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January 2019, vol 14 no 4

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Pranav Kodial

Compatriots

I'm sitting on my designated bench-cum-bed in the waiting room-dormitory, along with thirty others. Everyone knows everyone by now.

We are of different shapes, sizes, colors, ages, sexes etc. But all have one factor in common – a patient in the Intensive Care Unit on the floor below.

public library…
each book
a new story

A digital signboard and a loudspeaker hang on the wall. Funny, that a couple of such stupid things should deserve so much attention.

But they’re important. Because when they announce/display an ICU bed number, that patient’s relative must hurry down to the ICU to receive a message.

Sometimes the message is good, and on hearing of it, we all rejoice. Because soon, that patient will be shifted to another transit home – a regular hospital room – and thence to his own home in the outside world.

Sometimes, the message from the ICU isn't happy and sorrow sweeps across everyone's faces. Sometimes, the news of a death is met with resignation – unwanted but expected, and perhaps for the better.

The beds in the dormitory are labeled the same as the corresponding bed in the ICU. Elderly Parvati Aunty on bed 1525 takes out her Bhagavad Gita for her daily reading ritual. Stephen Uncle on 1508 assures a young, teary Rashna on 1512 that what happens is for the best. Zainab on 1510 joins the discussion and we talk about God, life and death, our purpose here, and other things that we mostly never talk about.

Outside, night has fallen and I can see some of the lavishly furnished apartments in the buildings across the road. Below, someone in a ten million rupee Jaguar struggles through the usual rush hour traffic to get home, a couple of hours away in the suburbs.

murky swamp…
a swan notices
its own reflection

We go to bed. Most fall asleep. Some don’t, but eventually will. Every human being ultimately succumbs to fatigue.

The loudspeaker buzzes and for some reason, I first look at my watch. 2:00 AM. Then, I gaze at the bed number on the signboard for a few moments and close my eyes.

With a sigh, I get up and trudge down the stairs.

another parent
returns Home –
eternal spring


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