The Insurance Policy
Snigdha came to the hospital as usual, a bit before time. As it is, she was a big stickler for time and, on top of it, she loved her job. She was working for an NGO that was very closely involved with cancer patients and their care givers. The NGO held sessions with them where they expressed themselves through drawing, painting, singing, dancing, and even story telling. These sessions helped them destress, and carry on their fight with the fearsome disease, with a little bit more of hope and vigour. Snigdha was involved in this, with all her passion. She took the singing and dancing sessions. The NGO specially worked with the very poor, for poverty was an added stress factor for them. Treatment was usually prolonged, and the suffering was immense. Nutrition was another major problem, under which they all would be reeling. These sessions succeeded, at least to some extent, in distracting their burdened minds.
Lately, Snigdha was noticing a few dropouts from her sessions. She, because of her empathy and genuine care, was quite popular among the patients as well as their care givers. She had noticed that Ramlal, Ajay, Haria and Malli were no longer coming for her sessions. They were all cancer patients in advanced stages and the disease as well as its treatment, both, had understandably taken a huge toll on them. They had come from far away villages and were staying in very pitiable conditions, in tiny rooms close by. They were tired of fighting the disease and at times the care givers too gave up on their strength, staring at the dark, bleak future that lay ahead. Snigdha and her team came in there, trying their best to pull them out of their slide, through various art forms.
As Snigdha was getting ready for the day, suddenly someone entered the room, crying aloud. It was Laxmi, Haria’s wife. She fell on the chair next to Snigdha’s table, crying out,
“Everything is finished Didi, everything! I am a murderer, I am a murderer!”
Snigdha held her hand and tried to calm her down,
“Ssshh Laxmi, calm down please. Tell me what has happened. Where is Haria?”
Laxmi burst out crying even louder. She could not stop.
“Didi, he is no more. I killed him.”
After a while she was spent crying and then slowly she narrated what had happened. Snigdha kept on listening in shock. She could feel the shivers going down her spine. She simply could not believe what she was hearing.
“Didi, a couple of months back, I was sitting outside the room where we are staying, and I was crying hard. My brother had come from our village, saying that our twenty year old daughter was seriously ill. Doctors had diagnosed tuberculosis of the bones. My mother-in-law, an old lady of eighty years age, has been looking after the house there. Haria is the sole bread earner for the family. With him unwell since the last one year, we have no money left. With Haria here, I can’t even go to see our daughter. Haria is also not showing much improvement. Doctors say he is in the last stage of cancer. Staying here for such a long period has drained off all our money. I saw darkness and only darkness all around. Who could help us? What could I do? That is when a stranger came to me and, greeting me, said,
‘I don’t know how God can be so unkind to anyone; I know your plight, sister. I am a social worker at the hospital, so I get to know about the patients. I know from Haria’s file that he will not be cured. His disease has reached a stage of no return. He only has to drag himself to death. The last phase is generally too painful, both for the patient, as well as the family. Your finances are also almost depleted. Where will you get money to continue, till he dies? I know he is your husband, but you too know that his death is inevitable in the near future. You have two children, who will take care of them? Where will you get money to treat your daughter? She is so young, and has a whole life in front of her. Your son needs to complete his education, how will he? Your husband too would be worried about all these things, and would be completely shattered and in intense pain and distress, at his helplessness. Don’t you want to relieve your husband of this torture?’ He continued,
‘You know Ramlal, Ajay, Malli, don’t you? They are all on the same boat as you are. They are also more than fed up, bearing this pain for so long. Their families have accepted my help. I would like to extend my help to you too.’
Laxmi carried on, saying that she asked him how he could be of help to them.
‘See, you need to be strong. You already are, that is how you have been fighting for so long. Now listen to me carefully. There is an insurance company. You will need to take an insurance policy - a personal accident cover for Haria - from them. We will do all the needful, even pay the premium for you. We will just take Haria away and, after some days, we will claim the insurance money and will pay you half of it. So Haria will also be relieved of the suffering, and you too would get a decent sum of money to look after the future. One needs to be practical at times, and you will be doing this for your own children. Think it over and I will come to see you tomorrow again. You may tell me your decision then.’ Saying this, he went away.
“Didi, I was shocked, to say the least. I kept sitting there for hours. What I had heard was not quite sinking in. His words kept on playing in my mind. What exactly did the man mean by ‘taking Haria away’? Did he really mean what I understood? Could he really mean that? All the logic given by him, kept echoing in my head. Next evening the man turned up again Didi, and I gave my consent to his plan. Can you believe Didi, I gave consent to making money by agreeing to have my husband killed?” Laxmi broke down again. Snigdha had turned ice cold from inside. She already could join the dots and complete the story that was yet to be completed by Laxmi. Laxmi carried on, “Next morning this man came again, along with another person, carrying some papers with him. I signed the papers. That man gave me fifty thousand rupees, saying he will give me another one and a half lakh later on, after getting the claim from the insurance company. Then one day last week they took Haria away, on the pretext of some tests to be done. That was the last time I saw my Haria, Didi. And the next day came the news that Haria was no more, having been run over by a speeding truck.” Laxmi cried inconsolably. Snigdha just kept sitting there, numb. “Didi, can you imagine, even as I kept crying for him, I also kept thinking of the money I was to get. And then, yesterday, Malli’s brother came to me to inform that we all had unknowingly become a part of a big-time fraud, which involved many high-ups. This fraud had now come to light, the police were investigating, several people had been put behind bars, and now the insurance company too was not paying any money. Didi, none of us even got the money for which we had let those monsters take away our dear ones. But Didi, who are the monsters? They, or Us? We are the ones who sold our loved ones, on the verge of their death, in return for some money that would save us living ones. But then, Didi, what could we do? Did we have any option? Tell me, can there be any other evil that is worse than poverty? What choice did I have? But no, I am still a murderer, Didi! How can I live the rest of my life, knowing this? But then again, can I really die? What will then happen to our family, our children?” Snigdha had no answers to her questions. She was thinking how far could man stoop, to satisfy his greed? Was it really Greed, or Desperation? Can desperation really lead to such unimaginable solutions? How could anyone even come up with such a devious plan? Exploiting the utterly helpless? She just kept sitting there, staring blankly out of the window. Laxmi’s howling seemed to be coming from somewhere far away.