Thursday, September 05, 2002

"Its just around the corner... that is where the doctors house're not too far.." I rushed with my 3 year old son in my arms in the direction the good samaritan pointed at. I had left early morning along with my wife to the city so that my son could get the medical attention that he badly needed. Last night he vomitted nearly a dozen times and every time he did, it was my wife who cried. Her eyes were crimson and a dark spot was appearing beneath them. My stomach churned. My son had no energy left to cry but would just cuddle up tightly and shiver. We had walked for over two hours from our village because the only bus that comes in the middle of the night had cancelled its service. No one gave us a reason.

The doctor came. A fair young chap who worked for the British Raj. With sheer exhaustion I looked at him and then at my son who was lying on the wooden bench. The doctor did the same but he continued into his room in the clinic. I followed him but before I could speak, he said "do you have money?". I showed him eight annas that I clutched in my hand.He nodded his head "That is not enough. Your son is very ill and will need medication". I choked as I tried to speak and express my inability to pay any more. Before I could, he waved his hand and said "Ok ok, get your boy in here". My wife who was overhearing our conversation got my son inside and made him sit on the clinic table. After a while the doctor said "Your son has severe pneumonia. Don't know why people always wait till the last moment. Let me tell you, don't keep too many hopes..."

That was 54 years back. The memories that come back during old age are far more crisp. It was my birthday today but no one had wished me. I could hear my grandchildren fighting with my son. I groped my hand along the desk next to my chair and with its support I got up. A glimmer of light went through my retina because that was all that my eyes could take in now. I probed my way around the desk and with tiny steps I headed towards the sun that was filtering through the window; old blood cools much faster. As I stood there I heard the door open. The loud foot steps meant that it was my son.

"What are you doing standing over there? Can't you sit in one place?" He held my arm and headed me back to the chair. "Look I can't keep looking after you like this. Either you stay put in one place or go stay in the old age home. I'm tired of bathing you, washing you and what not." God had been kind to me and had given me a blurred vision in this old age. I only had to hear and not see. I shook my head in dissent. "And you haven't even finished the porridge...*sigh*...frustrating!!" he continued. "Papa this is so tiring...even the kids are fed up and you keep insisting that you want to stay with me".

He headed towards the door with heavy steps. And before shutting the door he turned around. "Its just around the corner...the old age home...I'll come and visit you whenever I have time...".


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