photo credit by Limor Zellermayer on Unsplash

“I want to grow up to be just a normal person who has many friends, just like my Dad!”

Miriam looked for the name. It was Eddie Philip! The cute little boy with big beautiful eyes. Miriam smiled at the thought of Eddie. He was a quiet, shy boy but his eyes always spoke volumes; sometimes it felt like they wanted to speak, but would stop short. He always had a sweet little half-smile on his face. The more Miriam thought of Eddie, she realised how very extra sharing he always was! Always ready to help; he would run to her and offer to carry the books, or distribute them.

The composition given as the class work that day was to write what one would want to be, as a grown up. Miriam had asked the children to write just a few lines and a make a drawing relevant to their thoughts, as well. She was going through the writings; as expected, someone wanted to join the army, someone wanted to be a teacher, someone a doctor, someone an artist, a musician, an astronaut, and all such possible career options were mentioned. It was so interesting to read the little minds, and the drawings too were so straight from the heart! But Eddie’s wish! Such a simple and clear wish of an eight-year-old.

Friends! What a lovely word that was, thought Miriam! Suddenly she was transported to her own home in India, when she was around fifteen years old. One evening her father at the dinner table spoke of something so weird, that everyone sitting there stared blankly at him.

“We need to celebrate the festival of Holi, this month-end!” Rahman, as if he was thinking aloud, “So many arrangements need to be made, and time is so less.”

“Holi, is that what you said, Daddy? Why, Holi is more than two months away!” spoke Miriam.

“Yes Rahman, why do you talk of Holi suddenly?” questioned his wife, Smita.

Rahman looked at them and explained himself, softly.

“Ayan is fighting brain cancer, you all know that. He was improving slowly, but suddenly Sumit called today afternoon telling me that Ayan’s platelette counts had shown an unexpectedly sharp drop. The doctors are worried and have given Ayan only two months, at the most, to live. Sumit, understandably, is devastated. You all know that, because of the ongoing treatment, they have been unable to come to India for more than three years now. The surgeries kept poor Ayan in and out of the hospital. As he was showing improvement for the past few months, Ayan had made Sumit promise to take him to India for Holi, this year. Ayan has been hearing about the fun festival all these years, and he has very faint memories of this festival when he was a toddler. So, hearing from Sumit about all the pranks and fun that we would have in celebrating Holi, Ayan has been so very looking forward to play Holi this year. They had planned a two-week holiday around the festival and now this bombshell!”

“OMG! What shattering news this!” Smita muttered.

“Now, Sumit wants to celebrate Holi this month-end itself. He wants to fulfil Ayan’s wish at any cost. He wants us to recreate Holi in such a manner that Ayan takes it to be real. Vikram, Suhail and Rakesh have been taken into the loop.” Rahman spoke.

Rahman, Sumit, Vikram, Suhail and Rakesh were a group of very close friends. They were friends from their college days. They had stayed well-connected with each other, all through these years. Rakesh was in Australia and Vikram in Germany. Sumit was in Singapore. Suhail and Rahman lived in India.

“We have to help fulfil Ayan’s dream; we just have to, Smita.” Rahman’s mind was already at work, Smita could see that. She knew how close the friends were with each other. She and all the other spouses had happily accepted the friends, and they all got along pretty well.

Miriam was then a witness to what true friendship could mean. Vikram, Suhail and Rakesh came down within the next two days. Rahman took leave and the friends would sit together, brainstorming about the whole event, as it would be. Sumit was to come with Ayan and his mother barely for three days, because they couldn’t afford to be away from Ayan’s doctors for long.

Rahman lived in a housing society. He met the residents and shared his plans on recreating Holi on the campus. There was barely a soul untouched by such an emotional situation. The day arrived. Sumit with his wife and Ayan were driven from the airport straight to the campus. People were all charged up, with emotions running high. The ‘Holika Dahan’ was lit at late evening one day before Holi, with the usual drums and chants. And next morning everyone went wild smearing colours on each other, throwing balloons, and generally making merry. What a riot of colours it was! And, of course, not to forget the ‘gujiyas’ and other sweets everyone ate in plenty. Little Ayan took in every moment around him, and he just loved it. His dream of playing Holi had come true.

Miriam remembered that Holi to be the best Holi for her, in her life. She was overwhelmed by love all around. Seeing Ayan’s joy was priceless. Three days of festivities whizzed by and Ayan returned home with his parents with a happy and content heart. Miriam hugged him tight while seeing him off with deepest prayers in her heart that Ayan should recover.

Miriam’s and many others’ prayers could not hold Ayan back. He left the world two days before the actual Holi day.

Miriam looked down at the notebook in her hand. Eddie’s notebook, where he had drawn a beach with many children playing around in the waves. He had marked one of them with a big smiley - Eddie!



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