At the hospital for consultation. Saw...
At entry point, bags searched. Nervous smiles when the person at security does not figure out why anybody would want to keep chewing gum sticks in a jewellery pouch.
Those carrying fruit are asked to leave them. All those germs must not be allowed in. Human beings can carry as many germs and no one even notices.
In the lobby, anxious faces, some impatient. The liftmen have to answer the same question a hundred times with the standard reply, "Abhi time hai, wait karo (there is still time, wait)."
As soon as it is time, there is a rush. Someone's love and life held in the cubicle that will take them to a room smelling of antiseptic, medicines, and helplessness.
In the canteen, they are gobbling up potato vadas, poha, sandwiches. Coffee, tea, juices. Fast. To rush back to meet a loved one dribbling into a bowl of lukewarm soup.
We exchange smiles at the counter. I ask for coffee; wish one could request for extra froth. Have you realised that the more the froth the less the coffee? Why would I want it, then? Because both coffee and froth don't last forever.
There is a small area for prayers off the lobby. A large idol wearing a garland, flickering flames on lamps. A man has prostrated himself. I can't see his tears. Neither can the deity. Not the flames. Not the person he is praying for.
The OPD is a maze of lanes with chairs stuck to walls. A wheelchair passes through. At one turning, a woman, an in-patient, is on a bed awaiting her turn for tests. Eyes blank as strangers look at her frail frame, drips connected to unseen veins.
Moving on, laps hold plastic bags that hands fish into to bring out files seen umpteen times that make no sense.
What do those figures and percentages mean when they talk about blood-urine-stool? Then there are unintelligible-sounding words and graphs that give one undue importance.
Check out the normal range and whatever falls in the 'less than' or 'more than' could be intimation of mortality. Really.
No chairs vacant. Stand against the marble wall. Try shoulder exercises, try pushing heel against it, try sideways and see blurred reflection. Notice others watching. Smile sheepishly. There is no ice to break.
Watch the toilet. Women walk awkwardly towards it and if locked wait, fidgeting with the ends of dupattas, saree pallus, or strands of hair. The one returning has eyes averted, as though she has just done something she should not have.
Men don't wait for the locked door to open. They knock. Or walk away. The one returning will either adjust zipper in full public view or do a version of twerking to position his stuff.
The doctors' chambers are close to one another, so confirmations are sought about who belongs where and who goes in when.
Bored, I look blankly at the cellphone. Then start sketching. Someone peers. I draw a pair of tits. They could be the globe, the sun, the moon, anything. But I know the person is thinking of something flesh. It is our bodies on test, isn't it?
Bored, I look at my feet. Why am I wearing these peep-toe shoes that are so perky? I slip my foot out, the one that's hurting and see that my little toe has chafed and turned red.
Bored, I ask the person next to me what time it is. She tells me, after looking at my watch.
Bored, I read up the text messages offering me home loans, domestic staff, pest control, even a villa ready to move into.
Bored, I re-read an email that had disturbed me. Now that I look as distressed as the others, I feel less guilty about not having any visible signs of illness.
Bored, I begin counting people in the corridor. I check out their clothes, the way they speak with whoever is with them, their voices, the way they move their hands and tap their shoes and sandals.
Bored, I start chatting with the salesmen from pharma companies with their huge bags. There are a dozen of them. I ask the one standing near me, "Are all of you from the same firm?" No, he says. "Then you are competitors? So, who decides who gets in first?" He finds it funny. He says they have an arrangement.
Bored, I now have twelve young men discussing pharma arrangements with me.
I get a call in my lowest volume mode. I answer it only to say I am very busy.
My doctor's door has been opening and closing, people have walked in and walked out. Someone tries to get in. He says, "After F." She repeats, "Ok, I'll come after F." It is so contagious I too want to say I'll go after F, until I realise that I am F.
I tell the doctor about previous tests, repeat symptoms, add new ones. He takes the vital readings. Peers at reports, x-rays, prescriptions. Scrawls something. Change in medicine. Change in schedule. Change in what I must do and not do. Change is constant.
On the way out, I stop at the chemist's. Crowded. Someone says, "Side please." We are all waiting and there is no side to move to. I leave.
On the way out, I pass the prayer area. A family is standing with folded hands. At least I think it is a family. Their faces glow in the light.
On the way out, the lobby is abuzz. Some film star has come to visit another film star. I pull my shades from my head and wear them indoors. Just for fun. People try to place you. Coloured glasses colour others' perceptions too.
On the way out, I stumble. Yes, old habit. I don't notice a step. 'Ouch' escapes my lips. Is ouch a word or an exclamation? Does ouch really sound like ouch or have our sighs and grunts begun mimicking words?
On the way out, I go to another chemist way past the hospital gates on another street. I buy chocolates. The sales assistant at the cosmetics counter gives me a spiel on a new night cream. What is the difference between night cream and day cream, I ask. She says, "Ma'am night cream you apply at night." I cannot believe it, I tell her. If I use it in the day, will it become night. "Not like that ma'am," she says. "It is good for you." I buy it. If there are things good for me in the world and affordable, I will take them.
On the way out, I forget I had been to the hospital where there are patients who might not be aware of the difference between night and day. It makes me cry.
On the way out, I reach home. In.
© Farzana Versey