Thursday, August 11, 2011

Aitai Jeebon (This is life)...

In the ICU, Punit Sharma, knew the end was imminent. He had decided to stop fighting and let death overcome him. In the instant he took this decision, he stopped feeling the pain that had been wracking his entire body for over two months. His feeble hand reached out to hold Richa’s, his wife for three years. Then, with his palm locked firmly between those of Richa’s, he attempted to smile, as if to say goodbye. Peace descended on his face as he waited for the final minutes.

Richa had just returned from a discussion with Dr. Vora and there seemed to be a tiny ray of hope. As she held her husband’s palm and began to talk, she realized the change in the look on his face. Her instincts kicked in instantly. This was not right, this was not right. Oh, no, she knew what the look meant. She tried to free her hands so she could rush out and call the doctor or nurses, but Punit wouldn’t let go. With her left hand she pressed hard and long on the buzzer and hoped the on-duty nurse would come quickly.  Then turning her attention to her husband, she began calling his name and exhorting him to hang in and fight.

Directly eight floors below, Mandar Kadam, a sales representative of a medical equipment company was animatedly describing the features of a new ventilator model to Susheel Shinde, the hospital’s Purchase Manager. Way behind on his quarterly targets, he had to convert this one. Earlier in the day, his Manager had issued an ultimatum – close a deal soon or look for another job.

On the ground floor, in the OPD section, Anusuya Mathur, an intern, kept glancing at the wall clock. It was three minutes to 1 PM and from the end of her shift and she was fervently hoping she could leave on time today. Emergencies always had a way of popping up at the wrong time. Not that she was averse to tending to emergencies or working outside of her shift hours, however, today was an exception. After all, she had plans to meet her boy friend after a gap of three months.

In the ICU, Dr. Vora and some of his support staff had gathered around Punit Sharma. He looked at Richa directly in the eye and shook his head gently, indicating there was no hope. Richa started sobbing inconsolably even as a thousand thoughts started racing through her mind. This was completely unfair. Just three years into their marriage, and a daughter barely a year old, there was an entire lifetime to look forward to. Why me, why Punit and why should this be happening to poor Ritu who would never know her father? What wrong had they done to deserve this? All she wanted to do is fall on her knees and plead and beg for her husband’s life. But to whom? Dr. Vora? God?

Half way through his attempt to explain the technical specifications of the ventilator, Mandar knew he was talking to a wall. It was clear Shinde was least interested in the working of the equipment or why it was better.  It was now down to price and like many other deals before, this one too seemed to be beyond his grasp. Mandar decided to take one deep breath and start all over again. But Shinde would have none of it. Abruptly, he stood up pointing to the clock. It was time for lunch. Mandar began to collect the many brochures from the table and put them in his bag. Did education and quality not mean anything to anyone? Were medical equipment purchased to save money or save lives? Both men started walking towards the door, one thinking of his lunch the other about his career. At the door, they shook hands without exchanging words and departed their separate ways.

The mobile in Anusuya’s hand vibrated. It meant her boy friend had reached the lounge. Luckily for her, there were no emergencies. She wished the resident doctor and nurses on duty good bye and started walking in the direction of the lounge. A large smile broke out on her face as she saw him from a distance. Within seconds, they were clutching hands and making their way out of the hospital.

In the ICU, Richa felt Punit’s palm go limp. One look at the LCD panel confirmed that Punit had passed away. She felt a hand on her shoulder, perhaps it was Dr. Vora and heard what seemed to be distant voices. Unable to register things happening around her, time was grinding to a halt.

In the corner of the room, the head nurse made an important note: time of death, 1:00 PM, 14th June, 2011.

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