Monday Musings 159- The prophecy
It was a bad Monday morning. The weekend hangover was still strong. I had traveled a hundred kms into the heart of rural western Uttar Pradesh, having got up in the wee hours of a very chilly winter morning. The icy air had a somnolent effect. The prospect of meeting the doctor and detailing to him the dry subject of disease in the course of my profession as a medical representative was very depressing. I was outside the government hospital in Bijnaur. Disease and the diseased were scattered all over in a chaotic design - some frantically searching for a ray of the sun for warmth; others having lost the effort, sitting in the shade. The crowd had an array of faces- young and lethargic, old and wrinkled, motherly and anxious, avuncular and hopeless, matronly and pale. Overall not a very likeable place to be in. "The doctor is out- will be back in an hour" declares the attendant. "Its ok" I reply politely, but mutter under my breath ‘shit!’. I gaze around forlorn and lost- going over the options I have to kill time. Disease, pain and suffering around do not touch me. Very much like mercury which does not wet the surface its put on. "I am here for work" I remind myself.
Suddenly I see another turbaned creature and I smile to myself. Having nothing else to do I move up to him. He responds. He smiles. We share a handshake. And then we indulge in the favorite pastime of all Indians in general - We ask each other his religion, caste, region, district, dialect, school, college favorite cricketer, most hated politician, the bad state of our polity etc. We search for some commonality of shared interest or experience. It helps build sufficient rapport to kill time outside bus-stands, railways stations or hospitals. Thankfully our discussion restricts itself to the obvious and mundane.
Are you married?" he asks. "No I am still happy" I reply. He releases something between a chuckle and a grunt. "And you?" I quip. "I am happily married" he replies. I smile at the difference of perspective. By now I have taken a liking for the person. He is talkative, lively and spontaneous. He must have been around 40. "Do you believe in stars?" I ask. He gives me a deep look and falls silent. After a while he says, almost philosophically "No I believe in destiny".
I am not sure if I had asked the right question. After an interlude he starts speaking, slowly but with increasing firmness "During my early adulthood a soothsayer had predicted that I will have three children. I had scoffed at the idea. I believed in a two-child policy. So when my wife gave birth to our second daughter I had her tubectomy done. I was suddenly reminded of the soothsayer and laughed. Later one of the medical check ups revealed that my wife was excreting too much of proteins. Then began, what was to culminate into an unending saga of medical examinations. Her kidneys had failed her."
"I was a mute spectator while her condition deteriorated. I knew her days were limited. Today when I sit back in retrospect, the kaleidoscope of the past is hazy. There was no time then to feel the grief- to understand and let sink the gravity of the realization that she was dying - every moment, slowly but irrevocably. She slipped through my grip like sand. One moment she was there, the other she had gone. She had cheated me. How could I have allowed her to die? She died four years ago and I was actually relieved, that she would not suffer any longer. We both had fought valiantly. She fought her disease. I fought the agony. We both lost."
He stood silent. As if the effort of reminiscence was too taxing. I did not know what to say. I too stood silent.
After a while he resumed "I remarried last year. She had lost her husband in the dengue epidemic. She has a son. So now I am a proud father of three children. And incidentally, happily married. The prophecy had been correct"
The sun had turned warm. "The doctor is in" a faint voice seemed to be calling from a distance.