1 - Blame it on amygdala
The smell of phenol floats in the morning fog. At the entrance, I slip my feet into oversized Bata chappals. There is an eerie silence inside. Most of them are dizzy under the spell of last night’s tranquillisers. I take rounds, filling their requisition forms. High Protein Diet - reads this one. I prescribe two eggs. As I sign the form, a warm, sweaty hand grabs my wrist. I feel the faint quiver of his hands. He looks into my eyes like a satiated toddler and yells, ‘thank you Teji Bachchan! You are my saviour’
of being alone
I smile and walk towards the next bed. He is sitting on the bed erect (substitute with upright to avoid other connotations), facing me. I know he loves to wear a stethoscope around his neck, enacting a doctor. At times he even goes on rounds checking each inmate, scribbling a prescription in the air. He snatches my writing board, looks at me and says, ‘you must never become a doctor, no you must not, never!!! Medical colleges make you insane and you will land up beside me! Do you want this?’ I nod in affirmation and sit near him. The head nurse gives me stern look. I get up hesitantly. We aren’t allowed to mingle with patients of this ward; a thing I could never learn. I whisper to him, ‘eggs will make you sane, I am putting you on a HP diet’ He winks at me and bursts into laughter!
a child poses with
his tongue sticking out
By the end of the shift, these rounds generally wear you out. Today, surprisingly I feel refreshed. I know I have made them feel special. All it took was a couple of eggs. I slip back into my regular shoes. The board reads – Psychiatry Ward.
empty chairs await
2 - Echo
She may have received a call from her daughter. As I look through the glass, I see her sleeping. There is something in her face that has always drawn me to her. Today, the calm she carries over her creased skin matches the pristine white sheets that she is tucked in. Fresh and flawless.
It had been of those regular days at the hospital when I had first met her. I was a dietetic intern at the All India Institute of Medical Sciences. She was an in-house patient, diagnosed with chronic liver disease. She had slipped into a coma. I had accompanied a senior gastroenterologist on the rounds. While he discussed the prognosis with her husband, I could not take my eyes off her.
Fortunately, she revived from the coma within three weeks. I knew she had to be weaned off her tube-feed and introduced to an oral liquid diet gradually. As I made changes in her ‘Diet Requisition Form’, hanging from her bed-stand, she asked me to sit near her for a while. Holding my hand, she looked into my face for some time, and then said, ‘You must wear a bindi on your forehead; it will look good on you.’ At that moment, her words made no sense to me. All I could feel was the warmth of her hands and a tide of emotions swell up inside me. That night, back in the hostel, I was restless.
Two days later that her husband revealed this: I resembled their daughter who was married and was expecting a baby now. She was planning to visit her daughter in the US to assist her during pregnancy when she had to be rushed into emergency.
For the next few weeks, I had a home — the Intensive Care Unit, Floor 8.
will they ride on wind
beneath my feet
I fail to listen to their faint rustle