The distance was hardly a concern, just about two and a half kilometres that too on a recently decked up masterplan motorway, of course, you got to accommodate the rainy day disasters, the popped up blisters of sewage flooding the sideways of the main road but that’s true for any Indian road and any Indian city, if it is truly Indian.
So, even with the delay correction for the rains, it shouldn’t have taken us more than twenty minutes to reach the hospital from where the call to attend an emergency C- section had come. But did we just underestimated the true capabilities of our beloved nation, I say, we did. And grossly so.
After a particularly long and hot summer when practically every single soul in the city was looking at the sky for a morsel of kindness with beggared eyes, the blessings had come and overwhelmingly so or even He doesn’t have any sense of proportion ( or perhaps he may have misjudged Indian administrative capabilities as well ) for every nook and cranny, every ditch and furrow, every pot and pothole was flooded with water, in fact were expelling abominable lava, like erupting from numerous volcanoes within.
Traffic was moving at snail’s pace as unorderly congregates of islands in the sea of overflowing sewerage water on the patches that were left to be called as the road. And to make matters worse or to stop even the snail from pacing some intellectually bright, enlightened souls decided to cross over on the wrong side as if to close the lid of the cooker that had no pressure valve in it. Now the only way the traffic could decongest was to explode up in the sky.
The calls from the hospital were increasing by every passing minute and were distressed, ” its meconium boss!” they had informed and I needed to hurry. As an experienced paediatrician, I could judge both the seriousness of the tone in which the statement was made as well as the gravity of criticality a meconium delivery may cause. The baby had passed Meconium ( First stool of the baby) in utero indicating stress good enough to dilate his sphincters, by now mine has started dilating as well.
“Let’s try the inner road through the colony and keep away from the main road maybe we could bypass this jammed patch,” I said to my driver and unfortunately he followed my orders. From frypan, we plunged straight to fire. The inner roads were crying like victims of the fiery Brahmaputra and my low-lying sedan was no match for their depths.
Its been a day of an unbelievable paradox for me just a while ago I had thought my black sedan had looked elegant when it had been ushered in, respectfully, from the front gate of Khaitan Public School to pick me up from its portico. The school principal had personally made it a point to see me off ( so very kind of her), presenting a souvenir as a token of her appreciation.
I was invited both as a guest of honour, to inaugurate the new addition to the armamentarium of this prestigious school- the academy of performing arts and music and as a member of its management committee (parent representative) to attend its annual review meeting.
We discussed how the use of high-end technology in every sphere of school activity has changed its face over the last couple of years. The administration, the security and even the grievance redressal all, had become more accurate and pinpoint. The entire operation of the school was practically paperless now. Their inhouse and indigenously built software had mapped the entire academic curriculum every lesson, every student and every teacher at the click of the mouse they knew exactly who requires an extra bit of tutoring or mentoring. Digital India!
At the end of the meeting, I presented a summation of my opinion about the whole thing, to the group of dignitaries present. I found myself advocating the incorporation of good samaritan course in the school curriculum.
I hope this was done long before we started craving for technological advances or at least in tandem with it.
“Digital India my foot…” I murmured to myself as I pleaded the melee of drenched bikers, rickshawala and those riding in the cars to give way on humanitarian grounds, in respectful Hindi and sophisticated English.
A while ago looking at the streaks of anxiety at my face my driver had offered a solution and I had complied in agreement, unfortunately so again. He had said two things
Perhaps it would be wiser to traverse this distance on foot since its not much.
It is impossible to crack this traffic jam and negotiate the car for at least four hours to come.
Both these assumptions were about to be proved wrong, I soon realised.
The first one, as soon as I left my car and decided to move on foot. The service road separating me, standing on a small bridge over a nullah, and the main road had been engulfed by the sewerage overflowing from the nullah. It looked to me as if I am standing on the Laxman Jhula with river Ganga flowing underneath it and across it. The only way, I imagined, to cross it was to swim through it. But the water in front of me had lost the sanctity and purity of Ganga by the loathsome products of human and animal excreta…. ‘Ram Teri Ganga Maili Ho Gayi… the thought negotiating it by mundane manual effort was quickly slapped away. I ordered a motorbike carriage from the hospital instead. An Enfield Bullet with an experienced chauffeur managed to see me through, somehow!
The second assumption was to be proven wrong on my way back.
By the time I reached the hospital baby was already out, rescued by the anaesthetist… staging a delayed cry and after bag and mask ventilation or so, I was told. When I saw the little one he was grunting ferociously marking a laboured respiratory effort. After the preliminaries, I ordered an immediate transfer to NICU.
What surprised me though, was not that the thought of traversing the same distance back had sent an eerie chill spiralling up my bones but rather the total lack of its impact on any of the attendants. There was no trace of it, In fact, all it did was to perhaps boost up their manly demeanour.
I was rushed in the back seat of the car ( I had left my car way back and calling an ambulance was neither considered time-saving nor the driver could be relied on for his driving skills… the kind of skills these guys possessed). These guys! the locals, bouncer built and most importantly armed with articulate weaponry that was so natural to them, so foreign to me.
Our carriage drifted swiftly and quickly escorted by six guides on three motorbikes shouting all sorts obscenities, thudding the neighbouring vehicles by hockey sticks and their bare hands. Cars were moved, rickshaws were toppled over, bikers were thrashed, well almost so. And the Hyundai Santro with me at the backseat, carrying the grunting baby and only a whisper of oxygen support flowing through the awkwardly accommodated cylinder, steered through, rode through and even rowed through the traffic traversing all its lanes, bylanes, Ganga and Brahmputra smoothly like a governer’s convoy. I looked helplessly inside the car towards the ailing soul and majestically outside through the window marvelling at the efficiency of our national system when it comes to disaster management. The same feat which had taken me more than an hour to accomplish was achieved in less than fifteen minutes.
It took me more than two hours to stabilise the baby on the respiratory support system, every muscle of my body and every neuron and axon of my brain was sore with fatigue as I drove back home. I looked outside the window and thought about my advice regarding enriching the school curriculum… the good samaritan training… do we really need it??…intentionally downgrading a well established and efficient system.!
My mind was drifting slowly to normalcy when suddenly there was a loud screech of tyre and a splash of water on my windscreen practically blinding me momentarily… an ostensibly or intently out of control mini truck ( Chota Hathi ) had invaginated into my track from the wrong side causing, to my utter surprise, involuntary articulation from my phonetic apparatus
….. B…. C…….. respectful Hindi, sophisticated English… GOOD SAMARITAN …Ha Ha
With a quiver bit of smile at my face, I read what was written on the backdoor of the truck
या तो यूँही चालेगी ..
I am sure the statement wasn’t meant for her alone rather she was carrying the larger moral responsibility of representing the entire nation.