Some dates, by sheer virtue of the ghoulish and invective nature of happenings on those days, have the potential to inscribe your supple consciousness in such a way that the imprint casted stays much longer than your wishful liking, sometimes for life. More you want them to fade away, the darker and more sinister the impression becomes.
December 16th 2012 was one such day and no Indian with a sane state of mind will ever forget this day. When, in the frigid cold of the night, the demons wandering fearlessly on the streets of its capital not only outraged the modesty of a young innocent girl ‘Nirbhaya’ but also demonstrated a level of brutality which shamed the entire human race. The episode set an unparralled example of the extent of cruelty, men can cast on their female counterparts.
Delhi reacted and reacted noticeably. The air around Jantar Mantar was subjected to acute carbon dioxide poisoning generated by simultaneous combustion of tones of candle wax, the worst ever in the entire history of the monument.
There were protests everywhere, Men protested ostensibly to negate the dark shadows cast upon their sect but more often to satisfy their chauvinistic ego displaying care and protection of tender and weak . Women organizations held demonstrations visibly to fight the battle for their existence. Politicians soon joined the fray claiming their share of popularity.
All in all the impact was gargantuan. Sympathizing with females became order of the day. Both public and government forum jumped at the slightest opportunity to exhibit their caring attitude towards women.
Fed with such a grotesque recipe of sorts, exactly a month after December 16/ 2012 , night of 16th January 2013 became an unforgetful nightmare for me.
Notorious as always Delhi’s winter was at its chilling max. it was only 9.30 in the night but the smothering fog has started engulfing the streets, traffic was sparse, visibility decreasing rapidly, the remnants of a few still functioning mercury street lights were fighting the lone battle against the dead dark of the night.
As I drove towards my hospital, my mind raced back to the phone call I had received just a few minutes ago from my receptionist Durgesh. As a private medical practitioner, running my own medical center and providing 24*7 coverage it was not unusual to receive calls at any time of the day or night. If the call was not unusual in the sense of its timing certainly the purpose, content and the tone of the caller had a definite unnerving effect on my otherwise calm composure. Durgesh had called to inform me that relatives of the patient Geeta are calling me urgently, they are shouting and uttering names indecent to repeat.
I felt uneasy and confused. Listening to verbal beatings of a dissatisfied patients and their unruly attendants is virtually a daily affair. But this was different Geeta was a settled patient and in fact recovering better than I had anticipated, If anything, I expected a sign of gratitude and thankfulness in their dealings.
Geeta was brought a week earlier, 23 years old, slim, punjabi female with history of high grade fever running over last couple of days, vomiting, headache and one episode of seizure followed by altered sensorium.
Blood counts were high with preponderance of neutrophils, lumbar puncture revealed more than usual numbers of cells again polymorphs dominating the show, tomography scan of brain showed diffuse cerebral edema…… practically a copy book picture of early meningitis.
Moreover response to drug therapy was quite favourable….fever subsided, no further episode of seizure and the sensorium had improved though she still felt sleepy at times. So nothing as far as medical management was concerned which could account for the vindictive response of attendants.
“Could it be related to their hospital bill”, I asked Rashmi my wife, who had insisted on her coming along, having sensed the anxiety on my face and possibly having called the hospital herself to inquire about things.
“Negative” she said ” they haven’t deposited a penny in the last four days and are happily enjoying their free sojourn, why don’t you call up the medical forum and ask for help, they had decided to get together in case of such anticipated crisis”. She said in voice which was mix of fear and anxiety. Tension was palpable.
“Ok I will” I replied in a seemingly reassuring manner, and I am glad I took her advice seriously and called for help, for the events that were to unfold soon, were way beyond my wildest imagination and individual capacity to deal with.
The atmosphere outside my hospital, which bore a deserted look just an hour ago when I had left for home, was bustling with activity. There were about 20-22 of them loitering around. In the yellow of mercury light outside the hospital doorway, dimmed by deepening fog, I tried to search for any recognizable face, may be an old patient or someone, I could turn to, for support. There was no one they all seemed locals though, a bunch of hooligans, the kind who relish sacrificing their life for the love of social anarchy . Some of them were talking in hushed voices or was I getting unnecessarily paranoid ?, a couple of others draped themselves around their bike casually, smoking cigarettes….waiting for the kill.
After making a hasty parking and reassuring Rsahmi once again that I am confident to deal with the situation and there is hardly a cause to worry, I drifted straight towards my office chamber, trying to avoid any eye contact with the unknowns on the doorway. In the confines of my chamber, especially sitting in my own chair I will be in a position of relative power, or so I thought.
Durgesh and Avinash, my staff for the night came in and stood by my side. “what’s wrong? Is she all right? ” I asked , “Patient is all right. Its something else” he replied. “oh ! Come on don’t talk in riddles” I snapped back.
Before Durgesh could answer, a young female probably in her late twenties, dressed in tight denim and flashy red low cut sweater entered the room. A black and silver polka dot Stoll hung loosely on her right shoulder, her face was plumpish, lips wore bright red lipstick and eyes laden with layers of cheap mascara. She was Geeta’s elder sister, I recognized her immediately because except for her sense of dress and make up, she was a carbon copy of her ailing sister.
“How could you do this to my sister?” her tone was arrogant. ‘how could I do what ?’ I almost shouted back my patience getting on to my nerves.
” Your staff on duty, upstairs in the ICU, fiddled with my sister at his sweet will and you allowed this to happen ” said she loudly making an ostensible effort to dominate the situation
“Are you out of your mind”, I said , my voice almost loud as hers, shocked at this unexpected and bizarre revelation ” you are making a serious allegation of molestation. Do you understand the gravity of your accusation. I know my boys they can’t do such a thing besides there were other female staff posted along with him. ” words ran out of my mouth rapidly in a flurry of impatience.
” Damn you know anything” said she, her voice even more imposing than before. “I have gone through the cctv footage which clearly shows that your so called decent staff went behind the curtain screen into the cubicle of my sister all alone.”
“What else did the cctv show ‘” I said expecting to find some firmer base now in this otherwise baseless snafu.
“What do you mean, what else? Do you expect to see a blue film? He went into the cubicle all alone in the silence of night. What purpose does he have to go inside alone?” I was left speechless for a moment by her abusive mannerism and filthy thinking.
Durgesh spoke at this time “he was not alone , nurse was already there, she went there from the other side of the curtain, an entrance not picked on the camera” turning towards accuser he continued ” did you notice them come out of the cabin? No, because they came out from the other side”
” YOU SHUT UP!! and don’t try to shield your friend,call him here and I want give that bastard a tight slap” said she avoiding to answer, her voice was shrill and its extreme loudness probably serving as cue for the bunch standing outside, for that very instant , exacting the timing, before I could respond further, two of them charged into my chamber and started clicking photographs and making video. “this going to go far, it will be in the media, what a hospital?” they said. By this time a bigger commotion had set in outside with raised shouts of slogans and abuses.
A man, I was told later that he was girl’s father, in his mid fifties, short but stout with coarse facial features, hairline receding till the occiput, upper lip covered with thick ashen grey moustache, carrying a hung rusty odor of country made liquor as he moved, eyes protruding with rage and shouting all sorts of vernacular obscenities… literally a boiling cauldron of the invective, leaped towards me his hands missing the axis of face by barely by only a few millimeters. Avinash who was standing besides me till now, swung into action just in time to avoid the slap on my face. Fuming with anger and displaying his loyalty towards me Avinash pushed the fat monster towards the door and shouted “sir katta nikaloon kya, hath kaise utha sakta hai ye”.
Having gone into the stage of shock my senses were numb and I was in no condition to respond, luckily, the help from the medical fraternity arrived, the assaulting mob was pushed outside and I was locked inside my cabin. There ensued a verbal melee with both sides exchanging obscenities , shouts and counter shouts but I was oblivious to it all, having lost the desire and capacity to react I sat there motionless for unquantified period of time. So distraught I was that I didn’t hear the police siren penetrating the soul of the cold winter night and mine as well when finally I heard it.
When the door finally opened I saw Inspector Bhupendra Yadav enter the room. He was 5 feet 9, dark complexioned with cunning looks, his wandering eyes scanned the room, as if to asses my worth, as he moved to sit across my table and gestured me to narrate the incidence. Marshalling all the strength I had left with I narrated, verbatim and he listened with mock attentiveness, his fingers flickering continuously tapping the edge of the table . After clearing his throat he finally spoke.
“You see Dr Srivastav, you must realize that the fault lies at your end”, he said. ” and what makes you say that” I asked.
“The molestation took place in your medical center, the victim is hospitalized here and the accused is your employee, you have the vicarious responsibility”.
“But these are all false accusations, nothing of this sort ever happened”, I tried to argue.
“That’s your claim but the girl’s attendants have a different story to tell” he continued in his professional, uninterested tone, ” how could you allow a male staff to take care of female patients ? “, he added.
” What’s wrong in that ? That’s the usual practice everywhere besides he wasn’t alone there was a female staff along with him ” I made an attempt to reason.
” Your so called female nurse is no where in the footage”, he said.
” Camera doesn’t show molestation either, in fact it shows nothing”. I countered.
” O. K. if that’s your stand then I am afraid, I’ll have to what I have to do”, he said with a sigh.
” You mean for such baseless allegation, you are going to arrest that innocent boy and no action for this assault on me”. I uttered with surprise. But this sense of surprise proved too little, compared to the hypsyrythmia that was about to be set in my auditory cortex upon hearing the next sentence .
” You have got it all wrong Doctor” he said, in a tone laden with sarcasm, ” Its not your boy , I am talking about your arrest because the girl is making you the prime accuse. As per her complaint it all happened with your willful knowledge, its your MODUS-OPERANDI to admit young female patient, drug them and make pornographic MMS with the help of such trained employees”.
‘WHAT LEVEL OF ABSURDITY !!’ I blurted loudly before he could complete.
” Don’t you shout at me , I am only doing my duty”. He said this time rudely. His assistant Hwaldar who was standing behind him quietly till now, like an obedient orderly, spoke for the first time, ” Sir I know Dr Srivastav, he is a good man, my son was admitted in this very hospital just a few days ago for gastroentritis and he took good care of him. He’s been giving lot of discounts to our station staff as well so I think you should be considerate”.
“You keep your mouth shut . Whoever gave you the permission to speak. He looks a gentleman thats why I haven’t arrested him yet”, said inspector Yadav scolding the hawaldar .
Turning towards me he continued ” listen doctor I don’t want any law and order situation here, I know the entire doctor community is standing outside outnumbering the girls relatives, anyway I have sent them home, somehow they have complied. They will be back here first thing in the morning in greater numbers and along with lawyers and media. So you have time till morning and let me be very clear, if they insist on filing a FIR with or without media pressure , I’ll have to arrest you”. He said, imposing the threat.
I wasn’t listening ,my already shattered wit was melting away in the deep halo within. There followed a series of consolatory efforts by friends and hospital staff but I remained in oblivion. The remnants of visual memory of the after effect that I am left with, I can see dragging myself to the parking area and driving back home . I was perspiring heavily in the penetrating winter chill.
Once inside the house I paced up the living room in a state of utter disbelief. I went to the kids room and sat besides them. Oh! what was I thinking ? Tomorrow when they get up from their sleep I’ll be gone. How will they react? Will they be surprised, scared or ashamed ? Oh hell!
Rashmi was suffering in her own way, her eyes swollen and protruding with intense water clogging. “We will sell off everything and go somewhere else “, she said trying to console me and her own self. I nodded in agreement. A friend of mine called up to say that he had spoken to a lawyer friend of his, who has agreed to file my anticipatory bail but if the girl actually lodges the FIR then the chances are bleak, specially because ‘Nirbhaya’s’ episode is still afresh and the sympathy of the department is likely to go in their favour.
It was already 3 am, just a couple of hours remaining for the morning to uncover itself but these few hours became endless for us. We sat there on the sofa, lifeless. This horrid, unsettling spell was broken by the sound of my mobile ring tone at around 8 am.
” Dr srivastav considering the good reputation that you have and your helpful nature towards my colleagues, I have tried my best get the maximum bargain for you and I want to tell you that I have succeeded. ” inspector Yadav said in an engaging voice . Rashmi quickly sat up and spoke softly in hushed voice ” If they want money, tell him, we will pay”. I gestured her to relax.
” I have been sitting with them in my office for the last one hour” Yadav was saying ” and I have finally managed to convince them not file the FIR , they have agreed with certain minor conditions. You will be discharging the patient without asking for a penny. In fact you will return the amount they have deposited plus reimburse the amount they have spent on medication and investigations. They were insisting on a written apology from you but I have been able to persuade them to accept the apology from your compounder instead, you will merely countersign it. Now isn’t it a good bargain”, he asked. Looking at the suffering I had undergone over the last ten hours and the devastating effect it could have exerted on my entire life, this indeed was a good offer, I had to agree in compliance.
As soon as we finished Rashmi said taking a deep sigh, ” get ready fast, we are heading straight to temple before anything else”, her voice sounding clearer and relieved, I followed the orders like an obedient pupil.
At around 10 am, after the terms and conditions of the deal were duly fulfilled, Yadav reappeared, carrying a triumphant smile on his face. I thanked him and told how obliged I was feeling. He sat there narrating his gladiator tales. After twenty minutes or so when he realized that I haven’t picked up any cue, he said
“where’s my share , have other engagements as well”
“What share ?”, the words came out of my mouth more as a natural reaction than any attempt to intrigue him but he felt offended and responded with stern antagonism.
” Listen doctor, I knew it from the very beginning and by now you must have realized that there was nothing in this case, all this melodrama was an established MODUS OPERANDI adopted to extract money from a timid fool like you, who have no right to be in this business .” I was listening with shock and bewilderment , “in short”, he continued,
” YOU HAVE BEEN RAPED, ROYALLY !!, BY THE CUNNING BITCH AND IF YOU ACT SMART WITH ME, ITS GOING TO BE MY TURN TO DO, THE SAME. “
Oh! In case you are thinking what did I do next…… there’s an old saying
“When rape is inevitable , lie back and enjoy it.”