Dayananda , a nondescript man of around 55 years was getting ready. As he was combing his hair the strange sound was coming..."kchhhhhh...krchhhhh...khrhhhhhhh".His head was like a barren land surrounded by fertile vegetations. All the years of negligence had carved out silver glossy dimensions...somehow over the years he found it more interesting and intriguing to nurture ones thoughts than ones hair, skin, and appearance.Dayananda was a professor in the nearby Leelabhai College of Arts. He was the only Economics Faculty of the most neglected department of the college. However, he had always managed to get grants, approval for new books, arrangement of events , more than the department deserved. There were only 14 students enrolled and as he said it gave him special opportunity to take care of each of them personally. Although his profession as a lecturer gave him immense satisfaction yet his quest for knowledge was not satisfied. So , last 5 years he had been actively into writing various papers and books which meant that he didn’t get any time at all to think of himself. And he was quite successful at it. Various invitations for him were pouring in and slowly he was into the elite section. And why he shouldn’t be content if he had such a nice family to share all that joy? Dayananda's family included a daughter, Shanti, a son, Divya Shankar, his wife Neeti and his most beloved granddaughter Rishita. His wife had passed away long back when Divya was just 10 years old. Since then, he had been with his kids in their ups and downs and tried his best to “act’ as their mom and be their father as well. He was combing and looking into the mirror, thinking of his early courtship days with his wife. Does he have any regrets? No not at all, he was quite happy. He had his own priorities and he had enjoyed every bit of it. One thing when he looks back was that he had been so much in congruence with his family throughout his life that he had been the best dad, best husband and a man with least expectations, minimal demands.
But this time he was a little frightened, a little apprehensive. In his endeavour of knowledge quest, he never knew when he developed some ailment until it started paining him in the chest. So far in his life he had been quite a healthy man , so probably his friends and family never had thought of him as being ill. And this was so true about Daya,most people in his vicinity would not think that he too needed some care. Whenever there was any issue, the onus of solving it had always been on him. Sometimes he felt tired of it, but then he thought that may be most people were not in a condition to leave behind ego and approach others.Afterall very few could have this simple thought that talking to friends doesn’t make one small. Such a Dayananda was going to the hospital. He was quite amused as he was going there first time for himself and he was quite sure that it’s all because of his culinary choices that he had got acidity problem. Before this he had been to the hospital many a times. When any of the people in his neighbourhood was in a problem, he was the first to go, in spite of his busy schedule. May be he was so used to his laid back life of about 20 years that the past 5 years of busy schedule couldn’t just drive him away from his social service.
Daya dressed himself up in a light yellow shirt and brown trousers. For a moment he thought whether those were his lucky ones, but then he was so sure about his acidity problem that he stuck to whatever he wore. His family did not seem very inquisitive about his going to the hospital, after all it is quite normal for a middle aged man to go to hospital occassionaly.The only thing that stuck to Shanti was now, after he gets well, he would be able to keep his things in place, neatly because she was tired of doing household work and could not, in any way give extra space. Shanti’s life was centred around her family and in this course when it had shifted from being centred around family to being centred around cooking, cleaning, dusting and decorating probably she also didn’t know. So she desperately needed time for herself. She was still unmarried and may be her loneliness gave way to eccentricities. To her, Daya was a good man; just a good man and she never wanted to go beyond that. Daya had always wanted to see some respect for him in her eyes, but somehow his emotional quotient was too high to match with her seamless efforts towards household work. So both of them were like two extremes, never able to appreciate each other. But being his first issue Divya thought that he shared a special connection with Shanti. So just when he was about to leave he had this tint of desire in him that may be she would just like to come along with him. And his son, what could he expect from his son, he was a busy man and had never had time. It was only during dinner time that they would meet. But conversations were not more that "how are you” types. Neeti, his daughter in law was someone like Shanti 5 years back .She was so meticulous about everything and so full of life. Sometimes she would just marvel Daya with her uncontrolled creativity .Sometimes Daya would just ponder over the transitions people have like Shanti had, like Neeti might have. May be people tend to lose sensitivity very early to things which are too close to them.
Daya, as usual without any demands, decided that it actually doesn’t make sense that people would accompany him. He was not going to die and he was old enough to take care of himself. So giving this rationale to himself, happily he set his journey towards hospital.
Amravati hospital was about 10 kms from where Daya stayed. Instead of driving his car (as he was feeling very tired), he chose to take a cab. When he reached it was about afternoon. As he approached the main gate he was welcome by a huge board, written on it the names of all the doctors, their qualifications and specializations which he could hardly understand. So going by his own knowledge, he found the name "General Medicine" most approachable and hence immediately he got an appointment with the dean of that section. It gave him immense pleasure that he had been able to select the right person in such a little time. The beautiful lady sitting at the desk gave an appointment of 12.30 pm and in turn asked him for 450 bucks. God!!! Thought Daya, just for one visit they need 450!! And on top of that Rs 100 extra for registration. It was really irking him. It was not that Daya didn’t have the money but to him spending so much on just a doctor was of no value addition. Anyway, since he had already landed in the hospital he had no other choice. He was keenly waiting for 12.30 when the attendant took him to the corner room, Room no 9 , where a bulky man in maroon shirt and black trouser was sitting. He was speaking to someone in phone and giving instructions about what to eat when. As he saw Daya coming in he greeted him and asked him to sit on the chair in front of him. By this time his call was over and he was looking directly on to his face. Daya didn’t know where to start. So he thought its best to say what he had and what he thought."Doc, I am getting a strange pain in my chest and back and I like spicy food, probably acidity?"The doctor did not actually look very happy with this self diagnosed patient of his but was calm. He got the details of the pain, and then as usual scribbled something on his notepad. He asked him "Look Mr Sharma, I have written few diagnostics tests, get it done asap.Only then we can come to any conclusion”. When he came out of the room, he was again guided by the same attendant to the counter on the other side. This was specially meant for diagnosis. As he apprehensively asked the man sitting on the other side of the desk about the prerequisites of the tests and the total amount corresponding to those he was very optimistically told about the entire process.”Sir , the doctor has rightly given you some 11 tests.5 out of which are to be done in empty stomach .So please come in the morning without eating anything. Also you should have a minimum of 12 hours gap between your last food intakes. There is one ultrasound and rest are after food tests. The entire procedure would take about 4-5 hours and cost only Rs3500.Shall I book your slot for tomorrow?” For a moment the word “slot” seemed incomplete to Daya and he thought of the letters “er” being added to it. He could not decide what he should do. But then his pain was also becoming uncontrollable, so he thought better to get those done. So he booked next day’ s “slot”.
As Daya was getting back home, slowly one thought was creeping into his mind. Is all this worth doing? And if really he goes through all these he “must” be diagnosed with at least something, at least to justify the expenditures. But it should be , of course something very trivial. He was thinking all these while travelling and he didn’t realize when his home had arrived. He was eagerly waiting for people to ask about what had happened in the hospital. As he stepped in he could see Neeti, dusting the sofa and scolding little Rishita. He was so eager to share his first experience with himself in the hospital that almost the entire story was at his mouth. Neeta looked at him calmly with an “again” on her face but didn’t ask anything. Daya , a little disappointed, walked into the kitchen where Shanti was preparing kadi , which she makes really well. Shanti was a little concerned , so she asked “You came back? Nothing serious I hope?Papa!you were panicking just like that”. Daya didn’t realize , why, but her last words irked. At dinner table his son was very passionate about the new Hindi movie release and hence Daya didn’t feel to be an intruder into his happiness.
The next day, nobody knew that Daya was going to the hospital. Early morning as prescribed without having breakfast he came out. The time taken for the entire process seemed to be more than predicted and the process was also not that smooth. From one counter to the other, from one process to other, quite like B school placements. However although it was very draining for him, but it gave him some time to watch so many varied people, all at one place, all with one thought but with different ways of reacting to it. He saw the very old mother holding her old son’s fingers. She couldn’t even stand straight, yet she seemed confident. He saw the man in half pant with his pregnant wife, taking care of every small thing. He saw the family who came with their son, daughter –in-law and grandson , only for the check up of the lady. He watched the doctors, nurses, kids and kids’ parents. It was a new experience which he could not have explained through his economics. It was something more than that. The most amazing part he realized, that how every human is of value to someone or else. However ugly he may be, however old and fragile he may be, he had someone to value him, unlike the ugly world of economics. He tried hard to equate things, to form norms of equations but in vain. Finally when the entire process for him was over he was asked to come back later , or the next day to get the reports.
Getting back to home it was almost the repetition of his previous day experience. Once again he realized how sensitive all can be to things which we can see and not to things which we could have felt. So his shaggy unshaved rusticness matters but his being upset was just a feeling secluded to himself.
It seemed the doctors were also in a state of confusion about Daya’s ailment. So tests, reports ,retests, new tests, revised reports all continued for the next few days making him fragile than he actually was. Somehow he started believing that he should have some disease. He must have. The trigger which started on account of cost effectiveness became a way to prove some people , some people who were so very close to him. Now he really hoped that something serious should happen to him. He was getting more and more impatient to know the reports, to prove that he was actually ill. He had always believed that all problems could be solved by sorting them out. If two people wanted to sort out their differences cant they? Or at least one can be sure of what went wrong!!!In his case he had no explanation for the loopholes in the system , in the minds of his loved ones or in him and nobody else seemed to be interested to dig out the cause. May be being apathetic saves time, energy and efforts , he thought.It was not that he was someone so speial in his eccentricities that his beloved ones never even found time to ask him a simple question about his health, but the problem was that everyone had their own priorities and poor Daya didnt fugure out in their priority inspite of having given his lifelong efforts towards them.
The next day was the final day. The final reports were expected. By this time he had taught himself not to expect anything , so silently he came out of his house. While he was travelling, lot of things were happening inside him. He was thinking about his childhood, his parents, his friends , everyone. Suddenly he realized how vague his thoughts had been so far. Oh yes!!! Vague and in despair !!! All of his people had been so right in judging him, isn’t it?? Life for everyone is full of faked things, fake happiness, fake choices , fake compromises, fake sacrifices and fake friends , so why not fake illness? Once someone had told him that how could he be ill if he was jumping around with his granddaughter!! So was the joy of playing with her in spite of his illness a lie or the illness a lie? It really struck him. He was really an attention seeker may be, quite true at his point of age, he thought. He was hating everything around and the same time this new realization gave him freedom. It really didn’t matter to him who is there for him, for whom he adds value.
Daya was mechanically driven to the hospital , he collected the reports, didn’t even bother to look at them. Once again guided by the attendant, he was taken to the doctor. This time 500 bucks came out of his pocket so spontaneously that he could have never imagined otherwise. The doctor looked serious and concerned , explained him details but nothing mattered to him. He could hardly hear anything.
The next Daya was sitting on the roadside footpath, intensely speaking to himself, thinking, and then speaking. He thought of his parents, staying miles away from him in his native village. He always missed being with them and sometimes felt guilty too. After all it’s only them for whom he had so many demands and who had never asked for anything. His mobile was ringing, repeatedly...” Maa calling” and a roadside dog, sitting beside him was passionately biting his medical reports..prescriptions....Who cares? and Who cares!!!!