Chicken Soup for the Soul (Unpublished)

Purple Haze

Sanjay was in his early 30s. Pursuing his dreams of being an artist. His dedication to bodybuilding met equal passion. His passion often created envy. And within the family, pride. Parents pushed him. He pushed himself. His destiny lay in his own brushes. With every stroke, he was inching closer to his dream. Secretly, he was as driven towards bodybuilding. His idol strangely was Ali. But boxing never fascinated him. It was just the man.

Behind closed doors, a man was creating masterpieces. Portraits. Abstract pieces. Mood pieces. Moving pieces. His art was not waiting for the world; rather it was the other way round. Behind a mirror, the same man was working for an approval – from himself. A body he would proudly deem fit. He knew his family would never approve of his body building. Fortunately, he had one supporter, his sister – Riya.

Riya was in her bright 20s. Standing tall at 5 8” and much taller if we take her intellect in consideration. Literature was her passion. She topping the class was not a shock to anyone. But her brilliance never created envy. She flocked many admirers. Some came for her beauty; others came for the brains too. Even a Smart Alec was often dumbfounded. But she had a golden heart. One that would heal sorrow. And spread happiness. Her company was infectious, her smile just a part of that personality. She never needed a mirror, because for the world, she was one.

She loved Sanjay to bits. His works and quirks made him. And Riya would do it all to see him excel. When the world had turned its back to his bodybuilding, she stood there like a wall, beside the ring, fighting his battle. She lied. She cheated. She missed classes. Whenever he needed her, she was there. No questions asked, no complaints made. He was working extra hours. More on his body than his paintings. He often feigned an art class to work out harder. Maybe it was just the male ego ruling his body. Maybe it was more. He never gave it a second thought. Very soon, he was getting the finest body in the gymnasium.

Riya’s talent needed more space. She was about to fly to New York to pursue her Masters. Sanjay was about to set up his first exhibition, where he was going to display all his work. Their parents were one of the proudest few around. Both their kids were making a name for themselves. Life could not have been more perfect.

It was the day of the exhibition. A day before Riya left for New York. But today, all eyes were on Sanjay. The exhibition was scheduled for the late evening. Sanjay was supposed to go and set it up in the morning itself. This was his chance. His opportunity to announce to the world. He left for the venue, but a sudden urge to workout gripped his mind. By now, the body was ruling over the mind. Within that numb confirmation, he diverted his car to the gymnasium.

That was 14th of February, 1989. His brilliance had got more than its share of envied eyes. Jesus was caught.

3 steel rods. One backbone. 3 unequal pieces. One knife. Those great hands – gone.

One oil can. One matchstick. All of his paintings. Ash.

His family disowned him for taking up bodybuilding. Riya cancelled her trip. Cancelled her marriage.22 years later, Sanjay lives with Riya. He can no longer paint. He takes home lectures on art though.

Riya – she wakes up, cleans and bathes Sanjay. Goes to the city university, teaches English to primary students. She returns and cooks. Then feeds him. Watches Sanjay take the class. Cooks dinner. Feeds him again. Puts him to sleep. Everyday.

And cries. Every night.

 

Thousand lives of Lazarus and the modern day Messiah

When one loses someone close, one breaks down and loses faith in life. You can either hide under grief or change life around. This is the story of Deepak Deshpande. True to his name, he brought light to many lives.

After years of hard work, small jobs and in-between jobs, Deepak landed himself in the servitude of people in one of the biggest hospitals of the city. For over two decades, as the General Manager, he strived to make hospitalization more human. Accessible to all. And in extension, affordable to all. High charging doctors dropped their prices in special cases, he set-up medical camps in villages to educate people, and within those four walls of the hospital, a big bang theory was born.

But in the summer of 1999, everything changed.

His son, Dinesh, was 17. On the verge of a bright future, he was all set to conquer the world. Being a skilled artist and extremely intelligent, his aptitude was ready to take him places. He too, like his dad had a tendency to help people. Always giving in nature, he sacrificed his personal joy many a time to make others smile. He would often accompany his dad in the hospitals, giving candy to the patients. One day, he was going for a picnic with his friends.

The Ghats at Malshej were steep and narrow. The car tyres skid along the oils. The valley acted like a death labyrinth, sucking all life. The car disappeared into oblivion, only to burst into flames later. And then stunned silence took over for months.

The family was broken between unanswered questions and his absence. It took everyone by surprise. A shock that left one of the heartiest families in sadness. Life dragged along, years passed by, but the family continued to live in denial. Deepak and his son shared a very close relationship. Deepak used to share stories of people. Often sad after a long day at work, Dinesh’s smile would change his day. He had been saving for his son’s future. To give him the good life, watch him bloom into a successful career. The loving father had dreams for his son. Even the son had dreams for his dad. “He was planning a huge family gathering for my 50th birthday”, said the poignant father. And within a matter of seconds, it was all over.

Tears had refused to trickle down. Sleep wasn’t ready to visit him. Smiles, they had taken a rather dry form. But within those simmering pangs of sadness, Deepak Deshpande grew stronger. And to the contrary, warmer. He had to fight with himself, a job to do, a family to support and save lives. As many as he could. Being a senior figure at the hospital and the family, he could not break down. People looked up to him. He was their role model. Their leader. And in every sense of the word, a Messiah.

The man braced the occasion. While times were tough, he kept going. And he did it with a smile. His welcoming and humble nature won over many hearts. He dealt with people in power with the same humility as he would deal with a common man. And through his outlook, he was bridging the rich-poor divide. His drive to reach out to the needy was getting stronger by the day. The first seeds of his dream were sown, when he opened small hospital and medical research centre just outside the city. On the outskirts of Mumbai, where advanced hospitalization was neither accessible nor affordable, Mr. Deshpande paved a way for a better future. A small set-up but a first step towards what he set out to do. Now, he is busy working on Dinesh Super Speciality Hospital – A facility with international standards, where even a common man will feel at home.

When spoken to, Deepak Deshpande summed up his dream in this one line, “My son lost one life. But now he will give many, countless lifelines.”

When one loses someone close, one breaks down and loses faith in life. You can hide under grief or like Mr. Deshpande, change life around.

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