Thursday, 18 October 2018

part 60 (last part): To Err is Human

On life's most difficult days
all that we can do
is simply take things
Moment by Moment.

Kirsti A. Dyer

RECAP: "Tum chupa rahe ho kuch! I WANT MY BABY ARMAAN!" She wailed loudly as Angad and Kripa silently took the baby away to the ICU.

Shashank and Abhimanyu were as if hit by a boulder when they saw their little grandson with a breathing tube and oxygen mask, in a little incubator, being wheeled away by the two young doctors.


"Gauri….yeh…yeh hamaa-ara bachcha hai?" Abhimanyu asked with disbelief.

"Yes Abhimanyu….I feared as much…I think the baby was in quite a bit of distress," Gauri answered nervously.

"LET'S GO TO THE ICU ABHI!" Instinctively, Shashank shook Abhimanyu's arm, as if they were interns once again, ready to answer an emergency call.

"COME ON!" Abhimanyu followed Shashank to the elevator. Strangely, at that moment of crisis, they did not care to ask what the sex of the baby was. Who did he look like? Did he have the Mallik nose or the Gupta forehead?

"Let me go and check on Riddhima…bechari ki kya halat ho rahi hogi," a tearful Padma went back to her daughter's room where Armaan was trying his best, along with the post partum nurses, to calm her down.

"ARMAAAN! I WANT MY BABY!" Riddhima continued to wail.

Armaan rubbed her sore back and tried to sooth her as best as he could, "Riddhima….hamare bte ko kuch nahin hoga jaan…..he is in good hands."

"Beta….apne bachche ke liye tujhey bahaduri se kaam lena hoga," Padma sat on the other side and comforted her daughter. She had never seen Riddhima that hysterical but being a mother herself, understood what her daughter was going through at that time. Padma held her daughter in her arms and rocked her gently just like she did when she was a little girl.

Gauri called Gayatri and Suryabhan, who were staying at Angad and Kripa's home since the godh bharai. Gayatri had a comforting effect on everyone, and Gauri knew that in a crisis like this, her calm disposition could help all of them.


To their horror, the nurses and the staff of the ICU, barred the two stalwart dads from entering, "sorry sir….Dr Patnaik ke orders hain….abhi koi visitors nahin andar aa sakte."

"Yeh Dr patnaik kaun hain?" Abhimanyu sneered.

Shashank sighed and stepped away from the ICU doors, "Abhi….he is the chief of the newborn services…..he is very strict about rules…let's just wait outside….let them do their work."

"COME ON SHANKY! Do you not have any say here? After all you are the chief of Sanjeevani!"

An obviously distressed Shashank suppressed his anger and replied, "is waqt main chief nahin…sirf nana hoon….aur ek baap hoon."

A discomfited Abhimanyu nodded gently and stepped back himself.

The next 15 minutes turned out to be the most painful and anxiety filled moments in the lives of both Abhimanyu and Shashank. Gauri came and stood next to them, silently praying for the welfare of her grandchild.

Abhimanyu placed his arm around Gauri and whispered, "Gauri….yeh kya ho gaya?"

"Let's keep our fingers crossed." She shut her eyes to hide her tears.

"Waise……ladka hai ya ladki?" Shashank mustered the courage to ask.

Gauri opened her eyes and smiled, "aap dono ek ladke ke nana aur dada ban gaye hain."

A momentary glint in Abhimanyu's eyes faded as soon as it arose, "beta? Lekin….isn't that true that girl newborns fare better when it comes to a crisis?"

"Haan," Gauri nodded, "girls do fight and fare better when it comes to life in general….don't they?" She tried to cheer the two sullen men but they were not amused.

The doors to the ICU opened and the grey haired chief of Newborn services, Dr Patnaik stepped out, "Doctors…..congratulations for becoming grandparents!"

Gauri, Shashank and Abhimanyu surrounded Dr Patnaik, "HOW'S HE?"

Dr Patnaik took his glasses off and sighed, "abhi kuch keh nahin sakte….the baby aspirated a lot of fluid and meconium (green fluid from baby's insides) into his lungs…..right now he is on a ventilator (respirator or artificial lungs)…….and a lot of medications to keep his heart beating…..aap log tho doctor hain…..aap se kya chupaana…..the baby is very critical….let's hope for the best." He turned around to leave and then added, "….make sure you thank Dr Kripa Sharma….if she were not there in the delivery room, the fate could have been worse."

As if someone had delivered the biggest slap on their faces, Shashank and Abhimanyu were stunned frozen. They were supposed to be the saviors, the God-like figures who had hordes of patients begging at their feet- they took mercy on helpless people, not the other way around. Tonight, they were the helpless, the mercy seekers, they were not the Gods but very much human like all the patients they had ever taken care of.

Angad walked out of the ICU and pursed his lips, "they are doing their best sir….lekin bachcha bahut pyaara hai." His faint smile came as a relief to their strained emotions.

"Can we see him?" Abhimanyu asked cautiously.

'Sure…..let me check."

A few minutes later, Angad walked out with gowns and masks for everyone, "come with me."

Being on the other side of the fence felt really strange to Drs Mallik and Gupta. They were used strolling into hospital wards and ICUs like they owned them, but being visitors felt very awkward. Hesitantly, they walked into the newborn ICU amidst little babies on ventilators, inside incubators, surrounded by the most high tech machines the hospital was equipped with, tubes and monitors surrounding all the little ones like the Great Wall of China.

There he was. A sign glared on a tiny warmer in the corner: BABY BOY MALLIK.

Abhimanyu's eyes welled up to see his flesh and blood- A Mallik- lying helplessly on the little crib, under warm lights, a tube connected between his mouth and a loud machine which glared : HIGH FREQUENCY VENTILATOR- a machine used on the sickest of patients. The drone of the machine reminded them that their little grandson was in trouble- the infallibles were fallible like anyone else.

Shashank swallowed hard and noticed the thick wad of hair on the baby's head- just like Riddhima's.

"Padma…dekho meri beti ke baal kitne sunder hain." His own voice from 25 years ago when he had held Riddhima for the first time, echoed in his mind.

Shashank smiled tearfully as he recalled the past, and then noticed the long but frail fingers on the baby's lifeless arm- just like Abhimanyu's! He recalled how he used to always marvel Abhimanyu's fingers: Yaar Abhi tujhey tho musician ya artist hona chaahiye tha….dekh teri ungliyaan kitni lambi hain!

At that moment, it struck him that this little baby was neither a Mallik nor a Gupta, but a beautiful fusion of the two families. With the strength and courage of both families backing their grandson, Shashank was sure he would emerge victorious and not succumb that easily.

A guilty Abhimanyu felt embarrassed by his petty and frivolous arguments with his son over the past few months. It did not matter whether the baby was a boy or a girl, how smart he would be when he grew up, what profession would he choose, would he have more Mallik genes or Gupta genes- what mattered was him.

At that moment, Abhimanyu was willing to sacrifice everything he had ever achieved- wealth, fame, and stature- in exchange for the well being of his little grandson.

Kripa nodded at all of them and resumed writing orders for baby Mallik that Dr Patnaik had given her.

Gauri walked over to Kripa, "thanks beta….ab kaisa hai hamara bachcha?"

"Abhi stable hai aunty," she replied softly, 'the first 24 hours will determine how he will do."

"C-can we touch hi-m?" Abhimanyu stuttered.

"Uh…wo…" Kripa hesitated, "sure uncle….please wear gloves…infection ke chances hain baby ko."

Shashank came forward with two pairs of gloves and gave one to Abhimanyu. Gauri and Kripa exchanged glances at the most unexpected sight. The granddads walked towards the little baby and gently stroked each of his little feet with their gloved fingers. The sick infant was too paralyzed to respond to their touch but to their surprise, they noticed that his heart rate went up just a wee bit as their fingers made contact with his bare skin.

The two men beamed like little kids and exchanged smiles for the first time in years- their grandson had responded to their touch!

It struck them that despite all their expertise, their knowledge and their false pride in their invulnerability, they were not the ones in control- it was some other mysterious force that determined all their fates…..and was perhaps also guiding them when they had lost their souls to ego, jealousy, hatred and arrogance.

(beautiful prayer from Saaya)

har taraf, har jagah, har kahin pe hai
haan.. usi kaa roop
haan usi kaa roop

 roshni kaa koi dariyaa to hai
haan kahin pe zaroor
 roshni kaa koi dariyaa to hai
haan kahin pe zaroor

ye aasmaan, ye zameen, chaand aur sooraj
kyaa banaa sakaa hai kabhi koi bhi kudrat -2
koi to hai jiske aage hai aadmi majboor
koi to hai jiske aage hai aadmi majboor
har taraf, har jagah, har kahin pe hai
haan.. usi kaa roop

insaan jab koi hai raah se bhatkaa
isne dikhaa diyaa, usko sahi rastaa -2
koi to hai jo kartaa hai mushkil hamaari door
koi to hai jo kartaa hai mushkil hamaari door

har taraf, har jagah, har kahin pe hai
haan.. usi kaa roop
roshni kaa koi dariyaa to hai
haan kahin pe zaroor

On Riddhima's insistence, Armaan came to the ICU to see his sick son. Riddhima had been transferred to the post partum ward where Padma and Kripa's parents were helping her after the delivery.

He was surprised to see the two dads standing by the baby's warmer. His heart sank to see his little son so helpless and at the mercy of technology and medicines rather than in his arms. This is not the picture he had visualized for his child. Tears welled up as he walked towards the baby.

Abhimanyu looked up and for the first time since Armaan's teenage years, placed his arm around his son and patted him, "don't worry beta….sab theek ho jaayega." Throughout his childhood and growing years, Armaan had craved to hear those words from his dad, but today, that's what he wanted to say to his own son…….beta….sab theek ho jaayega….

"Yeh hamare saath hi kyun hua hai dad? Why?" Armaan leaned slightly and rested his weight against his mom.

Shashank felt sorry for Armaan and pursed his lips, "beta….shayad humein yeh mehsoos karwaane ke liye ki hum bhi sirf insaan hain….bhagwan nahin…..we are all doctors here…..but none of us can do anything…..but pray for our little one."

Dr Patnaik's heart melted at the sight of the huddle near baby boy Mallik's warmer. He had heard about the rivalry between the two great surgeons and the reputation of the illustrious Mallik family, but seeing them all look so vulnerable and human-like filled his heart with empathy for the two families.

He walked over and folded his arms, "you know there is an ancient Chinese belief…. that when a person is held in the hearts and minds and souls of so many other people, they do better. I am hopeful everything will go so well….after all this baby is loved by so many…….now I would advise that you all go home and rest….or take care of the mother of the baby……once the baby is doing well…..he will need all the help from you."

Armaan caressed his son's tiny toes and fingers. Smiling tearfully, he looked at Kripa, "bilkul Riddhima par gaya hai….wo dekhegi tho kitni khush hogi."

'Aankhein tum par gayi hain," Kripa smiled.

"When did you see his eyes?" Armaan's eyes twinkled.

"Remember I have been with him since he was born?" She patted Armaan's shoulder, 'now go back to Riddhima….she needs you….your son is safe with his bua tonight."

Armaan nodded and blew a kiss to his son.

Shashank, Abhimanyu, Gauri and Armaan thanked Dr Patnaik and stepped out.

"Aaj raat main yahin ICU ke bahar rahoonga Gauri…..please make sure you cancel all my appointments for tomorrow." Abhimanyu looked at his wife.

"Main bhi." Shashank added.

Both Armaan and Gauri were taken by surprise. The two men who could not tolerate being in the same room with each other, were going to spend a night together, that too in the waiting room of a hospital like common men??????

After having seen the baby being well taken care of, Armaan comforted Riddhima's worried motherly concerns. He spent the night with her and insisted that the rest of the family get a good night's rest in preparation for the hectic next few days.

Whether it was the idea of becoming a parent, or the sight of his helpless son, it seemed like Armaan had changed overnight. No longer was he the restless, fidgety husband who winced at every contraction his wife endured, but a man who knew his responsibilities and his limits. Riddhima and his son's welfare depended on him; and he would not let either one down. He stayed up all night, either taking care of Riddhima or checking on his son by phone at regular intervals. More than Kripa's presence in the ICU, it was the presence of the two grandpas close to their son, reassured Armaan that nothing could go wrong when they were all wishing for the same thing…..

 The two grand dads sat on the uncomfortable waiting room chairs and reminisced their old days.

"Yaar Abhi yaad hai….internship mein humney kitni raatein ek saath aise nikaali hain?" Shashank leaned back and gazed at the ceiling.

"Shanky…..yaar tu tho hamesha coffee laata tha na hum sab ke liye…..ek cup ho jaaye….aakhir raat nikaalni hai…..i don't want to fall asleep yaar." Abhimanyu loosened his tie and threw it on the floor, and then took his shoes and socks off and sprawled on the floor.

Kabhi socha hai kya
Kabhi socha hai kya
Barish kyun aaye
Kyun geet bewajah
Hoonthon pe aaye
Kyun acche lage
Kalwo mein leheren
Kyun bhatke kadam
Ek pal na there

Shashank smiled and walked off to get two cups of coffee.

'Here Abhi….you still prefer black?"

"Arre…tujhey yaad hai?" Abhimanyu was pleasantly surprised, 'kitne saal ho gaye yaar."

"Haan….kitne saal ho gaye….lekin teri kuch aadatein abhi tak nahin badli," Shashank chuckled.

"Black coffee? And what else?"

"Yahi… ko apna ghar samajhna…..look what you have done? Apni tie…joote….shoes….sab aise hi phaink diye."

"ha…ha," Abhimanyu laughed, "Gauri nahin hai na yahan…so I can do as I please."

"Remember when we shared an apartment in the first year because the hostels were still being constructed?" Shashank sighed as he recalled the past.

"Oh yeah! And you hated my mess! Kitna ladhte the tab hum."

"Aur aaj bhi…" Shashank said seriously, 'aur aaj bhi utna hi ladhte hain….farak sirf yeh hai ki pehle ladhai egos ki nahin….do doston mein hoti thi…..aur ab old age egos have taken over!"

"I hope our grandson does not inherit any traits from us." Abhimanyu sighed.

A surprised Shashank sat up, "so you don't want him to be great surgeon like you?"

"Naaa! I just want him to be happy….and be a good person."

"You are right Abhi! I don't want him to fear us….or ever try to do things just to please our egos…..he should be free to do what he wants….."

"Hamare jaisa ghamandi na ho."

"Bas dil badha ho….. ego nahin!"

Yeh sab ishaare hain
Sang jo humare hai
Dil ne savare hai
Pyaar ke liye
Ohhh ooooo ohhhh ooooooo ohhhh
Ohhh ooooo ohhhh ooooooo ohhhh
Dil ki shakho pe
Dalte hai kyun joole
Khusbhoo kyun kisi ki
Saanson ko na bhule
Hoonth tharthathe kyun
Par na bathate kyun
Unki na nukur bhi hai
Pyaar ke liye
Kabhi socha hai kya
Kabhi socha hai kya
Barish kyun aaye
Kyun geet bewajah
Hoonthon pe aaye
Kyun acche lage
Kalwo mein leheren
Kyun bhatke kadam
Ek pal na tehre
Yeh sab ishaare hain
Sang jo humare hai
Dil ne savare hai
Pyaar ke liye
Ohhh ooooo ohhhh ooooooo ohhhh
Ohhh ooooo ohhhh ooooooo ohhhh

"Sometimes it takes a generation to teach old folks like us!" Shashank chuckled.

"Hum duniyabhar mein apni jhoothi jeet aur shaan ka dhindora peet te tahe…..aur ek chote se bachche se haar gaye aaj…." Abhimanyu leaned his head and rested it on Shashank's shoulder.

Aisa kyun lage hai
Jaise kuch adhura
Woh chaand hai mukammal
Kyun na lagta pura
Aakhon ki seipi mein
Khwaabon ke moti hai
Moti taraste hai
Pyaare ke liye

Shashank placed his arm around Abhimanyu, "nahin Abhi…..haare nahin… bachche ne humein jeet ka sahi maayne samjhaaya hai……"

"Jeet ka sahi maayne?" Abhimanyu wondered.

"Pyaar…..yeh duniya bani hai sirf pyaar ke liye hai…..humein pehle apno se pyaar karna aana chaahiye…phir kahin doosron ka pyaar paa sakte hain."

"Yes Shanky……you are right… always you are right." Abhimanyu dozed off on his friend's shoulder as the early morning rays of dawn cracked through the windows of the waiting room.

Kabhi socha hai kya
Kabhi socha hai kya
Barish kyun aaye
Kyun geet bewajah
Hoonthon pe aaye
Kyun acche lage
Kalwo mein leheren
Kyun bhatke kadam
Ek pal na tehre
Yeh sab ishaare hain
Sang jo humare hai
Dil ne savare hai
Pyaar ke liye


Good news trickled from the ICU as the baby made slow but steady improvement. Each time his oxygen level or medication level came down, became a reason to celebrate amongst his long list of well wishers. Armaan and Riddhima were inundated with 'get well soon' cards, flowers, best wishes, prayers, stuffed animals, blankets and what not for the little one.

The baby had made remarkable progress by the end of the week. Not dependent on artificial ventilator support, oxygen or breathing tubes anymore, he looked like a different child one morning.

Wailing at the top of his lungs, he had the nurses and staff running in frenzy in the ICU.

"SISTER…PLEASE TRANSFER THIS FEISTY BABY BACK TO THE REGULAR NURSERY! Bahut shor machaa rakha hai is baby Mallik ne!" Dr Patnaik chortled, "shor machaane mein bilkul apne nana aur dada par gaya hai."

"Mere bte ko kuch mat kahiye Dr Patnaik."  A cheerful Riddhima walked into the ICU in regular clothes. Armaan accompanied her with a bag as she had just been discharged.

"OH I see….the mother of the baby is here…..looks like you have been discharged Dr Riddhima?" Dr Patnaik asked.

"Yes doctor…and please call me Riddhima…main yahan maa hoon…doctor nahin. Gently, she picked her son and held him in her arms. This was the first time she had held him since birth. She had visited him several times, but just glimpses and a few strokes on his skin were all she was allowed. As she lifted him in her arms, warm tears flowed incessantly from her eyes. Kripa came forward and placed her arm around her friend, "Riddhima….you can start feeding him now……he needs you more than he needs us."

Riddhima nodded and planted two wet kisses on his pink and chubby cheeks. As if recognizing his mother instantly, the baby stopped crying and rooted against her dupatta in search of his first real meal.

Armaan's heart went out to the beautiful and sensitive scene in front of him. He knew no camera could capture that beautiful moment, only memories could.

He glanced around at the numerous messages, cards, toys and blankets around his son's crib. "Riddhima….hamara beta bahut bigad jaayega." He commented as he collected all the little gifts for him in the bag, 'itni gifts tho mujhey apne 26 birthdays par bhi nahin mili"

"Armaan…..kyunki tum mere bte jaise special nahin ho na." Riddhima teased him.

"Oh really? Looks like I am going to have major competition." He grinned.

"Of course you will," Kripa commented, "he is way more handsome than his dad."

'Achcha…how can you tell madam?" Armaan confronted her, "with all those tubes….how could you tell?"

"Soch…..tubes ke saath yeh haal tha tho tubes ke bina ab kitna dashing lag raha hai saale?" Angad slapped Armaan's back as he joined them in the ICU.

"Armaan beta……lagta hai tere din ab poore ho gaye….looks like your son will get all the hot babes now." Armaan shook his head seriously.

"GROW UP BUDDY!" Angad chuckled, "after all your dad and father-in-law have finally grown up." He pointed at them as they stood outside the ICU windows, waving at them. Padma, Gauri, Gayatri, Suryabhan, Shubhankar, Keerti, Josh, Simone, Shaabir, Aaliyah and Isha were all there to welcome the special guest out of the ICU.

"Yup! Better late than never…huh?" Armaan grinned.

"Galtiyaan tho sab se hoti hain," Angad pondered seriously, "as they say To Err is Human….."

With a slanting smile, Armaan added, "and to correct is divine….."

"TO FORGIVE IS DIVINE!" Kripa and Riddhima corrected him.

Armaan winked at them, "Naaa… CORRECT IS DIVINE…..that's more important than forgiveness," he became serious, "because only if you correct your mistakes…..can you forgive yourself…….kyunki doosron ki maafi se zyaada zaroori hai khud ko maaf karna."

The four friends exchanged glances with each other and agreed – from time to time, they had all committed mistakes like anyone else, but by rectifying them, they had attained redemption and forgiveness not only from their loved ones, but from themselves………and that's what made them more human than others…….


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