A thin layer of dust on the outer side of the clean pane of the car spoke volumes about the polluted exterior. Each tick of the watch seemed to detonate a bomb in my head as I patiently waited for the traffic to move. The driver gorged on a pack of biscuits as we advanced at the pace of a snail. I really wished that there were a red light on the top of my Ford. My eyes wandered outside the window that had been wiped clean that morning and caught a glimpse of a woman standing in the neighboring KSRTC bus. Her hands clutched onto the handrails of the vehicle as she stood on the foot-board of the overflowing six-wheeler, which seemed to be the doppelganger of the one in the Fevicol ad. I wondered how the country grumbled under the yoke of so many filthy citizens with red paan dripping from the edge of their mouths and their sweat racing onto the body of others as the people stood close enough to get strangled by the presence of one another.
I cursed the Gods who had played truant to my prayers, for letting my father get a taste of Styx so soon, for had he got the attack ten days later he would have been with me abroad and I wouldn’t be stuck in the horrendous traffic. I would have been still drowned in a mÃ©lange of thoughts but for the blot of red that spurted on my window, thanks to the uncouth passenger from the despicable bus. There was the window that had glistened in the morning, now covered with dust and a blotch of red in the middle with a few specks of chewed rice in it, and I was on the other side of it, twitching my nose! A dead weight was hanging around my neck and the more I looked at the woman who had embellished my pane, it just grew heavier. But thank heavens; I was not one of her kind!
“Your father has a very low platelet count, and we have asked a couple of donors for blood, yet his blood group is very rare. I hope you understand what we are dealing with here,” said Dr. Mithra. “So, he would be fine if we transfuse blood, is it?,” I asked him as my voice cracked. “Provided we get the blood on time, I have given an advertisement for it and I think that the blood banks would get back to us within a couple of hours,”Â the doctor replied.
I wiped the sweat off my forehead and sat still pondering over my father’s condition. I hadn’t felt heavier in the last thirty years of my life. As my depression gave way to prudence and reason, I rushed towards my father’s ward.
Dad lay still with his eyes closed. His face had lost its colour and it looked as if he had imbibed the ghastliness of a vampire. As I drew closer to him, I could see his chest move upwards and downwards; my agitation seemed to give way to prudence and reason. “I will do anything to save you,” I whispered in his ears. My words awoke the mighty man whose hands trembled. “I know,” he said in a shaky voice as he tried to move his palms over my head.
Tears were stranded at the edge of my eyes. They could not afford to pour out in front of the frail old man at the cost of his deteriorating health, so I decided to set them free and rushed out of his ward. As I walked to and fro in the space outside the ICU, at a distance I could see motley groups of people sitting together, some with happy faces and others with grief writ upon their temples. I advanced towards the crowded area in pursuit of changing my mind.
The awful stench born of the claustrophobic atmosphere and lack of hygiene grew stronger as I approached them. There was a woman who sat on one of the plastic chairs with a young man kneeling beside her, and she fed him rice with her hands. As I took a closer look at the woman, I was reminded of the car window designer I had seen in the morning, much to my chagrin. The very thought of her seemed to bring bile to my throat. All I could do was to save myself from throwing up what I had eaten that morning by rushing past all of them towards the exit.
After a few minutes, I was in my car ruminating on various thoughts. Seconds became minutes and minutes became hours. Finally, the phone rang.
“We have got an apt donor. It’s the same person who gave your father one of his kidneys three years ago,” said Dr. Mithra. “We have transfused the blood and I’m sure he will be fine in a matter of hours.”
I gulped down my saliva and rushed towards the ICU. As I peeked in through the glassy aperture, I could see a slim man lying down on a bed adjacent to my father’s. I could visualize the blood of his flowing through the veins of my old man. Someone tapped my back and I turned around to find the former woman, who fed her son, standing behind me.
“My son is inside, I want to see him,” she said and she tip toed to peep in through the aperture. I stood there motionless for a few seconds and I could only hear the woman say something, though I assimilated nothing that she said. The bad odor emanating from her had started to give me a headache.
“Will my father be the same as he was five years ago,” I wondered. “He has the kidneys of an unruly slum boy and from now on the blood that runs through his veins to will be from this dirty kid.” As I closed my eyes, all that I could see was my father strutting through a slum in tattered clothes.
He was no ship of Theseus! He was my father and I should have been grateful to all those who helped him have his next ounce of oxygen. I don’t know if the fluids in my arteries carried a drop of gratitude in them or if the grammar of prejudice was my decree or if my flawed DNA made me different from a normal courteous man, yet the blood of the slum-boy had now made us all one family!