Nandini Chakrabarti

December scares me a little, curtails me and forbids me to live free. I’m unsure if it’s anxiety and the fear of losing somebody because all past decembers have been mournful that way. I try to keep myself busy and at work; so sometimes I end up overworking myself. The stress hurts my shoulder and my head. I wonder when the spring shall arrive and foster flowers again. Last to last december I had separated from my husband of 8 years. Last december I had shifted to London and resumed work but was made to cover news stories I perpetually never wanted to. The life of a journalist is unpredictable, they say “a journalist is a jack of all trades and the master of all.” I have always wanted to help people by being able to report their lives and represent their problems but the world of media seems quite deceiving than what is perceived of it. Three decembers ago, I lost our only son to a road accident and the december before that I lost my dear father to cancer.

This morning I woke up rather pleasant and thankfully before my mood-wrecking alarm clock. I looked out of my window and it was black, more like the darkest shade of gray. I could barely even see my neighbour’s home. I turned on the television while my mother coughed vehemently. The newspapers had no articles about it, nor did I hear of bad weather at my workplace the day before. Winters in London had always been chilly and foggy but never this dark. The television proclaimed it as the greatest smog of the century, which was an unwanted child of the Industrial Revolution in Britain. I turned off the television and called my workstation, “you’ve to report the great smog, Sasha, hospitals and streets. I know you can do it. Many have taken sick leave today so I can’t grant you one because you sound fine. Andrew (the photographer) would meet you in an hour.” My boss can be quite an arse but she’s quite motivating.

I wore my mask and my coat and stepped out ready for work. I could barely see anything. Thankfully, I had a torch on me. I could hear an ambulance siren but couldn’t see where it was coming from. I decided to not drive as it would be risky, so I started walking. I met Andrew on my way. Andrew and I decided to stop by a state-run hospital. As we entered, the scene was filthy and dreary. There were people rushing, lying down and coughing. It was all a mess! It was an awful scenario seeing so many people so helpless. There was a shortage of midwives and nurses, and only a few doctors were available at service. As we walked towards the maternity ward, I came across this little boy who cried holding his mother’s body. He could barely talk as he shivered persistently while crying. I held him around my arms and sang him a little lullaby. It felt like I hugged my son Jeremie, he would have been nearly the same age if he was alive. I took him in my arms and caressed him as if he were my little boy, my Jerry. As he calmed down, he told me that his mother was hit by a truck as she tried to save him. I looked up to the nurse and she nodded at me indicating that his mother was dead. I asked him if he had someone in his family, he replied “no, just you.” For a split second, it felt like I saved my son. My Jerry. The lady who lay dead and cold in front of me gave me a child, she saved my child, the child I couldn’t have saved three decembers ago. I hugged and caressed the little boy with all I had and with everything I could.

A couple of minutes later, it struck me what I was here for, I took the little boy and carried him around as he rested his head on my shoulder. The crowd at the hospital had nearly doubled by this time. Andrew and I decided to stick through and report everything for as many days as the tragedy continued. We reported all of it - mourning people, sick people, everything. Seeing the suffering I contacted the national television service to broadcast it. The suffering was unseen to the Royals and most commoners were unaware of how to go about daily chores in a situation so critical.

The next couple of days we televised the entire smog. Directed people how to go about it, how important it was to wear masks, where to find food and other amenities.We called in for more doctors and to our surprise many signed up for it. Seeing me and Andrew, more people from our company, joined forth. I wrote letters to our Prime Minister, who would later in his speech address my and Andrew’s efforts, for which he said, showed him how alarming the situation was.

A year has passed since the Great Smog. As a journalist, after all the chaos was over, I felt as if I had achieved my dream, at least a part of it. I made the utopian concept of a moral journalist, away from gossip monging and sensationalism, a reality. We have been responsible to show light to people in suffering. The Queen was kind enough to grant me and Andrew, a Noble Cross in this honour. I and Andrew started an NGO to help people who suffered ailments during the smog with proper treatment. I adopted the little boy I met at the hospital and named him ‘Jerry’. He calls me “Momma” just like my boy used to. I’m thankful to give him the life that he deserved. I suppose I do not have to wait for spring any longer. My flowers have fostered in December. Last december, I found myself and my lost somebody. I found a way to live my dream through nothing but determination and will power and yes, December has no longer been just the month of mourning. What a wonderful and a beautiful december!

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