The last two days had been quite depleting on him. Running from one corner of the hospital to another, one counter for cash payments to another for allocation of a room, Karim had really felt as if he was never going to get out of this loop of paying bills and at the same time worrying about his ailing father whose heart had almost stopped functioning. Every now and then, the doctors ordered some new tests and he was notified of it along with the directions of the payment counter. In the last two days, he had only seen his father thrice out of which only once could he speak to him. The other times he had been too wired-up and tubed to be able elicit a word. He could only see the dilations or constrictions in his father’s eyes and the frail motions of his hand.
Depression and stress ran through Karim’s veins by now. How much could a boy of twenty bear? He hadn’t even completed his graduation. Two years into the dreamy world of college and one comes to know of one’s father ailing with something like this… A small-town boy now in the nation’s capital city tending to his ailing father almost alone. His mother almost seemed to be too confused in this high-profile hospital to be able run around doing stuff; good that Karim had been here. All through the surgery, Karim was supported by relatives from far and wide who sat there anxiously waiting to hear that all went well. Gradually everyone went back assuring him that in case of any need, they were all for him. Dad had been now shifted to the Intesive Care Unit and was to be kept there for at least three days.
As he listlessly walked back to where his mother was sitting, he saw her reciting verses from a book. He thought he saw a quick flashback of the events in the last few days, he felt weaker now. He went to his mother and sat beside her resting his head against her shoulder. A little while later, as he was sitting on the luxurious sofa, he saw his mother stand up in while two other women came from the other end of the waiting hall.
“Ho gaya? (Is it done?)” his mother asked with similar anxiousness as when she asked him about his father’s surgery.
“Ji baaji, upar wale ke karam hai, doctor sahab keh rahe hain ki operation to sahi ho gaya par hosh mein aane mein waqt lagega. (Yes sister, thanks to God, the doctor is saying that the operation was successful but it’ll take time before the patient gains consciousness.)”
He saw his mother’s face light up after a long time. As they began to converse he heard his mother remarking how difficult it would have been for the two ladies from a different nation to manage things here.
“Baaji hame kis baat ki pareshani! Ek hamara khuda hai aur aap hain. (Sister what sort of trouble could we have! There’s God with us and so are you.)”
The way that lady said this strirred something inside Karim. He looked away trying to brush other thoughts away. His father was in the ICU after undergoing a critical surgery. His father was in pain. He could not socialize in such a situation! As he looked away, he saw the reception area boiling with people with different sorts of queries. He had been one of those people a little while ago and he hoped he did not have to be there again. He looked the other side. People rushed from one room to another with cash or receipts in their hands. Stressful work. He had seen it, done it.
“It’s useless looking around here. There’s only pain that inhabits the air in here.” he thought. He went and stood near the glass door stained by drops of water. It had been raining he realized. Mist blocked his sight and he turned and looked back, now leaning on the door. Those words still rented the walls inside his head. As he looked back again, everyone was talking with everyone. There wasn’t any sort of groupism. No one was here for the sake of fun. All of them had their patients here; patients who suffered from pain. Some of them sat with their heads down, desolate until someone with a similarly critical patient came and sat near them. In no time, a conversation would begin. Those who had gone through the cumbersome procedures of the hospital often guided the others. They would talk of procedures, of timings, of infrastructure, of politics and what not. “Isn’t it inconsiderate of them to leave their patients and get involved in conversations and socialize?” he thought as if inquiring his own conscience.
“What else could they do!” They were only allowed to see their patient twice a day that too only for a five minute period. What were they supposed to do at other times? As he thought about it now, what else could they do? Were they supposed to cry all day long? What good was it going to do? But weren’t they supposed to feel the pain for the sake of the immense pain that their patient was in? Wouldn’t this air bear more pain, more toxicity then? Who could stay here then? He had himself found the air too pain-polluted, hadn’t he?
Despite one’s efforts to feel pain for the sake of empathy, it was beyond human capacity to hold on to a pain that one could not feel. But it was a strong human tendency to hold on to hope, to find that quantum of solace in the relief of others. Every time someone came back after visiting their patient and told that the condition was improving or stable, the others shared the solace of the attendant. It rekindled the ambers of hope that lay inside the hearts of others for their own patients. When someone cried, there was always someone completely unknown who came to wipe off the tears. Because with every iota of pain around them, people felt the fire of hope inside them weakening.
In the fast moving world of the present day where negligence towards others was the norm, where ‘I’, ‘Me’ and ‘Myself’ were the only concerns, where did one find such humanity? Was amity created only to rise when someone was on the brink of losing someone or something?
Our notion of life is that of an ongoing fight wherein we sometimes win and sometimes lose. Why can’t we find that quantum of solace everyday in each other’s wins? Why can’t we give that quantum of solace everyday to those who lose? If solace is the only thing we give and take, will there be any wins or any losses? Won’t there be just life, no fight?