The authoritative voice of the assistant on his Maps announced his destination. He had always liked its voice, albeit not exactly in a way you like a living person’s voice, but for the right amount of authority it possessed. He turned the ignition off the moment this voice emanated out of the phone. As if startled. And there was honking from behind. The traffic soon came to a halt. And then there was even more honking. A guard quickly rushed to his side and cursed him. He apologized and turned the engine on again. Following the guard’s directions, he parked his car now like a civilian. He handed over the keys to the guard and made his way towards the entrance.
The main gate was just wide enough to let a single car pass by. But it was reserved primarily for people in emergencies. A temple was built, conveniently so, just next to this main gate. A statue of Lord Ganesha, seated on a mouse, adorned in beautiful colours, was placed inside it. Pot-bellied, and with eyes only Gods can possess, eyes that humans use for only deities’ depiction. And the moment one entered the main gate and looked to their right there was this idol greeting the melancholic people with an enchanting smile, instilling in them all the hope they needed, the valour they’d need. Revered as the Vighnaharta, the demolisher of all obstacles, by the Indians their castes and beliefs notwithstanding, an idol of Ganesha is now a common sight in the hospitals. This same Ganesha is also believed to have written the entire Mahabharata while it was being recited by Sage Vyasa. Only now he was entrusted with an even onerous task of rewriting people’s fate.
He entered the hospital only after genuflecting before this idol. And if you look at someone staring into the eyes of an immobile figure for long enough you kind of realise the hopelessness of their situation. Without paying any heed to the crowd around he prayed. He knew that his family needed something more than just the medicines.
Hospitals had never been his thing. Illness was one thing but seeing dejection all around, and the profundity of sorrow on peoples’ faces was unbearable. No, heartbreaking. He walked past several such heartbroken people. And when you walk past so many heartbroken people you are not scared of your own heart being broken someday, you are convinced of it.
Amidst all the thoughts of mortality and meaninglessness of everything he deemed important till now, he thought particularly of how the end awaited everyone. More or less in a similar fashion. In a hospital like this, on a stretcher being pulled by one of the attendants and being pushed by the other, with your family members running in parallel trying to keep up the pace. Silently praying. Timidly hoping. How only in the face of death are we all, humans, alike. Hopeless.
Walking absent-mindedly he stumbled across a stretcher that had come to a halt perhaps to get some medicines for its occupant from the pharmacy inside the hospital. The attendant gave him a look. A look that bore disappointment more than the derision. There is no mockery inside hospitals. There are patients who are too scared to ridicule anyone, and then there is the staff that has seen too much to involve themselves in mockery of any kind. His own leg hurt when he stumbled across the stretcher’s leg and he soon turned to apologize to the occupant. But what he saw was devastating. The occupant was a boy much younger to himself and had tubes in all the places one could possibly insert them on a person’s face. He was holding hands with his mother, or his aunt, or his sister. It is tough to tell relations on a stretcher. The lady was crying. Perhaps she was diffident of his return to being normal again. Perhaps she had seen that only a mother can. Or perhaps she wasn’t ready to see what future had in reserve for him. She had her reasons. Her misgivings. It is always difficult between a mother and her child whoever be the occupant of the stretcher. But the boy was smiling all the while. That smile. That hope. Light emanating from between the curves of his smiling lips. So reassuring. As if he smiled more to soothe him than his mother.
Seeing the boy smile he thought of the courage. And of all that had been taught to him in this context. Does it get any grander than this? And above all, was it even meaningful? The exhibition of courage. A boy so young lying on a stretcher, with a mother crying by his side. Mother’s tears, his smile. And what about his heart, was there anything left in it, and his eyes that seemed devoid of any tears. And this sight was both disturbing and assuring. Disturbing because he never wished anyone should go through this ordeal and assuring because this was the only way to fight this ordeal, an ordeal that almost all of us are predestined to, in one way or the other.