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The Last Leaf

November 19, 2009

Inspired by a story I had read when I was a kid – A story that had an everlasting impression on me:


“Neelam beta, go open the door, See I think Girishu has come”. I was standing at the door and could hear my Grandma call.

By the way, I am Girish and not Girishu! My Grandma calls me Girishu by love. The letter ‘u’ makes my name more personalized for her. So here I was, back in Bhagalpur to visit my Grandparents. Bhagalpur is a quiet little village a little further uphill from Shimla, the famous hill station. After spending a four month long semester in IIT campus in Chennai, I loved spending the winters in Bhagalpur. And this time it was six months. I had to complete a pending course. It was a different feeling altogether, running in the fields, going up and down little hills, playing with snow and eating all the tasty food Grandma cooked. One month before my visit my Grandma would start preparing variety of sweets and other pakwaans. But not today, today I was not looking for anything. My grandma was not feeling well. It had been almost a month and the fever was not going down. I had rushed to Bhagalpur from Madras after taking my last exam.

A young girl, aged around 14–15 opened the door. “Namaste Girish Bhaiya”, she said and went inside the kitchen. “Namaste”, I dropped my bags and ran towards the room to see my Grandma.
“Maaji, I am here…” I ran and hugged her.
“Girishu beta… I thought I would never see you”, tears started rolling down her eyes.
“Maaji, why do you say such words… You will see me, and not only me, one day you will live to see your grandchildren too Maa”.

I loved my Grandma. Since my parents were out in US, my Grandparents were the only one who looked after me when I was in India.

“Where is Grandpa Maa?”
“He has gone to get my medicines, beta. He has become weak, running around to doctors, medicine stores”

Grandma was not looking good today. She was so weak. I had always seen her running around, working all round the day, in fields, at home. She has been the source of energy for all in the family. Today was probably the first time I was seeing her lay down on bed. She was running high fever since last one month. All tests had been done and doctors were clue less.

After about an hour my Grandpa also came. He was carrying a polybag full of medicines. “Grandpa, Namaste Grandpa.”, I went and touched his feet.
“I can see that Grandma was right. You have indeed become weak running around”, I said with a smile.
“Ha ha me and weak, your Grandma would have told this. Poor lady does not know that even today I can lift her and run around the field.”
“Girishu, tell him to look at himself in the mirror. Ask him if he can even lift a chair”, my Grandparents loved teasing each other.

“Neelam beta is food ready?” my Grandma called again.
“Who is she maa… this Neelam”, I asked.
“Oh! She lived nearby beta. Her mother died of cancer last year. I brought her here after that. Since then she has been living with us. She is an angel, an excellent painter. You see all these paintings hanging on the wall. All are done by her.”
“Haan maaji”, Neelam came inside the room.
“Beta, you met Bhaiya?”
“Ji maaji, I met him at the door”, she was standing there with folded hands.
“Maaji, I have prepared the food. Everyone can come and eat”, she said and went back to kitchen.
“Very nice girl… Since the day I have fallen ill, she has not allowed me to do anything. She cooks the food, takes care of me and also gets groceries from outside. At night she takes out time and studies too.”

“What are you saying Maaji? These paintings are done by her”, I said in awe taking one of the paintings off from the wall.
“Yes beta… All of them”
“They are beautiful maa. They are just too good. Looks like they are waiting to come alive”

(II) – Two weeks later

It has been almost two weeks here. Grandma’s condition was worsening day by day. Doctors remained clueless and the fever was not going down. Neelam spent all her time with Grandma. Grandpa and I used to sleep but she kept sitting beside Grandma, talking to her, pressing her forehead.

One day my Grandma was sleeping. My Grandpa was sad.
“I don’t know when she will get OK?” he had tears in his eyes.
“She keeps looking at that tree outside. It seems with every leaf falling from that tree, her energy is also diminishing. The other day she was telling me that she will only survive till the last leaf remains there.” My Grandpa told and broke down.
“Nothing will happen to her Grandpa, she will get OK” I held him in my hands.
Neelam could not stop the tears and ran back to kitchen.

It was very painful. I sat there for hours worried about her health. I did not want to lose her. No, I did not. That night I went to kitchen. Neelam had fallen asleep while reading. In her sleep she was mumbling something… “Maa you will not die again.. Maa I will not let you”

(III) – A week and a half later

It had been raining since last three days and today the storm had worsened. It was growing cold. Maaji was shivering. We tried to cover her with two blankets and were all sitting beside her. Maa was looking outside at the tree. There were only a few leaves hanging on the branch. My heart trembled. I remembered what Grandpa had told. I could feel what my Grandma was thinking. She had aligned her breaths with the falling of the leaves.

Suddenly she spoke, “See those leaves. Only a few are left now… only a few. I don’t know till when I will survive”. Tears rolled down her eyes.
“Maa please stop this God’s sake. I am drawing the curtain”, I got up and walked towards the window.
“Na beta, please don’t. Please don’t”, she kept looking outside at the window.

That night the storm grew in intensity. It was raining hard and it seemed that the storm would bring the whole tree down in sometime. At night only two or three leaves remained on the branch. My grandma kept looking outside.
“This leaves beta… They will not be there in the morning” she said.

She was running out of breaths. We stayed up and kept sitting with her throughout the night. Grandma had slept. I kept praying that the leaf does not fall. I cursed myself for believing the same. I kept sitting beside her bed.

(IV) – Next day

Next morning, I got up and saw my Grandma sitting near the window. The storm had subsided. One leaf was still there. One leaf was still hanging on that tree.
“It is still there beta… I will live… You were right, I will live and I will see my Grandchildren too” she said with tears in her eyes. She was smiling.
“Yes ofcourse Maa.. You will” I brought her to the bed. She had grown too weak to even walk. I thanked God a hundred times.
It was as if some spiritual energy emerged from somewhere and pushed her to live. We all were overjoyed. Neelam brought in hot soup. All of us sat and ate. After weeks I was seeing Grandma sit and drink soup. A miracle had occurred.

That night we were all sitting and talking.
“Where is Neelam”, my Grandpa asked.
“She must be in her room studying. Girishu, just go and check”, Grandma said.
I went to the room and then to the kitchen. Neelam was lying there shivering. She was all cold and blue. I rushed to the doctor. By the time we were back, she was no more.

My grandparents were crying bitterly. She was like their own child.
“It was pneumonia’s sudden bout which went and hit her brain”, the doctor said.
My grandma had become Ok, but we had lost Neelam on the same day. I could not even console my grandparents. That night none of us slept.

(V) – Two weeks later

Today I had to leave for hostel. It was almost two weeks since we had lost Neelam. Grandma’s condition had improved and her fever was also down. She had cried almost every day since Neelam had passed away. She loved Neelam and Neelam loved her more than anyone.

With a heavy heart, I picked my bags and bid good bye to my grandparents. When I was going out I saw that tree, the tree that had saved my Grandma’s life. The leaf was still hanging there. But wait a minute. I went closer to the tree. It was not a leaf. A leaf was painted there. I fell on my knees and started crying.

That night when all of us had fallen asleep, Neelam had spent the whole night painting the leaf in heavy rain and storm.

9 Comments leave one →
  1. vickyshot permalink
    November 19, 2009 11:50

    nice one, nice narration…


  2. vickyshot permalink
    November 19, 2009 11:51

    nice one nice narration…


  3. Achal Kothari permalink
    November 19, 2009 13:18

    quite touching ..and i think i have read it before .. where did you read it ?


  4. Amit Deshwal permalink*
    November 20, 2009 04:47

    @Vivek – thanks 🙂


  5. Amit Deshwal permalink*
    November 20, 2009 04:57

    @ Achal – Yeah I searched for it today… Its a story by O’ Henry… read the original.. that’s a master piece..


  6. Anshuman permalink
    November 20, 2009 11:43

    The last leaf by O’ Henry… quite popular….
    Sue, Johnsy, Norman 🙂 Am I right??


  7. Anshuman permalink
    November 20, 2009 11:46

    Would you mind having a critical comment on your post??


  8. Amit Deshwal permalink*
    November 20, 2009 11:47

    Yeah.. Sue, Johnsy and Behrman… 🙂


  9. Amit Deshwal permalink*
    November 20, 2009 11:48

    @ Anshuman – No i always have the power of deleting it 😉 so go on


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