you scratch mine? That is FBs most closely guarded secret, followed savagely by the netizen tribe.

And one day, Lady Fury takes over. You catch him sending messages to a hot chick. His wandering eye has finally found its target. Naked fury engulfs you and mixes with the monster of jealousy. You bemoan the fact that instead of being emotionally available to you, he is now available to others online. Is he having an E-Affair? Is he a Digital Casanova? Or worse—a traditional one?

You just can’t understand why he reacts in such an aggressive manner each time you say the trigger words, “ I Shopped!”, “No!”, “Don’t!” “I want!” “You can’t!” “I will!”

You scratch your head to understand why he shouts right back when you explain these emotions a bit more clearly, “Shut up!” “Go to hell!” “I hate you!” “How dare you?”

You decide to bring his attention back to the home turf by planning to multiply. The long process of nine months sees you swelling slowly until you transform from a waddling duck into a grounded dolphin. But the suspicion never leaves you. Did you just catch him ogling at another girl’s thin waistline? Did he just give the glad eye to that sexy model?

And then, when your little one pops out, it is total chaos. Your earlier mild arguments turn into full blown battles about child rearing, decisions, expenses and non-cooperation from your partner. You look at your earlier love-mails and wonder. Was there really a time when you could have the last word? For the millionth time, the D word dances enticingly in your head and takes up room in your head, rent-free.

And then , many summers later, (if you’ve lasted that long!) when both of you have lost your teeth, your waistline, your taut skins, retired and angry, you play the blame-game. Slanging matches, bitter quarrels and one-upmanship dominate your conversation—or whatever is left of it. So at bed time, after you have put in your respective nose drops, eye drops and gulped your dinner of a plateful of tablets each, you turn to the other side and say to yourself: “I wasted my life. And it’s all because of him!”

But don’t worry, honey, never give up on holy matrimony. Which other institution gives you the comfort of always having someone by your side to blame everything on? Everything comes with a price, after all.

In this one, it is just a little shift from being soul mates to cell mates!

Why Every Man MUST Marry

So, you have finally found the angel you were looking for. She looks so beautiful and unbelievably wonderful that you can’t take your eyes off her. She floors you with her witty sparring and you are stunned by her perfect humor and intelligence. You pat yourself on the back for at last beginning a journey of happily-ever-after with this perfect soul mate.

Well, it’s time you got married!

To the world you pronounce that you can’t wait to spend the rest of your life with her. Secretly, you know the real reasons for this regressive decision. The crazy disorderliness of your lifestyle—the coming to work in the morning from different beds each morning; the playing the field with every two-legged creature you encounter; the higgledy-piggledy meals; the tsunami-hit cupboards have begun to get to you. Yes, you have done it all and are perhaps finally ready to get domesticated.

Your hair has started thinning and your paunch has started swelling. You dread the time girls will start calling you “Uncle.” So if not now, when? Besides, don’t you need to marry to produce little clones who can carry the legacy of your brilliant brains forward? Don’t you owe that to society?

So in you plunge! Like all beginnings, your initial years too are the stuff dreams are made of. But why, oh why does Life throw such cruel tricks on you? It’s Life’s cruel pattern. The moment you settle for the best car, a better model comes along; the moment you give your heart to the latest tech gadget, a flashier one bursts into your face. One lonely night, relegated to the couch, you unlock the power of the Internet. Options come tumbling out like stuff from a bachelor’s cupboard.

And it’s all ridiculously simple—swipe left, swipe right, click on a pic-OMG! The sheer range and variety of options make you feel as excited as a poor man counting his wealthy neighbour’s coins. They come plummeting out at you in all shapes and sizes, all colours and styles. Soon, texts turns to sex texts and e-meetings turn to real time dating. Once again life starts rocking!

But in the meantime, something strange has happened to your partner. You wonder when her witty sparring degenerated into fierce shrieking; when her “cute” lack of homely skills started irritating you; when she started giving more importance to her career, her friends and her empowerment than you? And you are horrified at the restrictions she puts on you:

“Come back on time!” “Don’t drink too much!” “ No, I will not allow!” “Let us go to my relatives’ house!” “Why did you do/say this?”

And in the wake of the birth of your much-awaited progenies, her reed-like waist gets transformed into a one BHK. She even smells of baby pukes and curdled milk! Excitement, attraction, thrills—where did you disappear, you protest silently? (Of course, you choose to ignore your own transformation from an agile horse into a bloated whale. Men can be men, after all, your conscience assures you!)

The past dances tantalizingly on your mind screen like teasing screensavers on your phone screen. Was there really a time when you were the all-night party animal? And have you really become this pet monkey dancing to the tune of responsibilities, expectations and complains? Was there really a time when your phone messages were never checked? And have you really become this trembling peace-buyer who instantly deletes every suspicious mail?

As you long for those good old days when you could lie in bed drinking from endless cans; throwing your socks, cares and wet towels anywhere you liked; taking off anywhere-even in the middle of the night-if the mood took you over, self pity engulfs you. You decide marriage was not a smart experiment for a free soul like you, after all.

But darn! The alimony will be too expensive and what would happen to the kids? So you join the club of resigned-to-their-fates husbands who forward sick marriage jokes; drown their sorrows in alcohol on Boys’ Nights Out; long for the crazy disorderliness of your earlier lifestyle and wonder when you and your partner changed from soul mates to cell-mates.

But wait, please do not write off marriage completely. How else would you have joined the ever-swelling tribe of married men-turned philosophers? How else would you have got the pleasure of luring new incumbents into the institution just to rag them?

So when the next dreamy-eyed young man asks you, “ I’ve found my angel! Do you recommend marriage?” You instantly put on the poker face each married man becomes an expert at donning when asked the trick question by their wives, “Do I look fat in this dress?”

You push down the sardonic laughter that threatens to overcome you, muster up enthusiasm and say,

“Of course, old boy. Every Man MUST Marry.”

How to be an Undercover Terrorist Disguised as a Parent

One of the pleasures of being a life coach is the chance you get to tick off parents for bad parenting. Little do they know that I could have done with some help myself in that area way back then. But let those be my dark secrets…

The moment your lump of flesh is born, shoot an email to Harvard and other prestigious colleges you have painstakingly identified in the career field of your choice, informing them that their future “topper” has been born. However, you also inform pompously that they will have to be patient for a few years.

Devote your days and nights cooing complex formulae to your thumb-sucking child, reading out Medical Journals, Research Work or World Statistical Reports to them in a bid to hurry up their growing up process. This would amount to often getting down on your own creaking knees to follow them as they waste precious time crawling on their knees and sticking their fingers into open electrical sockets or throwing their expensive toys at you.


Is Competition Good for Kids?

Several parents have realised that competition is so tough in the outside world that they must prepare their child to be one up even before they pop out. So, they begin the process while the baby is in the womb itself.

Off to pre-school he/she goes and off you go on your mission to educate him/her more than the other ‘dumb’ kids. While the others learn how to button their coats and tie their shoe laces, you teach your prodigy how to rattle off multiplication tables.

Right through primary, middle and high school, you scurry your ward off to various tuition classes and numerous skill development workshops. S(he) all but becomes a marathon runner, fitting in all these into his day. You keep an eagle eye on the clock. Not a minute of his/her waking up hours should be wasted. It’s a battle of “one-upmanship” after all!


Teenagitis

Come Teenagitis, and you start worrying about his/her mental sanity. For s(he) wants to spend time on Facebook, Twitter, useless social media, besides talking on that devil’s invention – a mobile phone. You promptly discipline him/her when s(he) wants to do a night-out or sleepover with friends in their home. “Preposterous!” You shout. And promptly launch on a long lecture on “When I was your age….”

And when the budding adult screams, raves and rants at the injustice of it all, you bring out the emotional card of, “You will understand when I die…” Your ward almost collapses with the emotional trauma of it all and now needs a shrink.

And when your conscience whispers to you about how much trouble you gave your parents and teachers, but actually had a burning desire to make it big in Biology, you ask it to shut up! For now, you tell yourself, nature has made amends by gifting you another YOU – a captive human, an extension of yourself who will fulfil every dream YOU had!


Who Chooses the Child’s Career?

And when s(he) goes into sudden school/college refusal, at first you give him/her long lectures on his/her goals, ambitions, success, focus and the life s(he) is cut out for. S(he) looks on with glazed eyes.

“But,” you insist, “I don’t want anything from you. Just become a microbiologist and see how wonderful life will become for you. I am sending you abroad.”

And suddenly your feisty youngster finds his/her voice and speaks up, “I have decided what I want to become – a DJ!” And finally his/her glazed eyes brighten up, “Or maybe a magician!”

That is the moment you collapse and meet a counsellor. You writhe in emotional pain as you say, “I have done so much for my child. Always been there for him/her – involved, attentive, sacrificing. Tell me, where did I go wrong?”

(Neelam Kumar has battled cancer twice. A writer of 5 books, including one with Mr Khushwant Singh, Neelam’s latest book ‘To Cancer, With Love – My Journey of Joy’ was published by Hay House Publishers in 2015. It is the first humorous book on cancer to come out of India. Neelam lives in Mumbai and can be reached at neelamku@yahoo.com)

I Met Carol This Valentine’s Day


I tell you, this Carol has a knack for puncturing the balloon of my sweetest fantasies. Having failed at finding true love in the last 20 years of my single life, I have devised a cute way of fantasising about it instead. I smile into the sky and off I go into a Time warp.

Now tbrhat day, particularly, I was a Duchess from the 16th century—a ravishing beauty donned in a golden off-shoulder gown, my curly tresses piled up high above my long elegant neck, heavy with emeralds and rubies. But I had more pressing matters on my mind.

I carried the huge burden of turning down a beeline of handsome, wealthy suitors–all wanting to dance with me. To my delight, I had them all wrapped around my little finger. I twirled a stray golden lock around my painted, delicate fingers. Aah Love, I sighed, luxuriating in its warm, delicious feeling!

Just then, Carol HAD to butt in!

“Hey, Baldie, there you go dreaming again about your nonsensical idea of Love!” she admonished me.

Sitting on the window sill of my room, she dangled her slim legs clad in red hot stilettos and said, “C’mon, spill it out!”

Promptly, I defended my idea of Love. I launched on every woman’s wish list of tenderness; endless whispers of sweet nothings; pillow talks; receiving frightfully expensive gifts on way to romantic trips across the world and generally all about moonlight, butterflies and rainbows. Above all, unconditional generosity and unending indulgence.

Carol listened, as you would listen to a retarded child. She kept rolling her eyes in disbelief, shrugging her shoulders from time to time. Finally, narrowing her huge blue eyes, she slid off the window sill and said, “Time to take you on our trip. Let’s go to Tata Memorial Hospital. You’ll find Love there.”

“A Cancer Hospital?” I protested. “ Why there? How can I find my true love there?”

Now Carol is a woman of few words. She is all action.

Off we went to Mumbai city’s biggest Cancer Research Hospital. The Tata Memorial Centre is the national comprehensive cancer centre for the prevention, treatment, education and research in Cancer and is recognized as one of the leading cancer centres in this part of the world.

Every year nearly 30,000 new patients visit the clinics from all over India and neighbouring countries. Nearly 60% of these cancer patients receive primary care at the Hospital of which over 70% are treated almost free of charge. Over 1000 patients attend the OPD daily for medical advice, comprehensive care or for follow-up treatment. Nearly 8500 major operations are performed annually and 5000 patients are treated with Radiotherapy and Chemotherapy annually in multi-disciplinary programmes delivering established treatments.


While my eyes popped out at the sheer sea of humanity I encountered in the corridors, she gave me a brief hug and said, “Honeybunch, I’ll leave you here. I’ll be back when you are ready for me!”

“But why have we come here? Surely we can afford a fancier hospital?”

But she was gone.

I must admit, I began my walk down the overflowing corridors just to humour her.

Haa! Love? How would I ever find it here?

And then my eyes got riveted to the sights I saw. Never had I seen such maimed and bruised specimens of humanity. There were Departments for Cancers for every imaginable part of the human body. People who had been cut open and were waiting for further advice. People who were waiting to be cut open and were waiting for the procedure to be explained to them. But not once did I hear anybody cursing Life or Fate or crying. There was just a dignified acceptance.

I marvelled at the dignity of the ailing. I marvelled at the strength of the human spirit.

But that is not all I saw. At the Paediatric Wards I saw bald Post –Chemo children, oblivious to what their little bodies were undergoing, playing happily with their remote cars. Their doting parents watched over them lovingly. Both parents, mind you. Neither of them was too busy to come for the doctor’s visit. A new question arose in my mind.

So was this true Love, I wondered?


At the Male Ward I saw devoted wives shooing away the Nurses and attending to the most intimate care of their husbands and not being intimidated by the grumblings they got in return from their suffering spouses. They went about their tasks—joyfully.

So was this true Love, I wondered?

At the General Wards, I saw rag thin, poverty-stricken relatives —even entire villages of the afflicted who had pooled in enough money to bring the patient all the way to this frightfully expensive city, rent a place here and see him through the long struggle to recovery.

So was this true Love, I wondered?


I wandered off to the Breast Surgical OPD, for that is where the big sea of humanity seemed to be. Now I have seen wives taking care of their husbands. I think in our society and most, that is a given. But when I saw husbands taking care of their cancer-stricken wives so lovingly, my whole world-view changed.


Some scenes will remain engraved in my mind forever.

A husband and wife in their mid fifties sat in silent companionship, waiting for their name to be called out. They were obviously very poor. The wife had lost all her hair to Chemotherapy and her skin had darkened. But the husband had eyes only for her. At the first cough, he would give her a sip of water. When she seemed to be weakening, he would put her head on his shoulder lovingly and whisper words of encouragement into her ears. To my amazement, he even cupped his hands before her when she puked!

Now was this true Love, I wondered?

An Octogenarian couple sat beside each other, wrapped in a cocoon of love. While I watched unashamedly, the husband gave his wife a gift—an IPad.

Catching me staring, the woman flashed a toothless smile at me and said, “You see, it is our 50th wedding anniversary today!”

They went on to play a game of Scrabble while I wiped off my tears.

Now was that true Love, I wondered?


But the sight I saw next took the cake. A woman in her thirties had lost one breast to Cancer. She kept crying, while the doctor explained to her why they had to take such an extreme step. But she was inconsolable.

Just then the husband opened his wallet and showed her a picture of their wedding day.

“Look” he smiled, “How much hair I had on my head then. Now I’m balding. Does that mean you love me less? In the same way, why do you think I will love you less now?”

I froze in amazement. Brought up on a regular fare of Bollywood movies and our decadent times that celebrated “body parts” through item numbers and the like, what was this that I was hearing?

Now was this true Love, I wondered?


Was it just wrong statistics that I had stumbled upon that day, or did I actually see more rural, down- to-earth people, as opposed to the busy professionals of the metros, living out true love?


Perhaps Carol had staged it all for me. For just then I came across a stunningly beautiful young girl in a sunflower yellow dress and ankle length stylish boots. She was in her thirties and must have been high up on the corporate ladder.

Sensing a confidante in me and obviously dying to share her story she leaned towards me and whispered, “You know, for four years I gave him everything—my body, my home, my life. We were supposed to get married this month.”


Just then the Attendant called out—“ No 129!”

The girl got up.

“Who is the Patient?” asked the Attendant.

Smiling at me wryly she said, “I am the Patient. He was the Impatient one. He left.”

With that, she walked with firm steps into the Doctor’s Chamber, making my heart twinge with the pain she must be feeling.

Was this true love, I wondered?


“ I’ve seen enough!” I cried to Carol, who has a knack of appearing at the right moment.


“So Honey bunch? Any changes in your definition of True Love?”


“Yes, but before that, a few recommendations:

I have seen enough youngsters necking and petting at Band Stand and Lover’s lanes. They should forcefully be brought here to understand what love means. Whoever you are, whatever age you are, you do deserve to make one trip to this Hospital at least once to feel the heartbreak of patients being abandoned by their own or the sheer joy of a son (mine!) looking after his widow mother, despite his hectic corporate schedule. You MUST experience raw Human Drama present in the corridors here. All those youngsters who profess “’I love you” should compulsorily make a visit to Tata Memorial Hospital. When the marriage vows say “In sickness and in sorrow, till death do us part…” they must first come here to understand the gravity of what the relationship entails.

Carol, I tell you, if one’s love can carry one through something as dreaded as Cancer, only then is it True Love.


Carol is a great listener. She nodded sagely as I said,

“Love is the Infallible Physician, the Supreme Consoler; it is the Conqueror, the Sovereign Teacher.”


At that point, Carol’s face split into a radiant grin. “Duchess dahling—you said it—Not I, ok?”

Then she took my hand and off we went home—I, suitably chastened and she, gloating in the fact that once again she had been proved right.

Who would say a trip to a Cancer Hospital would make you feel light-hearted? It certainly had that effect on us. I saluted the resilience of the human spirit and determined to enjoy each day. I promised I would not die before Death actually came. I would Live every single moment. I would celebrate Life!


“You know Carol, I sang—’The Rest of my Life is now going to be the Best of my Life’.”


To which she added, “Indeed, all life is Love if we only know how to live it!”

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