June 30, 2014
The sirens of the ambulance wailed mournfully as it arrived on the beautiful driveway and halted in front of my villa. The paramedics looked around in curiosity. The garden and lawn was beautifully trimmed. The garden and the villa were like a dream out of a Hollywood movie. The toil of a life time! "Gulf Money…" the neighbors used to utter with scorn as they passed by. They never understood the slavery I did for twenty years in Kuwait in order to achieve this home. The flashing blue and red lights of the ambulance reflected on the marble portico adding to the strange atmosphere as the neighbours gathered to watch the events. The pain was unbearable and my mind went blank every now and then. The paramedics gave me sedatives, placed an oxygen mask on my face and raised the stretcher to the vehicle .
"Porbulek parthina vonthe jasti aand thojund…"("looks like the Mangy has had too many drinks ") A neighbour sarcastically uttered and the rest tried to hide their grin. The mood of the crowd was festive as they watched the event without any concern or sympathy. The very people who had numerous times taken help from me were now showing their true colors. "Vultures…" I uttered under my breath and then the sleep mercifully took over.
"Massive haemorrage in the brain... needs CT scan and extensive tests as well. We do have the facility but I rather suggest another hospital where there are better experts," The friendly family doctor was explaining to my wife. He was obviously concerned about his commission from the other hospital even as time was running out. As he took his time dialing other clinics and started negotiating, I panicked. Even with my rudimentary knowledge in the medical field, I knew the first couple of hours decided the fate of a person with a stroke. I tried to speak. No, not an inch of my body moved. Even the tears had stopped flowing and the only reality was faint voices, pain and blackouts.
As the proceedings went on at a snail's pace my ignorant folks did nothing to save me. While healthy, I had fought hard for my rights and survival throughout life, and saved myself from my enemies. Now I could not save myself from my own folks. My fate was sealed. The ambulance shuttled from one clinic to the other and the businessmen in the white garbs made a kill.
"Brain Dead..!!! there is nothing much we can do about him Mrs. D Souza"…, the doctor was trying his best to impress my wife with his knowledge in the field. I could hear, I could smell, feel…he was wrong!! But there was no way to convey my thoughts to him. The relatives gathered and spoke in hushed tone. The days slowly passed. Friends and relatives came and went. Thankfully I did not have to look at the faces of people who were obliged to pay a visit and then quickly go away. The sounds and smells were my only source of information.
Tik Tok Tik Tok... I heard a new sound of the high healed shoes. It was my wife who entered the hospital room. I was amazed. She never used to wear high healed shoes. They never suited her and she knew I disliked them. "Sounds like a cow to me…" I used to make fun of girls who walked with high healed shoes and made that noise. Wow, what a transformation… and so soon…But it did not surprise me. Married life with her had turned me in to a philosopher and I fully understood every woman under the sun.
"Mum, look what I found in Dad's office." My son exhibited a signed blank cheque I had kept for any emergency. "I can withdraw all the funds from his one account. But there are several bank accounts. God alone knows how long it takes for the banks to complete the formality…" I could smell the whisky even from a distance. He was greedy for the remaining funds while I was still alive. My daughter who was sitting by my bed gently sobbed. She was always close to me.
As I slipped in and out of consciousness the conversation continued as to how they would split the remaining amount of funds and the property that was the result of my lifelong toil. "Tu kite aikatai go ? Chedwank vanto na". (why are you listening lady? Girls do not have right of inheritance) my son shot a cruel remark at my daughter. Her soft hand trembled and tightened on my wrist. I could feel a tear drop on my hand. It broke my heart. She had a husband who was a drunkard. The kind that married for the sake of his own needs of food and pleasure. The basest animal instincts had come to the surface immediately after marriage and now she earned her living by working and also took care of her two kids. "I should have made a will...I should have left something for her..."The regrets started eating me up.
"Mum, we should at least put his obituary in the front page of a news paper". It was my daughter. "Dead people don’t read newspapers!" My son shot back. We better not waste his hard earned money on publicity". What hypocracy! My thoughts went back to the days when I had indeed stopped reading the newspapers. It was when my son was doing his college. All the resources were squeezed and I could not make both ends meet. It was then that I calculated 150 fils X 365 days and decided my one and only cherished hobby had to be sacrificed to make my son a graduate. It was a painful decision , but now as I heard the stranger that was my son I felt like a fool. From whom does he inherit the demonic nature? Definitely this was not in my genes?!
"Besamv diya father.." (Bless me Father ) I heard the unison greetings and realized the priest had arrived. Solemnly he said a few words of comfort and prayed for my recovery. Then clearing his throat he asked. "Mrs. D Souza, what plans do you have for his burial? We are building the new parish hall and you can carve a marble stone in his memory right near the entry for Rs 10 lakh…of course you can afford to give more for this noble cause...."
What a man of faith, I wondered. He had prayed for my recovery and in the same breath he was planning my burial! My mind refused to think further as the agonizing pain again surfaced. Religion and the people in white were my sworn enemies since my childhood. I even used to chase away the so called born again believers who came knocking at my door. Now I wondered if they really had something true to offer.... I wished I had at least given some time to listen to them. They always seemed to be different kind of people….to get all that rejection and hatred from the society but yet to continue to share the gospel. It was too late now, and a sense of panic gripped me. For the first time I thought of life after death and wondered where I could be heading. In what looked like an eternity slowly the mind went to sleep in a body that was already asleep.
When the voices again began to register in to my consciousness it was the undertaker discussing the budget with my wife. "Here comes the king of vultures", I mused. This was a man who counted every single flower, the cost of the thread that was used to bind them, the cotton that was used to stuff in the nose of the corpse, the distance from home to cemetery and a thousand other meticulous calculations and arrived at a staggering grand figure! This was the only man who took full advantage of people who were too desperate and distressed to protest. His was a monopoly that was never threatened by business rivals.
As a climax to my misery the sister who was supposed to clean my bed sores had stopped cleaning and bandaging the wounds since three days and was compensating it by saying three "Hail Mary" instead. "He is too heavy ba…The sores are too deep. Anyway he is brain dead so what use is it anyway? Let us pray for him"....
I chose to die.
It was like a dream. The house was filled with people. The smell of incense, flowers and candles made a perfect melancholic blend. The brass band played slow melodious mourning tunes. There were some relatives whom I had never seen for years. No one seemed to pay any attention to me. They were all looking at a coffin. I recognized my dear friend Martin in the crowd and shouted "Hey Martin!….How come…!! "Then suddenly I realized that Martin had died five years ago in an accident. I went closer and blurted, "Hey Martin…You.. You…aren’t you dead ?" Martin slowly turned towards me with a strange sinister grin. Only the whites of his eyes could be seen shining. "Yes," he said slowly. "AND YOU ARE DEAD TOO "!!
(Short story for entertainment, all characters are fictitious. I am still alive and kicking.)
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