The Flood- part III
“Aba Jan, how are you”, Basharat asked.
There was no response, it seemed that his body had lost all its energy and now he was just a corpse waiting for that final call. The oxygen cylinder was almost empty; his pulse was too slow to be located. The last person to attend the couple was Ab. Rehman, the brother of Aba Jan who had dropped the couple few days back at Bemina after Aba Jan was discharged from hospital. They had no one around to evacuate them after the flood water occupied their ground floor. And the reason that he was discharged was known to Basharat but I read his discharge summary that revealed the advanced stage of the disease he was suffering from.
“Keeping Aba Jan in this room will fetch nothing save painful death”, I suggested. We exchanged our glances and that was enough to draw a plan. We decided to evacuate the couple. Thinking of performing a heroic act is one thing, but down-to-earth ideas need determined nerves to execute and we were perhaps ready to deliver. Converting a wish into reality indeed needs divine help. Help must come, I was sure for that, but how, it was a question that kept me pinching, but I kept ignoring.
The room was too shabby to stop for a while. Clothes, dust bins, bedclothes, comforters, trunks, kitchen utensils, gas stove with a urine pot in the corner along with some small round kitchen stools on one side. On the other side of the room was a sick man beside the window with a plastic line fixed at his nostrils supplying oxygen.
Aunty translated our glances into factual language that made our job look easier. The whiff from the open field in the backyard of the house was horrible and the chocked washroom was an added irritation. To carry a sick man from Bemina on the bed was out of fancy and that aunty was too short to make her way through the water.
“Let us carry him on the hardboard of the bed along with cylinder”, I suggested.
Basharat had no option to deny. “But, Aunty”, he pointed out.
We made aunty to stand on the plastic kitchen stools and tied her feet with telephone wire that was floating in the lawn. She stood like a toy to be handled by innocent hands. The wire must have pierced her skin, but she didn’t protest. She looked taller than us and indeed she was taller than her sons to stand with her husband in these difficult moments.
What made her cry God knows, but her cry was cloaked with a severe complaint. “A father of three sons is being carried on the hardboard”, she moaned. “Who will shoulder you to hospital”, she muttered.
We should have consoled her, but her cries seemed insignificant to us. Basharat winked at me; perhaps he too was unwilling to attend her for we had a difficult job to carry out without any flaw.
Unaware of the proceedings in the room, the sick man was lying calmly. The sickness had eaten up all his sheen from the face; his sockets were narrating a tale of ignorance. His urine bag was almost filled up to the brim. I emptied the bag and with the help of Basharat placed him on the floor. The hardboard of his bed was exposed and a blanket served the purpose of a mattress. Placing Aba Jan on the hardboard, aunty sighed and wrapped her face with her headgear as if she had her last glimpse of the man with whom she had lived. To ensure his safe exit, we tied his body with a plastic rope around his waist and chest along with oxygen cylinder. Wrapped the hardboard with another blanket we were ready to carry him down. He was like a feather, too light. Perhaps the disease had consumed much of his mass, yet the hardboard of the bed scratched the walls of the staircase. The sick man who was leaving had put the last signature on the walls to leave everything he had achieved throughout his life for the family that was disintegrated. With his eldest son in UAE and the rest two in the Gulf had left their parents here for the reasons best known to them.
From the front, Basharat placed the hardboard on the head and I from the back. Aunty was ahead of us. She was taller than us, her shoulders were visible, and she was leading from the front to guide us to some unknown destination. Walking with stools on was not easy through the water in the lane. She was watchful all the way through the water lodged lane for the reason known to all. Any haste would mean her death. Losing the tool under her feet would mean end to her. Her attentiveness like her patience was the only option for her safety.
It was the dusk; the wild emptiness in the street seemed wailing and my troubled legs and shoulders start barking heavily. I felt Basharat’s unrest and he mine indeed, but in the heart of hearts we knew weariness was unaffordable. My trouble started when in the half way, a dead dog was floating towards me under the hardboard over which Aba Jan was placed. His feather like body was not at all lighter but too heavy to carry by wading through the chilled water that was stabbing the marrow of the bones. I had already plugged my mouth by placing a polythene bag between my teeth to prevent the water to move down the throat. As the dead dog almost came to my chest level, I shut my eyes and with left hand pushed it towards the wall. The reek pulled what all I had eaten from my stomach. I tried to hold myself but the pressure and thrusts of my abdomen pushed the polythene bag out of my mouth and I vomited. Basharat felt my thrusts, he stopped and that helped me to compose my nerves. On the next half, I was not sure whether I was carrying a dead man on my shoulders or the vice versa. My legs had lost energy to hold me and yet I had to stand and deliver.
My own body seemed heavier than the one on my head. Basharat was panting and his tiredness had exposed his might like that of mine, but aunty didn’t open her mouth, she might have been struggling too. It was now only few meters where water level appeared low to give our legs a bit of relief. Aunty was already on the road waiting for us. She had released her feet.
Aba Jan was sleeping calmly. We checked his pulse, it was still moving. Aunty cried for help, but no one was around. Aba Jan was lying on the board which we had placed on the bund separating the road from the water channel.
It was getting darker and darker and Aba Jan was sinking fast. Without any further delay we shouldered him again up to Bemina crossing. The road was already depeopled. We had done what was within our hands. Next was the fate of the sick man on the board. Aunty kept begging for the divine mercy and yes, it came down at last. A man driving a tractor passed by, his engine stopped like his senses as he sensed a dead man on that hardboard.
His arrival was heavenly. We reached SKIMS Soura after offering the fare to the driver who plainly refused. Aba Jan was admitted, ECG was suggested, the machine wrote what we had already read and the doctors declared him brought dead. God knew where Aba Jan had breathed his last. Aunty shrieked, cried, wailed and beat her chest, plucked the hair, bruised her face but neither Basharat nor me had any strength to console her. She realised our plight and calmed down. Poor woman had no one around to plug her breached bunds.
She had perhaps accepted her widowhood. The loneliness of this sort was horrible; despite three sons she was alone guarding the dead body of her husband. Death is indeed merciless, I realised.