Saturday, 8 January 2011
Between Christmas and New Year, the best imaginable thing happened to me. I found myself admitted into a hospital. For the very first time in my life, so it’s a lovely memory that shall remain with me. Although I was sedated, dazed and confused all along (as is the case with most patients), a couple of observations need to be recorded.
I checked myself into a ‘twin sharing’ room (a fatal mistake in hindsight). While this helps keep the bills in check, it’s also the correct thing to do given the paucity of hospi beds in this country. Additionally, the idea of a single room with a television set doesn’t appeal to me. There’s something not right about watching a cricket match while in the next room a poor cancer stricken bugger chokes over his own blood and passes away, followed by loud wails from his near and dear ones. This actually happened one evening. I heard two sounds at one go. Sobs of a newly turned widow, and crowds going ballistic at the fall of a wicket. And this dual audio play is nerve wrecking to say the least.
Yet, the ‘twin sharing’ room concept doesn’t work in India. I was hoping that just as it happens in the film ‘The Bucket List’, I would, as Jack Nicholson did, find my Morgan Freeman and together we’d take off on a road trip and do all the things we always wanted to do before death comes calling. What I encountered instead was a nightmare. Because that repugnant Indian habit of giving a damn for the other guy extended itself into the hospital: Loud cell phone conversations that go on and on well into the night. Relatives of the patient conducting their private businesses while pretending to show support for the patient. People arriving in hordes (by deceiving the hospital guards) to check on a single patient. Exactly as they do at airports to see off a relative flying to Pune for the weekend. I kid you not, at one point, there were 11 sods who’d come together to meet the chap on the next bed. And that’s when I lost my cool and had them all bodily ejected. And of course, these hordes use the patients’ toilet. So if sickness doesn’t make you retch, the foul odours from the washroom will.
To all those reading in, one humble request: Okay, give a shit about my space and rights at all public places, but can you not show a modicum of empathy in a hospital? Is that too much to ask for?
Net result: I am checking into a single room the next time (and I do hope that time never comes!). Even if my budget and my conscience doesn’t permit it.
The doctors were fantastic, but a special word for those souls who work their hearts out but get basic pay and little recognition: The nurses. Although I was not in my senses at most times, I recall three sisters vividly, though all of them were very caring and helpful. There was Ranjita in the ICU, who took all my pain away one evening by chatting with me on Maharashtrian cuisine and politics. And we spoke in Marathi on how to prepare delicious misal, on how the Shiv Sena operates and where it’s going wrong. The only time she blushed was when I asked details about her boyfriend. I later realised she did all this to keep my mind away from the deep discomfort I was in.
Then there was Anitha in the ICU again. Who treated me a like a family member. She didn’t balk for a second while swabbing my body, including the shameful parts. And she removed all the tubes from my body without using pain killers, and I didn’t feel the slightest pain. Because all along she smiled widely and in her Mallu accent, kept regaling me with fun episodes from her long lost village in Kerala. With Anitha around, you don’t need pain killers. She is the pain killer.
And then there was Jeenamol who took great care of me on the last two days. And made sure she rounded off my exit on a happy, delightful note. We became buddies by the time I caught the elevator to leave. And we did a little high five to ring in the New Year, much to the scandal of the on-looking CCTV cameras.
Why am I telling you all this? These sisters are angels in disguise. Khuda ke bande hain yeh log. They earn a pittance and have a near zero personal life. Make them smile while they take care for you, in case you land up in a hospital. Address them by their names. Thank them. That’s all they need from you. That’s all they need to feel a bit happy in their otherwise totally dreary lives.