While I had clearly been informed that under no circumstances would I be allowed to meet the person who received the kidney I had donated, curiosity got the better of me. I got in touch with Haneefa, the ‘agent’ who I had approached back in my village, Koprankudi in Idukki district, Kerala, and requested him to at least give me the name of the patient to whom my kidney would be donated to.
Haneefa, while fully aware of the rules regarding the donor-recipient confidentiality, empathized with my situation and shared the name and address of the recipient. It was time to see what Appan Menon’s problem was and why he needed my kidney.
My story was simple. Achan had left behind a plethora of gambling debts that needed to be cleared and the tharavadu was already mortgaged. Since I was the only survivor of Achan’s drinking habit and had only the house to fall back upon, I had no choice but to sell my kidney for the princely sum of 7 lakh rupees. The money would be just about right to save the house, and I had to rely on hard physical labor at the timber yard working alongside the other paapans and elephants to earn my living. A few well-meaning acquaintances had advised me against exerting myself physically immediately after my surgery, but I had no choice. At this point in time I had decided that I would cross that bridge when I come to it.
After the initial tissue sample test where my samples matched those of Appan’s, I was advised six weeks of complete bed-rest before the surgery while he would be readied for the kidney transplant. And although Haneefa had arranged for a lodge where I could stay for this duration, I simply had to hunt down Appan and find out his story. After all, a part of me, albeit a really small one; my kidney, was going to be part of his future, wasn’t it.
By sweet-talking a couple of the ward boys in the hospital, I managed to get Appan’s address and there I was, two days later, standing outside his flat, ringing the bell. The door was opened by somebody who looked 50-ish, and was visibly on medication, given the sluggish way he moved and talked.
To his queries as to who I was, I told him that I was a cook looking for a job and had heard from the watchman (with whom I had made discreet enquiries before I walked up two floors to the flat) that the owner of this flat needed one. After a few preliminary enquiries, I was ushered into the kitchen and asked to make some sugar-less tea, and serve the same with some Marie biscuits.
Pretty soon Appan warmed up to my company and started sharing some of his old stories with me. He had run away from home in Malappuram district in Kerala when he was 16 yrs old after his childhood love with his maternal cousin Malu was discovered at home. An orphan, he had lost all contact with his extended family and had since migrated to Dubai, courtesy a sympathetic pastor he had come in contact with in Kochi to where he had fled to as a teenager.
He had made more than his fair share of fortune the hard way working first as a server in a hotel and by sheer dint of his hard work, perseverance and ability to build good relationships with almost all those he came in contact with, he had managed to settle down well. However, he could never forget Malu, his love for her which prevented him from ever thinking of another girl again. Even as he was narrating some of these old stories to me, Appan’s eyes teared up and his voice choked. It was clear that he missed Malu, his extended family and his childhood support system that the extended family had provided to him as a young orphan.
One fine day, I decided to take charge of reclaiming some of Appan’s lost memories. Using my network of friends from among the lorry drivers of various transport companies, I managed to get the address of Appan’s tharavadu in Malappuram. Given that the family was a well-known one in the region, this was accomplished without too much difficulty. Without telling Appan anything, I packed his bags and asked him to accompany me to his car, whose chauffeur had already been given the address with instructions to keep the destination a secret.
Six hours later, when we finally turned into the driveway of a palatial bungalow was when Appan finally realized where he was. Although he recognized the general direction in which we were travelling earlier, not in his wildest dreams did he realize where the final destination was. And the look on his face when he was greeted by his elderly strong grandfather when the car stopped was nothing short of sheer, unadulterated joy. Pent up emotions from more than three decades of missing his family and their bonding broke open and he started sobbing like a small child amidst at least a dozen or so uncles and aunts who were still staying together as a joint family.
Pretty soon, Malu made her way through the commotion and managed to see Appan for the first time in three decades. And when Appan learnt that she hadn’t married all this time and continued to love him as much as she did when she was a teenager, he couldn’t control himself and started sobbing all over again. It was only when Malu , his uncle and aunt consoled him, saying that it was only today that their family was ‘whole’ again and that they had finally regained a long lost son that he accepted the reality as it was.
After a week or so of staying in the tharavadu, it was time for Appan to come back to Kochi as the surgery was scheduled four days later. By now I was convinced that my kidney was being donated to somebody who had seen his fair share of sorrow in life, and was somebody who deserved a second chance at happiness. With his homecoming, Appan had finally achieved ‘closure’ to what was a sad, lonely, depressing chapter in his life, and I was sure that this second innings of his life would be lived happily and contented.
The day before the surgery, I left behind a small note cooking up some arbitrary reason for having to go back to my home town and got admitted in the hospital. The surgery itself was quite uneventful and since the doctor informed that it was successful almost immediately after I regained consciousness, I felt happy for Appan. I also told the doctor not to let Appan pay any money whatsoever to Haneefa or anybody else for his new kidney and although the doctor knew the rules which forbade payment or any consideration in return for a kidney, he agreed to strictly go by the rule book in this case, based on my instructions.
I was discharged the next day and managed to peep into the private ward where Appan was recuperating. It warmed my heart to see that a couple of his cousins had come over from Malappuram to assist him with his recuperation and ensuring that I was not noticed by anybody in the ward, I made my way out of the hospital, back to Koprankudi.
So what if the moneylender would take over possession of my tharavadu, I was only losing a house, but helping somebody get back to a home. End of day, it was a good bargain after all.
Tharavadu – Ancestral home handed down over the generations
Achan – Father
Paapan – Mahout or elephant keeper
This post has been written for Project 365: A post a day where the intention is to publish at least one post a day based on the prompts provided. Today’s prompt was “Tell us about the time you performed a random act of kindness, where the recipient of your kindness never found out about your good deed. How did the deed go down?” and I took the liberty of writing down this fictional short story around the same.