It's been quite a while that I've written
a decent piece. The reason? I was busy. No, I'm lying. The actual reason
is that I'm ill. In fact, you can say it's a bit of both. I'm very busy
being ill. Let me see, it first started two or three months back. There
was this party at the hospital for the freshers -- the new batch of
intern doctors. Our internship had begun three weeks before this party.
That night there was a concert. I had a terrible cold. An awful one.
At first I thought it was the one's I always caught when there was too
much of 'incomings' & 'outgoings' from air conditioned rooms. Like
the old Bangla saying, "a dog can't digest ghee"-- my best
friend Shaymotima would always say. For one whole month there was this
series of antihistamines, antibiotics and a lot of scoldings from the
seniors at the hospital. The whole situation was so depressing. At one
end there was the constant running nose and on the other hand the never
ending scrambling around the hospital premises. The growing concern
of Baba about the odd hospital timings was a regular topic at the afternoon
tea where on most of the days I was either absent or asleep. Maa's daily
instructions about my being a good girl, not to play around and to be
a careful doctor now also included that I must pay attention to the
fact that I was anaemic and I ought to see the doctor that very day.
I used to smile and nod my head a bit as I have been doing all these
years of growing up.
Now, this is really odd. The concerns of my parents has now affected
my friends too. Shaymolima was just about to drag me into the medicine
department today. If there wasn't my Registrar roaring at me to get
to the labour room at once, I would have to get through the boring sequence
of clinical checkup. Hey, imagine that, what do my patients think when
I take their history and ask all sorts of questions. Well, I know one
thing for sure, my patients like me a lot. Of all the hustle and continuous
evening duties of my hospital life, I love my time with the patients
most. A couple of days back, one of my patients wanted to get me married
off to her nephew who lives abroad! You should have seen Shayon's facial
expression when I told him this!
Well, the cough has become quite bothersome. The cough alone is quite
awful and Shayon has added a terrible point. Just the other day, at
the canteen when I was having a capsule -- which is the third course
of antibiotics over the last four months Shayon said, "Rayna, you
have dark circles."
I told him that I was having trouble sleeping the last few nights except
the ones at the hospital. I had to watch TV till my eyes ached &
then I was able to have some shut eye. Know what Shayon said then? "No
problem, after a month I'll there with you through the nights and I'll
pat you to sleep."
My capsule was about to get stuck in my throat. I would have kept staring
at him unless he had pinched me. "Oucchh! I said. "Sorry,"
Shayon said, "this is the last time I'll do this. From this moment
on you are my most precious, you're my better half."
I was upset for Allah has made me dark, otherwise Shayon would have
seen me blush.
Shayon's parents came last night. They gave me a wonderful ring. My
parents are terribly happy and extremely sad. For the first time in
all this years, this thought has occurred to them about my going away.
Today was my day off. We were having dinner all together when Baba suddenly
raised the question of leaving the house, going far away to another
home. It was really a sad atmosphere. I don't know if it was awful,
but I had quipped, "But Baba, Shayon lives in the building just
opposite to ours and its in the same complex!"
Maa was smiling and Baba as usual said, "Yes, yes I know."
Shayon was really mad at me. All these months, I was going to the doctors
but its true that I haven't been a good patient. Well, tell me, does
it feel good at all when you are swallowing and gulping awful tablets,
capsules, syrups and yet having coughs, headaches and now this new symptom
-- fever and a little pain in my tummy. I accidentally told Shayon last
might that I had a temperature and at the hospital he just created a
scene. I was at the scheduled night admission duty. He went up straight
to the Registrar and demanded a duty off for my check up. I was so embarrassed.
Everyone laughed. I wanted so much to be angry at Shayon, but looking
at his eyes I couldn't. They had the same thing I see in my Maa's eyes
and in my Baba's eyes.
The reports of my blood tests were supposed to come day before yesterday.
I haven't got them yet. Shayon is not here. He is off to the hill tracts
with a medical team. He didn't want to go but his professor insisted
and I promised that I would take care of myself and get the reports.
I haven't brought them. I went shopping with Maa today and it's been
a wonderful game between the two of us. We wear the same coloured clothes
whenever we go out together. Since the last five months I have been
so busy with my job, I can't find time to spend with Maa. I do feel
awful for that. And now that we get out shopping for my wedding -- its
of immense pleasure. I loved the pink material we bought for my bridal
lehenga. I know, Shayon will love it too! And that's when it struck
me. Shayon's coming in three days. The reports -- I must get them tomorrow.
The reports showed my hemoglobin percentage is below 50 per cent, the
white cells are very high and the ESR is too high. I hope its because
of the fever and infections. And the little pain in my tummy, which
may be the spleen, I hope its just because of infection. Everyone knows
that chronic cough and infections -- they make people have high ESR
and raised white cells. Please Allah, let it be infection. But the blood
film? How do I explain the immature white cells?
Shayon wanted to see the reports. I couldn't show him. I told him that
I left them at home. He said he would come in the evening. I told him
that I had night duty. He told me he would ask Maa to show the reports.
I told him that Maa didn't know where I had kept them.
I haven't showed Shayon the reports because I couldn't. My professor
at the clinic where I am training in hematology was worried. I could
tell from his frowning. But the next moment he cheered up and said,
"You are a brave girl, lets get a bone morrow done, just for confirmation."
For 'confirmation' that I did have 'it'-- not for exclusion.
Shayon was furious when he heard and broke down to tears. "What
if I was the one who had leukemia, would you have left me?" he
asked. I had answered "yes."
For the last three weeks I haven't written anything. What would I write
about? Maa's anxiety, Baba's tears, my pain? I had been saving for my
studies in England. I'm going to England with that money -- not to study,
but to get well. I didn't want to go. I don't know why, but I sense
death creeping towards me as if I'm going to die of this disease.
What if I die in spite of treatment? Can Maa bear the pain? Can Baba
get over the agony? They can't even bear the sight of my hairless scalp
after the first cycle of chemotherapy! I had asked them to let me live
the days left of my life. I don't know why Maa or Baba doesn't get it.
I have lived the full of my life. I have got a wonderful childhood,
a fabulous family a great school, a couple of friends and a very special
friend Shayon. It doesn't matter that my dream is not fulfilled. I had
the time and the means to see the dream. My life is the fullest at this
Shayon wants to see me but I told him, 'no'. I know how Maa and Baba
feels to see my whitering features. Shayon will bear it, but I can't
let him have the pain. Maa cried when we both wore the same purple colour
dresses. I'm sure that she remembered how I fought to get that dress
to match with Maa's purple saree. Oh! I forgot. Baba gave me his treasured
platinum pen. It was the one which he used to lure me with, when I wouldn't
want to study or sleep. "Be a good girl, the best daughter and
you'll get my platinum pen."
I peeped into their room a while ago, Maa had spread out the beige saree
I gave her from my first salary. I won't be able to match with her tomorrow.
My beige dress is at the tailors and its not going to be ready till
day after tomorrow. My flight is at late night -- tonight."
Rayna's mother frantically flipped the pages. They were blank. Rayna
wrote no more. She looked around the little room -- where her little
daughter had grown up. On her desk was the little pink notebook. On
her bed rested the beige dress she couldn't wear.
In High School
... Four! ... Three! ... Two! ... One! ... Ignition!" Into the
sky soars--not a towering behemoth weighing hundreds of tons--but a
2-pound rocket built by a handful of high school students.
This homemade rocket will never reach space, and the only passengers
it can carry are a pair of raw eggs. Yet this little rocket could carry
its team of student rocket-builders all the way to Virginia to compete
in the first-ever national high school rocketry contest. At stake is
nearly $60,000 in awards--and the satisfaction of achieving a difficult,
Called the Team America Rocketry Challenge, the competition has attracted
873 teams comprising over 9,000 students from high schools in all 50
states. Only the top 100 teams compete in the final event that took
place on May 10. The competition is organised by the Aerospace Industries
Association and the National Association of Rocketry (NAR).
"The idea is to get kids interested in the world of aerospace,"
says Trip Barber, director of the competition and vice-president of
the NAR. "And they will learn some important lessons about the
power of math and science--and cooperation and teamwork--along the way."
The challenge is much more difficult than merely building and launching
a rocket. Each team must try to meet a very specific goal: build a two-stage
rocket no heavier than 3.3 pounds that will lift two raw eggs to an
altitude of exactly 1,500 feet, and then return the eggs to the ground
unbroken. Some components, like the rocket motors and the altimeter,
are ordered pre-made, but the students can't use hobby-store rocket
kits. They have to build the rocket from scratch.
NASA has become involved in the competition as well to fuel interest
and to "sweeten the pot." Administrator Sean O'Keefe will
attend the finals in Virginia, and teachers for the top 25 teams will
be invited to an advanced rocketry workshop in July at NASA's Marshall
Space Flight Center (MSFC) in Huntsville, Alabama.
Perhaps most exciting for the students is the chance to work side-by-side
with NASA engineers to build a larger rocket that can fly even higher.
Students from the top 10 teams can apply to participate in the Student
Launch Initiative at MSFC, where they will design and build a rocket
that can fly higher than 5,000 feet--a mile into the sky!
Building and launching rockets requires a wide range of skills--from
calculating trajectories to assembling the rocket to assessing the weather.
That means that students with different talents can all get involved,
notes Vince Huegele, a NASA optical physicist.