When he opened his eyes, Nambiar realized that he was in the private ward and not in the Intensive Care Unit (ICU). He was not able to recollect when he was shifted to the ward. He had never hoped that he would ever come out of the ICU. He had already seen many of the patients in ICU breathing their last, and their beds would become vacant soon after and within minutes the empty beds would be occupied by some other patients.
Many times he too had thought that he would be the next one to vacate the bed, but alas, destiny had brought him back!
Even God didn’t want him there, he thought. Was that the reason he was brought back from the ICU again?
Or was there no one to bribe God to take him in?
Or was there no one to recommend his case to Lord Yama?
The pink window curtains swished and a whiff of cold breeze slipped into the room. Nambiar looked around. He wanted some help to get the window closed, but found none in the room and again closed his eyes. Where was Sridharan, the man he had appointed to be with him at all times?
A couple of minutes later he felt that someone was entering the room.
It must be Sridharan, he thought.
Or it must be that beautiful pregnant nurse with her attractive smile.
Or was it the serious looking young doctor who seldom smiled as though smiling was a sin?
Who else would come to see him? For the last two years he had felt that even his friends had deserted him. He didn’t remember even one single friend who had come to know about his well being.
Nambiar slowly opened his eyelids and cast his gaze towards the doorway. He saw a young woman entering the room, followed by a man.
“Brother, Dad has opened his eyes!” Nambiar recognized his daughter Shyamala’s voice, and his younger son Manohar who accompanied her into the room.
When did Shyamala come? How she made the time to come now, he wondered. Not bad. She too had come to see her father on his death bed. He had never thought she would come.
Was there joy in her tone at seeing her father alive again, or was it sorrow?
As he was trying to reassess his daughter’s voice, he saw her going and closing the door, and then she came back to his side.
He eagerly waited for her to talk.
“How’re you Dad?” asked Shyamala without expecting an answer.
Was there nothing for his daughter to talk to him now? He wondered. Earlier, the moment she saw him she used to start talking non-stop. The thought of his daughter brought him a mocking smile on his tired face.
He slowly shifted his gaze towards Manohar. He was handsome for his 6 ft 2 inches height and athletic chest. He resembled his father’s younger brother a lot. When did Nambiar see him last? Three or perhaps four years ago?
Shyamala stood behind her brother, with her gaze at her father.
“Dad, how’re you feeling now?” asked Manohar taking his father’s left hand in his.
Nambiar wanted to tell him many things, but he couldn’t utter a word, and just gave him a tiny smile. That was all he could do.
“We never thought we will be able to see you again,” said Manohar, sitting on the bed closer to his father, still holding his hand.
Nambiar’s eyes searched for one more face. Shyamala knew what her father was looking for. So she volunteered to answer the unasked question.
“Elder brother has also come. He has gone to see the doctor.”
Again, a tiny smile appeared on his face.
Manohar got up from the bed. “Let me tell the nurse that you’ve opened your eyes.” He went out of the room, leaving the father and daughter alone in the room.
“My husband also wanted to come, but next week he has to go to Geneva for a conference. So he is busy. Otherwise, he would have definitely come. He has asked me to convey his loving regards to you.” Shyamala thoughtfully released a sigh. Did father believe her words? She looked at him through the corner of her eyes.
Nambiar shook his head slowly as if he had accepted his son-in-law’s regards to him.
“It was not easy even for me to leave.” Shyamala continued, “But how could I keep quiet knowing your condition? Biju’s exams are starting next week. He is in his 2nd year degree now. I have to be at home with him. Otherwise the boy won’t study well, and being lazy, he doesn’t feel like getting up in the morning. He has given me strict instructions that I must be back home by tomorrow night. ….” An artificial disappointment was echoed in her voice. She sat next to him on the bed.
“I know my dear daughter that you will never have time to take care of your widower father in his old age. If you wanted you can easily take me to your house and keep me in your big bungalow. Your physician husband’s observation and your loving care should be okay for me. But I know you wouldn’t like to have your old father to be with you as a burden. If you have no time you can even keep a qualified home nurse to take care of me. But I know you will not do any such thing.“ He sighed.
“Perhaps, you may not remember how much I had struggled to get the smart and intelligent Dr.Ramakrishnan as your husband. His marriage was already fixed with another doctor, who was his classmate, but I had purchased him by offering beyond his imagination. When his dream of owning a nursing home was going to be fulfilled, he didn’t mind even marrying a pre-degree girl like you. I know you wouldn’t like my reminding you about all these, but how can I forget those days? Your mother Saudamini had even tried several times to dissuade me from this, but I made her keep quiet by yelling at her, and all her attempts proved to be a total disaster. Finally she had warned me that I will have to pay a very heavy price for my misdeeds. I had laughed at her like a possessed man. I was least bothered about her complaints, as I was thinking I can buy anything with money. If someone had asked me health vs wealth, my vote would have definitely gone to wealth. I remember each word of what your mother had uttered with pain in her eyes. My memories have not faded, and they haunt me all the time, even though many of my other organs have stopped working. I strongly feel that I am paying for my misdeeds now and my power of money can’t come to my rescue.” Nambiar wanted to speak out his mind, but his tongue failed him.