The hospital in which I work has a Cafeteria. Sitting in my chair, I can just dial 400 on the intercom and the Barista brings me coffee and snacks as ordered. I have made friends with the guy. His name is Ishu Sharma and he is a UP-ite with a Gujarati accent. He doesn’t like to use the electric grill on the sandwiches because he thinks the grill occasionally gives electric shocks. He is an English Literature graduate but all his knowledge has either withered away or was never there as he can hardly read and write in English. There is an India everyone silently knows about. Our educational degrees are a sham and our system is built on nepotism and wily networks.
The guy is fine with it though. He is content pouring coffee for random people throughout the day and likes to make friends with new doctors like myself who can help with his small curious inquiries. He is fascinated easily and can talk at length about things he doesn’t know about.
He told me that his father has the habit of forgetfulness and sometimes forgets obvious things. The details he gave indicate progressive Alzheimer’s disease and the drugs prescribed by other doctors to his father more or less confirmed the diagnosis. He keeps forgetting to mix sugar in my coffee and I am afraid he will inherit his father’s condition.
He proposed a theory to me recently and it is interesting for its unscientific-ness and silliness. He said that if two people were given objects carved out from a bigger parent object, and were made to associate themselves with those objects in their daily lives, their lives are bound to intertwine as a part of the common fate associated with the objects given to them.
To put this absurd theory in more vivid light, he proposes that if there was a large diamond and two pendants were carved out of it and were given to two different people to wear as lockets, rings or bracelets, the pendants will attract each other bringing the two people closer.
Silly theory but it depicts how hope springs fiercely and against logic where adversity is stronger. He is a man with scarce means and that’s why he romanticizes life and is able to see the world through the eyes of his fantasy. Is that why the best writers in history have faced poverty at one or other point of time? Does scarcity push imagination?
Do you believe in his theory too? Et tu?
So, last Saturday, I had to take an auto-rickshaw to go to the hospital to take care of some important lab work. I took a rickshaw from my colony to the hospital and back, which would have been a trip of around 3.5 kms. I convinced him to make the round trip for Rs 60 which was an achievement considering that it was night time and it was Gurgaon.
Gurgaon is essentially the city where everything costs a little more than normal. Maybe because everyone has a little more than normal. Of course, that statement excludes the daily wage labourers and manual workers. So yeah, I took the rickshaw and we started with a tense air. The air was tense because the bargain had started at Rs 100 and he was grumpy to have conceded Rs 40 in the bargain. It was only when I had threatened to walk away that he got convinced for the ride.
We went to the hospital quietly and he drove in silence too. On our way back, he began to ask questions as he realized that I was a doctor and was going to the hospital for some fancy urgent work. I decided to engage and replied to his questions. I even asked him to get a check-up done in my clinic. He immediately brought up the topic of affordability and like a novice, I offered him free consultation. I am very liberal with my consultation fee because I feel that the power of healing should be used liberally.
Later on, he told me that his younger brother (he himself looked not older than 16) was working in a dental clinic and was earning a handsome salary. I urged him to stay ambitious and try for such jobs which require technical skill. To my surprise, he told me that he was already married and had to bear the burden of his family. That was the main reason he was unable to freely go job-hunting and field-switching.
I told him that marriage is a big responsibility and should be taken only when one is ready. We talked about marriage as if it was something he was lamenting and I was running away from. Only in the last leg of our short trip he dropped the bomb when he said that his marriage was a ‘love marriage’ and he himself had pushed for it.
My parting words to him were that he then already has everything a person dreams for. We dream, we earn, we work to finally be happy with our loved ones. He had love and happiness. His joy of togetherness trumped my quest for survival.
Sometimes, in our small little, we lose sight of the real targets. Maybe there is nothing to take away from this story, maybe life is just as random as it gets, maybe life is just a series of mood swings.
But, there are times when we WANT and NEED to make sense. Love helps there.