I saw him for the first time today. Since I first heard about him, wrote about him, followed up closely about his progress and spoke to his wife, Its the first time today I saw him. His eyes have a slight tinge of blue, like sea water. I went really close to his bed. And stared him into his eye. I felt his breathing grew heavy as I moved nearer to him. But, then I only felt. Uppa says the doctor says we only ‘feel’ they react to us. Their coherent thinking is a very difficult thing. Like all who look for a positive change, I like to believe he realised my presence by his bed. He would open them, his eyeballs wading in the white of his eye, his breathing would become less noisier and he would close them. He would then repeat all of it again. I stood by there. At the same time thinking, If he could think quite clearly in his head, he would be quite uncomfortable at someone standing so close and staring at him. But, I wanted to see. I wanted to see the man I wrote about. I wanted to see how the Haridas I framed in my words looked like in person.
The room smelt of medicines and treatment. The air conditioner was set to the minimum, perhaps for his comfort.The smell and the warmth blend together to an unsettling stuffiness. On the couch were folded two bed spreads. And then,he was there,on the bed just cuddled up into a ball. No, not that small, but if I imagined what a man like him could have looked like in the past, he looked very small for that today. There were brown stains on a cloth tied to his neck over the blue hospital cover all that he wore which I don’t think was that of blood. I assume, could even be wrongly was of the ointment for mouth ulcers I saw on the table beside him. There was also a tin of vanilla flavoured Glucerna SR milk powder beside the tube of medicine. You wouldnt think he needed to be tube fed the milk. He kept his mouth open breathing through it all the time. The intravenous drip was taped onto his left hand and no fluid was being administered to him. To the largest extent, it was a great sign, there has been great improvement in how he first arrived there, spread out on a vehicle front seat, unconscious with a crying wife by his side who for days slept outside the ICU, all the time praying and crying and crying and praying. Yet, the sound of his breathing that was at times very loud, at times disturbingly silent made it difficult to stand in the room without feeling unmoved. So many times in the few minutes I stood so close to him, I imagined he would say a word or hold my hand or in the least show active response.
As I studied his face, looked around the room, I could hear Mohana all the while talking to Uppa in tones just like her husband’s breathing, sometimes loud, sometimes in hushes. She has great hopes in Uppa and sometimes names big hospitals in Kerala that would possibly accept her husband, sometimes talks of places the family could find to stay back home and sometimes name Dr Azad Moopan, Dr Shivakumar and sometimes talks of promises of help that were hinted her way. She wore a green salwar, a green khameez and a lighter green dupatta that was neatly pinned on both shoulders. Umma says she has seen her wear this each time she has met this woman .it was plainly visible. it had worn off in many places. Her face looked very tense but at the same time came alive with expressions each time she discussed with Uppa the possibility of leaving to Kerala for further treatment.
As I go to bed tonight, I cannot stop thinking of Haridas or his wife. Sometimes, I even think I shouldn’t have seen him today. An old man lying all crumpled on a big white bed, breathing loud with his mouth wide open, knowing or not knowing many discussions and people around him. A lady dressed in green, strong as a pillar, breaking a thousand pieces every minute standing by his side. And then there is me now, trying to adjust to the cold of my room, pulling the duvet over.
She told me as I left the room, “I will call you once we reach Kerala.”