~*An entry to “The Chicken Soup for the Indian Soul – Indian Doctors”
“My leg’s just fine, believe me.” I looked up as *Dida frowned at the doctor. She tried to sit up in bed to prove her point, but failed in the attempt.
“Take it easy Mrs. Malati.” The doctor smiled, helping Dida readjust in bed. “I am sure you’re feeling much better but you’ll need some more rest nevertheless.”
The doctor was a cheerful young woman, barely in her early thirties. The identity card around her neck showed her smiling sweetly out of a passport-size photograph. Probably taken in medical school, I surmised. I stood up as she came to me.
“She is coping up well, you’ll be glad to know.” she smiled. “I am sure we can discharge her in a week.”
I heaved a sigh of relief. It had been a shock when Dida had suddenly taken ill in the dead of the night and had to be placed in the ICU. She did have a chronic leg-inflation problem which periodically required treatment, but this time there was a heart related complication as well.
“Thank you so much doctor.” I smiled back at her. She had been attending to Dida right since the beginning, together with the lead physician. Although otherwise an obstetrician, she had coincidentally been the doctor on duty that night.
Dida was fidgeting with her bowl of fruits. She had always hated fruits – of all kinds and shapes – with a vengeance.
“In fact,” the doctor went on, “you can go home tonight. Or go visit your aunt – they must all be excited about the delivery.”
It was an idea, yes. My aunt – Dida’s daughter was nine months pregnant and expected to go into labour at any moment. Her condition had remained stable despite the shock of her mother’s hospitalization, but everyone in the family was naturally anxious.
I called up home. “Dida’s good. How’s masi?”
The grandfather clock struck ten and yawning, I decided to stay over after all.
The next morning, and for every morning after that, Dida never woke up. Her sixty year old brown eyes remained tightly shut, her plate of fruits only half eaten.
God however, didn’t give us time to mourn. Since we couldn’t keep it away from masi, we could only hope for the best.
Masi took Dida’s death in the worst way possible. First, it was sudden. Second, can death ever be rationalized? How could any amount of explanation get us to accept the morbid permanence of that winter morning? We would never see Dida again, except in photographs. We would never listen to her singing, accompanied by the veena. Dida was no more.
When we told masi, she looked on unfazed. Some silly story, it must be. The big bad wolf came calling, ha.
And then it dawned on her. The loss of her mother. The loss of the lullabies, the silken touch, the secure smile. The loss of the Nani her child could have had. She began to cry. As the labour pains set in, she cried harder. We got an ambulance as fast as we could but she cried all the way to the hospital.
“This is getting serious.” The people at the admission counter urgently whispered to each other. “Did you know she lost her mother today?”
It was eerie, I thought, how bad news indeed travelled like wild-fire.
At the operation theatre, I saw the same female doctor who had been in charge of Dida. My thoughts went haywire.
She was responsible for Dida’s death.
She was the one who mis-read her condition.
She was the one due to whom Dida was around no longer.
“Dida died of a sudden heart failure darling.” Mom kept her hand on mine, reading my hushed ramblings. “Please don’t think badly of that dear doctor.”
“I know Mom, I know.” Of course I knew. But I couldn’t get the thought out of my head. What were doctors for if they couldn’t save a life? What good was their so painstakingly acquired knowledge?
I hung my head as they took masi in and closed the door on us.
An hour later, the indicator went out and the door opened. The doctor walked toward us, an unreadable expression on her face.
It was then that a faint but very distinct sound came to our ears. The weeping of a child. Masi’s new-born.
“You have a new family member. A beautiful little girl.” She announced.
Impulsively, I jumped up and hugged her tight.
I have realized now: doctors can’t change the way death is – sudden, unstoppable, permanent. But what they can do is lessen pain, keep life beautiful for as long as life decides to be with you. When someone tells us today, that little Tia – that’s Masi’s now five-year old daughter – is God’s way of making up for Dida’s loss, we smile. Masi kisses Tia on the cheek and she smiles too.
I have discovered now how God works. He cooks up miracles to make up for former losses. They are sometimes late, but they arrive. The doctors, with their dedication and skill, set them to shape.
* Dida: a Bengali word for an elderly lady, generally of the same family.
This was my entry to Chicken Soup’s latest offering – “The Chicken Soup for the Indian Soul – Indian Doctors”.
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