I Won9 mins 120 9 mins 120
It was a usual weekday morning sometime in the summer of 2018. I still had an hour to go to work. I was lying on the couch scrolling the twitter feed on my phone.
Then my phone rang. ‘Hameed uncle calling’ showed on my phone screen. I didn’t pick up the call. I don’t pick up anybody’s calls. I am a ‘text only’ guy. The phone rang again. I thought Hameed uncle must be calling me for some help. I still didn’t pick it up. Then the phone rang yet again. This time I was worried and confused too. Nobody had called me thrice in a row in the recent past.
“Hello...” I answered eventually.
“Thank God you finally picked. Did anyone inform you?” asked the uncle.
“No. What’s the matter, uncle?” I asked.
“Your mother isn’t well. She is in the hospital.”
For a moment I thought Mom must have come for a routine check-up. I knew she sees the doctor once in three months.
“You need to come to the hospital,” demanded Uncle.
“Me, huh? Why me? Where are my brothers?”
“They are busy in election duty”
“But uncle… I... I don’t go to hospitals” I blurted.
“Don’t go to hospitals? What a strange person you are! You should learn from your bhabhi, a brave lady. When she saw that your mother fell ill, she took her along with her kid and boarded the train to Bangalore. She is pregnant and needs a break. You need to be with your mother who is in ICU right now”
There was a long pause. Then I asked, “Uncle, what exactly has happened to Mom?”
“Heart failure,” Uncle replied. “But doctors are treating her. Don’t panic. Keep a pair of extra clothes and start to Baptist hospital in Hebbal (Bangalore). You might have to stay there overnight”
I nodded on the phone.
"You don't need to hurry up. Eat something and come, all right?" Hameed uncle hung up the phone.
For the next 10 minutes, I sat motionless in a corner of my room. I was trembling inside with two fears.
I took my bag, packed a pair of clothes and a towel and left the room on my bike. I stopped at the Udupi restaurant for breakfast. I could hardly eat one idly.
My first fear was my mother. I was unmarried at 36 while my elder siblings had families. I had no one in my life except my mother. She was the numero-uno priority of my life after Dad had gone. You can still live after you lose your father. But losing a mother is the end of the world. Being her youngest child Mom always adored me like a small baby. A mother might trust her oldest kid the most but deep inside it’s the youngest kid she loves the most. The thought of she battling in the ICU killed me.
I started on my bike towards Hebbal. I was riding in the second gear. I just couldn’t move in that direction. My second and biggest fear started creeping into my head. That was – Nosocomephobia, which means, the fear of hospitals.
In my school days, the hospital was my second home. My father worked as a clerk in a government hospital in my town. I was very close to him. During school vacations, I used to be with him 24X7. When he went to work, I used to accompany him to the hospital. I used to help him in his work, visit different wards, play pranks with the nurses, and had seen dead bodies too. It was all fun until the day Dad passed away all of a sudden in a hospital. From that day just the sight of a hospital sent shivers down my spine. I developed a severe fear of hospitals.
It had been 20 years since Dad had gone but my fear hadn’t abated a bit. And obviously, I didn’t take up medical after my 12th. Whenever I fell ill, I always took medicines on the counter. Whenever Mom had to visit the hospital, always it was one of my brothers who used to take her. I don’t know if they knew about my condition. Gosh! ‘condition’ sounds as if I have some sort of a syndrome. Anyway, I always tried to hide this fact from others. I didn’t want to become a laughing stock among people who I feared might lament on me saying, ‘hey this loser chickens out from going to a hospital.’ Once I had been to Dharwad and my good friend Dr.Mahesh Maralihalli who worked in SDM hospital, Dharwad, called me and forced me to meet up with him. I went to the hospital but stayed out and called Mahesh on his phone.
“Come on in. Come to my department,” Mahesh had told.
I had sounded totally confident and cool when I said, “Alright. We have two options now. One is, we meet up in your cabin and be mindful of what we talk, how much we laugh. And… also we never know when would your lousy boss gatecrash and kick you into an operation theater. Second, there is a wonderful dhaaba just outside your hospital gate. I have heard they serve lovely paratha and lassi. And the best part is, the lovely chicks from the adjacent college hang out here a lot”
“Hehe… you will never change”
Once I tried to visit a hospital where my granny was critically ill. When I had entered the hospital I couldn’t bear the smell of it. I had perspired in the cold AC building. All I saw was the face of my dead father everywhere. I had run out and puked.
I started throwing up the roadside near Mahadevpura. One auto rickshaw guy yelled at me asking me to park my bike off the road. I got onto the bike. I had never been in such a dilemma before. My mother was pulling me towards her but the hospital was kicking me farther away. I was stuck between a hard and a rock place.
Somehow I reached the hospital. My aunt was there. She said she had to go as her kid was not keeping well and I had to be with Mom until someone else came from the town. My Bhabhi would visit once in a while. “Make sure you don’t cry in front of your Mom,” Aunt warned me.
I just closed my eyes and entered the hospital. I was escorted to the ICU where Mom was being treated. She was lying on the bed, pale and exhausted. Her body was swollen. The doctor came and explained, “A normal person’s heart’s blood pumping capacity is around 60%. But for your mother, it is reduced to 17%. Also, her heart has a leakage, hence the body is swollen. We are removing the fluid from her body and will give medication. She will recover only if the medicines work”. The cardiologist left after patting my back.
I sat next to Mom and looked at her. She looked at me and tried to smile.
“Mom, you promised…” I reminded her. Tears rolled down my eyes.
Many years ago when Mom and I had realized that we couldn’t live without each other, we had promised each other that we would leave this world together, not alone.
“I don’t want to go before seeing you get married,” said mom meekly. Her eyes were wet. Her voice had completely gone squeaky. I could hardly recognize it. There was a huge lump in my heart. I looked up and prayed to God, to save my mother. Mom asked me to whisper a motivational song to her. I sang ‘hum honge kamyab’ holding her hand. Then a nurse reminded me that the visiting time was up and I should sit outside the ICU.
I stepped out of the ICU and sat on a bench. Checked my phone; there was no signal. I looked around. Hospital sickness nauseated me. My father’s death in a hospital flashed before my eyes. Then I saw a stretcher being moved. There was a body in it. Was the patient alive? I didn’t know. I ran from there. I took the elevator and came out of the hospital. I sat on a bench under a tree and dialed my brother’s number. It was switched off. I had never felt such helplessness and anguish all my life. I broke down heavily. I cried nonstop. All that was inside me since the past 20 years came outpouring. Then I collapsed on the bench and fell asleep.
“Excuse me, are you the attendee for the patient Shameem?” a nurse woke me up.
I nodded rubbing my eyes.
“You are not supposed to be here. You should be available outside the ICU all the time. Please bring these medicines quickly for a procedure,” she told and left after handing me a sheet scribbled with medicine names.
[After 3 days]
‘Good morning Bengaluru, this is RJ Sumeet from Radio Mirchi. This is a fine Saturday morning. Isn’t it beautiful? On this note, let me play a peppy song to suit your weekend mood. Here you go…’ I had plugged in the earphones listening to the FM from my phone. I was carrying fruit juice.
‘Sir, no lift today too?’ asked the lift-man with a smile.
‘Nope. I am loving stairs these days,’ I quipped humming the FM song.
Romy Joseph came to me and said, “Here is your coffee. How much sugar?”
“I don’t know. Just make it as sweet as you,” I flirted.
She blushed. She was a cute girl. I wish all nurses were as cute as her.
Mom was sipping the fruit juice I had just gotten from the canteen. Mom said, “This girl is so amazing. I drink juice and she gives my share of coffee to you. She is the main reason I am feeling so good now”
“Romy beta, do you have any good Muslim friends of yours? My son isn’t liking any girl we try to arrange,” Mom asked the nurse Romy.
“I am okay with Christian girls too,” I said staring at Romy.
“Shhhh! The doctor came!” Romy badly wanted to escape the uncomfortable conversation.
The cardiologist checked Mom, took some readings, turned to me and said, “Good. She has recovered faster than I anticipated. 40% is the heart pumping rate now. She will get back to normal slowly. We will shift her out of ICU today. She can go home in two more days. Good to see you taking care of your mother since the past few days”
Mom was all smiles hearing that she would be moved out of ICU. She was doing great. I thanked the doctor.
“You have a visitor”, the security came in and yelled at us.
I went out. It was my brother who had come from the town. We didn’t quite smile at each other.
He was seeing me in a hospital after 20 long years.
“How was it?” he asked.
I fought back my tears, looked into his eyes and said, “I… I won !”
He hugged me. Then he went into the ICU to meet Mom. I strolled out into the veranda and stood there. There was a strange calmness around which I hadn’t felt in ages. I looked up. I could see the clear blue sky. Then I said, “Dad, I let you go today. For good. Mom fell ill to cure my Nosocomephobia”
Mothers you know, are the best doctors.