That Night Was Darker Than Darkness

December 5, 2011 at 9:15 PMDec (Musings, Slice Of Life, Soliloquy)

I got up and said, “I will make a move now. My grandfather is in the hospital. Need to go there before going home.” We had been together for more than an hour discussing. He did not know that my grandfather was unwell and hospitalized. After asking what had happened and how was he now, he said, “Be with him. Else later you will feel guilty.”

I wondered how he knew and spoke what I had in my mind from the past few days. He shared his own experience of which he feels guilty which made me realize that he had not read my mind. But when he shared his own experience, I felt at home and shared my own previous experience…

It was in the year 2010 and it was the last day of the month of July. My grandmother was hospitalized for cardiac problems. She was in the ICU. That late evening when I reached the hospital I saw my mother standing outside and my father running from the ICU to some other room with more complications for the more complicated. I knew something was wrong. I went to my dad and asked what had happened. My dad took me into the other room where they had tied my grandmother and it looked like she was trying hard to untie herself. She was struggling. She was bouncing on the bed because of the struggle. It was evident that she was in pain. It was painful to watch her struggle and struggle while tied tightly from all sides.

“What happened?” I asked my father. “She had a heart attack while in ICU. Now they have brought her here,” he replied. Immediately the doctor came and chased us out. We decided to drop my mom back home and then come back to the hospital. We took mom home and got back to the hospital. The doctor now said that the condition was serious and by suggesting us to inform our relatives that they could come see her they indicated to us that the night could be the last night of my grandmother’s life. The struggling of my grandmother, her bouncing on the bed was because life and death were wrestling inside her body!

Because the condition was serious more than one person from the family had to remain awake in the hospital. I called couple of my cousins, asked them to come and asked my dad to go back home. My cousins arrived and also my brother-in-law. There was no scope for us to close our eyes even for a while, for the doctors would just call us anytime and ask to get kilos of medicines hour after hour. Between these medicine bringing sessions and asking the nurse how the condition of grandmother was, the two of my cousins and my brother-in-law would narrate stories to each other, from their own lives, to chase away their sleep and that of the other too.

I was just a listener that night. Unusual for a talkative like me. But yes, I had no story to share. No, its not that I did not have. There was one story that kept bothering me. It is that story which had silenced me. Silenced me by pricking me. Silenced me by making me feel guilty of myself. The story of a day in 2009, December in the very same hospital, but in the Out Patient’s Department…

I was told the previous day itself that I should be accompanying my mother and sister to take my grandmother for check up. I had agreed too. But when sunlight woke me up an sms from a ‘friend’ had already landed in my inbox saying her eyes were swollen and turned red because of dust allergy. This ‘friend’ was a student in the institute where I studied and also worked once upon a time. It was vacation time but this ‘friend’ for reasons unexplainable had not gone home but had chosen to intern in Mangalore and travel everyday from Manipal (hostel) to Mangalore.

It was accidentally that I got to know this ‘friend’ and got friendly with this ‘friend’. With passing time I grew very fond of this ‘friend’ to the level of treating her like my own child. In fact I was so fond of this ‘friend’ that on the first day of her internship I had taken her, like a small child, all the way to Mangalore and dropped her in her office, which she later said was “like a child being dropped to the school by a father.”

Those were the days when the widening of the National Highway was in full flow. Because of the dust filled roads her eyes got infected and had swollen. Nobody was in hostel. She was close, very close, to me. So she informed me about her eyes. I got worried and asked her to get ready immediately so that I could take her to the hospital. I informed my mother that a ‘friend’ whose family or friends are not in town now needs me to take her to the hospital and said, “I am sure you and sister can manage without me to take grandma to the hospital.” My mother said nothing. May be she had something to say but I did not have the time in hand to listen to. I rushed to my ‘friend’.

The department of Ophthalmology and Cardiology are opposite to each other with a common waiting space for both the departments. The scene in the waiting room was this: I was sitting in one row with this ‘friend’ of mine and in the next row my mother and my sister were sitting with my grandmother. After a while my father also joined them. They were waiting for the check up of my grandmother and we were waiting for the checkup of my ‘friend’. My family was on one side and my ‘friend’ on another side of the waiting room, I being with my ‘friend’.

This image, of me remaining distant from my grandmother and my family, kept pricking me that night when life and death were wrestling with each other inside my grandmother. I felt terribly guilty. Guilty because couple of days after her check-up, in Dec 2009, my grandmother had gone back to Byndoor. I had gone back to Delhi. Even when I came back for vacations in April-May (2010) I did not visit her. I went back again and when I returned in the last week of July she was hospitalized for her condition was critical. That night, which the doctors suspected could be the last night of her life, I was sitting there, pretending to listen to the stories being narrated by my cousins and my brother-in-law, feeling terribly guilty as the image of the waiting room, the image of 2009 Dec kept appearing before my mind’s eye… It was a story I could not have narrated to my cousins. The weight of the guilt was so much that it wouldn’t let words fly out from my heart.

To intensify the pain caused by guilt and to make the absurdity of life even the more evident, that ‘friend’ for whom I left my grandmother with my mother and sister in 2009 Dec by 2010 Aug had not just betrayed me as a friend but also backstabbed me. Not just that, but was running a hate campaign against me, for reasons best known to her. I laughed at myself, thinking of it while feeling extremely guilty for having neglected my grandmother that one day… and for not having met her after that and on realizing that her life could end in a few hours…  That night, for me, was darker than darkness…

My grandmother miraculously survived all the danger and I survived life-time guilt. But I haven’t forgotten the night and the way guilt pricked me and troubled me that one night… I will never forget… I should not forget, for it is my conscience keeper now…

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