“Will he be able to see again?” The tightening in her throat caused her to pause and look at the man beside her, when he squeezed her hand. But she had no intentions of giving up. “Doctor, you are our only hope with the recent breakthrough with your research at the institute. Please, I beg you to include him in your new trial…”
She sighed, watching the couple sitting in front of her. Desperation was writ large on their faces, yet hope glinted through. The doctor in her ready to voice out the truth, along with the high risk that came with the intrusive, painful procedure. But, somehow she couldn’t, staring at the man in question. Perhaps knowing they had travelled thousands of miles from Delhi, and she was their last chance. Instead she looked at the patient’s file once more, before declaring her decision.
Name: Arnav Singh Raizada
Symptom: Complete vision loss due to diabetic eye disease over the past five years. Patient has been diagnosed with severe type of proliferative retinopathy. Little to no chances to restore vision after multiple attempts of treatments and surgery.
“I can not make any promises. If you recall, it’s something I was upfront about last week during our phone conversation before you flew out to Geneva to meet with me. As you are aware there are complexities with Mr. Raizada’s case that makes it next to impossible to treat…”
“Dr. Gupta, I did not fly out here to listen to that excuse, that’s all I have been hearing for the past six years since his diagnosis. You are one of the top ophthalmologists in your field. Known to work miracles, giving so many patients their eyesight back when they had been told otherwise. And now you are saying you can’t treat him?”
“I think you should relax, and let me…” The doctor leaned forward, placing her hands on her desk. But it seemed the woman had no intentions of letting her continue.
“No, I can’t sit back and agree with you… do you have any idea what that man has gone through all these years?”
“Honey…” Her companion whispered, wrapping his arm around his wife’s shoulder. But before he could say anything further, a sharp voice caught the three occupants attention.
“Di, that’s enough… I am blind, not deaf! You don’t need to beg this doctor when clearly she is not capable. They might claim this is a futuristic eye institute with medical advances, and she is an expert in the field. But now that you have seen for yourself that is not the case, can we close this matter once and for all.”
He stood up abruptly, holding onto the side of the couch. Yes, he had been a spectator, listening to the words flying around him. But he could no longer sit back and listen to his sister and brother in law, practically beg the doctor.
Who the hell needed her advice?
What did she know about him anyway?
It was time he took back control as far his family was concerned. If he had come to terms with his blindness, why couldn’t they.
“Mr. Raizada, Anjali, I wasn’t done speaking, so if I may be allowed to finish…” She shut the file, and took it with her, walking towards the patient. Her eyes fixed on his stiff stance, as she stopped in front of him at the end of the beige plush couch. “Sit down.” Her stern tone had no effect, as the man refused to follow her instructions. He might not have said a word in the past hour, but it amazed her to see the arrogance filling the air. His taut expression was more than enough to see right through him. “Fine have it your way. Just be aware what I am about to layout out for your treatment is going to be quite lengthy.”
“Arnav, please sit down.” Aman helped his brother in law, though they were friends above all, back down to his seat. Anjali joined them, as the doctor also sat down on the adjacent arm chair.
And without any further objection, or interruptions, she gave them options for his treatment. She couldn’t help but observe her soon to be new patient, who couldn’t have cared less. And it made her wonder why had she agreed to take this case with his negative attitude. Her patients were always eager, contributing to the discussion and ultimate results for the cure they sought.
But not him.
If only his earlier words were true. He would take being deaf, along with his blindness at this point.
What difference did it make?
In fact, being blind had not bothered him as much as the initial consultation with the so called eminent doctor and his family.
The lack of vision had become normal. His world now permanently etched in charcoal, the once vibrant hues were no more than a vivid dream. Darkness a part of his life.
Though he had signed up for a trial that would have him put his faith in the hands of someone else. While he was prepared, rather, certain of the outcome, he had agreed to the experiment for his family’s happiness.
Of course, his astute business mind had negotiated the terms to agree to move forward with yet another treatment. Top one being that no one from his family was allowed to stay with him in Switzerland, while he underwent a six month trial at the eye institute.
This in a way was the escape he needed from the pitiful life he had been living the past few years. His once independent life, living on his terms, was long gone. Being smothered by his family was what constituted his life 24/7. Not to mention being treated like a handicapped person, who would easily shatter like precious glass.
He could no longer bear it, losing his mind and himself with each passing day.
With the advancements of technology, he continued to run his empire alongside with Aman. But he missed the adventurous life he had led. One that had him backpacking around the world during his time off, trying anything and everything.
This city for example he had visited on several occasions to hit the slopes, being an expert skier. And now, he was stuck in the confines of a private room at the institute.
He was no longer the business magnate, Arnav Singh Raizada, the world knew in the aerospace arena, specializing in space aviation. And the reality was, he never would be again. Being a blind man superseded anything else.
What use was he, if he couldn’t even make visual recommendations or edits for a product his company produced?
No matter what this obnoxious doctor continued to lecture him about for the past month during his excruciating treatment.
Though a part of him enjoyed pushing her buttons…
“You’ve got to be kidding me! What is your problem, Mr. Raizada? Once again, you didn’t cooperate with my assistant for your dilation.” The doctor gasped out in disbelief, and hearing the sound of persistent tapping on a screen of her tablet, he was aware she was reviewing his chart. Probably cursing him out, making her notes. But he stayed mum, facing the window with a view of the Alps, so he was told. But what use was it for him. In fact it was cruel punishment to give a blind guy a room with a stunning view.
“If you continue in this manner, forget six months this will be at least a year long process…”
“Works for me, Dr. Gupta. As you can see from my condition, it’s not like I have anywhere to go. This place is growing on me.”
“Have you ever thought, the sooner we get through this, the sooner you may be able to see again. Then perhaps you can go wherever your heart desires.” Her tone turned softer, as he heard the sound of her footsteps approaching him. But it was laced with a hint of sympathy, just like the rest of world. One he had no patience for.
“My family is not around, so you can cut this heroine act… if other doctors around the world have failed to cure my blindness, what makes you think you can?!” He shut his eyes, shifting to sit up straight on the chaise, hearing the chair scrape against the marble floors. Even the slight, gentle breeze caressing his skin when she sat down, caused him to further tighten his clamped eyelids.
“Looks like someone woke on the wrong side the of the bed this morning. Cranky?” She asked, sounding amused, rather than annoyed at him. Which was unlike her, since she generally would argue until one of them gave in.
“The bed and food in this place suck! Feels like I am in the fucking hospital…”
“That’s because it is… a fucking hospital! Did you think you were checking into the Four Seasons, equipped with a Michelin star restaurant, Mr. Raizada?”
This woman was always armed with a comeback. And this time he couldn’t help the chuckle that escaped his mouth.
“Now I am confident that something is wrong with the universe today. Arrey wah, Mr. Crankypants is smiling for the first time! This calls for a celebration, what are you craving to eat, name it and I shall have it delivered.”
“If I were you, I wouldn’t make promises that you can’t deliver on. What I want might not be easily available…” He extended out his hand to the side, taking his walking stick, then stood up.
“And if I bring it, then what?”
“Don’t you want to know what it is first before taking on the challenge to feed me, Doc?” He smiled, mentally counting his steps to stop in front of the window. The warmth from the sun welcomed him, as he pressed his free hand on the cool glass.
He noticed she had not uttered a word, but any blind man would have felt her intent gaze on him.
To say she had been left speechless at his request, was an understatement. But then words often failed to make an appearance when it came to dealing with him. This man was a conundrum, complex as hell to figure out.
And two months later, her mind was still a surging perplexity when it came to the owner of the stormy orbs. Like the clouds, they swirled with determination and vigor when it came to his profession. But, despite the glimmer she often witnessed under the reflection of light during his treatment, they appeared blank and cold when he sat alone in the shadows of the night.
Darkness. The world beyond the depths of those exquisite grey eyes. No amount of light from the sun would brighten his life. Not until he allowed it. Wanted it. He was a man internally defeated at the possibility of seeing life again. It was obvious from the moment she had met him the first time. And the past couple months, she was able to do very little to change his mindset.
Devi Maiya knew she had tried. Even as far as befriending him to ease their relationship from doctor and patient. She had been proud of her little victories. Her favorite, bringing him aloo puri a day after his request. In fact she had personally made it to win the challenge. Not once, but a few more times to keep his spirits up. Along with getting him to cooperate when she needed.
Today she walked towards his room on a mission to change his mindset. By the end of the day, he would voice out loud that he wanted to be cured. To see again.
If that didn’t happen, then she wasn’t Khushi Kumari Gupta.
“I don’t give a flying fuck that the board wants me to step down, I refuse. Raizada Corp is the only thing keeping me alive, do you hear me, Aman. You take this away, then be ready to put a Goddamn bullet through my head.”
“Arnav, calm down. We will figure something out…”
“No, I will bloody not calm down! What did I tell you before coming to Geneva? That this is exactly what would happen… but no one listened to me. All of Shantivan was adamant about pawning me off to the miracle healer. Now tell me what fucking good has that done?!”
“You are not going to get better overnight… and from what I hear, you don’t seem to be cooperating. Whose fault is that?”
“Fuck off! Do me a favor and sell my shares to the highest greedy bastard. I am done with all of you!”
In what felt like slow motion she had arrived to the commanding tone of both men echoing out to the hall. While one was here, the other could be heard clearly via speakerphone. She had stood frozen at the entryway, witnessing the anger rising with every word spewed loudly. And now she could declare it had officially bubbled over, with his phone flying across the room.
She took a deep breath, one that unknowingly had been paused, seeing it securely land on the bed. Thankfully it had escaped the end landing on the floor.
The question drumming inside her mind… would she come out alive walking into the inferno?
“You can come in now, Doc. Hope you enjoyed the show…”
“Um… I…” She stuttered like a fool, walking towards him, as he turned from facing the window to her.
If she hadn’t known he was unable to see, she would have thought his penetrating gaze had been watching her every move. Infact she felt a shiver down her spine, as the grey ash remnants from the roaring fire lightened his eyes.
She needed to get a hold of herself, not allowing him to intimidate her. After all she was in charge, the doctor. Proud of her clear, concise tone, she stated.
“I was coming to check in on you. But didn’t want to interrupt, so I stayed back…”
Was he laughing at her?
“Now that’s funny! Actually Doc, you are quite amusing at times… let’s forget that you eavesdropped on a private conversation.” Her mouth widened, as he simply shrugged, walking to his bed with the aid of his stick. “Tell me what are you doing here on your day off? To see me at the crack of dawn, no less. Your least favorite patient…”
“Figured since Mr. Crankypants has been getting stuffy and stale in here, I would take him out today.”
“On a date?” He cocked his eyebrow questioningly, then winked at her.
“In your dreams! No, it’s not a date, since that would be unethical. Think of it as a friend taking another friend. I will send Robert in here to assist you with getting dressed.” She paused for a long moment, taking in his appearance. His daily casual look, today in a grey MIT sweatshirt and black sweatpants. But it was his rugged look, with the unruly locks and the beard that caught her attention. She smiled, crossing her arms across her chest, ready to wipe the smug smile off of his. “Anyway, you’re not my type.”
“And you’re not mine either.”
She heard his retort, just as she proceeded to walk away. She shook her head, watching him get comfortable on the bed.
“Now that our feelings are mutual, shall we go? Or do you plan on going back to sleep, old man?”
“Lead the way…”
Not only had she led the way during the hour and ten minute car drive to their destination. But now, walking towards the ever so familiar resort, she gave him a glimpse of what his life used to be.
It all came flashing back. He might not be able to see, but the air was more pure than he ever remembered breathing. The numbing gust hitting his face, caused him to blink. And for a moment, the darkness gave way to the soft, dusty illusions of light, staring out at the unseeable horizon.
How he had loved snow when it was falling, and what he would do to…
No. There was no hope, he knew that. The first few years he had fought with everything he had to be able to see again. But now that was no longer the case. He had come to terms with it, and couldn’t allow those feelings to creep up again. It was better this way.
He would allow himself to dream of the memories he had made here right before he had lost his vision. Forever.
“How did you know?” He whispered, as she placed her hand on his upper arm, leading him towards the resort.
“Know what Mr.Raizada?” He smiled, then stopped in his tracks.
“If we are here as friends, then please call me, Arnav. Mr. Raizada is what people called my grandfather. And despite what you might think, I am not an old man. Far from it, don’t you think?” He tilted his head slightly, waiting for a moment. A long moment to be precise, before she spoke.
“Much better, shall we head inside? My ass is getting cold.” He extended his arm out, which she wrapped hers in, then proceeded to take slow steps forward. “Well, are you going to give me an answer to my question, Doc… not sure about you, but I have plenty of time in the world.”
“Persistent as ever. If you must know, your dear friend Aman told me how much you loved skiing in the French valleys of Chamonix Mont-Blanc. He also told me…”
“This is the place I realized that there was something wrong… and ignored it for a week, until I went back home.”
“It wouldn’t have changed the outcome, Arnav. Don’t allow that guilt to eat you up…”
He sucked in his breath, feeling the palm of her hand on top of his heart. And sure enough it decided to pick up its pace. Just as it had been doing recently with her touch.
Deciding to ignore it, he asked her a question, after she told him how many steps were in front of him to climb.
“Since I can’t ski or see, what are we doing here?”
“Oh, we are here to ski, the both of us. Depending on your skills, I might even race you. Unless you’re afraid of losing to a girl…”
His sly smirk served as the answer she needed to continue forward with her plan. Though she was scared as hell at how this would turn out. But then there was no other option.
The next hour, with help from the resort staff, they got into their skiing gear and took a cable car to a private area to accommodate Arnav. She took in the majestic 360° view from the summit of Mont-Blanc. But a part of her felt empty for the man standing quietly beside her. This was one of his passions, yet he couldn’t partake of the spectacular view that many came here for.
But she would help change that. It was one of the reasons why she had gotten into this field, passionate to make a difference in someone’s life. To help many like him.
“Is the forest still lush as it used to be? When I first started skiing I had visited La Verte des Houches. An unfinished painting almost, if you ask me. The white blanket thrown across the canvas mixed with a slight hint of green from the evergreen trees, the mountain peaks standing tall up ahead. A race trying to reach them, yet one never can… it isn’t that easy. Nothing in life is.”
She looked up at him as his voice trailed off suddenly. Her breath stopped as his words captured the view with sheer perfection.
“Don’t you want to see all of this, Arnav?” The question came flying out before she could stop herself.
A lone tear found its way down his cheek, which he quickly brushed away. But she had seen it, before the instructor approached them to assist him with his skis.
Arnav intently listened to the young gentleman, as he described the path they would be parallel skiing. She had ensured safety precautions were in place with two skiers on each side of him, and one ahead of them. Even a bluetooth to call out the specific snow bumps on the trail down the slopes.
There was a determination in his eyes, a longing to be set free. And watching him navigate through the snow ploughs, one would never say he was blind.
As they began heading down the slopes, he felt more alive than he had ever thought was possible again. The world, the worries of his life had been muted out taking in the moment for what it was, picking up their pace. No tensions about the past, no anxiety about the future. The adrenaline inside him was fuelled skiing down the slopes with the rush of wind against his face. He leapt towards the light of the sun permeating the winter sky.
He was in control after years, and feeling the sense of motion running through his body. It was like no other, as he and his skies glided through the snow.
But as they began to wind down the slope, his heart constricted tightly down to the pit of his stomach. He couldn’t breathe, dropping down to his knees when they stopped.
He couldn’t continue living like this. Not after getting a morsel of what life had to offer. How he desperately wanted to experience the visual landscape as well. One that was breathtaking, skiing the mountainous terrain navigating through the snow, weaving and passing the other skiers.
All of a sudden he felt alone in his world of darkness. A trapped world that suffocated him, more times than he had admitted to anyone.
Unable to take it anymore, he screamed with his whole body. His mouth rigid and open widely, his pale face gaunt and immobile, continuing to unleash his agony, the anguish echoing around him.
She placed her hand on his shoulder, as he looked at her, her breath catching at the tortured hell in his unseeing eyes. Her fists clenched with blanched knuckles, as her nails dug deeply into the palms of her hand, feeling helpless to not cure him instantly.
“Doc, I want to see again… this isn’t the life I want to live anymore, please help me. Please, do something…”
“If you want to see again, you will… I promise you, Arnav. Promise.”
The next four months were a test of patience. For him. For her. With ups and downs when it came to his invasive treatments and the several rounds of surgeries.
It all depended on the day. Somedays it was her, frustrated when there were no improvement to his vision with a combo Anti-VEGF injections, laser treatments and steroids. Somedays, him, irritable due to the excessive pain. Or at times, the both of them. Though they coveted the same results. For his eyesight to return.
During that time their friendship grew significantly. There was a comfort level between them that allowed him to lean on her. He trusted her, giving her free rein to take the course needed for his treatment.
Though it was apparent, their feelings for each other went beyond friendship. Yet neither acted upon it.
She often wondered if she was his type. Even though the running joke stated otherwise. And who was she kidding, he was most definitely her type. Especially after she had forced him to trim his hair and beard.
She often felt their minds aligned together, finishing each other’s thoughts. Even the beat of his heart was in sync with hers. She had felt it when she examined him in silence. And somehow he knew it as well, keeping it to himself. Only the corner of his lip curving to the side, giving it away.
Even when she made her rounds in the morning, stopping at the entryway to his room, he would greet her before she could. He pinned it on her scent, when she had curiously asked. At one point he had admitted to feeling a slight breeze when she was nearby, giving her an opportunity to tease him. She had said it was cheeky, and cliched in terms of picking up women, accusing him of flirting. But it wasn’t, not in the least. There was this soulful connection that had developed between them in the past six months.
His words came out easily when she would probe. But with him, hers failed time and time again. Her feelings felt indescribable. It was only the sound of her heart that gave voice to them. She often hoped he would hear it too. Soon. Very soon.
“Doc, I realize you find me irresistible, and can stare at me all day. But, can I return the favor?” He voiced out anxiously, causing a small smile to play across her lips. “Come on already and unwrap this gauze from my eyes… I get to finally see you today!” The excitement in his tone contagious, as she smiled widely, taking a seat at the edge of his bed.
Though a part of her was on tenterhooks waiting for the results from his latest surgery twenty-four hours ago. Especially, since the last three times it had not gone according to plan. While the darkness had vanished this past month with a blurred grey light taking its place. But it wasn’t what she had hoped.
“I hope the miracle healer isn’t doubting herself. I can bet my company, your hands have worked magic this time.” He sanguinely stated, raising his hand out, seeking hers.
As she placed her hand in his, she couldn’t help but laugh at the situation. With her being his doctor she should have been comforting him, and here it had been the opposite.
“Remember, the sooner I get cured, the sooner you can kick me out of here. That was the deal.”
She looked down at their hands, as the reality of the situation hit her. A sense of loneliness swept through, greater than anything she had ever known before. Even when she had left her home, her family in Delhi a few years back to relocate to Geneva, she had not felt this way.
Was that why she was hesitant?
“Yes, a deal is a deal, Mr. Raizada. You will finally be free from my shackles. The evil ugly witch won’t be able to torture you any longer.” She let go of his hand, then stood up from the bed. But he clasped her wrist, shaking his head.
“I wouldn’t go as far as ugly, Dr. Gupta. Something tells me that is not the case.”
“Ah, don’t get ahead of yourself. For all you know, I might have blotchy rough skin from pimples covering my face. Or be overweight from my unhealthy eating habits, as you have pointed out on several occasions. And yuck, my hair is quite odd, shaggy and oily. Oh, how can I forget, my teeth! Just like Bugs Bunny, the top two ones…”
“Can we get to the task at hand? Then I can see for myself… and, Doc, I will take you the way you are. Choti, moti, ugly… all fine with me.”
There was no mistaking the soft gasp that escaped her at his declaration. But at this point, he could no longer hold back.
However, she quickly recovered, as she always had by ignoring what he had said.
Her doctor tone making it’s way through, calling out for the nurse and her assistant to join them.
A part of him had been looking forward to it being only the two of them. However, that wasn’t possible, since she needed their assistance. And as he had learned in her presence over the past few months, patience was the key. Once this was over, he would follow his heart, when it came to her.
And like a perfect patient, he sat there quietly while her skilled hands went to task. He smiled inwardly, hearing her refusing the nurse who came forth to assist her to remove the gauze wrapped around his head. He knew she needed to do this for herself. And he had preferred it that way.
The moment they both had been waiting for was about to be unveiled.
“Are you ready, Mr. Raizada?” She asked, handing the last remnants of the gauze strips to the nurse. Then reclined the bed back, and propped his head in a proper position that would allow for her to get a better view of his eyes.
“I have never been more ready for anything in my life, as I am now. Can I open my eyes, Doc?” His eyelids instinctively began to twitch, awaiting her permission.
“Yes, you can… but very slowly. It will take some time for your eyes to adjust to assess if the surgery was indeed successful. The room is also dark, so the bright light shouldn’t be a problem.”
Before she could finish, he followed her instructions, fluttering his eyelids open. Once again it was all a blur, like the previous times. The sharp pain consuming him, as it had often. But he knew just how to mute it. He raised his hands to his eyeballs and pushed firmly to apply the much needed pressure to subside the throbbing ache.
“Arnav, do not press down hard… loosen your hands for me, please.” She placed her hand over his, trying to remove them. But it was of no use, as he buried his head further into the pillow. “What’s happening? What do you see?” She enquired, after asking the other two to leave the room. After the few rounds of surgeries, she was aware how much he hated others to witness his torment.
She sat at the edge of the bed, moving up closer to him, when he finally removed his hands from his eyes.
He whispered breaking the silence after twenty minutes. The time it took for the haziness to disappear around his peripheral vision.
“You can see, Arnav? Please tell me…” She choked on her words as he continuously nodded, a bright smile illuminating his entire face, with her own mirroring his at his revelation.
While there was still a slight hint of blurriness coming and going, but it hadn’t stopped him from finally getting a look at her. The sweven of the Khushi that he had dreamt of, was now in front of his eyes. For him to see.
“I had been numb inside for so long. Giving up, as days, months, years passed by, stuck in the world of darkness. Never had I thought the day would come that I would be able to see again. But you took my hand, asking me to trust you, which I did. Albeit slowly with a push down the slopes. I could feel again, breathe again. And you made that possible, giving me a part of my life back. Thank you.” She bit down on her quivering lip, unable to find her words. “Now that I have my eyesight back, there is something I have to do. Doc, you’re fired.”
Taken back, she furrowed her eyebrows as the tears that were ready to fall halted. But he simply shrugged, continuing.
“You had mentioned it’s unethical for you to have a relationship with your patient. Now that you have cured me, thought I would make this easy for you.” He smiled, seeing her shake her head in disbelief. But her smile nearly undid him, causing his heart to skip a beat. “The amount of times I have dreamt of this moment. You and me. Do you know the past couple of months, the only thing I have truly longed to see was you.”
“Arnav, Devi Maiya is my witness, how hard it has been to not express how I have felt about you. I wasn’t sure how you…”
“How I felt? Well, my Happiness, what would you say if I told you…” He paused, bringing her face closer to his, and whispered. “I love you, Khushi Kumari Gupta.”
Her eyes, a brilliant hazel, swirled with a smooth green and amber as he gazed at her. But it was her words that captivated his heart. Now and forever.
“I love you too, Arnav Singh Raizada.”
It felt great easing into writing the past couple of days, reminding me how much I truly love this escape. Writing is me time, and I savor every minute of it! More so with a story about hope, reminding us to stay strong and not give up. Hits home, doesn’t it?
This plot refused to leave me alone the past week in the midst of holiday mayhem. So I figured why not pen it down as a gift for my amazing readers that continue to support me on through my writing journey.
Hope you all had a wonderful Holiday, and enjoy this small token from me ❤️
Look out on January 1st for news about moving forward in 2017 with my stories.
Till then, loads of love,
PS… can you please let me know if you received an email notification for this post? Thanks in advance!