Written By

Sana Zehra

Thirty Loading

Jessica was swathed in a white dress, her long black hair entwined with the netted veil that was dragging behind as her dead body levitated effortlessly across a dark room. There were people around; happy or sad she could not know, it was too dark. The only light that fell was on a handsome man who was waiting for her with a smile at the end of the aisle. He looked happy. Why? Jessica was puzzled, but she blushed from within.

Tring-tring! Jessica’s dream was broken by an old school ringtone of her rather new cellphone. It was a call from the doctor’s assistant. Jessica asked Shanti – her help – to prepare breakfast while she herself got ready to go to the hospital.

“Don’t worry, ma, I’m here. They were just routine tests because of your infection.”

“Hmmm…” Placated by the assurance of her daughter, ma turned to her favorite topic. “Have you given any thought to Sameer? You are thirty! Everyone your age is already having kids and you won’t even give your mother the pleasure of seeing her only child as a bride. I hate it when your aunts and uncles question me about your marriage plans. Oh, the sarcasm!” Using the vulnerable disposition brought to her by sickness and widowhood, ma loved to coax Jessica into agreeing.

“I don’t want to leave you alone ma. I don’t know. I haven’t given it much thought.” Jessica somewhat blushed inside as she hazily remembered her dream from last night. It had felt different – good different, to be a bride.

“What alone? Shanti will take care of me. And, I’m not that old either. Once I’m better, I can do everything myself. Your cousin Nitin keeps checking on us, don’t you think he’d help more when you wouldn’t be around? And you will keep visiting, won’t you?”

“Of course, ma! I’m not going anywhere.” Jessica planted a kiss on her mother’s cheek and left. She wondered whether Sameer would make a husband who understood how much she loved her mother, and more importantly how much her mother needed her. His bio data was waiting in her email inbox. She’d check it later.


Jessica never liked hospitals. Hoping that this visit would be over in a jiffy, she settled down in a chair, until the doctor’s assistant called out her name.

“I’m sorry to say, your mother’s reports aren’t good. We suspect cancer and we’ll do a biopsy to check. I know this must be very hard on you. Do you have insurance?”

Jessica wasn’t listening. It was as if her heart froze as soon as the cold words touched her ears. She collected herself, thanked the doctor and left.

“Is cervical cancer curable?” she typed the words into her phone with trembling hands on her way back home. She could not think clearly. How could she imagine the unthinkable, a life without her mother, who had tirelessly brought her up to be a successful young woman that she was today? When would she able to repay her? No, it couldn’t happen. The biopsy would be negative, she was certain. God couldn’t be so unfair to take both her parents away. Not so soon.


The biopsy was positive.

Jessica was waiting for her appointment with the oncologist to discuss the future course of treatment and chemotherapy.
“Hello, are you the patient?” the voice of a man waiting next to her in the hall broke her silence.

“No, I’m the patient’s daughter.”

“Oh, I’m sorry. It’s my mother too. Deadly disease, this cancer is. Life is stuck between hospital visits, doctors, treatments and medications. And different doctors say different things; these money mongering parasites feeding on others’ miseries. I’m just so tired of figuring out whom to trust.”

“I’m scared too. When was your mother diagnosed?”

“A year ago. You must take care of your mother. She shouldn’t catch any external infections, it undermines the treatment. Maintain good hygiene and sanitation at home. I had hired a nurse, but she was one careless woman.”

“Oh. Don’t you have a sibling or anyone else? Are you married?” Jessica inquired.

“No, I’m an only child.” he said. “Me too,” Jessica chimed in. To know that there was someone who could probably understand her position was strangely comforting. The man continued “My mother’s condition worsened because I used to be away at work and a post-chemotherapy patient needs a lot of care. I’m getting married in two months.” His sullen eyes came alive with a glint of relief, and his pale yellow teeth opened up to a grin. “I’m almost thirty and my mother wouldn’t wait any longer to see me married. Besides, I’m sort of relieved that my wife will take care of everything then, I’m too tired of keeping everything together.”

An announcement by the doctor’s assistant broke their conversation. The man gathered his mother’s reports and walked into the office.

Jessica fished for her phone to check her emails and make a few calls. She was working from home to be able to meet the doctor. Her uncle’s email ‘Sameer – Bio Data’ had sunk to the bottom of her screen, barely enough so that her tear laden eyes could see it.




I’m a Delhi University gold medalist and currently a work-from-home based content head and part-time coaching faculty member for the CAT exam. Proud to call Lady Shri Ram College for Women as my Alma Mater, I am married and live in Chennai. Cooking is my passion by compulsion, caught in a blitzkrieg of North and South Indian flavours. I love experimenting with food, the latest one being a blueberry cheesecake, and my ever appreciative husband is happy to oblige me with his opinions.

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