Lakshman was getting impatient. His wife Naina, was in acute pain since the previous night. They had tried pain killers at night and when there was no relief, he had brought her to the private hospital early morning and had got her admitted. The doctors were suspecting some problem in the kidney and the kidney specialist had been called for. It was evening now but the specialist Dr Rohit Shetty, had still not come. He was in the Operation Theatre since morning, they were told. He had operations lined up one after the other. Finally he came, checked Naina, saw her test reports and started her treatment. After this he went to his chamber to see his patients, who had been waiting for him for a long time. It was almost 9 pm, by that time.
Naina was relieved of the pain but Dr. Shetty advised surgery to remove the stones found in her kidneys. Naina was operated upon and the surgery was successful. She was discharged within a week. All through this week, Lakshman saw Dr. Shetty at all sorts of odd hours. He was in the hospital from around 7:30 in the morning to almost midnight. Lakshman realised that Dr. Shetty would be in the operation theatre all day, and he would wonder how the good doctor sustained such long working hours through the week. Undoubtedly, Dr. Shetty was the most sought after doctor and getting his appointment was not easy
Dr. Shetty’s colleague and childhood friend Dr. Jamaal Sheikh, was worried all the time about his friend. In spite of being a cardiologist himself, he was very mindful of his working hours. He too was a renowned doctor in his field but he definitely stuck to his somewhat fixed working hours except for emergencies, of course. Often he would talk with his friend about this but Rohit was completely closed and would not pay any heed to his caution. He would throw the same question, every time, at Jamaal,
“ You know what I have been through, right?’ You wouldn’t like to see me there, would you?” Jamaal would argue,
“That was past Rohit. It was long, long ago. You shouldn’t be holding on to that, forever. Let go of your past Rohit, or else it may consume you,” Jamaal would almost plead to him, though unsuccessfully. Jamaal could understand where such a behaviour had stemmed from. Jamaal had known Rohit from their very childhood.
Rohit and Jamaal lived in a small town and both belonged to very poor families. Rohit’s father was a vegetable seller and Jamaal’s father was a cobbler. They were neighbours and both the families could barely make two ends meet. Both the boys saw their parents’ continuous, consistent and incredible struggle to send their children to school. The boys were both brilliant and hard working so they soon started getting scholarships and their education was no more a burden but it was a pair of working hands less in both families. Once Rohit’s mother was down with typhoid and she had to be admitted in a hospital. Rohit’s father did not have much money, so he had to plead for a sum of five thousand rupees, from a money lender in that town. It took around eight days for Rohit’s mother to return home from the hospital and Rohit’s father was burdened by a debt of around seven thousand rupees, for her absence had stopped her earnings as a daily wage labourer as well. Rohit was witness to the horrific insulting behaviour of the money lender when Rohit’s father was unable to repay his debt by the deadline. Seeing Rohit’s seething anger, his father would pacify him but little did he know of the accumulating anger in Rohit’s mind and heart.
Both Rohit and Jamaal, thanks to the scholarships, sailed smoothly through their fields of education. They chose the profession of medicine and became doctors. Rohit specialised in Nephrology and Jamaal in Cardiology. Both shifted to Mumbai, the land of dreams and joined the same private hospital too. Rohit’s accumulated anger and frustration from childhood, made him a workaholic. He just wanted to earn money. He started working for unearthly long hours and he started making a lot of money. He of course tried his best to convince his parents to shift with him but when they stuck to their desire to stay in their home town only, he bought a house there and opened a big vegetable store for his father to run it. Bringing his family out of the clutches of poverty was not enough for Rohit. The lack of money in his childhood had made him insecure about it and he became somewhat paranoid about earning money. Jamaal would try to caution him many a time, in all possible ways, but to no avail. His wife, his children, nobody could change him. His overworking was undoubtedly doing great business for the private hospital and he was being appreciated as well as being amply rewarded for the same. Jamaal stood there helplessly, watching his best friend become a burn out.
After all, Rohit was a human being and it did not take too long for his mind as well as his body to rebel. The patients, for him, became mere numbers and he became more and more like a machine. One day there were two kidney transplants lined up. One was a ten year old boy and the other was a forty year old lady. The lady was lined up first in the morning. Dr Rohit Shetty had left hospital the previous night at around 2 am, after tending to a difficult in-house patient. He was back in the O.T. at 7 am next day. The transplant was done and it took around 6 hours. Rohit was exhausted. The ten year old boy was to be the next. Looking at Rohit, his juniors asked if they should go ahead with the surgery then or should postpone it by some hours. Dr Shetty refused to postpone it. His team was a bit uncertain, but no one had the guts to question Dr Shetty’s decision. The surgery began. The boy’s mother was the donor. The surgery was going on when suddenly Dr Shetty felt a blackout. He blinked tight and shrugged it off. But he couldn’t stand any longer. His knees began to tremble and he had a severe black out. He slumped on to the floor and passed out. There was shock and chaos at the operation table. His juniors took over the surgery, while Dr Shetty was tended to by some of them. The blood pressure of the boy was falling and the pulse too was getting slower and slower. An immediate blood transfusion was started, but to everyone’s dismay, the boy died.
Dr Shetty was admitted and was being treated in the psychiatry ward of the same hospital where he had been working for so many years. On that fateful day, he had gained consciousness after almost 10 hours. When he got to know about the boy’s death on the operation table, he went into a shock. He became quiet, and whenever he spoke, he was incoherent. Jamaal, with all his might, managed to get to term the boy’s demise as an unfortunate medical accident. Even now, Jamaal was his constant visitor. Every day while entering his room, Jamaal would hope to see Rohit back to his normal self, but he was disappointed.
It was now five years since that unfortunate incident, when Rohit walked out of the hospital, with his wife and Jamaal, to go home. He had recovered and was stable now. Jamaal brought his car to the portico. Rohit, with his wife, got in. Rohit had a blank stare. He never looked back at the place where his life had undergone such terrible changes. Jamaal drove away, with him. Within a week of going home, Rohit shifted his base back to his home town. He joined the district hospital there on an honorary basis. He would work there during the day and then go and meet the family of the patients at home to see how he could help them. It made him feel better and brought some sort of solace to his troubled mind. He held himself responsible for an untimely, unfortunate death and he could not undo the harm ever. His paranoia had cost someone else so dearly, Rohit could never forgive himself. He had the rest of his life to make amends for it. Would that still be enough? The thought would often creep into his mind and wriggle its way through. Did anyone have an answer?