I have spent my summer vacations in a zillion ways since I was a kid. One involved regular hospital visits.
My grandfather was detected with cancer a few years back. Soon after, we became regular visitors of Tata Cancer Hospital in New Town, Kolkata. My grandfather used to pretend like they were family picnics and never failed to make me laugh, despite the venue. There were people from different parts and age groups. One portion of the hospital, which invariably broke my heart, was the kids section. There were colourful toys inside the rooms. I could not imagine the plight of the kids and their caregivers, till I met one in the cafeteria.
One day, as I sat at the table grabbing a bite to eat between two doctor appointments, a lady joined me at the table. A young boy followed her, grabbing his cold-drink glass very tightly. He gulped down two glasses of cold drink straight before looking anywhere. He was different from any boy of his age. He was shy, he was blushing at every little praise and most of all he kept fidgeting. I tried to strike a conversation with his mother.
“Good afternoon Ma’am!” I said.
She nodded politely. “Is this your first visit to this hospital?”
“I’m afraid so. How long have you been coming?” I enquired.
“Since forever”, she smiled meaningfully. “We have our names from the first days of this hospital. In fact, I have come from from another hospital.”
They have been visiting hospitals since he was a nine month old baby. When I met him, he was 15 years old. They have been fighting for the last 15 years! I was shaken from inside. The bravery of the mother and the son was exemplary. Some fights have to be fought, no matter how tired they make us.
I found out a little more about him. He liked watching Chhota Bheem. He did not go to school. No school would ever allow such an extreme level of absenteeism. He was doing well, till last October when he had severe Dengue. He recovered, only to relapse in January. In February, he had chicken pox. His body broke down again, making it compulsory for him to visit the doctor weekly these days.
“All the best to him”, I told his mother as she got up from the table. “I hope everything falls into place”.
“Thank you”, she replied politely. “There’s nothing more left of him”, she said before turning her face away with a pain-stricken smile. Rohit followed looking sideways, as if unaware of everything.
My eyes followed them to the end of the cafeteria, till they disappeared through the door. They were my heroes after all.