Thursday, July 5, 2012

The Last Leaf

Bobbie and I have been friends right when were five. He lost his parents, and his granny looked after him. Each day we met in the school, and together we played hide-and-seek, chased cats, gossiped about our classmates, and loved each other’s company. His Granny passed away when we were in college, and he was alone. But the busy college schedule left him no time to brood over the past. He was a happy-go-luck guy, and that was what kept him alive.
We graduated a year ago. I took to painting, as that was my passion. Bobbie was not sure what he wanted to do in his life. He applied for all sorts of jobs that he considered decent, all across the state, but in vain. There was not even a single Organization in the city that he had not tried for. Poor Bobby was depressed, and left with little money.
I was busy looking for opportunities to showcase my talent and earn a penny. My talent was well appreciated, and I could make a living for myself. During this one year I visited many places in the state, as part of my job.
I visited my good old friend only once in 3-4 months, and was worried that he could not stand up for himself.
Finally, it was a couple of days back that I saw him again, and I was taken aback at the condition he landed up in. He was lying on his bed, draped in rags. He looked as if he did not shave for more than a month, and resembled a rag-picker. He had been suffering from a low fever and cough, but he would place faith in a doctor. When I insisted, he visited a doctor in the city, but would not go for a treatment. All he says is ‘These doctors are always like that. I wouldn’t waste the little money that I am left with’. He wouldn’t borrow a penny from me, because that would damage his self respect. His face turned baby pink, and his eyes looked deprived of a proper sleep. ‘I am going to die in a few days’, he blurted, fighting back his tears. Poor Bobbie, what do I do now?
I looked around the house, or rather, the single room that he lived in. It was covered with a layer of dust and cobwebs. His garden was full of dried leaves fallen from the peepul tree. The tree had only a handful of leaves left. Maybe a clean atmosphere might make him feel better, I thought. I picked up the broom lying under the bed, and cleaned the house. Bobbie looked pleased.

Next, I started out to clean the garden as well. The dried leaves scattered on the floor made me feel sick.
‘Hey, dear!’ called out Bobbie in a broken voice. ‘It’s ok, leave the garden. Thank you so much for cleaning my room, I feel slightly better now. But this tree continues to shed leaves every hour and there’s no point cleaning it up. The tree’s condition is similar to mine. It’s deteriorating every day. Once it sheds all the leaves, I too will be gone’, he said, with a bleak smile on his face. I tried to defend, but that didn’t help. So, I hugged him good night, and left for my home.
That night I could hardly sleep. Bobbie’s last words echoed in my brain – “Once it sheds all the leaves, I too will be gone.” The optimist in me woke up… ‘So, that means that if the tree restores to its original state, Bobbie would be back in good health!’ I thought aloud. I remember seeing that the tree was left with only a handful of leaves. Oh my God! What if they fall off by morning? Then I knew what to do.
I sprang up from my bed, picked up my painting kit, and left for Bobbie’s house. I entered his garden stealthily. It was 6 in the morning, and the sky shone with an orange gleam. Bobbie was fast asleep. Maybe the medicine, which I had forced him to administer, worked. I looked at the tree. Good Heavens! Not even a single leaf left! I picked a shiny piece of paper from my painting kit, and painted a leaf on it. I cut out the outline and affixed it to one of the branches. It indeed looked like a real leaf! I couldn’t help but feel proud of myself. Any talent is worth it only when it helps somebody.
The morning birds chirped while leaving their nests for food. Bobbie rolled slightly on his bed while still asleep. I made a quick move out of the house, fearing that he might wake up and spot me.
I visited him every other day after that. I tried my best to keep him happy. Though he never had faith in doctors, I made him take all the medicines that the doctor had prescribed. We talked about our childhood days, our school, and our friends. He looked forward to meeting me every day after I returned from work. He looked better day-by-day. This continued for a couple of months, and he was now able to do all the household chores himself. I felt happy for him.
‘I must now find a job’, he told me one evening, when we were seated at my place, sipping coffee. What a positive change! The guy who felt that he would die in a few days is now ready to work! I was excited. ‘Bobbie, my man, I’m so happy for you. I will do anything to find you a job’, I poured out my heart.
‘I know, dear, I know. You have done so much for me. If only you did not paint a leaf and stuck to the peepul tree, I would have gone…’
There were butterflies in my stomach. ‘How on earth do you know that I painted one?’ I exclaimed.
Bobbie chuckled. ‘I noticed that there was only one leaf that did not fall from the tree. I felt that the day the leaf fell down, I would leave this world, too. One week passed, and then two weeks, and then three, but the leaf would never fall down. Meanwhile, my health improved, and I was able to my daily activities myself. I welcomed this change heartily.
'Yesterday, when I returned home from the market, the so-called leaf fell from the tree into my hands. I was surprised to note that it was just a piece of paper, painted like a leaf. For a few minutes I could not understand why it was stuck to the tree. I then recalled telling you that I had compared my health condition with that of the tree. Remember, I told you that once the last leaf falls from the tree, I too would be gone? So, I realized that you have done this to bring about a positive change in my attitude. And, you know what? IT WORKED! Yes, I no longer compare the condition of my health with that of the tree. But, the last leaf had given me a ray of hope. Every day I felt that I had another day to live.’

He hugged me with tears of joy. ‘You changed my attitude, dude! If I am able to stand up on my feet now, it’s because of the ray of hope you have created. I want to live, I want to work, and I want to do my best’.
I felt pleased with myself for bringing about this change in my fellow mate. I helped him search for a job. Finally, after a week, he was hired as a clerk in a bank close to his home.
As the saying goes ‘Whether you think you can, or think you can’t, you’re right’. Bobbie’s life is a living example of the same.

This story has been published in

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