When she first uttered those words, he never imagined she meant them literally. At that time so much was happening in their lives that this one ambiguous sentence didn’t mean much. It lost its significance in the more important things happening between them, things that distracted…
…Like her first touch – when he held her hand and felt the smallness and softness of it.
…Their very first kiss in the shadows by the moonlight.
…Watching her in the pink shades of her dress in which she looked so beautiful.
…Getting drenched in the rain, being aware of no one, just her.
…Everyone looking at her, but she aware, only of him.
…And the flowers that she brought for him along with her smiles.
Her presence could change the Boat Club where he was a regular – it looked different, just like everything in his world had started looking different. He kept rowing on that moonlit night unmindful of anything because she was with him. Afterwards, when she noticed his blisters she had tears in her eyes. When she took them in her hands and kissed those blisters, he felt his pain easing away. And he remembered how her lips felt on them, long after.
He discovered joys as they unwrapped like parcels, bit by bit and so teasingly.
Some moments, he felt were more poignant because of which they are special. They remain as sharp as ever, in memories despite the march of the years. They had the power to take him, in one fleeting instant, right there where it all happened – for him to feel the fragrance, the intensity of the sunshine, the texture of clothes, the details of grass on ground and the person he was with. And it wasn’t a coincidence that most of these poignant moments revolved around her. Every single detail seemed to come alive – to make him participate in that time travel, once again. Most other memories seemed to fade away, not these moments, because they are immortal and as sharp as ever. They lived forever, just like she wished to live forever.
“I wish to live forever!”
On their wedding night she repeated the words.
Though he had taken her a little more seriously this time, the promise of the impending moment distracted him, yet again.
They explored each others bodies and souls and felt complete oneness. And he forgot all about her strange wish.
When they went to see the Taj on their honeymoon, he was awed by its beauty and the backdrop of romance in which stood the monument.
“What are you thinking?”
“It’s a strange monument. I can feel a lingering sadness here. It’s because it is in the memory of a death.”
“But it’s in memory of love.”
“No. It’s predominantly a tragic love story, which is why I don’t find it exciting.”
“I find it beautiful-”
“Death makes me uncomfortable. Can’t it be conquered? I can never celebrate death. I wish to live forever, and be with you.”
And then he understood that she was speaking of immortality, physical immortality.
“Everyone has to die one day,” he said. “We are no exceptions.”
“I wish to be.”
“But I’m a writer, not a scientist. You married the wrong man.”
“Wrong? But you are imaginative! To overcome death, all you need is imagination.”
Her persistence made him a little uncomfortable.
“Promise me you’ll find a way. I’m afraid of death. Afraid of losing you. I don’t wish to die. I wish to live forever.”
“I can’t promise you something I may not accomplish,” he said. “And it’s because I love you, I can’t feed you with false promises.”
“That’s why you are my hope. But say you’ll try.”
And she had snuggled up to him.
Necrophobia, another name for the fear of death and fear of dead things, is the most common; this surprisingly common phobia causes countless people needless distress.
He read the words on his computer screen. It wasn’t unusual. Millions of people shared her fear. To him it meant fear of the inevitable. Where to begin the impossible search for an eternal life? He didn’t know that, what he knew was that he loved her.
From vampires to rituals to potions to cults, he read through the dark side of immortality. The beliefs and practices nauseated him. This wasn’t his way and he would not even try the route. So what else could he do?
He extended his search and spent more time on it.
Years passed by, but he found nothing and the search became an obsession.
And once every year, on their wedding anniversary, she would remind him of his promise. So he would double up his efforts, spend all the time he had on his research.
He explored different places, met strange people who had insights to offer. But at the end of his quest, he didn’t have anything concrete.
Every development in science made him happy. He felt on a surer ground here. Genome mapping, gene therapy, stem cells and RNA developments would make human beings immortal one day.
“One day, yes. But I may not live that long.” She would say whenever he would show her a clipping.
“Just another 10 years, you wait and see,” he would say. And file away the development in a thick book that had every tit-bit on aging, death and immortality.
It turned out that her fears were based on an uncanny intuition. A bus hit her while she was walking through the rain, to meet him. She had been late.
“My fear was right…” She said.
He held her hand.
She tried to smile as she lay on her bed, surrounded by gadgets that were beeping nervously. She was in a lot of pain, despite the sedatives, her head bandaged. The brain surgery had failed.
“No! You’ll live. You can’t leave me like this…”
“There’s no hope. I know…”
“I-I failed…” He began to sob. And kissed her hands.
“Don’t feel bad. I know you tried. It’s impossible not to die. Hey look! I’m not afraid anymore?”
“Yes. I can see that…”
She looked so frail, so vulnerable at that moment. And he felt absolutely helpless, watching her edge out of existence. Every moment taking her to a distance he would never be able to catch up with.
“Smile. I wish to see you smile before I leave. Not like this…”
And then she closed her eyes.
“She’s brain dead. Her heart is functioning but because of the severe head injuries she-”
“Any hope she’ll recover?”
“No. In scientific terms she’s dead.” The doctor said.
He grieved for her and a life without her. He grieved because he couldn’t find out a way to make her immortal.
“But I’m a writer. Not a scientist.”
“You are imaginative. To overcome death all you need is imagination.”
He remembered those words when they wheeled away her body.
To overcome death, you need imagination.
Something snapped in his mind as he remembered a cutting he had pasted in that thick file of his, the one with all the facts he had gathered on developments and facts on aging and immortality. Maybe there was a way out, still.
“Wait!” He stopped the ward boys.
He rushed to the doctor who had been in charge of her surgery. He was breathless when he reached his room.
He told him what he was thinking.
“Are you sure?”
“Yes. Please. I would like to complete the formalities immediately.”
The doctor made some calls.
Within 20 minutes a team arrived and they carried her away.
Two blind children had their eyes restored. A firefighter with 70 per cent burns survived because he received her skin. A woman with damaged kidneys survived after doctors had given up all hope. An engineer, an accident victim with damaged intestines, lived. A middle aged executive lived because he got a heart transplant – her heart. A girl with severely damaged lungs got life. And a youth got his pancreas just when his family had lost hope.
7 people lived, because they received organs and tissues from her, after her death.
“No! Don’t.” He told his sister when she was about to garland her photograph.
“She doesn’t need those flowers because she isn’t dead. She lives in all those people she gave life to.”
“And she’s immortal because even they have pledged to donate every usable part of their body after their death, to emulate her example.”
“You are right. She’s become immortal.”
Though she smiled, he could see tears in her eyes.
Maybe that is why you had more faith in me than a scientist!
He could feel her presence.
He would never be alone.
Because she would live forever!