Visitor and attendant waiting room,
Medical ICU, Jehangir Hospital,
I have been visiting this place for over 20 days now and hence the faces look familiar in the waiting room. The family from Karve Road sits through the day in shifts; they even brought a mattress for the night. The two Bengali women talk throughout the day, but mostly trying to hide the gloom in their faces. The Marathi family stays nearby but my mom says the son spends his entire day at the hospital; mostly running after doctors and nurses. There’s also a religious Hindu man in orange robes. He usually sits on the floor outside the waiting room with his eyes closed. I wonder if he meditates or tries to catch up on his sleep. He has dark circles under his eyes.
Then there’s this Muslim man from MG Road who sleeps on the corner seat at nights. His family gives him company during the day. They allow only one attendant and one visitor, but the rules are a bit flexible because it’s a hospital and not Harvard Law School: people are fighting for their lives; doctors and family members alike. The Muslim family is big, at least 5-6 people are there together at any moment of the day. The man who stays back at night is into construction business; I overheard.
There are three black foreigners too. One lady and two guys. Age wise, I assumed they must be sons of that lady. The guys (in their twenties) mostly looked into their mobile phones while the lady walked in and out of the ICU frequently. Their father (I assumed) was kept in isolation in the ICU.
In these 20 odd days, I’ve seen families come in, stay throughout the day, eat, discuss, go to sleep on the floor and chairs, wake up, repeat. At times, the atmosphere becomes very gloomy, people wailing, crying over the suffering of their loved ones. On two occasions, I’ve seen families cry over the demise of the admitted patient.
It is the waiting room of an ICU, what else can you expect? Either sparks of hope or painful suffering.
But I witnessed something else too.
There is a makeshift canteen (or dining) area on the ground floor. We aren’t allowed to have food in the waiting room. One day, I was having food while looking up a medical term on my phone. I noticed that the Muslim family was savoring on a huge tiffin with homemade delicacies. Man, woman, their two sons, daughter in law and two young kids were all eating meat biriyani, I sensed. I couldn’t make out if it was chicken, mutton or beef.
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I’m kind of an introvert. I resumed looking at my mobile.
The spiritual (or religious) Hindu man in orange robes was walking towards the wash basin. The Muslim man called out his name and said,
“Pandit ji…come, join us. Have some food.”
My eyes were fixed on the pandit ji; the man smiled, wobbled his head while walking towards the wash basin.
Did the wobble mean yes? Or a polite no? Or a polite “You guys carry on. I have my own food”?
My eyes followed him to the sink; the man washed his hands with soap, turned back, walked to the table next to me and sat along with the Muslim family, helping himself with big spoonfuls of biriyani.
He didn’t care if it was chicken, mutton or beef.
I was chocked on emotion, I don’t know why.
My eyes turned mildly wet. I took a heavy breath, nibbled on my food, smiled at witnessing the union of two souls over grains of food and meat. Union of humans over suffering.
When the same doctor in the same hospital in the same ICU is trying to save the life of your loved one who’s only trying to hold on to his/her breath, a forensic test to determine the type of meat is inconsequential.
Strangers care. Humans bind. Love conquers all.