Thursday, March 10, 2011

One Sentence

That was to be the day of judgement for her. This was not biblical, but corporeal. It should have been a surprise for him that a doctor can talk about a patient in biblical terms. The question of his mother’s life, - a mother who was a great worshipper of Shiva - everybody believed, is in the hands of a Christian doctor, Sebastian Selva Kumar. Sampath was waiting for him. No one believed that there was anything more than bare bones and skin in the body of Sankaramma. Where did god hide life in this body, slowly but irretrievably, dissolving in the air, like camphor? He wanted to ask the doctor. Whatever little science he had studied indicated that even the doctor may not know.

Sampath’s brother was studying in XII th class and preparing for the government examination. To them as well as of those patients in this ward, Sabastian was the Shiva, Jesus and Allah all rolled into one, to each according to his faith. The doctor does not seem to believe that he had this power. He spoke like a meditating saint, very rarely, only when necessary. His students who came with him faithfully took notes of observations he was making of the progress of the patients. He was very careful with his words and added always that it was his opinion and it may turn out to be true or otherwise, as every patient is unique creature of god that may have a surprise or two. But his statements mattered for others. He knew he was no god. But his patients granted him that status.

Sampath thought about his mother. What would she be doing at this hour? She might be sleeping or moaning or crying in pain. He can enter the ward and see her. Just for one more time. Visiting her will increase his grief and if she is awake, her pain of seeing someone dear to her in pain. Her dried skin, weak and thinned body and her melancholy filled eyes. His eyes filled in tears. What was his first memory of her? He could not exactly recall. He was aware that this could be the last.

Fifty three years ago when Sankaramma was born, an eminent astrologer had told her father that she would be the star of luck for this family and she would outshine everyone in this family. This was when daughters were considered a liability. Her father had dreams of her becoming a doctor. Even shortly before his death, when he was hospitalised for the last time, he spoke to the doctor treating him as if his daughter is treating him. His dreams on her prosperity and fame died with him. Sampath had heard his grandfather saying his forgotten dreams when he was a boy. She had become a clerk in the Government. There was no option.

At the crucial period of her school final examinations she had developed a fascination for a friend of hers. He had built castles in the air where both of them could fly and live without caring about the world. She was more than willing to travel to the dreamlands love and wander far and wide like Alice in the wonderland. But when the results of the examinations were out, she realised that instead of moon she had landed in an abyss of mediocrity. The boy-friend vanished into a different city as his father was transferred and she had to pursue a science course. Her unfulfilled love infuriated her so much that she had decided to become a nun or to be a spinster.
Love and boys had become detestable. Later till her marriage to an unknown drunkard she never entertained any advances from boys. One thorn had spoiled her flower. Becoming a doctor remained a dream.

Her marriage was arranged with all the paraphernalia that accompany marketing a Hindu girl to a bridegroom. But the most important of all, the character of the groom was never in doubt. It was left to the imagination of the family of the bride and practical wisdom of the bride after the marriage.

Raja revealed his mysteries one by one after the marriage. He was one of the saints during the day who became philistines during nights. He had installed in the one bedroom house an almirah that contained not his or her clothes but numerous bottles of liquor whose colours varied from black to yellow. Clothes covered the bottles. Sampath had heard about his father from his sister and mother. He was surprised that a father could be so good that he never eat anything in the house and drunk nothing but liquor of high quality. He proved that a man alone could spoil the life of the family despite the best efforts put in by everyone except him, before dying at the age of 42. Family felt that impact of his reign of 10 years terror lasted more than a life time. The scars were still visible and painful.

Sankaramma was happy when he died. But she had to behave like a Hindu wife mourning for her husband till he reached heaven and she the hell. She was anxious about her as well as her children’s future. But future without a husband would not be as bad as if he had been alive and kicking, literally.

\Now she was lying on the hospital bed for the last eight months. Neither the doctors nor the family were more knowledgeable about the final outcome of the treatment now than at the time of her entry into the hospital records. She has never understood the ways of the god who had given her only misery and abandoned him only to remember at the times of worst pain. May be she was not a part of his game but he was a part of her sufferings. Cancer had been the last nail in the coffin of her religion. No amount of guarantee of a good life in heaven can sustain her belief on earth. She wanted to an end to her suffering. She had no desire for pleasures of heaven when she has faced the worst distress on earth.

Doctor came at five. Sampath was standing beside her bed. Doctor took out the treatment papers and the reports of the latest test. Doctor looked at the papers for a long time. For sampath it looked ages. There was no expression on doctor’s face. It seemed that he was reading everything, ever written in this world from rig Veda to bible, to the latest editorial in today’s newspaper. Mother and son were looking at the doctors. He was the God.
Doctor turned and smiled without parting his lips. “You are cured for now”. He was telling many more things that they did neither follow nor understand. His first few words were enough.

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