This story, dear readers, is not that of an ordinary treasure hunt; neither of treasure troves, buried deep in stranded islands nor of chests filled with gold and priceless gems, guarded by ferocious dragons.
This is the story of a little bundle of treasure, and a family's fight for not letting it go. This is a story of a race against time, against fate....
Even now, when I ask my mother or granny about the day when my little brother was born, the first thing they say is that it rained heavily that night. And of course it did.
On the night of the 20th of November, 2005, my mother was admitted to a hospital in her village, Marayoor.
Everything was going on well and before dawn, she gave birth to my brother, a perfectly healthy child; or so everyone thought.
The well-built boy, almost bald and with sparse eyebrows, became the source of admiration of all my relatives present there.
Both my parents were overjoyed, twenty one months before, they had me and now one more guest had come in. Now our family was a perfect one.
Slowly, the relatives retired, and my father went away with his friends to offer them treats.
So, there she was, my mother, in the hospital bed, with my brother fast asleep beside her and my granny seated in a chair with tears of joy rolling silently over her cheeks. I was also there, with my mom's sister, Jean looking after me.
I was also there, with my mom's sister, Jean looking after me. One of mom's cousin returned with food and clothes for all. She glanced at the baby and her heart skipped a beat....
There was something wrong with him...
"What happened to him, why he is so yellow?" asked Rose (the cousin).
The doctor was called in and she asked them not to worry. "It is common for newborns to have jaundice. There is nothing to be scared. If you wish, you can take him to another hospital now.
Otherwise you can wait and take go tomorrow. It's nothing serious."
But the three of them felt quite uneasy.
"Call Issac (my dad). You ought to take him a better hospital, right now." Rose said.
"Yes. I think we must leave as soon as we can."
Granny called my father. Dad not willing to stake my brother's life, agreed to shift to another hospital, miles away.
A vehicle was arranged and the seven of us began our race, my parents, my granny - Elsa, my aunt - Jean, her husband - Sam, and of course, me and my little bro, the two of us, unaware of the battle, that had just incepered.
It was sundown when we reached Munnar, the nearest town. The road was narrow, going up and down the hills and twisted like hairpins.
To worsen the matters, it stormed like hell. Lightning pulled down trees, the rains making the roads slippery and causing landslides, blocking the way.
Despite every thorn, thrown our way, we kept going. After a tiresome journey of four hours, we reached Adimali, which was supposed to be our final destination. But it was not.
My brother had jaundice and he was suffering from a condition called 'erythroblastosis foetalis'.
The hospital that my mother was taken to, refused to admit my brother, for they feared that my brother could be gone any minute.
A death could ruin their reputation, my bro's life was not worth the risk to them. They asked us straight forward, to take him away- to someplace better, and that too quickly.
"He has not much time left." They said.
The journey resumed. Almost 6 hours since they race started, we reached Ernakulam. We went to a well-known hospital.
But they too refused admittance, stating the absence of the doctor as the cause. They asked us to wait till the morning. My mother was sick, very sick.
Yet she climbed the stairs three floors up, to the maternity ward. Even there, she was not given a room. We had to wait in the corridor.
My brother and I were well fed. But the other five- they were hungry, parched and extremely tired. The non-stop journey was too much for them.
For almost half a day, they had nothing to eat or to drink. My aunt needed to visit the restroom. My uncle was busy contacting his acquaintances to secure an appointment with the doctor.
My dad and granny were with my mom aiding her. So Aunt Mini had to go alone. She asked the watchman directions and he agreed to take her there.
He led her outside the hospital through some dark alleys. My aunt sensed something fishy and so she immediately turned around, not waiting for him.
We waited. But no doctor came. Impatience was setting in.
"When will the doctor come?"
"He should be here before dawn."
"Dawn? We have not much time to wait. Come on, we'll go to another hospital."
We knocked the doors of every hospital that we could, but none of them let us in. Time, was the price that we had to pay- exactly the thing that we were now running out of.
But then, when all hope was lost, a call came. 'A hospital is ready to admit my brother.' We lost no time in reaching Ernakulam Medical Centre. A stretcher was waiting.
And my mother was carried to the ward. No bed was free. We asked the staff, but they lent us a deaf ear.
But the doctor, Dr. Grace Thomas a kind soul, arranged a room for us and took my brother with her.
Finally, a sigh of relief. But no. The torment was not over yet.
"Your son is in a critical stage. We cannot say anything for sure. We are doing all that we can. Do not loose hope. For forty-eight hours we must wait." The doctor said.
The time that they spent in the hospital, was a torture to them. Their dearest baby was there in the ventilator. They could see him, but not touch him.
It was agony to watch him sleep peacefully, unknowingly waging a silent war, a war against time, against fate.
But why? Had they not been careful, very careful since the moment he was conceived? Was my mother not administered anti-Rh antibodies, right after I was born? Yet, how?
My mom's brother, Jacob, a nursing student was agitated like the rest of them. He along with another of my mom's cousin, brought the anti-Rh antibodies from Tamil Nadu, on a bike.
Although they had taken every precaution and brought it in a freezer, the heat might have somehow damaged its viability.
After two sleepless nights, my brother's condition became stable.
Still, it broke their hearts, to see their gem, the first boy child of the family caged in a glass box with tubes running everywhere from his body. For about 10 days he was kept thus.
After 20 days of hospital visits and check-ups, at last, he was returned to us, perfectly healthy.
"A minute longer, and we would have certainly lost him." The doctor said.
Our greatest treasure was almost snatched away from us. But he clung onto us, refusing to let go.
Now, my little brother is 14 and not so little anymore. Although two years younger, he is more than a foot taller than me.
Sometimes, it is almost impossible for me to believe that the two of us live in this world.
Because in a world where people try all that they can, to be agreeable or presentable, here we are two idiots, trying pretty hard to make ourselves disagreeable to each other.
We compete to make the worst faces, with painstaking effort, just to annoy the other.
All that I know is this: He is my treasure. Far more precious than the most priceless gem. I fight with him and irritate him, but without him, my life would loose all its luster. I love him more than anything.