I Met Carol This Valentine’s Day

Whoever said Life is dull, should take a slice off mine.

At the very moment I sink comfortably into bliss, down zips a bolt of lightning that rips my soul apart. No sooner than I shake my fists at the Heavens, out pours a ray of blazing sunlight, dazzling enough to warm my bleeding soul.

Having wizened up to the pattern of Life’s Cosmic Joke played on me time and again, I have developed a quirky sense of humour. Much to the confusion of those around me,  l have learnt to laugh when I have to cry and weep when I’m happy. That’s going to be the next emotion anyway, I argue with myself. Although I must admit family and friends feel nervous around me because of my strange behaviour, I simply  love myself for being smart enough to be forewarned and therefore forearmed.

Thus it was on January 23 this year when I decided to take off from work on a relaxing trip to Pune to meet my Mom and sister. The sheer thought of taking a vacation to bond over childhood memories made me sigh with anticipation. That night I packed excitedly and booked a cab to pick me up next morning.

Preparations done, I tucked in comfortably for the night, but not before sending a conspiratorial wink to the Heavens above. “Come on, don’t spoil it for me this time” I grinned.

Sure enough, the answer came in a dream that night. I was climbing up several storeys of an unspecified building and was trembling at the frightening images I saw. My fears peaked when, on the top floor, the lights went out and I discovered I was all alone. Suddenly, I felt a tall and dignified man standing near me. Relieved, I put my head on his chest, embarrassed at what he must think of an unknown woman clutching on to him desperately. But you know what? He put his arm around me so lovingly that I felt instantly comforted and reassured. The message that I got from him at the moment woke me up with a start. I must go to a certain hospital for a check up of a certain part of my body.

Did I ignore the instruction? How could I? Having told my loved ones about my change of plan that day, I rushed off to the hospital in question, to the tune of their pooh poohs about my superstitions.

The days ahead seem frozen in my mind like a stalactite–other-worldly, mysteriously patterned and frozen in time. I finally caught my breath on February 14th when I found myself waking  up after an anaesthesia -induced sleep. A tsunami of emotions washed over me–rage, helplessness, frustration.  How could I of all the people, who neither smoked, nor drank, nor did drugs have got this on a cherished body part?  My lifestyle had been healthy–a bit too healthy.  I had confused even the docs. Any family history? None.  Did you marry late?  19. Did you not give birth to children?  Two. Did you breast feed them? A year each. They scratched their heads and said–Oh. A freak case then.

Ha! I thought, buffeting on every negative emotion the Universe has ever produced! How could I have got Cancer?

That’s when I met her.

She suddenly reared her pretty head inside of me and said, “Hey Neelam! Come hold my hand!”

Instinctively, I sighed with relief as I recognised my spirited friend. Yes, she had always been with me right through Life’s tortuous journey. She had taken me by the hand and showed me how to walk the rough path ahead the day my young husband had died suddenly in 1993. She had taken me by the hand and told me–35 is not too young, Come on! You CAN look after yourself all alone And puhleeeze– Don’t put on those garbs of white to show you are a poor young widow and therefore need sympathy!

 She had given me the courage to bring up my son and daughter single- handedly–right through their braces’ fittings to their teenage tantrums to their Parents’ Day events where I appeared all alone. But I was there for them, unlike many kids who had two parents, but one of them was too busy to attend.

Once again I grabbed her strong hand and said, “Ok. This is yet another challenge, but we shall handle it once again. Together. With a lot of dignity and spunk.”

She was eveeything I was not–golden haired, brimming with laughter, courage and compassion. To me she was soft as the night breeze and strong as the righing of bells when the situation demanded it. During my difficult road to recovery, she would always be there. All I needed to do was tap into her positivity and get the bells ringing. So Life was going to be fun, after all, I smiled. She was my alter ego; only I had not given her a name.

What better name than Joyous Carol? Who said Valentine’s Day is only for lovers? It’s also for someone you love.

Renewed and rejuvenated I said, “I’m never going to say,”Why Me?” Instead, I’ll say, “Try Me!” And she shook her lovely curls and laughed delightfully.

That’s how I met Carol on Valentines’ Day.

P.S.–Friends, it took me a lot of courage to admit to having Cancer and write about it in my Blog. But I know my courage will be rewarded through your love for me.




    The reassurance of God’s presence in one’s life, is such an overwhelming realization, that it can wash clean any scars of battle, any sweat of life’s toil, and any dirt we might have inadvertently gathered on the way. One is swept by emotion, and breaks down into cold tears to realize that he’s not the do-er, and that every action, every expression that he goes through, is under divine watch.

    Although God picked you for this ailment, and as much as I pray that you dont, but if you may suffer through your recovery process, this is one time in your life, which will purge you of unimportant ties, burdening thoughts, and trivial cares. Your truest friends and family are with you like formidable rocks, supporting you whichever way we can. Your life has never been of the commonplace invisible individual, whose birth and death are oblivious to the world. You are HIS special one, for both reward and test.

    You WILL sail through this, and emerge to be a shining precedent for people who burden their life with frivolous concerns.

    You are going to be a legend, and that, I am confident of.


  2. Anupama

    Loved reading it ………..your writing touches so many hearts.

  3. Poonu

    My heart goes out to such a fun-loving,courageous girl!! Dear, it is not YOUR fight against life’s conspiracy–its OUR fight!
    ‘A diamond is just a piece of coal that did well under pressure!’—-just remember this my dear SAPPHIRE!

  4. Shabnam

    Wonderfully written …….moving …..touching and beautifully expressed ! MyGood wishes and love with you ….ALWAYS and FOREVER


    In response to your question:

    When Life throws an unexpected sickle at you, how should one react? Should one go into Denial or Acceptance? Should one become a passive classic patient or a toy of fate?

    Having had my share of sickles, shards, and shrapnels which have been hurled at me from time to time, there was a point in my life, where all I would do, was lament at the helplessness of my situation and the cruelty of fate. Of course, there’s the classic tendency to take refuge in the fleeting comfort of denial, and justifying a reiteration of a set of actions in the pretext of faith, I find that almost like rubbing two wet kindles, with the hope of striking a flame.

    I am a big realist fan. I believe in the blithering whiff of realisation, more than the comforting toxic breath of denial. For me, with any challenge, it is imperative to face the reality, as discomforting as it might be, for i find it akin to stripping off a band-aid; painful that it might be at first, it is important to start the process of damage repair. I assess the level of the challenge or the damage, and try to understand the course of action that might be needed henceforth. It is difficult, quite obviously to overcome the overwhelming desire for surrender, but doing so, would be gross injustice to the opportunity for growth which the universe has put in my way.

    I owe it to myself, to make the most of my days in this life. I refuse to belong to the exodus of people who believe in living their life in servile invisibility. I dont quite buy the idea of us being hapless puppets at the hand of destiny, simply, because we have the 2 most important powers to initiate change: unfailing will, evolved intellect, and unshakeable faith.


  6. Avnita Bir

    As Shivam says, you are going to be a legend. Since I can never match your writing, the tears that rolled down my cheeks as I read all your blogs posts in reverse order, are my ode to the most dearest friend. I salute you Neelam.

  7. I wish I had a Carol to guide me through difficult times! But that apart, it is the brave you who is able to surmount all your problems. Carol is your inner self, strong and a fighter. Life is too precious to be given up so easily. Bravo, may God be with you as always.


  1. I Met Carol This Valentine’s Day | neelamsapphire

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