Spending time at a hospital is definitely not one of life’s best experiences. But it is here that you learn about life. You come to the daunting realisation that life is so limited in many ways. I spent almost a month at the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS), Delhi, starting mid-August. I was not taken ill, someone close to my heart was. This is India’s premier medical institute where thousands of patients from all over India come for the right diagnosis and treatment of their illnesses.
Sitting at C5, the paediatrics ward of the hospital, I had penned down a series of thoughts that floated in my head at that time. Here are my reflections.
Bed No 7: We have a window just next to the bed. It allows us a peep into life outside the confines of this room. A sharp contrast. People everywhere, so are monkeys in almost the same amount of number clambering on the locked window sills looking for food until a doctor comes and shows them a syringe. They flee. They too know a syringe can give you a piercing pain. Oh, how I hate the nurses at this point of time. Inside, the room is not quiet. The cries of sick children unnerve me. Time does not move. An hour seems like eternity.
I look around. Children of all ages and sizes are battling for survival. The face of innocence is being battered by some cruel force. A one-month old baby has a hole in his heart; he is lying connected to wires, a peripheral venous catheter inserted in a vein on his tiny wrist. Then there is a three-year old girl crying endlessly. The mother says she has pain in the stomach 24 by seven and also something called cystic fibrosis. I had never heard about it. But then I had never thought I would be exposed to such sights too.
Just opposite me, two women are busy with a new born baby. The mother of the baby sits with her expression so sedate, most times. I am intrigued. The other woman, her sister, is busy trying to feed the baby with milk from a spoon. As I come out for a breather, the mother follows me. She tells me my nephew looks like her son. I smile. Small talks are easy but they also come naturally in this place. As I sit on a bench outside the ward, she finds a place next to me and in a long lost drawl asks me if I have ever heard of Down’s syndrome. Of course I do and I know you have to undergo all these tests when you are pregnant. She tells me the doctor in her small town never conducted these tests and that she had never heard about it until her baby was diagnosed as one. “Is it a disease that comes from western countries?” she asks me.
In my limited time, I tell her she should just focus on nurturing the child with plenty of love and that there are special schools. But she stares into space again and tells me, “I just pray to God that he should take him back.” The baby also has pneumonia, she whispers. Then her tears roll down incessantly. My reflexes don’t work. I am unable to hug her. This is a hospital where the sights and sounds are just too familiar of grief. “Sixteen years ago, I lost my teenage son at a swimming pool accident. This one was born with great difficulty after 12 years," she goes on. I want to run away from all these stories. There is a lump in my throat.
I don’t know which pain is greater – mine or hers.
(to be continued…)