Nothing can be more precious than life. No situation can be worse than standing at cross roads to choose between life and death. Such was the dilemma today as Ashok stood staring into the emptiness of the silent corridor in the hospital. In a relatively young career spanning 5 years, this was his toughest case. I being his closest pal and a part of him well understood this predicament. But it was silence I chose.
“Dr. Ashok Mehta, Gold Medalist”, the phrase echoed in his ears as he reprised the golden moment in his thoughts once again. Dad had been ecstatic. Proudly announcing to the whole world. The “whole world”, yes it was! A tiny hamlet hidden in the Shivalik hills. A three hour bus journey followed by a half hour trek up the mountain.
As a kid growing up amongst the hills, he had never in his faintest dreams ever imagined that life would shoot him up this pedestal of doing his village and people proud by becoming the first Doctor from the region. Those had been times of doubt, confusion and indecisiveness. The thought that he would never be able to ‘repay’ the love, affection and attention showered on him. A father’s toil and struggle for the son’s education and comfort. The constant nagging of the rest of the household siblings of how the wings he wished to give his son would take him far away, never to look back at him.
The day Ashok took his medical oath, he also pledged to repay every second of his father’s time and resources spent on him. True, from where he stood today, he had not let himself down on the pledge.
Years down, little did he know that the time to make the complete repayment would actually be the full and final payment at this juncture. With no laws on Euthanasia in India, he knew what the future held. A terminally ill patient, in a comatose state was termed “a vegetable” in medical science. Only an army of machines could keep him alive. Was it worth it! The time, the resources! Each calculation was clear in his mind. He had another year in this hospital before he left for his master’s degree to the USA. The land of dreams awaited with promise of a bright future. His father’s state would set him back not by a few years but eternally. He would have to stay content in this state run hospital on meagre resources.
It was a ‘situation paralysis’ and I was a witness to it. I was his conscious! Though I did dare to make an occasional nudge from within, but the mind had taken over the heart.
So he was sure, it was time……..time to repay…..not ‘in kind’ but ‘in emotion’. Time to pass on peace. Ashok whispered a miffed ‘thank you Dad’ before he pulled the plug of the ventilator. The beeper had been muted before so that no one was alerted. He waited…..it was almost an hour before he saw the straight line on the monitor. He turned his back and walked into the eerie darkness.
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