Madhukar, was an important part of my life between 1996 and 2009. He had been very rare and special friend of mine, who made me realize I am very special. At least, he had thought so. He took pleasure in every meeting with me. Every visit to my village. He seemed like he is tasting life to the full till the last drop. A unique comment he gave about me, "I have liked your tastes so much that I fancy, if you were a girl, I would have married you". His wife felt jealous about these words. Madhu, Hemantha and Me... all 3 good frinds for a decade compared ourselves to 'Dil Chahta Hai' friends. Myself to Sin, Himself to Sameer and Hemanth to Aakash. There are many things that happened similar between we 6.
Hemanth-Madhu-Me at KRS...
In May 2009, two serious diseases together took his life away. These are my thoughts recorded there at the hospital and at funeral one year ago in my mobile. Those who know US, know, what it means to me to lose him. I know it is a lengthy story of the fight between life and death.
Madhukar, my friend sleeps there on the bed with so many pipes into him or out of him. Green dress he wears, beard seems to have grown well. With his head tilted to a corner and open mouth seemed to demand more life. Some nurses ran around him with needles, medicines, napkins and some more unknown devices. After some hours, when the doctors had told that he is becoming stable, he seemed to be getting wild, beating his hands and legs every 5 seconds, he seemed to demand a normalcy with so much force. Doctors kept on trying to tell that nothing is in their hands and safely in God's. One or two persons who listened to the doctors directly seemed to search for at least a single word which has a positive note: Any word like stable, improving, quite ok, any some such thing. After they came out from there some 5 to 6 concerned well wishers surround to find out at least a single word of hope.
Now I see his head tied under lips. Bleeding on both the sides of mouth. One day hopes come out and another day only leaving everything to Him or fate or date. All relatives wait as if he is delivering a baby and they are expecting that great news. But few know that the evil disease has taken its time to grow in his body and it will take some more time to gradually leave him. Experienced and inexperienced elders talk according to their knowledge rarely and imagination most of the times. Young wife asks, "Is he out of danger?" Surgeon as if taken aback by the question says, "no. No. No. We can't say all such things. We can just say that we've started our medicine."
13th May 2009
Now at 3 doctors are talking in clear negative terms. Damages are observed at different parts of the body. Like kidney, brain, lungs etc. Even sugar level is changing. All our medicines and supportive systems are just eaten up by the virus. Can mosquitoes be such dangerous? All loved ones are crying and daring ones are giving courage. I stand alone. Away from both. Not crying. Still hoping for miracles.
3.45 I had closest look at my dear friend. Varying numbers on two screens. Many pipes from his nose and mouth. Brown clot blood around his mouth and nose. He is breathing heavily. A blood bathed cloth was tied to his face. His tongue which was out teeth, made him look miserable. Some of his faces of his happy time passed in my mind. 'Even if you touch that would open nerves inside', a voice said. His father in law who was caressing his forehead with love and tears, removed his hand suddenly. I pressed his shoulder and pulled him back. I came out cool as if he ate the fruits I gave him. Could not control putting my hand on his little wife's head. Patting her I said, 'let's wait and see, putta. Only a miracle can help.' Her aunt standing beside said, 'Ya a miracle. I have trust on Him. Only He's capable!' His sister who had started crying three days ago, had raised her voice today. She held my hand and said, 'we had been teasing him about him imitating you.' I said, ' We too did about his love for u.”
I told some words of hope or stoicism. 'We are not responsible for what has happened. Only thing we can do is hoping for the best to happen. Don't cry even before the tragedy.' I hurried downstairs as if I had some urgent work. I stood at ground floor’s open window. Looked at some strange flowers blooming. Suddenly their fall came to my mind. Remembering his face eyes filled with tears. Swollen throat helped the tears come out easily. Philosophy n stoicism flew away rather washed away. Didn't bother to see if somebody observed. Went to wash room and washed my real face. Went to juice stall asked for apple juice without milk. Had fun time with the boys for he repeatedly said apple without milk does not have any taste and nobody asks for it. Had juice and suggested the little boy who took Rs 15 though it was without milk, that he should stop working and study more to pass the Maths and English papers in supplementary exam, which he could not clear in latest 10th results.
Mamatha's sister came while I was returning from there. She asked the condition. I briefly told it. She came to her sister directly and called her to another spacious corner along with her mother and sisters who kept asking me numerous times 'we can hope na?' When I accidently went near them, that sister was in the middle. All on their knees. Joined hands like human chain, she was dictating and others repeated her words when it was small sentence and repeated only last word. She was quite louder that others sitting there suddenly turned their heads and saw them. Others were murmuring. "Almighty Jesus. None but you can do something. Neither human being not doctor can do anything. We have hopes only on you. You are capable of miracles. Only you. If we've done any mistake just forgive us and help us now... Amen! '
6pm I was trying to stay cool. His father-in-law came hurrying. He gestured me to go upstairs. And he was crying and signalled Madhu's life over. I came to ICU. One of the doctors asked for any relatives of Madhu. I said I’m one. He looked at me and didn't believe it. Asked who I’m. I'm his close friend. Because of my climbing fast I was breathing heavily. He thought I’m tensed. He locked his hands. Ah body language! He has become defensive. 'Let everybody come' he said. I didn't want to force him to reveal the expected bad news. I turned to go out but could not wait, asked 'Can you be brief at least?' Then he seemed to trust me. He said, 'there is nothing much to hope. He had a cardiac arrest just now.' 'How many hours more?' 'Actually few mins.' 'thank you' He looked sorry. I walked out. Where are others? All were searching. Mamatha came by lift. With all curious eyes she looked at me and ran towards me and held my hand asked, 'what happened?' ‘A cardiac arrest' I said. Then we entered the ICU. The doctor used some useless convincing words. Then said that they did their best and no more hopes. Mother-in-law fell on doctor's feet and asked to save him.
I was quite busy consoling and cooling one by one who were hitting their heads or chests. I held their hands tight saying 'we didn't do it. It happened to us.' Many were not sad by nature but by seeing others' sadness they began to cry. Mamatha kept on saying without tears, 'I must not cry. I've got little Minchu from him. I'll live for and with her. '
By then some news channel people had come sniffing for news. Their target seemed to be the Govt which had put him for election duty at such a place which turned fatal for him. But some more opinions about surroundings of the house came up. Then they tried to talk to doctor over phone who seemed to give no proper responses. We were asked to bring clothes for the corpse. Shopping- For the dead body! White cloth. 5m enough? Who knows? 8m? He showed what 1m looks like. We decided 5m would be more than enough. When brought and gave they said it's covering cloth. Bring a shirt and lungi. Shopping again! This time the sales girl asked for colour, range, design... We kept on saying 'dead body.' She could not get it. We asked for red, brown or dark coloured which hides any bleeding marks. Brought and gave them to ward boys.
Packing the body would not have taken that much time. But clearing the huge bill was the issue. Without saying why, they made us to wait. After they got clearance certificate, they brought the body down. People with garlands, strangers asking 'what had happened' like asking cricket score. The body was kept under many coverings. Only face was visible. Many saw and many were afraid to see. 'Why head is tilted left? Why tongue is out? Medicine failed?' disappointed media people seemed to have left. A few cried and some were completely unaware of the reason behind the big crowd. Before the body was placed into the vehicle some showed their eagerness to put garlands to the corpse. Some were allowed and others kept in the vehicle. I began to send msgs to common friends. Some calls I got which showed their shock, disbelief, reasons, details of the disease, time and place of funerals etc. I displayed my first hand knowledge of losing a close friend who used to say 'if you were a girl, i'd have married you.' Mamatha recalled it and was telling visitors about this while introducing me.
14th May 2009 1.00PM
I'm walking behind a vehicle which carried his body. Mamatha’s uncle holds her and she rests her head on the coffin. People walk behind crushing puffed rice thrown on the vehicle. Wood was piled at the same place where his father's body was burnt 4 years ago. 'I’m not feeling like crying. Let me feel it fully and calmly', he was saying amidst all his family members who had been crying with wailings reaching skies. His sister had asked him, 'Don't you feel anything? Doesn't he mean anything to you?’ Now I was playing his role. His wife asked me the same question. I told nothing but truth, ' I can't cry in front of you. You are already doing it.'
Some ten elderly relatives or well wishers stood there, giving instructions to those who were arranging the body on wood. Since there were 3-4 opinions about everything, young and enthusiastic doers were lot confused. Like about the direction of the body, whether the plastic cover should be removed or not. Whether white cloth should be there on the face or let it be open for those who want to see. Whether the kerosene should be put on the top or bottom. Etc. I brought mother, Mamatha for performing puja. I brought them back to shade from killing hot sun. When they shouted 'if anybody wants to see the face finally, come. His brother saw. By the time I went it was already closed. I said I want to. Once closed it should not be opened again they said. I remembered the security at Medical ICU, where I didn't get opportunity most of the times to see his face as I didn't look somebody important related to Madhu. I accepted. Turned to come back. Mamatha was hurrying from the shade led by my sister. Many were luckily considerate. They opened the face. She saw the face with all the care she had like looking at a baby. She caressed his forehead, looked for a while till somebody said, 'Take her back. Standing there would increase her pain.' I shouted, 'It's ok. We know. Wait.' Then, I led her back to shade. Then his brother was asked to put fire by touching quickly on all the corners. But he started very slowly. Others shouted ‘Quick!’ QUICK! He was not at all ready to continue. He could not even complete it. Somebody took it from him and continued. Some elder announced. 'COME ON, MOVE. Nobody should sit here now.' Most of them moved. 4 years ago when such thing was said, Madhu had said 'It's ok. I'm not disturbed. I will sit here for some more time.’ One of his cousins said the same thing and she got scolding from her uncle. She moved. I sat there holding and consoling his father-in-law who was sobbing like a child saying 'I had thought that I got a son who would put fire when I die. But I have to see him burning. What fate is this?' I pressed his hand and consoled. I waited while my close encounter with death was heading towards its climax. As there were very few to suggest, it was now easy to follow advices about to which side additional kerosene. It should be put guided by the direction of the wind. Ten mins. There was no big heap of wood any more. Hot summer was helping the fire. Somebody showed me the body fluid dripping. Madhu - BACK TO SOIL. Came back home having some chocolate put at the gate. At home, a lamp was lit. Madhu continues to give light. Entered home to see Mamatha. House, book racks, music system, show case, HE WAS IN EVERY CORNER! Sitting beside Mamatha caressed her hand. Her head dropped, took only a glass of tender milk. Looked at me, with a pale face and forced smile, 'WHAT NEXT?' Sincerely, even I was blank, except Minchu, her only guiding light.