“Do take a chair.” I told the lady patient.
“I am your mother in law’s friend.’ She introduced herself.
This seemed more important than her name. I would have to be at my best behaviour.
‘Your name please.” I asked.
“I am a retired teacher. Have taught hundreds of students like you. We were in the same school.” She said.
“Please tell me your name then…” I repeated.
“See how forgetful I have become! One day you too will become like me. Here you keep asking my name and I don’t tell you. Instead I am telling you trivial things. You are not interested in it. I am really Bichitra!” She exclaimed.
I sat up a bit. My features always betray me. Why can’t I appear interested in ‘ inconsequential things’? I still did not know her name.
I thought of writing MIL friend in the name slot. All thought that I had a nice handwriting. Changing it should do the trick. I planned to scribble the name in such a way, that no one could make head or tail of it. She interrupted me as I started writing.
” Bichitra Sangma Doc. It starts with B…not M..”
I tried to hide a smile. Teaching over the years had given her a different perspective.
I remembered my surgeon teacher of Aravind Eye Institute.
“Hold that Dialer right. Your angle is wrong.’ He had said from the other end of the long Operation theatre.
I had wondered no end.
” So you want me to read that.” She said.
“Yes. Please read what you see.” I said.
“If the Doctor wants me to read, I will have to do so.” She said.
Yes, please do.” I said and waited and kept on waiting.
“You cannot read…..” I was about to blurt out. I bit my tongue.
It is my conditioned reflex..you see.
They are conditioned to make you land into a hot soup.
“Read..huh.” She mumbled.
I was losing my patience slowly. As it is, I did not have much of it.
“I read a Dark Lady.” She started.
“You read a what?” I asked surprised.
“Yes. I read a Dark Lady. She..” She started saying.
I sprang up from my chair. I wanted to see the chart myself. When did a Ghost enter inside my box? That too a dark one and even replaced the alphabets🤔🤔.
The Chart looked perfectly well. All the alphabets stuck religiously to their own seats.
The lady was humouring me when I was in no mood of humour.
“Come on..read.” I reiterated.
She made a woebegone face.
A few alphabets were making her peevish while she had been teaching hundreds of students all her life.
No one had perhaps advised her in her prime. Do what you love and you won’t have to work a single day in your life.
She started hesitantly,” I read a dark lady with a darker shawl covering her head.”
I gawked in surprise.
She then clapped her hands in jubilation,” Oh..its me. That’s me!”
She was reading her REFLECTION!
I almost fell off my chair laughing. She too joined in.
The noise made some patients peep in curiously.
I immediately turned solemn and went about the rest. I handed the prescription to her.
“Doc, I cannot afford to buy both. I can buy the spectacles or I can pay for your consultation. Which one should I prefer?”
“The former.” I said quietly.
“Thank you. Give regards to your Mother in law. Which shop should I go to?” She asked.
“Whichever shop you want. You are staying near the hospital. Do come there from next time. Its’ free.” I said.
“Please examine me in the same way!” She said.
I nodded trying to make it seem the final Nod.
“I am preety ugly looking, isnt it Doctor? She turned towards me.
“Saw a mirror today after many years.” She said and went away.
I know not why it hurt.
She used to come to visit me every couple of months. Talking about her students, who were doing very well in life, was her favourite topic. Her two sons, had left the home and hearth after marraige; thanks to her matrilineal society. She did not have a daughter. She had lost her husband over a decade ago.
” Do come and visit my house someday. I have pigs and chickens which I rear myself. See I did not become bent little old lady like your MIL. We eat two chicken pieces everyday in sharp contrast to your vegetarian MIL.” She said laughing.
I agreed with her wholeheartedly. I had never seen old and bent tribal women.
OLD AND BENT
Slowly she started becoming bent too. I did not have the heart to ask her the reason of it. I could make out from her countenance.
She understood that I knew.
“I no longer needed the house. So I sold it. I made a small hut by the roadside with these hands. A strong one. No wind can blow it off.”She said, laughing.
My heart went out to her.
I gave her the calcium tablets, vitamins and some eye drops I had collected from medical representatives for her. I offered some money to her. She refused.
Her hut was far off from the hospital. Coming again would not be easy.vHer sons had forgotten about her existence. Looking after her did not fall under their duties anyway. What if she had spent her life’s earnings on them?
If only her job too had a pension facility…
” You know Sapna….I bought a small mirror.” She said; on reaching the door.
I had graduated from Doc to Sapna.
” Now you know that you have a very sweet face.” I said.
She smiled and said, ” I will come again.”
I continued my collecting spree. Days passed into months and months into years. I never saw her again.
I read, that day, that not taking care of parents would become a punishable offence. Her face suddenly; swam before my eyes. Perhaps she had turned in her grave.
P. N. Pictures are sourced from Google and are only representative.