Maybe this is a parallel world. Maybe it’s imaginary. Maybe it’s reality that slowly blurs into imagination.
It was the world’s largest cricket stadium. The crowds screamed and cheered. KV ran full throttle towards the ball. His signature shades and beard gleamed under the lights. Just when the crowd felt that the ball was too far away from him, his athletic body did a superman dive and twisted mid-air. The ball plonked into his outstretched hands. He watched it pop out before his fingers could curl around it. He grabbed again as he fell to the grass, but it was too late. His body hit the ground and he grimaced – more due to the dropped catch than the pain. He watched the ball roll away to the boundary, shrugged his shoulders and prepared to get up.
Thud… an empty soft drink can pounded into his back and stunned him. Within seconds he felt a bottle crash into his temple. The smell and taste of blood were instantaneous. He breathed in and felt his vision blur. He looked up and watched 20 people march towards him. Their angry faces and sharp questions were punctuated with words he hoped were not picked up by the microphones.
“Why did you drop it?”
“Do you know how much I paid for the tickets.”
“Even the kids playing street cricket would have caught that.”
A thick arm wrapped around his neck while sharp nails dug into his back and dragged him sideways. He looked at the cricket bat – his dream since childhood had been to use that to entertain the world. His last memory was the bat swinging into his face.
Whumpp… His head exploded inside and it was all dark and quiet.
Yup. Maybe it was a parallel world.
This may be the real world.
Dr. RB looked at the shattered glass. The sweeper was already sweeping it to the side while cautioning the team to step back.
His colleague took off his doctors coat and gave it to the nurse who was trying to cover her torn top. They didnt even spare her. He felt ice on his temple where the ANM pressed to stop the bleeding. Her own fingers had cuts she had received when she tried to pull away from the men. They were not thieves but had tried to snatch her chain. The ventilator beeped intermittently as it lay on its side on the floor with the tubings yanked away. It had tried in vain to ventilate those fragile lungs for the past 3 hours. The monitor that had finally shown a flat line 20 minutes ago was dented with cracks on the panel. It would never show a line or a waveform again. The two security men limped towards him and apologised. “There were too many of them sir. We activated the code and tried to lock the door, but they thrashed us and entered sir”. The words that came through his swollen bruised lips were a little unclear. They could see the door hanging on the hinges in the CCTV above the nurses station. It was amazing that they had stood their ground, and were largely responsible for the thugs finally retreating.
The registrar was still stunned. “But why, sir? The baby was only 800 grams and had delivered while mother was still in the auto.” She had a pained look of disbelief on her face and her voice trembled. They could remember the question the thugs asked again and again. “Two months ago when we came for a check up, the doctor said everything was ok and the scan was normal”. The baby was fragile but perfectly made – no anomolies.
They had spent 3 days giving the mother local medicines to stop the drops of blood and liquid coming out. They said the pain was due to some heat food she has taken.
“Even our street pharmacist could have saved the baby”. “Do you know how much we paid for the scan?”
The stethoscope lay mangled on the floor. His dream since childhood was to use that to help the world. Today his last memory was almost the sight of that stethoscope tightening around his neck as they strangled him
The other parents in the ICU just looked away or huddled in a corner. One father demanded to know why no nurse was next to his baby as the little one started crying in hunger. The intern noticed a slight drop in oxygen sats of the baby in the other corner of the nursery and swiftly hurried to adjust her head position, gently rub her back and increase the FiO2. The baby turned pink again. The rest of the team, including the office staff, spoke to the other parents and quickly made the phonecalls that were needed. Someone put a pulse oximeter on him and checked his pupils. There were a couple of wheelchairs brought in. His classmate, a surgeon, was already there with his team. Wounds were cleaned and dressed.
This was the real world. No imagination.
In the other real world, his 10 year old son was was at home and jumping around – he had noticed that 6 million were watching the match.
In the parallel and non-imaginary world KV simply got up and threw the ball back from the boundary. Game on! 8 minutes later he dropped another sitter. They glared and then laughed. His son cheered on with the spectators. The commentators joked.
Shift scenes again.
The men in uniform said brusquely, “If you come to the station immediately we can file a case and try to catch them in a few days”. Someone smirked and got a earful from the man with the lathi. “Do you think we have time to waste? We have more important things to do at the station!” The team just shrugged their shoulders.
His boss completed rounds with the off duty registrar who had rushed in to help. The Nursing Superintendent adjusted the rosters to ensure that care of the sick babies continued. Noone she called to request an extra shift said “No”.
“But why sir”. The registrars question haunted him.
“First do no harm is what you and I promised. Not them.”
“Is it worth it?” The insecurity in her eyes was evident.
“Do you remember how you felt when I appreciated you for dropping your lunch and rushing to the ER to resuscitate and intubate this baby? You showed dedication and skills that are far beyond your calling”
She smiled. Her confidence crept back.
“Your reward is greater, more eternal and does not come from mere human beings”.
The monitor alarm beeped again and the intern looked at her from across the room. Her walk was tired but the spring in her step was back. Her voice was confident again. “Nurse, techs – let’s ventilate this baby. Get a 3 size ET tube and the VN500.” One hour was all the time she had to go from terrified to confident.
He politely refused the wheelchair and walked with the surgeon to the carpark. His classmate spent an hour at home with him and reassured his wife that everything was superficial. His son watched the rest of the match eerily subdued, snuggling close to him with his arms wrapped tightly around his shoulders. His daughter kept kissing the bandage on his arm. When his wife served him dinner, her eyes were still moist but proud.
His reward was not from mere human beings, but sometimes they took a human form.
Tomorrow, there would be another exciting match. Tomorrow, there would be another busy ICU.