May 23, 2012
Very few are gifted with the art of making people laugh or smile. It is difficult but, Harishanker had it. Whenever he came to my clinic, we used to have a moment or two which would eventually lighten up my mood.
He enquired me about my assistant: 'Where is your gunman?' Kalyani is my pharmacist; her chamber is behind mine. She also accompanies me during my visits. Hence the name 'gunman'. I smiled.
'You need a detailed blood test,' I told him.
Since last 7 days he had a fever. The nature of it, mild and periodic, bothered me. In the evening he brought the report——everything seemed normal. But my tension increased. Before naming the fever as something critical, I thought of going through his personal details. He was a painter, working late nights most of the times. Orphan since childhood, his unmarried elder sisters brought him up. As he was telling his story, I sensed the reason for his evening fever——the fool has fallen in love. I gave my prescription: 'discuss love life with sisters!'
Harishanker married Lakshmi a few days later. I missed the wedding in my busy schedule. But I did find time to deliver his first child. Late one day, he came to the clinic with an ice cream cone.
“Here’s your treat,” he said.
People keep bringing sweets for newborns, or a bottle of perfume and large Camay soaps when they return from Dubai, or dates and almonds when they come on vacation from abroad, or fresh spinach and brinjals from their kitchen garden, but ice cream? First time somebody brought ice cream for me during my clinic hours!
'Instead of sweets, I thought it is a better option in this hot summer,' he said. His wife with the 10 month old baby entered my chamber.
'I have skipped my period,' she said. She was pregnant. I knew! A woman with a small built, hardly 20, already a baby in her hand and going to have one more! I advised her to discontinue.
'I want a boy this time; just like my husband!' she countered.
I could not convince her then. But the couple had come to the clinic next day.
“Please terminate,” Harishankar had said. He looked determined. I wonder how he convinced Lakshmi.
One evening, as I was about to close the clinic, I saw a group of people entering my clinic. There is no time sense for emergencies. A woman was crying inconsolably. It was Lakshmi. What might have gone wrong? Men were trying to console her; but Lakshmi sank on the floor.
'Harishanker fell from the second floor,” someone said.
I stared at the stranger.
“He passed away, on the way to hospital.”
My legs froze. I could not digest that——eyes welled up. But a doctor cannot show emotions. I examined her and prescribed sedatives. Once they left, I sank in my chair. It was quite late. But a new patient had come. One cannot send back a patient. I asked Kalyani not to send in the patient for few minutes.
'I shouldn't have terminated; he would have come as my baby,' Lakshmi's words were ringing in my ears. A man dies just within a week after terminating his progeny. How capable his wife should be to go through all this. Poor Lakshmi was young and weak. But then it is easy for her to overcome the grief alone rather than with a baby in the womb.
As I closed my eyes, I recollected Lakshmi pleading for the baby. I saw the firmness in Harishanker’s breathless voice: ‘Please terminate.’ Then I realized. And, a smile came on my face.