'Are you sure, Rhea?' asks my mother.
'Of course I am, survival of the fittest, mother. I'm not going against Darwin. Also I don't want unnecessary scars on my body.'
It's a known fact that we are all born to die. Frankly, I don't understand why it has to be made into such a big deal.
If it were not for my mother, I would have said that to the bunch of people outside my house, some of them with young kids, shouting slogans, waving placards, literally wanting me to cut one of my beating hearts out. "Save A Life. Donate!" they shout.
For someone who is one in billions, 7.125 billion to be exact, I expect to be treated better.
Scientists are still befuddled regarding my condition that gave me two hearts in my mother's womb. But years of research and sticking needles into me have led them nowhere, and they have labeled me as a freak mutation.
It's so rare - literally one in all humankind - that they didn't even name the anomaly (as they call it, I will call it awesomeness). I wanted to name the condition myself, something on the lines of Rhea's Heartawesomeness but the doctors aren't thrilled with the suggestion.
Instead they want to cut one of them out and save a life.
An IQ of 180, increased concentration, exceptional athleticism and a phenomenal metabolism rate - are just the few boring benefits of an increased blood circulation. Why would I ever give that up?
‘Survival of the fittest’, better IQ, better concentration, etc. seemed like nonsensical terms to me whenever I had a look at Rhea.
Her beauty, be it external or internal was the main reason why I was attracted to her.
When I met her for the first time, I saw a small 10-year-old girl helping an old woman with a baby begging for food. Yes, I knew Rhea for more than 10 years and she was my best friend. In fact, you could say that she was my only friend and even a single day without her made me crazy.
‘Pagal’, is what she always called me, even though I have a nice name, Vivaan.
She was the only one who had the right to call me anything she liked.
There was only one other person whom I shared almost everything with and that was Avshesh. I could never imagine someone even looking at Rhea, whom I had always loved, but it was Avshesh who got this right because he was Rhea’s boyfriend while I just remained the so-called best friend. I didn’t know how to approach any other girl to be my girlfriend as I was always with Rhea and I couldn’t imagine any other girl taking Rhea’s place.
It still gives me goosebumps and I need at least two pegs of whisky to gather enough courage to remember the day when Rhea, her parents and I learnt of her two-heart condition. I was ecstatic to have a friend who is one-of-a-kind in the entire human race. However, reactions from the educated world always made me nervous.
I didn’t want to lose my friend for the sake of humanity and let her go as a gift to doctors who can perform all their tests on her.
She was my best friend, my biggest strength. But sometimes, I didn’t really know what to call our relationship because at times, she behaved like my girlfriend. I have seen her getting jealous whenever I looked at any other girl. Once, I even told her, 'I Love you', but she just stared at me. After that, I never had the courage to say those words even though I’ve repeated them a hundred times in my dreams.
On the other hand, Avshesh confessed his feelings at the right time and he was rewarded with a positive answer.
My love with an extra heart
Rhea had an elder sister Priya who was getting engaged. The preparations were on in full swing. Priya was very different from other Indian girls. She was never home except at night when she was busy on calls with her many boyfriends. Delhi was not the place for her and she longed to move to Europe. She had even managed to get a scholarship for a three-month course in London.
Being this fool who was hopelessly in love with Rhea, I was involved in the engagement preparations like a family member.
“How am I looking, Pagal” came a voice from behind. It was Rhea who was looking gorgeous in a red dress. I’ve always had a soft corner for red and black dresses. And looking at my dream girl in my favorite color made my heart flutter.
“Beautiful as always” was my reply and she giggled. “Priya will be here in some time,” said Rhea. Her joy for her sister was evident on her face. Also, she knew that she was looking gorgeous and that happiness made her glow.
Priya wanted to surprise everyone, so she didn’t allow anyone to receive her at Delhi airport. Another hour passed by but Priya did not reach home. Everyone started getting tensed.
Suddenly Rhea’s phone rang; it was a call from the Delhi police.
I could see Rhea shivering. She almost fainted on hearing the person on the other side of the phone.
“Priya has been shot”, said Avshesh and I could sense Rhea’s fear.
Rhea and I rushed to the hospital. I had to use all my strength to control and comfort Rhea. Since childhood, I had a phobia of blood but that day, I was completely composed. Taking care of Rhea gave me some special power and I was able to discuss many things with the police and the people who saved Priya.
We got to know that Priya’s flight had landed on time but while she was on her way to Ghaziabad, her car was blocked by another car. Everyone knows that the NCR region is unsafe for a single lady but we couldn’t do anything when Priya insisted on coming alone. Some local goons tried to kidnap a girl who had accompanied Priya from the airport to Ghaziabad.
Rhea and her entire family are known to show heroism and Priya did the same that night. But the kidnappers had a gun and they fired.
The bullet hit Priya in her chest, right next to her heart.
The next few days were really difficult for all of us. But Rhea remained composed. I couldn’t imagine a person being so composed in such a situation with Priya’s chances of survival being low.
The only option was a heart transplant. But in India, a heart transplant can only be done at AIIMS and it involves a huge cost, much beyond the capacity of a middle class person. The chances of a successful surgery are rare.
Everyone knew about Rhea’s Heartawesomeness and that was the only ray of light in those dark times. But the risk was huge.
“No, I won’t let you do this”, I told Rhea and I could hear everyone echoing the same. It was like putting two lives at risk rather than saving one.
Avshesh, on the other hand, was trying to be different or I’d say ‘selfish’. He warned Rhea that if she agreed for any kind of surgery, he would leave her and get married to a girl chosen by his parents. Although Avshesh and I wanted the same thing, our motives were different.
I could feel my anger rising and I would have hit Avshesh but self-control was key here and deep inside, I wanted Avshesh to leave Rhea forever. Although this wasn’t their official breakup but it did lay the seed for it.
At the hospital, no one was allowed to see Priya who was unconscious. Then came a time when the doctors lost all hope as chances of her survival were getting dimmer by the day. The only hope was the heart transplant, which had to be done within 24 hours. It involved a huge cost of 50 lakhs, which was almost impossible to arrange in the given time.
I personally believe that friends are better assets than relatives.
Though all of Rhea’s relatives were there, they did nothing to help. Be it the financial arrangements or accommodation for the relatives, everything was done by Rhea, her parents and me.
Rhea’s parents were wealthy but arranging the amount in such a short time was really difficult. Moreover, offering Rhea emotional support was on my priority list. So we divided the responsibilities amongst us. Rhea’s father would arrange the finance for the surgery while my responsibility was to be with Rhea and make her feel normal.
I tried calling Avshesh a number of times but he didn’t respond. Rhea also tried contacting him but he never answered. We couldn’t digest the fact that a person could change so much so quickly. Suddenly my phone rang and a message flashed on my screen. It was from Avshesh and it read, “You enjoy with your friend. Let me live my life peacefully”.
I immediately deleted the message, as I didn’t want to think about it. I decided to take Rhea out for lunch so that she could feel better. Though, all I could think about was Priya’s condition, I wanted to comfort Rhea as much as possible. Food has always been my weakness. I wanted to order something delicious but couldn’t do so as Rhea had to eat only healthy food before the surgery.
After lunch, we were walking back towards my bike, when I whispered to Rhea, “I love you and will always do”. Rhea heard me but didn’t reply. We went back to Rhea’s house where her father had arranged the money.
The next day, the operation had started by the time I reached the hospital. There were three doctors who were involved and I could sense the tension all around us. More than 5 hours had gone by since they started the operation but no one had a clue about what was happening inside.
I wanted to have a cup of tea, so I stepped out for some time.
When I came back, everything had changed. Everyone was in tears and I could feel my eyes welling up without even knowing what had happened.
I could see Rhea’s mother wailing helplessly. I got the shock of my life when I was told that Priya was no more. I immediately wanted to know about Rhea but didn’t know whom to ask.
At that time a nurse came out and told me that the operation was underway when Priya’s heartbeat started dropping. The doctors tried everything but could not save Priya. To make matters worse, Rhea was also critical as the operation was only halfway through when Priya died. The next 6-7 days were critical to see how Rhea adapted post the operation.
It was almost a week after Priya’s death when I went to meet Rhea who was just back from the hospital. I was scared because I didn’t want to see her covered in stitches and in pain.
I opened the door of her room and had just managed to say, “Wow”, when I heard Rhea saying, “I love you too Vivaan!”
Happily Ever After
Today, all those memories may have blurred but there is something that I can never forget. God has made everything with a purpose and fighting against nature can be disastrous.
People, circumstances, everyone tried to take one heart from Rhea but how could they, when God had written something different for her.
And I am highly privileged to be part of her journey with an extra heart.
We’ve been happily married for the last three years and are blessed with the best gift from God, a princess with an extra heart.
Yes, you read it right, our beautiful daughter, Khushi, is an exact replica of her mother. Now, I don’t wish for any more miracles.