The waiting room

Reminds you of the railway station, the crowd and cacophony, the chai and the stink. Train whistles, the incomprehensible announcements and the strain to listen for your own train. But this is a different waiting room.

Here only those people wait, whose trains have derailed, or are about to. They are trying to repair the tracks, push and pull to get the train back on track and somehow make it run, so they can leave for home. A few never do. 

Here they dont say ” train no so and so has arrived on platform number so and so.” Here it is ” Bed no 102″ and Kamble and Banerjee, the names and the numbers, and the call to feed or meet the doctor or sign something you have not read.

I am in the waiting room of an ICU. All around me is chaos. Sea of people, waiting to catch a glimpse of their loved ones, waiting for that ray of hope, that word from the doctor that can change despair to a smile or bring a frown and a tear. Noisy, crying, sharing, yet so distant from it all. Hearing it all, but not absorbing.

Hospitals are a part of life. And death. I am at the same place I was slightly more than two years ago. Same hospital, same ICU, same waiting room. I lost Baba here. He was already lost, but here I lost his physical being. All around me are faces, in despair, but still hopeful as they cross the nights of nightmares. 

When you think it cant get any worse, it does. And we get used to that and then there is a new low. How much the human mind can accept and get on with life, feels like a trial and error test.

Why does she have to suffer so much? In the past so many years, I have seen her lose her speech and her smile, her walk and her zest for life. A vegetable, that breathes and swallows, with a beating heart. That is about it. Just pain and more pain, which she doesn’t feel, or maybe feels and does not  express. Cancers, and then free from cancers. But not from this hell called dependence. Not from this journey that is a constant struggle for survival.

Who will I take home from here, a whole being or a part? A person who always smiled at me, now closes her eyes and shrinks away as I talk to her, or touch her.

Do your job, dont worry about the consequences. I was reminded today. Do your best, dont expect anything. Maybe that is the learning. And emotions? That are ready to flow, that have to be pushed back because there is so much to be done.

I try to work. In an effort to remain sane. Not break. I have to be strong and stronger, specially when I am powerless. Someone else pulls the strings and we dance. I do- the biggest fallacy. Who are we? Who am I? My face is expressionless, as I listen to the doctor’s verdict. Impassive but with a storm inside. 

Life sucks. Death sucks more. But maybe it is the end of suffering, pain and despair. But can’t it be painless? Among so much pain and pleasure, something goes on- that they call life, as it sits in the waiting room, for death. Somebody give respite from it all,  she needs to rest. In peace. 

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Sometime in 2010

It isn’t easy. Even though you are smart enough to realise you are moving into depression, you can’t avoid it. Especially when you know that the world has not shattered, it only feels like that.

The first day was a shock, total and complete. We live in a world where nobody is spared but I had probably developed a firm belief that I was immune and nothing could impact me, however big the situation. After three weeks I am still in a state of denial- my counsellor says. Maybe writing will ease the pain.

They just handed over the letter, just like that. It was Monday morning and I drove all the way across Delhi- it used to be a pain then, today I’ll welcome it. My boss had called me to his hotel. I thought I knew what he wanted to discuss, impact on my organisation due to cost control, I had heard the CEO in the last All Hands- what needs to be done, who will get impacted, how do we handle the work as nothing stops ever. Of course it could not be discussed in office. It had to be outside. I had thought it out, what needs to be done and so on. I had worked most of the weekend as the super boss was also going to be there that week and we needed to be prepared. I reached the hotel and called my boss. He came down and said he had taken a biz centre on 1st floor. I followed him there and when we entered the centre, I saw an HR person there too. It did not even strike me then. Overconfidence! There was also a letter on the table in an envelope. I noticed everything but not what it implied.

I sat down. Chit chat and then he said the famous words. “Your role has been impacted”. I remember I kept saying ok, ok to all that he was saying but something was building up inside me. I know the HR person was describing the various options available to me but nothing registered. Then I got up and said something like I need a break. I knew I was crying and did not really care. I walked out and went to the only place – restroom where I could be alone and away from eyes for some time.

Few minutes inside and I was angry. Why me? I had not done anything wrong- I had reasonably good performance. People said I was good. And I knew it. Knew it in all sincerity that I was better than several out there. I needed to find out. I stomped out and went back to the den. I said I wanted to talk to my boss. The HR person still did not leave. I asked- why me? He said he was going to be honest and that one of us had to go- either it would have been him or me. I had nothing more to say after that. Today I am not even sure what he said was true, but that day it took everything out of me. I had no more fight left. The HR person kept on droning something which I never really heard, just said fine to everything . Handed over my entry to the office- access card and left. With my head held high.

This encounter has taken a lot out of me. Maybe the HR person realised that. She asked if I wanted to talk to some counsellor etc. She said it very gently but I was angry. I snapped at her- Do you think I am going to jump off a cliff. I won’t!

The first week wasn’t so bad. In order to prove to others that I was a survivor, I had to remain strong and that helped. I spoke to a number of people. Told everyone that I was fine. I knew the ropes. This happened in MNCs .

The second week was sending reminders to everyone. My mornings always started with a flurry of mails in the morning on the blackberry. Now I open my mail folder and it is empty. This is an emptiness that I dread every day. I am the only one who is free- everyone around me is so busy. I hardly had a social life. My life revolved around my work, my family.

The third week is bad. I can’t laugh any more. My mother says that it is taking a toll on me. I try to keep busy by cooking, networking, reading and some TV. I always used to think; when I have spare time I will do so many things. But I can’t focus too much on anything. I don’t feel like talking much; go about my duties with a blank mind. Can’t sleep much. I wake up every couple of hours. Earlier I used to feel the lack of sleep. Now when I have time, I can’t utilise it. It is ironic.

My counsellor says I am still in “denial”. A friend had come all the way from Chennai to Delhi and wanted to meet for lunch. I made an excuse and did not meet him. I did not want to talk about my work, this was the only way to avoid it. “101 excuses to avoid tough topics”. My family wants me to attend a function in Jaipur. I am avoiding it. People will make small talk- how is work? What do I say- should I lie? Should I avoid it? Let me be smarter and avoid the trip. Right, I am in denial. That is fine. I’ll live with it.

Will any medicine take that pain away from me- ever?