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. 


I hate catching cold. I wish I were a bad fielder. But catch it, I do every time the season fluctuates. It is the silliest malady ever. It makes you feel sick, look sick, but the doctor doesn’t give you a thing. The family refuses to treat it as an ailment. So running red घायल nose or not, it cannot be used as an excuse to skip office and sleep. Well, I have a cold il my lose today as u cal see. (Replace l by n in the right places). With a headache between the eyes and aching throat and a reindeer nose, I am wearing a jacket with the hoodie on and a handkerchief permanently wrapped around a finger (I am sure u understand why a finger can go where no hand can). My family decided to laugh at me and poke sarcasm – looks like you are in Kashmir. So I decided to take revenge by skipping the spoken word. Who knows, it may be the best medicine yet.

The worst part about this no-cure-disease is that lying down makes it worse. Your breathing apparatus goes faulty and you have to use the closest spare part to breathe, which means you get thirsty soon, and then you have to drink water and then you need to relieve yourself and well, you get the drift. And then you have to breathe the vicksy steam which gets into other pores and blocks your vision and hearing ability too. And the world does not care about mere common cold, which happens to the mango people. You should at least get a more respectable disease like Dengue or Ebola or H1N1 which make the front page news.

I never had issues with fever and flu kind of symptoms. I dealt with it often enough when young. Every month at times. My dad was prompt to take me to the nearest clinic, squat on the handle of the bicycle earlier and carrier later. The only part of the visit I hated was the apparatus they put down the throat to look down into it. I gagged every time it happened and the only remark of the doctor used to be “you are ultra sensitive”. Once I was so ( for want of a better word) so sensitive, I puked even before it was put in my mouth. I would then take a week of antibiotics and get better only to repeat the cycle few weeks later. Unlike a friend who did not believe in doctors. She would brave the illness for as long as she could and finally go and pay the doctors fees, get a prescription and immediately feel better.

I was in class VII, I think, when I almost broke my leg. That time my only unfulfilled wish was – I wish I had broken my leg, so many people would have come to visit me, I would have been almost famous. As I was returning home from school in a three-wheeler, the driver took a turn, toppled over and the bar that you normally hold to keep your balance, fell over my leg and I was stuck under the auto, stunned, but nothing broken, lots of bruises as my leg rubbed against the road gravel and a deep gash where the bar pinned my leg. I screamed and shouted, till someone picked me up. I was rushed to the most handsome doctor around and I could just stare at him with a open mouth while he did the dressing. No school for the next few days. Oh no, I hated not going to school. Hearing the news, my friend came to visit me and I jumped with joy despite the pain, showing off the big bandage but that I could walk.

In class XI, I got infected with typhoid. And during exams at that. I still remember, 21 days of continuous high fever and body ache. All that was fine, the problem was my mom did not let me study. The popular belief that eyesight would be effected, took a precedence over my examination results. I had to find my own way out. Thanks to the fluffy fat रज़ाई , armed with a torch, my entire study during that month happened in torchlight beneath the quilt. My mom doesn’t know till date, how I cleared those exams without studying.

The most expensive cold was probably an year after my marriage. I had my usual episode of cold and cough and fever. Went to the lady doctor in the nearby apartment, who prescribed some antibiotics. A week, no change, she prescribed a higher dose. Another week went by, no change, all she did was, ” अच्छा, अभी भी ठीक नहीं हुआ, और strong medicine दे देते है।”  By his time everybody was worried. My husband came home from office and my dad told him with a very worried tone and face- Anuraag, तुमसे बहुत ज़रूरी बात करनी है। Poor guy, उसका तो दिल बैठ गया।  What happened? Jhilmil को इतने दिनों से बुखार है, ठीक ही नहीं हो रहा, क्या करे? Tell me something new, exasperated he. My dad had this awesome habit of much ado about nothing. Anyway, Time to switch doctors. Guess who treated me. For those who have read the electrical engineer’s handbook, B. L. Theraja’s son. He took couple of days and a small nasal surgery to take out an inch long obstruction from my nose, which, according to him, was the major cause of all my cold episodes in the past few years.

Pune has given me a new problem called allergic cold. The first year I landed here, from April to September, I sneezed every day without fail, and not a couple of light ones, but body shaking, earth shattering, face reddening sneezes which the faint-hearted cannot handle. It took me two years and various ( yeah, believe it or not) therapies to get rid of the same. Or maybe my system just got used to the weather and pollen.  Even today my dealing in spices is restricted as that just results in a Cetrizine later. Achooo!