About three years back, I had a short stay at one of the big hospitals in Delhi. This post is about that.
A trip to the hospital can be a real pain in the rear. Here I was feeling happy, thinking I’d get the small lump on my chest lopped off in a day and probably head home within a week. Wishful thinking – I know. After what seemed like weeks of tests, the doctors concluded that I might have some blood vessel malformation (“Hemangioma” was the word, I think). However, to be absolutely sure, they would have to cut open the affected area and see for themselves. The image of my neighbourhood mobile phone technician came to my mind, who has only one comment whenever I take a phone for repair – “Dada, khuli sabo lagibo (Bro, I’ll have to pry this apart and check).”
Nonetheless, I decided to undergo the surgery. Now, here is something I learned about big hospitals: there’s a dogfight for the ward beds and every consultant wants to give preference to his/her patients. My doctor advised me to get admitted as soon as a bed was vacated, while reassuring me that the operation would take place the next day. Accordingly, I did. However, in the afternoon I was informed that my operation had been postponed by a day. The reason: the super-specialist who was supposed to cure my illness had himself fallen ill!
Soon a nurse came up to me with a bundle in her arms and said, “Sir, this is the hospital gown. Please put it on.”
I smiled at her and replied, “You know, my operation is on the day after tomorrow. So, I’m not really a patient right now. Why don’t you put the clothes on my bed and I’ll put them on tomorrow.”
Spotting a frown on her face, I added, “Okay, I’ll put them on tonight. Let me get some fresh air,” and started to leave, thinking about those two girls I had spotted earlier.
“Sir, you have to wear it now, and patients are not allowed to leave the ward. Please get back to your bed.”
“All right, relax,” I muttered, trying hard not to roll my eyes.
Taking the gown from her, I traipsed back to my bed and tried changing into it. By now, the whole situation was starting to bug me. I was stuck in a general ward bed with patients moaning and crying all around. I wasn’t allowed to go downstairs and gawk at the pretty attendants. On top of that, I discovered that I didn’t have any clue as to how I was supposed to wear the stupid gown. There were no buttons, just some extremely long strips to tie it around. Initially, I thought I would tie the knot around my front, so as not to wear it like a woman. As if on cue, a couple of male patients walked past my bed wearing their gowns the “womanly” way.
However, the thing that bothered me most was the thought of staying two more days at this place, pretending to be a patient, and only a couple of hospital brochures and a magazine to keep me entertained.
By 10:30 PM, I was done reading the sixth article of the magazine – a really lousy piece of writing on the future of Rahul Gandhi. Lying on my back, I turned off the bedside lamp when I heard the patient on the bed on my right speaking to a woman, whom I presumed to be his wife.
Here is another thing I learned that night. People speak the truth when they say an idle mind is the Devil’s workshop. For a normal person, this couple would be an ordinary couple doing ordinary stuff. I, on the other hand, had nothing to do. So I started stealing glances at them. The man was very thin. His illness might have contributed to that. The woman was average sized in every other way except her biceps. She had these incredible wrestler biceps that would have made any man proud.
As soon as I saw that, I started imagining what she does with them apart from arm wrestling. For some reason, the first image that came to my mind was her beating her husband with a belan (rolling pin). That had me wondering whether her husband was actually ill. Maybe he was recuperating from sore buttocks.
The second image was of her holding her husband in a headlock, followed by a sleeper hold. I chided myself for judging. This woman was possibly a really nice lady who cooks great parathas, and probably got her biceps from using the rolling pin too much. And here I was extrapolating scenarios from minimal data (Well, not minimal when you think about the arm size).
I turned to my side to block out these images. A new image flashed before my eyes. I was the one in the headlock this time (What’s wrong with me?). She bared her fangs and screamed at me, “How dare you mock my muscles?”
Sitting up to shake off my reverie, I looked towards the bed on my left. I was greeted by the sight of an old man “adjusting” himself. I could have screamed out at that instant, “Why? Why me? What did I do wrong?” Then I thought there are probably a number of answers to the last question. So I stopped thinking. I didn’t scream. I didn’t shout. I just got up and went to the bathroom, all the while taking utmost care to not drop one of the rope-thingies attached to my gown in the toilet. Over there, I did some meditation, or blowdown, as we call it in refinery jargon, which let me expunge some of the disturbing images along with some other stuff. With a clear mind and conscience, I came back and tried to get some sleep.
And here is the final thing I learned that night. When you consciously stop judging people, you get rewards. I was almost asleep by then when I heard a gentle tap on my bed. Squinting, I noticed a beautiful hand rummaging by my bedside table. Turning my head to look at the owner of that hand, I had the good fortune of facing the most beautiful nurse I had ever seen. Her face was partially covered in darkness. However, the part that was visible shone like a pearl.
With a disarming smile, she asked, “Sir, are you all right?”
I sighed in contentment and closed my eyes before replying, “More than you know.” With a stupid smile pasted on my face, I drifted off to the dreamland.
P.S. I have opened a contact page in case you have a bone to pick with me.