Mushtaque B Barq

Scream!

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Her screams carry the echo of merciless pain to every corner of the ward. In general wards thin curtains only separate the patience yet they are connected, connected through tribulations, plight and fear of losing the battle. They despite separation share their invisible agonies either in the form of occasional cries or sighs. Even prayers and wishes pierce through the long curtains moving in clock wise direction to receive a doctor and anti clockwise when attendants join in. And between these movements a patient only looks at to be cured. Every visitor brings new verve, new hope and promise.

One more gush of pain from that corner tossed every heart against brittle cage. My uncle sighed. Without knowing her whereabouts, he kept praying for the one and all. He was admitted a day before in the general ward. Things looked simple enough to concentrate.  He was trying his best to engage himself in prayers yet her screams would move his hand, exposing the cannula on his hand whenever he touched his forehead for the reasons unknown. His head was moving in all directions like his limbs to beat the devil in the lungs. His eyes had put in a strange glimmer. Was it hope or fear, hard to decide? One thing was certain he was hiding his pain and was struggling. He managed the devil that was tormenting his lungs by reciting something hard to hear.

His cheeks had as usual a stretch of million dollar smile yet in his eyes something was moving. Moving, irritating and disturbing him a lot which he tried to seal beneath the curtain of smile yet was visible to a sensitive eye. Love exposes one and all. He was whispering as if in a dream to address someone. I tried to eavesdrop, but that soft sob failed to decode its agony. And I let him obey his imaginations. The way he was flying into his own vasts, I was the one witnessing his rush of blood, his reactions and soliloquies. He was a dynamic character performing on a different stage.

Suddenly something changed in the background. Her cries all of a sudden stopped. Uncle stirred. Looked at me. He was perhaps willing to know the reason of her silence. His demand was not flexible enough to be fulfilled. I voluntarily pulled a corner of the curtain to see if at all my eyes could catch her.  But I had to break the laziness of which I was an apt choice. I was hesitant for I never butted in where I didn’t belong. But then Uncle had dropped in his wish into my eyes and I had no option but to obey. I managed to see her for I had to be out of box stuff to fetch the information. A middle-aged woman on the bed so hurriedly masticating the stuff that was placed before her.  It was around 2:30 pm when something was served to her. The ward had all the silence of the world well placed in every corner.

I lifted a corner of the curtain and she immediately reacted.

“What do you need”, she asked.

“I need to know”… I was about to utter what might have landed me in trouble.

I chewed my words before pasting them over my lips.

“Come inside”, she requested.

Her looks locked my legs and I adjusted the bench to sit comfortably.

“I am suffering from lung cancer”, she boldly declared.

I only sighed.

After a while my anxiety grew to know more about her.

Without hesitation I asked, “Who else is in your family”

My words stopped her heart. Her eyes were already on narrative mode and I could guess she might be missing someone dearest to her heart.

“My elder son Roshan is in Dubai, he is bearing all my hospital charges”, she informed.

Before I could ask anything more, she continued: ” I have a daughter too, Lily, she lives in Africa with her family”

“Who is with you?” I asked.

She pulled the free end of the saree and covered her head. A strange shyness covered her cheeks up.

“My husband”, she said.

“Husband” she spoke softly.

He is a retired postman. All through his life he carried letters and postcards from one place to other but now no one carries a letter for him from Dubai. People nowadays don’t write letters. I have so many letters of my brother with me. I touch them when I miss him. But Roshan hasn’t ever written one to make my collection worthwhile.

“My husband and Roshan never had that sort of relation”, she informed.

“Roshan never responded him. He and Roshan are poles apart and I am the punch bag, being treated and ill treated by carefree blows of disease and death” she narrated.

“He must be busy”, I simply pleaded.

My words set her emotions on fire, the ambers of which I felt beneath my skin as her eyes scanned my frame and chiselled every vein and nerve. I felt a tremor beneath my skin.

“Get out of here, you are all alike”, she shouted.

I tried to calm her, but she raised her hand, drooped her neck and pointed out to me. I left but with heavy heart.

How difficult it is to live under a canopy of expectations and responsibilities. This thought chilled my neck but she had perhaps read the script of her life and was looking ahead to see Roshan who was across seven seas earning to bear the expenses of surgery.

I reported. Uncle was eager to buy my trite observations.

“She is eating hurriedly”, I informed.

He only laughed as if he had calculated her unrest.

“Some ladies live to eat, a few eat to live”, Uncle summed up.

The curtains are necessary I finally concluded. These hanging nightmares serve better at least to keep the borders of ailment confined to particular territories.

“So it is the hunger that makes her cry”, he declared.

“May be”, I responded.

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