Memories…

Posted: August 30, 2010 by Jinkchak in Short Stories, Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious!!!

Sidney looked around at all the people moving hastily in every possible direction conceivable. Nurses and doctors, with stethoscopes around their necks were moving up and down. To cut a long story short, the main reception area of that hospital was a bustle of activity.

Sidney looked down at the piece of paper in his hand. He had completed 14 of the 15 tasks he had been assigned by his school to carry out, in the name of community service. He was waiting to speak to one of the doctors with authority. If the doctor helped him, then this would be his last task.

He had been sitting in the reception for almost half an hour when he was told that the doctor was ready to see him. With a nurse as his guide, he walked down a long corridor and reached the doctor’s room. On hearing Sidney’s intentions, the doctor speculated for a bit, and when a bulb lit up in her brain, she asked Sidney to follow her.

So, Sidney did as he was told, and after spending some time in an elevator, both of them reached the fifth floor of the hospital. As the elevator doors opened, Sidney could see a person mopping the floor. This floor seemed almost deserted, unlike the floor he had been in earlier. Looking above, he found a board which informed him that he was now in the Geriatrics ward. Now, Sidney had never seen such a name before, and was too scared to ask the stern doctor next to him what it meant, so he just followed her.

She went up to a nurse who seemed to be waiting for them and told her, “Julia, meet Sidney. He’s here to meet some of the patients here, as part of a school project. Make sure he’s taken care of.”

“Yes, Doctor,” replied the nurse, and took charge of Sidney. She looked at him and said, “Hello Sidney. Welcome to the Geriatrics ward. Please follow me.”

Meanwhile, the doctor left for the elevator. Sidney didn’t say a word. He just obeyed. Julia went up to one of the rooms in the corridor, opened the door and asked Sidney to follow her inside.

Inside the room, Sidney found three elderly patients, attired in white gowns, lying in three separate beds. There was just about enough room for the beds, positioned in each corner of the room. Sunlight was streaming through the only window in that room, which benefitted only one patient.

Julia turned to Sidney and said, “Now, you be a good boy, and go and talk to some of them patients. Give them some company. I’ll be around, doing my work. If you need any help, just call.” And she went out of the room, leaving Sidney in that room.

Sidney looked at the patients. All of them were men who must have crossed 60 years of age. Two of them were sleeping soundly, while the one on whom sunlight was falling, had his eyes wide open. He was looking at Sidney as though he had just committed a heinous crime. The man was short, judging from the amount of space he occupied on the cot. He was almost bald with a dark spot in the centre of his head. The skin on his face was wrinkled. But what disturbed Sidney was the fact that the man reminded him of Gabbar Singh.

They stood in silence, staring at each other. Then suddenly, the old man sat up and interrogated Sidney, in a grumpy tone, “Who are you and why are you here?”

Sidney got a bit startled on hearing him, but on mustering some courage, he replied, “I’m Sidney and I came here to talk to you.”

“Oh, you came here to talk to me…yeah ME, is it? What about?”

“Anything, sir. Whatever you want.” By this time, Sidney was shivering.

This must have angered the old man for some reason, for his face turned red and the intensity of his voice went up by a few decibels. He shouted, “You eediot. You’ll give me anything I want, eh? Well, give me one lakh rupees. Why don’t you answer me? Cat got your tongue? Answer me, you bloody rascal.”

By this time, the other patients had woken up and were looking on, without any curiosity, as if they had seen this before. The nurse, on hearing this hullabaloo, rushed into the room and went up to the old man. She sat down and said, “Don’t worry, Mr. Singh. He won’t do any harm. Just calm down. Everything’s alright.”

She beckoned to Sidney to leave the room. He didn’t have to be told twice, for he was scared out of his wits.

It was five minutes later that the nurse came out.

“Everything’s been taken care of. Don’t be scared or angry, Sidney. That man’s always like that. It’s because he’s very angry with his children for sending him to this place on the pretext that he was ill. His name’s Robert. The truth is that they considered him as a burden and a waste of time. The only thing that’s wrong with him is his temper. Just because the hospital received a lot of money from his son, it doesn’t raise any objection to his presence here. He calms down only when he eats. I’m sorry you had to meet him.”

“That’s no problem, ma’am,” replied Sidney, who had also become calm by now.

“Come. I’ll make you meet some other nicer people.”

She took Sidney to another room, in the same corridor, but a little further away from the first one. She was gone by the time Sidney opened the door, offering no explanation. Sidney opened the door. It was the exact replica of the other room Sidney had previously seen, but one bed remained un-occupied. Only diffused sunlight entered this room through the window above the un-occupied bed. There was a Hobner guitar and a crutch on one of the men’s bedside. The two patients were old men, well beyond sixty. Both of them were wide awake; one was sitting on the edge of his bed. The other was lying down, staring at the ceiling.

This was all Sidney observed before one of the old men – to be precise, the man closer to the window (a slim man, who had big green eyes) – looked up at Sidney and exclaimed, “Oh Raj, you have come at last. When did you arrive? Was your journey tiring? Have you had breakfast? Your mother is just cooking your favourite dish for you – Palak Paneer, and you’ve arrived just in time. How wonderful! How very, very wonderful!”

Sidney was left stupefied. He hadn’t the faintest idea what this man was talking about, and didn’t know what to reply. The cat must have caught his tongue this time. But he didn’t have to reply, for at that very moment, Julia entered the room with a plate of food – which must have been his breakfast.

On seeing her enter, the old man asked, “Where’s the palak paneer, Maria? Don’t you know that our son has just arrived and I told him that you were preparing palak paneer? Why have you prepared this rice meal?”

“It is breakfast time and he doesn’t eat palak paneer in the morning,” replied Julia and turning to Sidney, she said, “And anyway, he’s not at all hungry.”

Realizing that he had to play along in this silly game, Sidney said, “No. No. I’m not hungry at all. I had a bowl full of palak paneer already.”

The old man smiled at nobody in particular and said, “You should have waited for your mother’s food. She’s the best cook in Bangalore, you know.”

“Now it’s time for you to eat your own food. You awoke very late. See, your roommate, Mr. Rogers woke up early and already had his breakfast” said Julia, giving him the plate she had brought.

Without another word, he started gulping down his food, with Julia by his side, helping him hold the plate. In the meantime, Sidney turned to look at Mr. Rogers who hadn’t uttered anything as yet. Mr. Rogers was a slightly plump man of dark complexion. He had eyes that looked quite unnatural to Sidney, but he didn’t know why they looked like that. It was on his bedside that the guitar and crutch were situated.

Sensing the sound of silence, Mr. Rogers turned towards Sidney and said, “I see you’ve had a pleasant chat with my good friend, Alok. He’s the most pleasant guy I’ve met, and one of the happiest, I must say.” Lowering his voice a bit, he continued, “You see, he suffers from Alzheimer’s disease. That’s why he thinks that you are his son and Julia is his wife. Everyday it’s a different story. He has quite a colourful imagination. One day he even thought that I was James Bond and he enquired how Mrs. Moneypenny was.” He laughed for a few minutes, perhaps re-living that moment.

He then proceeded to remove his blanket, and what Sidney saw left him stunned for a moment. There was just an empty space where his left leg should have been. Sensing silence again, Mr. Rogers told Sidney that his leg had been amputated in an accident he’d had a few years ago. “And did you know,” he continued, “that I’m blind?”

Sidney looked as if he had been hit by a club or something. He couldn’t speak. That explains the unnatural glow in his eyes, he thought to himself.

“My eyes turned opaque a few years ago. I’ve been blind ever since. But don’t look so sad,” Rogers continued. “Everything else is fine. I walk around with the help of my crutch and my blindness is just a slight hindrance.”

By this time, Sidney had helped him up into a sitting position. Sidney didn’t know what to say but on seeing the guitar, he asked, “Do you play the guitar?”

“Of course I do. Why else do you think it’s near my bed? I’m glad I learnt how to play when I was young and my sight was sound. Music helps me escape, and brings back loads of memories. Would you like to hear me play?”

“I would be pleased to hear you play.”

“Then hand me my guitar.” Sidney followed his command. It was at this time that Mr. Alok finished his breakfast and Julia left the room. Mr. Alok was now eagerly looking at Sidney and Mr. Rogers. Eating must have exhausted his senses, for he didn’t say anything more.

Adjusting the position of the guitar on his right leg, Rogers told Sidney, “See, I can rotate my guitar easily on my right leg,” implying that he was somewhat glad his absent left leg didn’t cause him any nuisance.

After tuning the guitar for about a minute, Rogers said, “I’ll play you my favourite tune. It’s the first song I learnt to play. It’s called ‘What a wonderful world’, played by Louis Armstrong – a man who was born poor, died rich and never hurt anyone along the way. Have you heard it?”

“No sir, I haven’t.”

“Then listen to it now, boy….and listen well.”

And so he began playing and singing along, without fumbling even once. It looked as if he wasn’t visually impaired at all.

Louis Armstrong – What A Wonderful World .mp3
http://beemp3.com/player/player.swf
Found at bee mp3 search engine

I see trees of green, red roses too
I see them bloom for me and you
And I think to myself what a wonderful world.

I see skies of blue and clouds of white
The bright blessed day, the dark sacred night
And I think to myself what a wonderful world.

The colors of the rainbow so pretty in the sky
Are also on the faces of people going by
I see friends shaking hands saying how do you do
They’re really saying I love you.

I hear babies cry, I watch them grow
They’ll learn much more than I’ll never know
And I think to myself what a wonderful world
Yes I think to myself what a wonderful world.

Some of you young folks been saying to me, “Hey Pops, what you mean ‘What a wonderful world’? How about all them wars all over the place? You call them wonderful? And how about hunger and pollution? That ain’t so wonderful either.” Well how about listening to old Pops for a minute. Seems to me, it ain’t the world that’s so bad but what we’re doin’ to it. And all I’m saying is, see, what a wonderful world it would be if only we’d give it a chance. Love baby, love. That’s the secret, yeah. If lots more of us loved each other, we’d solve lots more problems. And then this world would be better. That’s wha’ ol’ Pops keeps saying.

“Some of you young folks might say to me, ‘Hey Mr. Rogers, what do you mean by ‘What a wonderful world’? For crying out loud, you’re as blind as a bat.’ And I say to them, ‘My eyes may be blind, but my mind’s eye can still see, can’t it? I can still think, can’t I? I have memories, don’t I? And I have my music, don’t I? I might not be like you, but I sure as hell am happy with what I’ve got. I’m still alive.’

“Look at Alok. He might suffer from a disease, but he sure as hell is happy with it, dreaming of all kinds of things, living in his own world. He has forgotten that his wife has been dead since the past seven years, and his son and the rest of his family have never visited him from the time he was admitted here.

“Okay. Since I’m not feeling very tired today, I’ll play another song for you. It’s called ‘Do what you do, do well boy’ by Ned Miller. I don’t deem it possible that you’ve heard this song before.”

Without waiting for an answer, he began:

 

He couldn’t move a mountain
Nor pull down a big old tree-ee
But my daddy became a mighty big man
With a simple philosophy

Do what you do do well boy
Do what you do do we-ell
Give your love and all of your heart
And do what you do do well

Sometimes he’d kiss my mother
And hold her tenderly-y
Then he’d look across the top of her head
Then he’d wink and say to me

Do what you do do well boy
Do what you do do we-ell
Give your love and all of your heart
And do what you do do well

Well he was a man of laughter
But a tragedy came by-y
The tears ran free and he’d say to me
Never be afraid to cry

Do what you do do well boy
Do what you do do we-ell
Give your love and all of your heart
And do what you do do well

Today I still remember
Just like yesterday-ay
‘Bout a mighty big man with a mighty big heart
And a mighty few words to say

Do what you do do well boy
Do what you do do we-ell
Give your love and all of your heart
And do what you do do well
Do what you do do well…

It was a mighty jolly morning for Sidney and the rest of them. Even Alok joined them, by providing the necessary beats by clapping. Once, Alok was so filled with joy that he shared a joke with all of them, “My friend once told me, ‘There once lived a man with a wooden leg named Smith.’ So I asked him, ‘What was the name of his other leg?’”

With this, Mr. Alok went into guffaws. Sidney and Mr. Rogers started laughing too, though more at the way Mr. Alok giggled than at the joke he had narrated.

Soon, the nurse entered the room again and drew the blinds across the window. She felt that they had had enough excitement, and it was now time for them to rest. She placed Mr. Rogers’ guitar back where it belonged, and proceeded to tuck both of them into bed.

Sidney had spent one and a half hours in the Geriatric Ward. It was now time to leave. As Sidney left the room, Mr. Rogers and Mr. Alok thanked him for coming there and keeping them company. It had been a long time since they had seen any new face around and had such a wonderful morning, which they hoped they would encounter again in the future.

“I enjoyed as much,” replied Sidney, as he left, with a lot on his mind…

 

 

Written by

Me…yeah ME!

(Based on a true story)


 

 

 

Comments
  1. Anonymous says:

    The best Jinkchak(TM) has ever publish…. Touched deep into my heart…
    Made my eyes wet….
    Will surely keep reading Jinkchak(TM)…

  2. Thank you, whoever you are!

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