The human race, to which all of us belong has been playing at children’s games from the beginning, and will probably do it till the end, which is a nuisance for the few people who grow up. The times of childhood still makes me smile, where I and my sister Priya carefully orchestrated a Play called Hospital, where I put on my Dad’s Lab coat and pretended to be a doctor and my sister wore my Mom’s saree and pretended to be my patient. And our audience was our Parents. We acted like grown-ups and somewhere I feel, 20 years later, I am still acting as a grown-up.
Department of Gynaecology, City Clinic, Bangalore 2017.
The door is propped open, and nurses and orderlies walk by, their sensible shoes squeaking on the pristine tiles. The nurses’ desk was filled with lots of laughter although the rule is “Shhh”. There were all sorts of couples, some standing, some sitting, some restless and wandering. Some couples expecting babies in a month, some in a day and some came to make sure they are getting a baby or not. Though the AC showed the temperature as 22 degrees, Akash was profusely sweating and fidgeting. It’s an hour since he opened that door, and he was still waiting to meet the gynaecologist. For the fifth time in the past 30 minutes, he approached a nurse.
‘Nurse, when is my number’
‘Sir, I already told you to keep waiting. Patients are given first preference, not the father.’
Yes, For God’s sake its Department of Gynaecology, A well built 6 feet tall man would never be a patient even if he has grown a belly like Santa. Pregnant ladies with their mood-swings were given more priority, More the mood swings, better are your chances to see the doctor. And Akash was not pregnant but he definitely was having mood swings. Maybe that was a side effect of taking care of a pregnant woman 24×7 who is in her third trimester, 2 days to her due date to be precise. In front of Anusha, his wife, he was this person who was ready to welcome his son, ready to change his diapers, ready to decide his career. But deep down, he knew; He knew that he was still playing Hospital, albeit for real, forever. And who better to share this anxiousness with, His Dad, Dr.Mukesh Gupta, the renowned gynaecologist, also a loving father, a friend and an unofficial personal therapist. The only thing separating them was the distance, Akash was working in Gurgaon and Mukesh in Bangalore.
Two hundred kilometres to the North, Anusha is wondering why Akash is taking so much time to finish his Client meeting. She knew Akash was travelling out of Gurgaon, just that she thinks the destination is Delhi, not Bangalore.
‘Nurse, when is my number? it’s been 2 hours.’
‘Sir, I already told you to…’
‘No, not again, I am his son, and I demand to meet him.’
‘Sir, I know but It’s a hospital policy, anyway the OPD time ends in 10 minutes and the doctor is examining the last patient.’
‘Send him in,’ a nurse shouted as she escorted the last pregnant lady to her husband.
Akash burst into Doctor’s room to meet his Dad. His Dad’s face calmed him down. He was annoyed with his policies, but not the person.
‘Come in Beta.’
‘Dad, Your hospital staff is annoying.’
‘I know, that’s why I hired them.’
Dr.Gupta expected a smirk on Akash’s face with that cheeky response. But he didn’t find one.
‘Dad, Anusha doesn’t know that I am in Bangalore.’
‘Yes, She thinks I am in Delhi.’
‘Because I said so?’
‘I really wanted to meet you.’
‘We could have met tomorrow when I and your mom were visiting your place for your Big Day’
‘That is exactly why I wanted to meet you’
‘Okay, calm down, have this’, Mukesh gave him a bottle of water and took over his lab coat and hung it on his chair. He washed his hands and asked his junior to take care of department and he called Akash to join him.
‘Dad, where are we going?’
‘To Home, where else.’
‘Dad, are you serious? Anusha DOESN’T know that I am in Bangalore. Its already 6 and I have my return flight at 8.’
‘Okay, let me drop you at the airport then.’
‘I really need to talk to you.
‘First, get into the car Akash.’
Devanahalli Airport Road
It wasn’t until the car finally left the city limits when Akash spoke a word. And Mukesh was driving his Verna as cool as Fonzie. He didn’t bother to ask his son until his son spoke.
‘Dad, I am scared!’
‘How will I manage Dad, Do you really think I can be a good Dad, I don’t know the difference between a nappy and a diaper. I don’t know which is disposable and which is not. How will I manage the responsibility of a new human being.’
‘You will manage, don’t worry.’
‘I think I am not mature enough, Dad.’
‘Well, yes. Who leaves his pregnant wife and travels all the way to Bangalore!’
‘Dad, the point is What if I am not cut-out for this job.’
‘You are panicking unnecessarily son.’
‘Dad, there is a lot of pressure. I mean, look at me. I am 28. I hardly manage my job. I can’t imagine being a father.’
‘Akash, what’s my age?’
‘Yes, Tell me my age.’
‘I am 50, son.’
‘You are 28, I am 50.’
‘But we celebrated Mom’s 50th birthday ages ago.’
‘Yes, I was there too’.
‘What? Is it impossible to imagine me being younger than your mother?’
‘Not that. We never celebrated your birthday. Never bothered to celebrate actually.’
‘Well, we never missed celebrating your birthday, Akash, and Priya’s birthday too.’
‘You know why none of your friends would turn up for your birthday when you were too young?’
‘Because we never invited them…Let me tell you a story…’
Karnataka Institute of Medical Science, Hubli 1989.
After successful completion of my MBBS course, I was serving my compulsory tenure at the Hospital attached to my college. In our orientation programme, One of the senior doctors from the hospital stated that that year was the milestone converting the youth into a future successful doctor. Those were the words which I kept repeating to myself every day, each day.
Even though I bagged a merit seat, I had a loan of 1L on my shoulders and those days, it was an insane amount, many would have crumbled under the pressure. But I used it to motivate me and trust me, nothing motivates a person than a loan and fear or Bank.
I was working under Dr.Khanpet, a famous gynaecologist of those times. I was following his orders religiously and was working 8 hours a day. Surprisingly, I was getting a stipend of 2000 for working 4 hours at his clinic. Life was going good, I was living alone for the first time in my life. I was making use of all the independence I had. One day, something happened, which changed my life.
I was doing finishing off Pre-Examining process while Dr Khanpet was having his evening tea. 2 Police officers rushed inside the clinic with a woman who was bleeding severely.
Her mangled lip and obviously broken nose were caked in dried blood, congealed and cracked. The now browning blood had drizzled down her face like so much rain down a window pane.
I was equally surprised and shocked at the sight of it. It was my first accident case and I was puzzled regarding why she was taken to a gynaecology clinic instead of KIMS. Then, I noticed her baby bump. And water dripping all over the wheelchair. Her water had broken. I was in charge of the clinic at that moment and I didn’t wait for a second to escort that lady to the Operation Theatre. Dr Khanpet arrived on time and by the look on his face, he was mightily impressed. She was dilating slowly and I was given the job of keeping her awake. I cleaned her blood stains with help of a nurse. I asked her name to start a conversation to calm her down. Actually to calm me down. She was not screaming like other women, she was just crying. Tears flowing down her cheeks and leaving a mark.
‘Yes, That’s How I met your Mother.’
‘Suchitra, do not worry. Everything will be fine. Please calm down.’
She didn’t reply with words, just tears.
After around 5 minutes, you were born. The first time I saw your tiny, red face, something happened inside me. I thought your mother is about to die but miraculously she opened her eyes and feebly asked me to show your face to her. She smiled. That’s the first time I saw her smile.
I enquired with the Police officer regarding her. He said, he found her at a construction site gravely injured and immediately rushed to the hospital. I never met that Police officer again, but I met your mother 3 months later carrying a tiny version of yourself and working as a receptionist in a travel agency adjacent to our clinic. She recognised me and thanked profusely. We became good friends, I mean you and me. Well, Your Mom and I met each other, each day for close to 3 years. I grew from a not so confident student to sharing Dr Khanpet’s cabin in his clinic. I was earning well. Unknowingly, I fell in love with Suchitra and gathered the courage to ask her for marriage.
Unkal Lake, Hubli 1992
‘Suchitra, can I ask you something?’
‘I don’t know how to do this, I don’t even know whether this is morally right or wrong, but will you marry me.’
‘Um..um…What if I say yes?’
‘Then we will get married.’
‘What if I say I am older than you.’
‘What if I say No.’
‘Then we don’t get married.’
‘It’s not that simple Mukesh.’
‘It is. Trust me.’
‘Can I ask you something?’
‘Why not You!’
‘Can I ask you another thing?’
‘Do you ever wonder what happened the day we met?’
‘Why didn’t you ask me yet?’
‘I couldn’t gather enough courage to ask.’
‘Can I ask one final thing?’
‘A favour, actually. Will you promise to never ask anything about that day?’
Devanahalli Airport, Bangalore 2017
‘Akash, get down. Just 10 minutes until the check-in. Hurry up!’
‘Dad, one last time. Didn’t you ever get this sort of, panicky, Oh-My-God, I am gonna be a father kind of fear?’
‘I don’t know. Actually, how do I tell this? You know when you see your baby for the first time, you will get this weird feeling, and all of a sudden, you will be like, I am ready.’
‘One last thing….’
‘You said this last time too..’
‘One last thing. We still have 5 minutes…Having a kid changes your life right? Like once you have a kid, your rest of the life will revolve around him. A kid comes with so many requirements, you kind of get trapped..’
‘In the beginning, It will feel like that, but once your kid starts growing, starts going to school, when you play with your kids, like when you and your sister playing doctor and patient and Me and your mother were audiences, during such times, we never felt we were missing out on something..it’s beautiful. Trust me you will handle this better than me, I was 22, you are 28…Now run.’
Akash allowed himself a wry smile. It was too much for him for that day. He started strolling towards check-in counter but turned around and hugged his Dad.
‘Come on now…Get going, you will miss the flight.’
‘Dad, Did you ever ask Mom about what exactly happened that day?’
‘No Beta, I had promised her!’
It is fun being Adult, not as much as fun Childhood but today I realised that I am slowing getting into the character of playing grown-up. If I was really a child inside the body of a man as I thought, I would have freaked out to know that My Dad, was in fact not my Dad. But It didn’t matter to me anymore whether he was biologically related to me or not. He is not just a Dad but a Hero, A Saviour and a better actor than me in hiding his emotions!