Tuesday, 14 April 2020

os : The eternal reality of the soul's immortality

The entire intern gang along with some doctors and few nurses had gathered in front of the tiny temple like structure inside the hospital. A little girl would undergo a complicated procedure in an hour or two and that had got most of the hospital staff on an edge. The absence of couple of senior doctors had made the environment much more intense. One of the senior doctors' had requested Armaan to assist him during the operation. Armaan had looked torn at the request.

"I know the little girl very well. Over her course of visits, I have become quite attached to her. It's impossible for me to perform operation on her. My emotional involvement in this case is too high and taking this kind of risk can prove to be fatal too."

"I know about this Armaan, but please try to understand the situation; you know the case very well and there aren't many senior doctors around", the senior doctor had cajoled him relentlessly. He had reluctantly accepted.

He was wondering if he had made a wise decision. He also wished that he should have discussed this Riddhima before he nodded his head to perform this procedure or may be he should have simply declined or may be he should have asked Riddhima to take his place. He shook his head to clear some invisible cobwebs that were slowly entangling amidst themselves. He knew that a day like this would come, not only for him but in every doctor's life where they would have to operate or treat people they know or they care about very dearly. It is perhaps on of the toughest decision and most doctors chose not to do it themselves. In their profession, room to error was close to nil and doing any mistakes could reward them with a lifetime of guilt; in case of loved ones, it would drive them insane. He felt Riddhima slip out from the group, gently moving away towards a corner. Everyone around him looked either tensed or sad and a few of them even openly crying but her face had looked calm and serene. Her calmness wasn't a result of clinical detachment or of a coldness that she possessed; it was a reflection of accepting the reality. As he walked towards her, he wondered how she would have behaved if she was the one who was performing the operation. Would she be as nervous as he was that moment? May be, may be not. With her in the equation, the results were always surprising.

She was watching at a wooden plaque on the wall intently. She was looking at the eternal scene from Mahabharata where Krishna asks Arjuna to pick up his bow and go back to the war. He looked at the plaque but not really seeing it and finally he broke.

"I can't do it Riddhima. I simply cannot. Every time I try to pick up the case file, the little girl's face swims across it and my hands tremble. If this is the case, then I don't know if I can pick up a scalpel and make an incision", he said in a throaty whisper. An errant tear had trapped in his eyelashes and he blinked his eyes repeatedly to make it fall; at least then, the heaviness would have lessened. The errant tear however stuck to his eyelashes like an old lover, clinging no matter what and not trying to lose contact with the only thing that was tangible.

prcchami tvam dharma-sammudha-cetah
yac chreyah syan nischitam bruhi tan me
shishyas te 'ham sadhi mam tvam prapannam

(Verse 7)

Rough translation: Now my natural qualities are besieged by weakness and apprehension and my thinking bewildered regarding righteousness. I am asking you to please state what is definitely good for me. I am your disciple, surrendered to you, kindly instruct me.

Riddhima was quiet for handful of moments. Her facial expression had remained the same and she replied him with a steady voice.

"Armaan, are you trying to insult our duty as doctors?" she asked him. He looked momentarily stunned. She matched his stare for few moments and looked back at the plaque. Though he had half expected that sort of a response from her, it was more surprising to hear her voice it. She continued.

"In any other case, you would be at this time, you would be at library, going through similar case files and operation history. You would ask me to quiz you and you would definitely not be this lost in some oblivion." Now he was mildly annoyed at her attitude.

"Riddhima, I know that little girl very well. I share an emotional attachment with her. She has played on my lap and I have chased her all around the hospital playing tag. But seeing her on the operation table makes me feel helpless. One small mistake would change the outcome irrevocably", he sighed. May be Riddhima was clinically detached.

"You have performed number of operations before and this is definitely not the first time you are working on something as big as this. What is it that you are afraid of?" She asked him with genuine curiosity. She never mixed duty and emotions and his had always been a blend of the two.

They were an odd pair.

"It's the guilt of making a mistake that I am afraid of Riddhima, the cost of a life", he replied. Realization seemed to dawn on her face and she looked mildly angry.

"Are you implying that the cost of a life of a person you know is more than that of a stranger Armaan?" her eyes flashed as she said this.

He wanted to say "no". He wanted to admonish her for even thinking like that. But deep down, he knew that she was right. She was right in her accusation that at one point, every human puts more value to the people around them rather than total strangers with whom they pass paths with. A man would constantly worry about his wife and children. If he we were to operate on that man, then would his hand tremble? It might not.

"The tie that binds us with people, no matter how delicate it is, in a way that no man can untangle without being emotionally hurt or worse, scarred. In that case for loved ones, these kinds of situations are pure purgatory", he replied. She didn't answer him. He didn't expect an answer from her anyway. He mentioned those words merely to convince himself of his desperation and helplessness. He was however surprised when she answered him.

"When it comes to duty, there are no kith and kin. On the table where we perform operation, everyone who lays there is of equal value and is of equal importance. You fail to see that because at that moment you are not seeing a patient; you are seeing a friend, a memory, a smile, a tear, a hug, a moment of happiness or anything that is closely associated with you. It's not the patient you are seeing anymore; it's a hazy reflection of yourself." Her eyes had softened as she spoke and offered him a tiny smile.

ashocyan anvashochas tvam
prajna-vadams cha bhashase
gatasun agatasumscha
nanusochanti panditah

Rough Translation: You are mourning here for those not worthy of sorrow; yet speaking like one knowledgeable. The learned neither laments for the dead nor for the living.

(Verse 11)

The way she had dismissed his precognitive bias for his loved ones had him spinning at the spot for a moment. Though he completely understood and perhaps even accepted as the most rational explanation, he could not easily differentiate his emotions from his conscious mind. She believed that one drives the other while he believed that both of them co-existed. All judgments given by mind were easily ruled out when emotions came into picture; morality, rationality, duty etc never really stood a chance against a strong emotion. Here he was questioning his intelligence and experience over a bond that he shared with a little girl. Unfortunately this was not the first time he was getting emotionally attached with his patients.

"Warm soul" That's what everyone around him had called. Riddhima had smiled at him amusedly and had shaken her head when he had told her that for the first time. His belief was that it was the soul that guided a person towards another. It was the soul that binds one human to another. It was the same soul which tries to rationalize emotions and gut instincts. When he told Riddhima that, she had smiled and had shaken her head. He had simply shrugged then. Once he had even asked if she believed that they were soul mates. She had replied a "No" without looking up from the journal that she was reading. The table where they sat had gone quiet with her answer. Their friends were looking at him in sympathy while he was torn between hurt and hopelessness. He had not even asked her why. She had continued with her answer still not looking up from her journal.

"I don't believe that you and I are soul mates Armaan. Soul mates are those whole souls reflect one another exactly the same; their thoughts, their wants and their whims are so synchronous that you cannot differentiate one from another. And like anything in this universe, this kind of similarity doesn't exist. This is my theory on soul mates. But I am sure you would want to know what you and I are. Our souls differ greatly at some parts and are gloriously similar at some. When one is super imposed on the other, they fit perfectly; though we have dissimilar souls, there is a tender harmony and a melancholic synchrony in the way we fit; one useless without the other."

The entire table was stunned at her response. The elation he had felt at that oment had made him see her as his own personal heaven. He came back to present to see her walking towards the rest of the group.

"Trust your intelligence", she said in finality.

"Tell me Riddhima, if I were to be on the operating table and you were to be the one who is operating me, then would your hand tremble?" he asked her.

"Of course, Armaan." He was baffled.

"You just preached me about emotions and duty", he exclaimed. She observed that his eyes had lost that faraway look and the sparkle in his eyes seemed to be back.

"That I did. But in this case it's a little different."

"How is different?" he asked not letting it go.

"Because when I am operating you, I will be fighting to save both our lives."



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