Wednesday, September 29, 2004

A New View

I’d carried a book with me, aware that waiting to see the doctor can redefine the word "patient". We were taking my grandmother to see a retina specialist, for a haemorrhage in her left eye. Sitting in that waiting room, with about 30 odd patients, each of whom had some sort of an eye problem, I felt privileged in a way I had never really thought much about. I looked at the book I had so casually decided to read. My eyes, that I take for granted, my vision, which I had never had to do without, was suddenly a gift that all those 30 people were fighting to retain and recover. It was a sobering experience.

My grandmother sat there, silent, patient, somewhat mollified that she could at least see the world through her right eye, cataract-ridden but functional nonetheless, for the time being. There was a young man, accompanied by his father, mother, sister, uncle and newly-wed wife. All there to support him and assure him that the doc was sure things would be fine sooner than he imagined. There was an elderly Sikh gentleman, whose left leg ended at the knee, leaving only a hollow metal rod to go down till the shoes. I sat there weaving a story about how he may have been a gallant Sikh in battle. Who knows, I could be right. The sense of despair and simultaneous hope was all-pervasive. This was a doctor you came to when your own doctor decided he could do no more and perhaps it would be best if you were referred to the retina specialist. If you were here, chances were, things were pretty bad. But again, if you were here, chances were things might get better sometime soon.

When my grandmother’s name was called, my mother took her in while I waited outside, running my eyes over the posters and notices typical of a clinic.
All around the room were placards testifying to the skill of the doctor --- felicitations at some conference, awards at the national level for some expertise. They were reassuring to those accompanying the patients, as the print was too fine to be read by most of the patients I just described. It was a relief to know that my grandmother was in safe hands.

But I was touched by the plaque – it had been gifted, with "deep gratitude" by a lucky patient for whom "the short span of darkness rendered the light of sight brighter by far".
I sat there, musing over all the times I had ignored anxious pleas and stern commands to sit and read in better light, as I lay across my bed with my back to the light, nose buried in a book and lost in an imaginary world. Thankful in a way I had never felt before, I angled my book best to catch the light above me and started to read.

Wednesday, September 15, 2004

Naptime for Mr. Bond!

No no no...I am not going to write about James Bond, the guy who likes his martinis "shaken not stirred"! (Well, actually I haven't seen enough Bond movies to confirm that, but what the hell, I'll take the world's word for it!
I'm going to talk about Mr. Ruskin Bond, who looks like everybody's favourite uncle and who probably would say his favourite drink is tea!
Mr. Bond is an all-time favourite writer of mine ... few writers I have read have the gift of writing simply, unforgettably, and simply unforgettable stuff! I envy him from the bottom of my heart for the ability to write what he sees and make it look and sound beautiful.
But, I digress...a few weeks back a colleague (Vineeta, whom I must name, or she shall be most offended and shall go on and on about how we shall forget her when October 14th comes around!) and I were indulging in usual chit-chat and she narrated a story of how she was in Dehradun for a weekend and dragged her friends up to Mussoorie to hunt out Mr. Bond's cottage and say hello to her favourite writer! Well, by the time the tin-box of a mountain bus trundled its way uphill from Dehra to Mussoorie, it was afternoon. And when they located Mr. Bond's house (which, by the way, most any local of Mussoorie could direct you to) they knocked on the door in breathless anticipation. They heard the latch slip on the inside, and Mr. Bond himself opened the door!
Apologising for disturbing him and stating the purpose of their visit (simply the desire to meet him), they were heartbroken when he told them gently that the doctor had prescribed a good afternoon rest and he really couldn't chat with them for very long. [Being the sleep-lover that I am, Mr. Bond went even further up in my estimation!] However, being the gentle soul that he is (as all fellow Bond-lovers will agree) he sat up and chatted with them, autographed their books and even offered them tea! When they left, he again apologised for preferring his nap over visitors.
Some days after I heard this story from Vineeta, I happened to come across the latest Bond book -- The India I Love...and in it, glancing at the dedication page, I saw what made me smile: It simply said (and here I paraphrase):
I dedicate this book to all those who come knocking on my
door in the middle of my afternoon siesta. May they, too, discover the pleasures
of a good afternoon's rest.

Saturday, September 11, 2004

Wings on my Balcony

We had a nocturnal visitor the other evening. As I went to lock up for the night, a black shape on the dark balcony next to the bedroom attracted my attention. Unsure if it would turn out to be a dead leaf or some sort of a living creature, I beat a hasty retreat and switched on the light. And there, crouched in a corner, looking bewildered and trembling in fear, was a baby bird! It was one of those doves that have white bands around their necks … was it here to bring me peace? Well, definitely not for the next 15 minutes, as my mother, grandmother, brother and I thought thought thought about what to do! We certainly couldn’t leave it out there, just in case it was injured. You see, we have lots of those lean, mean, hungry cats in the neighbourhood. And so we decided that it had to be brought in and covered up for the night. My mother, adventurous as always, decided to check to see if it was hurt somehow. The very first touch and the bird flapped its wings and started fluttering towards the ceiling. Then ensued a mad scramble as we rushed to switch off the ceiling fan … oooh, that would not have been pretty!

Well anyway, at least now we knew it could fly, we thought, as the little thing came back down to the ground. It had probably landed on our balcony by mistake and then lost its sense of direction in the dark … one didn’t need to see an "L" on its back to know that this one was still in Flying 101, supervised by mom and dad. And so till we could set it free in the morning where it would (hopefully) know where to go, we had to make sure nothing happened to it.
A vegetable basket was commandeered from the kitchen and so was a small steel bowl. We placed a sheet of newspaper on a small table and then placed the bowl, filled with water, on it. Then ma carefully transported the baby onto the paper and upturned the basket over it! It was as simple as that!

We switched off the bedroom light and went off to watch TV, but each time I would come into the room, switch on the light and peer in through the plastic mesh, there it was, staring beadily at me! Anyway, eventually we all turned in and I think the bird slept well too. I was a little apprehensive that it may have rooster blood somewhere and make its presence felt at 4 am. Thankfully, either the genes were absent or recessive!

Next morning, the table was carried onto the balcony and the vegetable-basket-turned-impromptu-birdcage was removed. It didn’t take little birdie more than a moment to hop onto the balcony, flutter off to the neighbour’s TV antenna, preen its feathers (must’ve been a cramped night!), and take off into the blue sky! No turning back to thank its hosts, but then, we didn’t really expect it!

And that was it, or so I thought, until I wandered onto the balcony a few moments later to scan the skies for the baby. No sight of it, and then, as I stepped backwards and onto something slightly gooey … I knew it … it had left a present for us … something that would definitely leave a mark for a while!