As the sun set on another tiring day, I made my way to the fifth floor of the hospital building to pick up my friend. The towering glass roof basked in the evening sun, bathing the entire floor in a golden-orange hue. A young girl ran into the middle of the corridor, her laughter resounding in the quiet of the late evening. Oblivious of her grim surroundings, she bumped into my legs. Her bright, hazel eyes shone into mine. “Harnoor, come here”, a woman’s voice from behind made her wriggle out of my hands. She ran towards her mother, flashing a radiant smile at me. In the ward, my friend was busy filling case sheets. “Are you done?” I asked him. “Almost”, he said, barely looking up.
A burst of squealing laughter slowly became louder. It was Harnoor. She walked into the ward, with a pompous. Bemused onlookers stared at her as she strode past in gay abandon. As I washed my hands in the side room, looking at the mirror, I took in my unkempt appearance. At the edge of the mirror, a child’s face peeped into the door for a split second and vanished. I dashed to the door, and there she was! Her laughter was a mix of innocence, mischief, ingenuity and pure joy which only a child can have.
Then, standing in the middle of the ward, she gave that peculiar, unmistakable expression. Half scared, half delighted, a little guilty and a little innocent. A tiny stream trickled past her legs as she soon found herself in a puddle of urine! As her mother changed her clothes, she watched me with amusement. I hid my face behind the wall and suddenly reappeared. She was in splits. She looked at me again, expecting me to repeat the act. And I did. Having nothing better to do, we started doing this repeatedly. She burst into laughter every time. Such a small girl, boundless enthusiasm, enormous joy. Indefatigable. Truly the father of man!
My friend was finally ready to go. “Who is this girl?” I asked him. She was now in her mother’s arms, innocently rubbing her eyes and yawning. “Stage IV neuroblastoma with metastasis (a form of cancer of the nerve cells), poor prognosis, did not opt for therapy, going home tomorrow”, he muttered in a single breath. A breath that shook me back from a refreshing reverie into the ruthless reality that surrounded me. Harnoor’s reverie continued. Safely asleep on her mother’s shoulder, with a quiet smile on her lips, her face gleamed under the crimson sun. True to her name, a ‘gift of God’!