Tuesday, July 3, 2007

An evening in a clinic

I was patiently waiting for the doctor in a foggy, rainy evening. Patiently - because I had no other option.

It was 7:30 PM, one and half hours later than the scheduled timing of the doctor’s arrival. There were four patients in total – three individuals and one group. I was there to get a dressing done for my injured knee. There was one elderly lady who was coughing frenziedly and an old man who looked sadder than the word ‘Sad’ can ever appear in a human form. And then there was this group.

I call it a group because there were four people – one old man, an old woman, a thin but tall guy with mustaches and another thin but not-so-tall guy without mustaches; and they all looked sick, all malnourished. The old man commanded extra sympathy because he was faint for some reason.

I was already bored after looking at the few things and few people available in that room, and had cursed the doctor for being so carelessly lazy.

At around 7:50 PM, the helper announced for the chief guest’s arrival. (Give a round of applause, people!!)

The old man with the ultra sad look went inside the doctor’s chamber. In the waiting room, the group patients were becoming anxious. The-guy-without-mustaches went out, walked around and returned. They had one common emotion on their faces, except the old man as his faint state didn’t allow him to emote. The emotion is called fear, I suppose. I also supposed that they must fear the hefty fee they are going to be charged for being a group of four people. But hey, they could ask for a group concession!!

When their turn arrived, all of them tried to rush into the doctor’s chamber, but were asked to stay back. Only the guy-with-mustaches was allowed with the old man.

In a minute’s time, the doctor came out and shouted at the group - two inside, two out side.

“Get out from here. Don’t you understand it’s a police case? I don’t want to get into all this. Get out, please.”

The old lady from the group started crying. The guy-without-mustaches pleaded in the best possible way he can.

“Doctor Saab, we did go to the government hospital in the morning. Could not get a doctor there. Waited for the whole day. Most of them left by five evening…when inquired, the staff said ‘they all go to their private clinics.’ They gave us your address. They said you are a good hearted doctor. We don’t know anybody here. Please save him.”

The doctor signaled the helper to move them out.

I was the next to be examined. But before anything could start, I asked, "what was the matter with the old man, doc?”

“Oh! He is from some distant village. The crazy fellow consumed poison!! And he was already dead. We can’t cure a dead body, can we? Forget it. What is it you are here for?”

“Forget it.”

I rushed out; or I’ll say, I tried to rush. I found them at the other end of the street. I did not know what brought me to do this but I patted on the back of the guy-without-mustaches and asked, “Who is he?”

“My father.”

“What happened?”

“He was a farmer.”

He tried very hard, but the guy-without-mustaches could not hide his moist eyes and rushed to join his group.

I stood still. Still, in that frame of moment. It seemed like the mist, all around me, was frozen. I fell short of air. I wished I could run.

On the way home, I saw a huge crowd in and around a big burger joint where they sell burgers for only Twenty rupees. And people pay, happily. But out of those only twenty rupees, how much goes to the farmer who produced the flour for that burger? Who knows? And who cares?

I thought all these because I saw a death, may be. But then do we need hundred deaths to stimulate the same thought in hundred other people?

It was already quarter to nine. I took one last turn to my gully and saw a bunch of kids holding a candle in one hand a placard in another, they were doing some march for the safe arrival of some India-born, American astronaut.

A thought crossed my mind and I told this to myself, “Long live America.”