In 2013 one of my postgraduate students, Arshi, was diagnosed with breast cancer. Constant visits to the hospital, regular chemo sessions, medications, and visits to Tata Memorial in Mumbai. We gathered for poetry readings and meetings for prayers. We celebrated her birthday on 2nd December, 2013 with a new hairdo and an artificial breast that had been arranged by a friend from Mumbai.
Ah, how I wished some miracle would happen and relieve her of her pain.
But her condition grew worse, and she asked me to pray that she might be relieved from the pain and agony of her body. And that her aging parents might be relieved of the pain of watching their daughter suffer.
It was all getting unbearable. The girl with pink cheeks and bubbly laughter had become a mere shadow of her previous self.
After a prolonged battle with cancer, she passed away on the night of 1st December and was cremated on 2nd December, 2014. It happened to be her twenty-fifth birthday.
As I write this, I find myself swarmed with tears and memories of a lovely girl who gave me a wonderful lesson in life: that being human is above all religions, caste and class barriers. She was a Muslim, and I am a Hindu. She was much younger than me, and yet as we bonded our roles were reversed, and she became my teacher.