“I do not need you any more. Do you understand? I do not need you any more. I can see now. I CAN SEE. I DO NOT NEED YOU. I CAN SEE..” He was filled with wrath. His eyes flashed. He was dancing in anger.
I looked at his eyes. They were still white in the middle because of his cataract. He looked a lot slimmer but healthy. How could he suddenly start seeing again?
I woke up with a start. My heart was racing. It was cold but I was sweating. I fumbled for the torch and put it on. It was 3 a.m.
The dogs were howling outside in unison today. A chill ran down my spine.
I gulped some water to soothe my parched throat.
I tried to sleep…but it had flown miles away.
“Oh God! Please keep him well.” I said within me, again and again.
He had come to me about a couple of months back. Tall, dark, unkempt and smelly ,I had found it a little hard to hear all of his story. The smell seemed overpowering. I could see my colleague and friend making faces at me.
She shook a mask at me and said,
“Do you know what is this paper mask used for? To cover noses especially big ones like yours when such kind of people enter.”
I feigned acute deafness and continued talking.
Both his eyes had become nearly blind. He somehow managed to find his way around.
” You need to be operated as soon as possible. Do these tests and come back to show me the reports.” I said.
” Who will pay for this?” He asked defiantly.
“Its not much. It might cost you a sum Rupees 20 to 30. Thats it.” I shrugged my shoulders and told him.
“I have Rupees ten. If I give you that, what will I eat?” He asked.
I knew not what to say.
” Did you bring someone with you?”I asked.
” You need to go downstairs for these tests.” I added.
” I have no one in this world. I have…had a family but they threw me out of the house. I now stay and sleep on the roads.” He said.
I summoned the attendant and told her to accompany him for the tests.
” He neither has relative nor money.”
She took him along cheerfully.
Another three hours swished off…
” Take these reports. I am hungry. Give me food now!” I heard him suddenly again.
He had come back. ..
His reports were normal.
” Good. I will operate on your eyes next week. Start these..”
” Give me food!” He said angrily.
I summoned the attendant and handed over a note of Rs 100.
” Buy a plate of rice for him.” I told her.
He ate hungrily. I felt sorry for him.
Soon this became a regular affair. He just came and sat outside my room and demanded food. He left only after eating. Soon I started losing my sympathy. His sight started irritating me.
” Can”t you bring at least one person with you? I can operate on you then.” I asked.
The hospital rules required that one attendant should accompany one patient.
” I do not have anyone.” He said dejectedly.
I knew not what to do. Unforseen complications could arise on the operation table. Besides that, medicines and eyedrops needed to be put regularly after the operation and cleanliness had to be maintained. Without it, the operated eye could get infected and become blind and very painful for life.
I had serious doubts on that count.
Perhaps I could put him in some old age home first. They would take proper care of him. One such home agreed to take him after much efforts.
I informed him jubilantly when he came the next day.
He flatly refused.
“I do not like to be tied down. I love my freedom.” He said and went off.
I feared for his life. The vagabond that he was ..I ran into him everyday near my house begging for food and money.
He lost his temper on seeing me.
” You can help me see if you want..but you won’t. You are wicked.” He shouted at me, shaking his hand.
Onlookers stared at me. I understood his predicament and helplessness. My hands were tied too.
I went to the Superintendent of the hospital.
” Madam, do let me operate on this patient. He has no one.” I implored.
“Do you believe him? Can a person have no one at all? If you operate a beggar, there is almost a hundred percent chance of his eyes getting infected.” She said.
“Do you really think a person sleeping on the roads will maintain the stringent hygiene standards required after operation? Insist on him that he needs to be in the age old home for at least a month. If he agrees you can go ahead.” She said sternly.
Perhaps my face fell.
” We do not want to be in the news for the wrong reasons. As it is, every other day we make headlines. False and little things get blown out of proportion. You have good in your heart. If something goes wrong…relatives will surface from nowhere. I have seen it happen too many times. No relative will come to donate blood and then in the case of death they will all descend from nowhere. We have to be practical.” She added.
I went back thinking hard. I was feeling increasingly defiant. If I could do it cladestinely in some private hospital…but we were not allowed to operate in a private setting. What if the patient really developed the infection?
A thousand thoughts whirled away in the sea of my mind. I found no shore of answer.
He continued shaking a fist on seeing me much to the amusement of those on the road.
” One month in old age home only. After that back to freedom.” I requested him.
He almost pushed me away in anger.
I went my way. I hoped I did not run into him every day but I always did.
That’s life. One always attracts whatever one does not want.
They call it the Law Of Attraction.
Then one day, he turned quiet. I was filled with trepidation. Things had turned for the worse. His cataract had matured further. I and the rest of the world were truly fading away in his eyes. His end was nearing.
That day, I had just managed to push him away from a speeding car.
The morning rush always left me overwhelmed. I reached the hospital exactly at 10 a.m. The doctor on night duty looked relieved and happy on seeing me.
“Thank God it is over! What horrible harrowing duty hours I had last night.” She said, collapsing on her chair.
” Why? What happened? Ravaged by drunkards or drug addicts? Were they Medico – legal cases or deaths in the wards? ” I asked.
” No, accident.” She said.
“A horrible accident. The truck ran over a man near your area. His chest was crushed and his intestines were out. His skull…”
My heart seemed to be sinking.
” Was he a tall…dark man and somewhat stinking? Did it happen around 3 a.m.in the morning?” I asked, my voice trembling.
” How on earth do you know that?” She asked, her eyes wide with surprise.
” Where is he now?” I asked.
A part of me hoped it was all wrong. That he still lived … That some other tall and dark person had died. Of course, there was no dearth of them in this world.
” He is in the mortuary. You will not be able to see him and others there.Why subject yourself to suffering? Sit here and try to save the living. I will leave now.” She said and
Perhaps he was alive. This could not be him. Probably he was some other man.
” Oh..I forgot to tell you something. He had cataract in both his eyes. Poor man..” The doctor called back from the door before leaving..
My days were filled with agony and guilt. I saw him everyday yelling angrily ‘I CAN SEE’ in my dreams. This went on for more than three months.
Slowly ….I started finding solace in his words. The hand of God had restored his sight. I asked for forgiveness each time he appeared.
Eventually he left my dreams alone. He also left me wiser.
I now inform the local police station and get a constable waiting as I restore sight in blind eyes with no attendants, with the blessings of God.
Is he still watching over me? Probably …from a place where he has fathomless joy, sight and freedom.