Dr Suresh Venkita, our Group Medical Director, a senior cardiologist and an avid writer, has yet again shared this lovely story from his desk.
Rhea meets Rama
'Are you sure, Rhea?' asks my mother.
'Of course I'm. Survival of the fittest, mother. I'm not going against Darwin. Also, I don't want unnecessary scars on my body.'
It's a known fact that we are all born to die. And frankly, I don't understand why it has to be made into such a big deal. If it were not for my mother, I would have said that to the bunch of people outside my house, some of them with young kids, shouting slogans, waving placards, literally wanting me to cut one of my beating hearts out. "Save A Life. Donate!" they shout.
For someone who is one in billions, 7.125 billion to be exact, I expect to be treated better. Scientists are still befuddled regarding my condition that gave me two hearts in my mother's womb. But years of research and sticking needles into me have led them nowhere, and they have labelled me as a freak mutation. It's so rare - literally one in all humankind - that they didn't even name the anomaly (as they call it, I will call it awesomeness). I wanted to name the condition myself, something on the lines of Rhea's Hearts awesome but the doctors aren't thrilled with the suggestion. Instead they want to cut one of them out and save a life. Huh?
An IQ of 180, increased concentration, exceptional athleticism and a phenomenal metabolism rate - are just the few boring benefits of an increased blood circulation.
Why would I ever give that up?
I was annoyed, actually furious. I had to get out of this place which was driving me nuts. I stomped out, and even before the crowd realized what I was up to, I jumped into my jeep parked in the portico and drove out, wheels flying, and brakes screeching as I took the bend at 80 k.m.p.h. Soon I was in the high way, the pace was to my taste and I had my foot angrily on the accelerator. Somewhere in my brain it did register that the traffic ahead was suddenly slowing but the anger in my head blocked a warning traveling down to my foot. In the flash of a second my solidly aggressive bumper had ploughed into the rear of a gleaming and silvery Honda Accord.
My brain screamed ‘Rhea, now you are in trouble, standby for a shower of abuse and may be even physical assault from the driver of the Honda, and the onlookers who always magically appear at the site of a crash’. The sharp dialogue from the movie Crash popped into my mind ‘In L.A, people do not meet, they crash into each other’. But this was Amchi Mumbai!
The Honda pulled up to the side and so did I. My hand automatically pulled open the glove compartment and felt for my license, registration and insurance documents.
But out of the driving seat of the Honda walked out a most beatific looking man. He was slender, delicate, with a silky smooth complexion and almost floated to my window. In the softest and wispiest of tones he inquired ‘Are you all right, I hope you are not hurt?’
I shook my head and told myself ‘Rhea, this is not what you expected. Who is this unworldly man? Is he from outer space, another galaxy?’
‘I am Rama’ he said. He went on ‘Allow me to take you out for coffee, you need that. If you insist we shall share our insurance and registration information, but I suggest we just relish the coffee instead’.
He was the one whose car had its rear totaled, I was obviously at fault and deserved to be bulldozed for due compensation but here was an offer of both coffee and considerate thoughts!
Not surprisingly a friendship was born that day that blossomed by the hour.
I found reasons to be in touch with him almost all the time- WhatsApp, Twitter and calls. I also spent time with him as often as possible.
I liked him; I was at once excited, amused, puzzled and often perplexed by him.
I tried to analyze these turbulent emotions to understand him better and also to know what attracted me so much to him but I did not get far in that direction.
I would pull him out to do outrageous stunts. ‘Come on Rama, your namesake in Ramayana crossed a sea by a bridge of stones erected by the Vanaras. Let us run up these steps all the way up to that lonely and tiny temple on the hilltop. I want to talk to the deity there about you and me’.
Rama would look up the 350 steep steps, turn to me and say ‘I want to watch you bound up those steps, your hair flying, the bushes and branches of the trees billowing in the breeze either side of you and I want to see the halo of the setting sun behind the temple bathing you in its red hue as you advance up those steps’. No one I know can speak like him. Rich imagery would flow from his tongue in richer hues.
Beside the swimming pool it would be the same story but a different dialogue. I would challenge- ‘Come Rama, dive in and I shall race you to the other end. The first to cross gets the ice cream’. His response invariably would be ‘I shall greet you at the other end with the ice cream. I love to watch you slice through the water like an eel; you look silvery and sinuous, startlingly swift and you emerge enchantingly, putting a mermaid to shame’. Who would not provoke him with similar challenges to be indulged with expressions and exclamations like that? He made me feel good, actually great.
One day I dragged him to my gym. I am a gymaholic, I suspect that word does not even exist in the dictionary. I changed to my track suit, secured my almost unmanageable hair into a pony tail and jumped on to the treadmill. ‘Rama, look at all these gleaming pulleys and weights, treadmills and steppers, punching bags and boxing rings; get into your track suit and do a cardio with me. Let us sweat it out and later celebrate that in the sauna and Jacuzzi’. No luck, my Rama looked horribly out of place in that gym, in his double breasted jacket with brass buttons and gleaming Oxford pattern shoes.
Effortlessly he murmured into my ear ‘I want to watch you on the treadmill, breathless, shiny in streaming sweat, and hear your heart beating in sync with your galloping feet. I would love to see those weights rising with your heave and to see you punching that ball like the girl in Million Dollar Baby. I want to douse you in fragrant oils as you do the sauna and add scented soap-gels to your Jacuzzi’. Hearing those words cascading from his full and surprisingly red lips, I was feeling flattered and faint at the same time.
Since he was never in a sporting mood we would often discuss esoteric and exotic topics.
‘Rama, I don’t seem to like men’, I told him suddenly one day, over coffee.
‘Nor do I’ came the prompt answer.
My eyebrows rose to the heavens. ‘Really? You don’t like your own sort?’
‘What is there to like about them? Mulish, opinionated, can only see life in black and white but can’t see the fifty shades of grey in between; they need something to fight about all the time and someone to push down and climb over. Best thing you can do with them is to play marbles, as most never grow up!’
‘That is harsh. So, what is good about women?’ I asked.
Ram began ‘Indian cinema and TV, and many countries in the world feature female characters as timid and uncomplaining acceptors of great suffering, discomfort, pain, neglect and insult as well as being deprived of education and personal liberty. But the reality is that they do not accept, it is imposed on them. They want exactly the opposite, to be free from all that, and to enjoy life, liberty, health, happiness, wealth and luxury. No woman volunteers to suffer’
Ram went on ´ They are always interesting, forever young at heart whatever be the age, looking out for fun, ready to laugh or cry at moment’s notice and swiftly recover from both, and prepared to change one’s mind in a jiffy, about both events and people. They could be even harsh at times to people who they love but almost never are they violent or destructive like men’
‘Whew, that is quite a thesis! If you have to live with one, who do you prefer?’ asked. But I did not know what made me ask that question, a sixth sense, may be.
‘With a woman of course’ came the quiet answer.
‘Go on’ I gently encouraged Rama. My exceptionally sensitive ESP (extra sensory perception) was by then primed to hear the response.
‘I am a woman in a man’s body’ Ram spoke very softly, and smoothly, without the faintest hesitation ‘a transgender or may be intersex’. I need to become a complete woman, to love a woman’.
It was not just a coin that suddenly dropped, many things about Ram suddenly fell into place. Not all of it though. I decided that I shall come to it later but I had to digest what he/she just said, and come up with something to say.
I wanted to laugh and say light heartedly ‘So, you are not Rama. Shall I call you Roma, or may be, Reema?’
But instead I blurted out ‘Do you love a woman?’
‘Yes, I do’ Rama responded ‘but nothing in my life has ever been simple or straight’
‘Tell me about her’ I gasped, I felt breathless.
Rama turned to look far away ‘Yes, there is this woman, restless, energetic, intelligent, spitfire, pure dynamite, fitness freak and beautiful who tends to crash into people’. He turned, looked me in the eyes, and asked ‘Know someone like that?’
I gulped but recovered. ‘May be’ I said and continued ‘What do you plan to do about it?’
‘As I said, everything is complicated, in my life. Not just my sex. Along with that came other fringe deficits’
‘What is that?’ I asked. After what I had already heard, and was still digesting, I wasn’t expecting anything profound or earth shattering.
He deadpanned ‘My ticker is bad, Rhea, bad since birth, and steadily getting worse; now I have a lazy bag of a heart, cardiomyopathy they call it. Docs say meds won’t help anymore, looks like I will not see another birthday unless I get a new one from the super market’. For the first time since he began reciting his thesis, he smiled. He flicked a tear off my eye that had suddenly appeared from nowhere and laughed ‘Now, wasn’t that a dumb story? Thanks for listening’
Now it all made sense. Everything fell into place- the soft and slender frame, the flawless complexion and the gentle demeanor; also the reluctance at the foot of the steps up the mountain, at the diving board at the pool and beside the treadmill. It all connected. Rhea and Ram’s Heartsawsome indeed!
I took her hands and looked at her long and slender fingers. I looked up at the smooth and sensitive face, bright eyes complemented by dark eyelashes, sensuous red lips now parted, showing pearly white teeth and thought what a beauty to behold.
I whispered to her.
‘Sweetheart, you are not going to believe this, but I do have a heart that I can spare for you’.
Dr. Venkita S Suresh,
Group Medical Director and Dean of Studies,
DNB and other post-graduate training programs.