Fiction Park

A thousand cranes

  • When things tumble out of control, what good is hope?
- Sneha Bhatta
Why did these grownups have to use such difficult words for everything? Was Suyog really going to die?

Sep 3, 2017-One, two, three...seven, eight. Eight paper cranes of different colours lay on the floor, carefully placed side by side. Blue, red, light pink, yellow; it looked as if once given a gentle push, they would take flight and keep soaring, without any stopping. Omi was working on her ninth crane; this one would be blue again. For the past few weeks, this had been a routine for her—making as many paper cranes as she could. This way, her nine-year mind was convinced, she could save her brother’s life.

Her brother, Suyog, was twenty. A typical teenager-turned-adult, he was highly ambitious and had dreams Omi couldn’t even understand. He studied psychology, a word she couldn’t spell. He had told her it was related to the study of the mind.

“Dai, if the P in psychology is silent, can I too add a P in front of my name?” she had once asked him. Suyog had broken into a hysteric laugh. Ever since, he had called her Pomi. 

Last winter, Suyog fell ill with Jaundice. It had started off as a light fever and some itchiness, which he had initially brushed off lightly. But then it got worse. It had been four months now, and Suyog has shown no signs of recuperating.

Omi felt lonely without him. Both her parents had jobs, so she used to spend most of her time at home with her brother. He would sometimes bring her chocolates or DVDs of her favourite cartoons. At times when mother and father were late, he’d cook noodles for her. It was always noodles he made. Probably that was the only thing he knew how to, but she loved his cooking. True, he could be really annoying at times. Taking advantage of Omi’s gullible nature and childlike innocence, he’d play plenty of pranks on her; sometimes even scare her with stories of ghosts and ghouls. But all in all, she had dreaded the prospect of being without him.

“Mamu, is Suyog going to die?” she had once asked.

“No chori, he’s going to be fine.”

“Will he be able to play badminton with me once he comes home?”

“Of course, dear. And we’ll make him his favourite mo:mos. Will you help me?” her mother had said, wiping Omi’s tears.

“Of course...Umm, Mamu?”

“Yes, dear.”

“I don’t want him to die.”

Then there was silence.

As much relieved she wanted to believe her mother’s words, Omi couldn’t put herself at peace. Not long after, she’d heard her mother and the doctor talk in hushed tones. 

The doctor had said something about hepatic hyper-something. Not that she understood, but judging by her mother’s expression, she could tell it was something horrible. 

Why did these grownups have to use such difficult words for everything?

Was Suyog really going to die?

One day, during school, her best friend had told her about the myth of a thousand cranes. If you were to make a thousand paper cranes, your wish would come true. Upon hearing this, she had wanted to try it out. There was nothing in this world she wanted more than her brother’s recovery, maybe she could save him.

So, she set about her big mission; a mission that could take or save a life. 

She had started saving her pocket money for origami papers and learnt how to make them from her best friend. It wasn’t easy at first; the cranes she made were clumsy and had crinkled edges. She’d throw away almost half the cranes she made. But with the passing days and a lot of practice, the amount of clumsy cranes started decreasing; about 10 at first, then 8, then 5, 2, 1, 2, 1, 1, until every crane she made was perfect. 

By now, she had made 257 cranes, still a long way to go and fear had begun to take over. There wasn’t much time. At this rate, she couldn’t make more than 500 cranes. Now she wished she had let her best friend help her.

With each passing day, she was growing more and more anxious. Her cranes now amounted up to 482 in total. She had been almost sure her brother wouldn’t live. It had been days since had visited him in the hospital, she couldn’t gather the courage to see his face.

“Don’t you worry Pomi, I’m not done with troubling you yet. Just let me get out of this hospital, then, I’ll take you to the fun park. We’ll have lots of fun there, and I’ll even buy you an ice cream. Now, there, there, don’t cry idiot, I’ll be fine in no time, I promise.”

She could make 15 cranes in a day now, but that was still not enough. She had started making them during class as well. 

Then one day, both her parents left for the hospital early in the morning. It appeared to be an emergency. Now, Omi was sure Suyog was going to die. If only she had been able to make a thousand paper cranes, if only she hadn’t been clumsy in the beginning. It was all her fault that he would die.

She didn’t feel like making cranes today; she only felt like crying out loud.

When her parents came home from hospital, they were horrified. Mother went to hug her and console her that everything was going to be okay. But Omi would hear none of it; she only kept murmuring something between her sobs, barely audible. 

‘I tried, Mamu.......not enough cranes....promised me........’

‘Chori, what happened? Calm down and tell me.’

‘I wanted to make a thousand cranes so that Suyog would be well again. But I made only these many, and these aren’t enough. It’s all my fault, Mamu. Now I don’t have to make them anymore, he’s not coming, is he?’

Taking a moment to marvel at her daughter’s innocence, her mother hugged her and finally said, “These cranes are beautiful dear, your brother will love them. One thing you’re right about, you won’t have to make them anymore. The doctor called us in the early morning and told us that we could bring him home in a few days.”

Published: 03-09-2017 09:22

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