Akhil Aggarwal is a successful Bangalore based trader. Sharp, suave and articulate, he is well versed in the ways of the world. His youthful energy strikes me as I enter his flat at the upmarket Giri apartments, JP Nagar. He and his wife, Aarti, who receive me are ardent devotees of Dera Sacha Sauda for the last twenty years. His ten year old son Sujeet , who studies in fourth standard is the light of their lives. Sujeet plays around with the usual abandon with the naughtier-than-thou gleam. There is no trace of the ordeal he recently has had. "One day, I suddenly noticed a lump in my son Sujeet's neck , and since there was no pain , I ignored it," recounts Akhil. Then during one of their routine visits to the family doctor, Dr.Pranitha, they sought her opinion. Dr.Pranitha said that it wasn't a wise thing to ignore it and promptly advised them to get some tests done. On 15th January, 2013, the test called FNAC was performed in a renowned Pathology and diagnostic lab in Bangalore called Clumax and rechecked twice. The report was devastating. It said that the cells aspirated from the swollen gland suggested lymphoma, a type of cancer of the glands. "Our entire happy world came crashing down. It was a nightmare. I used to stay up the whole night cowering in the fear of losing Sujeet." says Arti ,choking with emotion, still shuddering as she remembers those days.
On 20th January, they consulted a senior paediatrician, Dr. Rajeev Aggarwal, at the famed Narayan Hrudalaya at Bangalore who referred them to the chief of Paediatric Cancer department. The Cancer doctor, counselled the parents on the further line of confirmatory tests, the first of which would be a biopsy, an incision on the neck to remove the gland for further analysis. Akhil and his wife panicked. "For us it was a big surgery where the neck would be cut open, no matter what the doctor said", says Akhil , "It was at that stage that we decided to visit Guruji before we went along with the medical advice". "The serious possibility that our child was afflicted with a form of cancer meant that things would never be the same again", reminisces the mother of the cherubic ten year old.
Akhil reflects pensively, as he disconnects the innumerable calls that flood his cellphone, "It was a moment of realisation for me to ponder where I had gone wrong, what was the Karma that had brought such a tragic consequence!" Little beads of moisture form in his eyes as he talks. Then, overcoming bottled emotions, he continues, "The whole family was in a state of shock and we had no choice except seeking the blessings of our Revered Guruji, Saint Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh Ji Insan".
January is a month when Guruji is extremely busy owing to the celebrations of the Shah Satnamji's birthday. Millions of followers from all over the world converge at the Ashram in this month. His wife quietly informs. "Quite frankly , I was slightly jittery at the prospect of being able to see Guruji in person , owing to His extremely busy schedule." Akhil continues while disregarding my questioning glances. "But why did you choose to go to Guruji when your son needed emergent treatment." I interject abruptly. But he brushes aside my query and murmurs stoically, ''Faith, I had faith that Guruji would meet us for sure". On 23rd Jan, the entire family emplaned to Delhi and hired a taxi to Sirsa. And despite the fact that there was no prior appointment, the call of faith was answered.
"On 24th Jan, before the morning congregation we met Guruji and narrated our woes," Arti chips in. With bated breath, I want to know the magic words spoken to them by Guruji. Akhil looks smilingly, restored to his usual composed self, ''Guruji said quite simply - Son, don't be tense at all. Do meditation and consult Dr. Brijesh from Mumbai and get it checked. Saying this, Guruji blessed the child and and gave him Prasad". "Well the reassurance is fine, and so is the referral , but what is great in Guruji's words?" I rush in headlong, determined not to let Akhil side step my query. Smiling disarmingly, Akhil implores me with a twinkle , " Poori baat to suno (Hear me out completely) , On the morning of Jan 25th, Sujeet partook the Prasad again and within an hour or less, we were astonished to see that the swelling had vanished.
''We consulted Dr. Brijesh who advised us to get a repeat biopsy under the care of Dr.A.T.K Rao at MS Ramaiah Hospital and not think too much about the gland going bigger or smaller,'' he informs.
Sujeet was finally biopsied at Bangalore's reputed M.S. Ramaiah Hospital. The narration by Akhil continued, with occasional inputs from the wife. The report by the pathologist confirmed it to be Lymphoma. (Oops , so no miracle there , I start wondering. Probably these people are so enamoured by the chance reduction, I reason to myself). The initial euphoria that they felt melted away somewhat and the womenfolk were back to tears. Akhil said that somehow , he was feeling a lot stronger after meeting Guruji , and felt inwardly sure that Guruji had never failed them and never would."After this definitive confirmation of cancer, we reached Dr. Brijesh in Tata Memorial Hospital, Mumbai which is the best cancer Hospital of the country", he raises his pitch as if to disrupt my thoughts of disbelief. I lazily nod in agreement. ''Dr. Brijesh reviewed the records and was convinced about the line of treatment.''
The family was advised a PET scan to decide the treatment plan for chemotherapy and radiotherapy. But as a policy, before initiating treatment, Dr.Brijesh got the slide and block of the previous biopsy for review". As I twiddle my thumbs and look at the ceiling, Akhil drops the bombshell that spurs me into renewed curiosity. Both Dr. Brijesh and Sujeet's parents were astonished when the biopsy report came in. The biopsy report suggested a harmless and extremely rare Japanese disease called Kikuchi disease and there was no evidence of cancer in it. "Guruji cured my son's cancer in a way as if it was just a bad dream", chirps Akhil as his wife pours tea for me. It is my turn to squirm uncomfortably in my chair. Akhil sees my discomfiture and fires another salvo, "And one parting question for the hardnosed unbelievers, How did Guruji know and reassure beforehand about the outcome when doctors did not have a clue?" I had no answer to that.
Dr. Brijesh Arora, Tata Memorial Hospital, Mumbai adds:
I had once spoken to Guruji saying that he had not experienced any miracles personally, while everyone talked about receiving grace in many different ways in the Ashram. I had been initiated several years ago while I was still a trainee at the All India Institute of Medical Sciences. While I was trained as a paediatrician, I was still unsure of the super specialisation that I wanted to get into. At that stage, it was Guruji who inspired me to become an Oncologist. There were several moments of doubt, but it was, when I look back, a miracle as I decided to be an Oncologist, practically in deference to Guruji's wishes. When I now see events unfold, I become acutely aware of the guiding hand of God who manifests to me through Guruji.
While medically one may argue, that the diagnosis could be a dilemma, but the plain fact is that the child was seen and reported upon by practically the best doctors in Bangalore. Had Guruji not directed them to Mumbai, the child would have been treated for lymphoma. Kikuchi is an extremely rare disease as well. I too had planned to treat the lymphoma and was unprepared for this turn of events. There are research studies now that testify to the power of prayer, so I would say that if faith and prayer help, we need all the help that we can get.