The doctor announced successful completion of the corneal transplant outside the operating theatre. Family members waiting outside for long finally were relieved to hear the news. Some of them started calling other relatives who could not come to the hospital. It ended the longest wait of their family and tormented life of a teenage boy.
Inside the operating room, Avish was not in his proper senses due to sedation. He hoped to see the lights again but his eyes were closed by eye patches hold tightly by gauze bandage around his head. Nurses took him out of the chamber in a stretcher trolley to shift him to the cabin where he would be staying for next two days. He could hear the words of his parents while he was being transferred. His mother touched his hand in reassurance and Avish felt like the happiest man of the world. For the last one year, he only hoped to get a donor. He was searching for an angel who could return him the eyesight he had lost in an unfortunate road accident. He still remembered the day when the bus he was travelling in collided with a goods vehicle and some glass pieces entered his eye. He would never be able to forget the day when suddenly his world went black within a blink of an eye. For the last one year, he prayed for a messenger of God who could lead him to the exit point of longest black tunnel he had ever come across in his life.
Doctor asked Avish’s father to meet him at the chamber for further consultation. Avish’s father followed the doctor to the doctor’s chamber. The doctor asked Avish’s father to have a seat and assured him not to worry as he sensed tension growing inside the chamber. Avish’s father complied asked the doctor about post operative precautions and complicacies. The doctor explained him everything in detail. When Avish’s father was about to leave the chair, the doctor opened his drawer and handed him over a letter. The letter was addressed to no one but carried much significance to the doctor. It was a letter from the donor. The doctor explained Avish’s father regarding the purpose of the letter in detail. After fifteen minutes of discussion, Avish’s father came back to his family members. They were in celebratory mood.
After a month of surgery, Avish’s sight improved a lot and he could again feel blessed to have perceived the outer world as he was used to. Although medications were ongoing, Avish could go out of his house with the medical shades on. It protected his eyes from dust and overbearing day lights.
On a fine afternoon, his father asked him to get dressed lightly in white. He asked reason for it but his father did not explain much. His father drove the car. On their way, Avish enquired about the destination but his father did not reveal much. After one and half hour of drive through unknown road, his father turned the car to left and drove along a river bank. Within couple of minutes they reached their destination.
Upon reaching there, Avish realized it was a crematorium. His father parked the car outside the main entrance and asked him to get out of the car. Avish could sense the pungent smell of burnt bodies. He enquired his father about their presence in that place and also enquired if everyone in his family was in good health or not. His father went out of the car and asked Avish to follow him. Avish complied and followed his father to one corner of the crematorium where preparations were ongoing for another final bed. Two people were responsible for stacking dry wooden logs on top of another wooden layer to prepare the final death bed.
This was the first time Avish entered any crematorium and was about to witness burning of a corpse. Beside the wooden stack, there was one wooden bed of small size. A man in his fifties lied on the bed. White cloth covered his entire body. He could smell some unidentified medicated smell. It was not possible for a teenage boy to identify odor of embalming fluid. He could not relate the face with any of his remote family members or acquaintances. He was assured that the situation was not that bad indeed. There were not much people around the dead body. He heard his father talking someone. When he turned backwards to his father, he saw their manager talking to his father about some done paper works and approvals. The guy smiled at Avish and Avish smiled back but they did not converse.
Avish grew impatient and asked his father about the reason they were here. After a long period, his father broke silence and replied ‘The man sleeping here in his last sleep is the donor who returned you your vision’.
Avish looked worried. His father consoled him and said ‘Do not worry son. I could have told your mother or you about it but I could not. I feared that your mother would not approve you coming here. I could not risk it. I had to’.
His father took out a letter from the chest pocket and opened the letter. Before he started reading, he looked at Avish’s face and said ‘Your doctor gave me this letter. This guy noted down his last wish in this letter and left it for us. Let me read it for you’.
Avish’s father started reading the letter. It read:
I know that we never met in our life. As you are reading this letter, I presume that I am already dead but I can still see this world and perceive the visual treat the same way I used to. Even if I am not present in this world with five senses, I am definitely leaving behind one of the senses which we can satisfactorily give away to another in need.
My name is Shyamal Dam. I am a cremator by profession. I have cremated innumerable bodies throughout my entire life. For the last 40 years of my life, I have been living in a small house by myself close to the crematorium. I do not have any family and survived by only you in this world with whom I share a bodily connection now. Hence, I am writing this letter to you.
Living with dead bodies and cremating for such a long time has left me belief that death is the only truth in life without any pretense. I have blood cancer now and I do not fear death now but pain. I wish to die to alleviate this excruciating pain in my body and before I could bear anymore.
I do not know who you are but I believe I shall be able to live as a part of you in this world. Can you please do me a favor? I want to watch my body burning like I have seen a lot of people throughout my life. I know this is not possible now but it is only possible if you want. I want to watch my body burning through your eyes. I have been indifferent to all the people I have cremated throughout my life. The pungent smell of bodies burning used to leave me in intoxicated state that I can never forget. There was not a single day that I have smelt only fresh air. The vision of bodies burning on pyre is the only view that I am able to visualize whenever I close my eyes.
I request you to let me have my last wish fulfilled. Hope you will understand. You must understand after all, I am a part living in you.
Avish’s father finished reading the letter and looked at his son. He could see tears falling down from Avish’s eyes.
After another hour, Avish looked at the pyre set on fire. Smoke coiled upwards on the evening sky and took spiral shape. It seemed to form a stairway to heaven for his angel.