I was a nurse at a hospital in Mumbai, full of life just like a 24 year old girl. I had many dreams, countless aspirations just like all. I was about to get married to a handsome doctor. And then everything fell apart.
On the night of 23 November, 1973 I was sexually assaulted by a boy who was working in the same hospital where I was. And I lost my power to speak , I was paralysed and slowly I slipped into a vegetative state. That was 37 years ago. With time everyone left me, my family, my fiancé, my friends and my death too.
A vegetative state is a condition which arises after a patient suffers from severe brain damage. It’s a state of coma. In the vegetative state patients can open their eyelids occasionally and demonstrate sleep-wake cycles, but completely lack cognitive function. I have been in this state for the past 37 years. This was before India won the world cup in 1983, or before the calendar turned 2000. I don’t know who is Sachin Tendulkar or who is Shahrukh Khan.
I don’t know whether I can think or not and I am not sure that the people who are caring for me can understand my pain, which I cannot express through gestures but through my eyes.
I don’t know whether they know what I feel every moment. Have they tried to think as to what I must be thinking lying in the bed for all these years? Do they understand that how it feels to be alive and yet die every moment? No, they don't.
I have experienced these moment countless times for the past 37 years. I am helpless. The epitome of helpless, who can neither live nor am I allowed to die. I suffer silently , not because I chose to but because I cannot tell you how much painful it is to be me. If I could have told you about my pain then you wouldn't have let me live.
It’s not a very happy thought when you realize that when you will open your eyes again in the morning you will do the same thing that you have been doing for the last 37 years. Just lying in the bed. Not feeling anything, not being to say anything, not being able to cry or to smile. I even don’t know what the people are thinking about me. I cannot figure out why don’t they keep themselves in my place and then realize what I go through. Is it that difficult to imagine the suffering that I feel?
If I could speak I would have told you about the intense pain that you ignore.
Life is beyond words. And surely beyond laws. Just because there has been no law enacted that doesn’t take away my right to die in a dignified way.That came to me the moment I was born.
I have died every moment that I have been alive for the thirty seven years that I have been confined to this place. I have suffered every time I have opened my eyes and I have died many times when I have closed them.
The Supreme Court today decided that I had no right to die. But they forgot that I died many years back.
I, Aruna Shanbaug died today, again.