Where Peacocks Fly - 10
by Prema Sastri
Back to Chapter 9
The Wing Commander was at home. He promised he would come over in a few minutes. When he arrived Shankaran’s pulse was fluttering like a pigeon’s wings. He was wheezing. The doctor took one look at the patient. His stethescope hovered around his chest for barely a second.
“Madam, the boy has a severe case of pneumonia. I would advise you to take him to a hospital at once.”
“Can you prescribe something for the time being? It may take some time to get him to the hospital.”
The doctor wrote down a prescription. I would not advise you to keep him here. He needs constant attention. I have a friend in the Vallabh Pant Hospital. Would you like me to ring him up?”
“I think I had better ask my husband. Thank you very much for coming.” The doctor took his leave. Mrs. Lal sat by Shankaran while Meera phoned Ramaswamy.
“Yes, what is it?’ He sounded irritable.
“Wing Commander Menon, from the opposite flat just came and saw Shankaran. He says we must take him to a hospital at once.”
“I don’t think it is necessary. These doctors are all alarmists. Wait till I come home. Then we will see what has to be done.”
“Shankaran is delirious. His temperature is above a hundred and four.”
“That’s not surprising after the drenching he let himself in for yesterday. I’ll try to come home early. Just see that he doesn’t run around.”
“There’s no question of his being able to run. I think you better come home at once.”
“Don’t be silly. I can’t run home every time you get into a panic. I’ll see to things when I get home.”
She made her way back to Shankaran’s room. “My husband thinks I should wait for him to return. Perhaps it is best to do that.” Mrs. Lal got up. Till then we can give him some hot salt fomentation. Meera found some rough salt. She dried a frying pan carefully and put the salt in, the stove. The salt began to crackle. A couple of pieces spluttered out of the frying pan. Meera put it in a thick cloth and gave it Mrs. Lal. Mrs. Lal took the cloth. She fomented Shankaran’s chest after making sure the windows were carefully closed.
“Do you think you can manage without me? The children will be coming home now. If
you give him a hot salt fomentation every hour, it should prevent him from getting worse. If you give the prescription, I will ask my servant to go to the Moti Bagh market and get the medicine.”
Meera gave Mrs. Lal the prescription. Shortly after Mrs. Lal left Mangalam returned from college. “Why mummy, what’s happened?”
“Shankaran has got pneumonia. I’m glad you got home early. If you will sit by him, I’ll see to the rest of the work.”
“Yes, mummy. Is there anything I can do?”
“No dear. There’s a towel beside him. Just wipe him if he is perspiring.”
Mangalam went into Shankaran’s room and Meera got her tea ready and carried it to her in Shankaran’s room. After Mangalam had the tea, Meera showed her how to heat the salt. She
fomented Shankaran twice. Then she wiped his face and hands with a dry cloth. He stopped his restless movements and fell asleep. She sat beside him hearing the rasping breath, watching the flushed face and tightly drawn eyelids. The maid servant came and went. Mrs. Lal looked in a couple of times. Mrs. Menon rang up to ask how he was. The heat of the day slid out of the windows. The house cooled down.
It was dark when Ramaswamy returned. He stood by the sleeping boy.
“How are you feeling?’ Ramaswamy tried to shake him awake. There was no answer except for the harsh sound of breathing. “He is sleeping allright. I told you there was no need to get into a frenzy. He’ll be allright tomorrow.”
However. The next morning Shankaran could hardly breathe. His face was turning blue. Wing Commander Menon came in to see him in the morning and was angry. “That boy has to be taken to a hospital immediately. His lungs are completely congested. Madam, it was very careless of you to keep him home.”
Ramaswamy placated him. “I was held up at the office. We shall certainly admit him into a hospital at once. If we leave immediately, we can have him admitted and I can still be in time for office.”
It took a long time before Shankaran was admitted into a hospital. The health minister had a kidney problem and had been admitted the previous evening. A section of the hospital had been cordoned off. The registrar was not in his office. Meera waited with Shankaran’s head on her lap in the car till the formalities were complete. There was no wheel chair available at that moment. They had to drag Shankaran up two floors to his room. Ramaswamy left for office while Meera waited for a doctor to attend to Shankaran. Outside there was a family picnicking on the hospital lawns. The mother was unpacking a large basket. A little boy toddled near her. The father was holding a small baby, lifting it up to watch a pair of squirrels chasing one another down the tree trunk. Pigeons cooed and fluttered from the roof tops. A Ghurka at the gate had stopped an incoming car and was having an altercation with the driver.
Inside Shankaran lay still on his bed, his head popped up. His face on the pillows appeared to get smaller and smaller till Meera felt it vanished into a tiny dot. To be continued here in Chapter 11 Back to Chapter 9