The cold room looked more like a morgue to him. The antiseptic odor in the past had made his nauseous but not anymore. Surrounded by hoards of machines he lay quietly. Something he had not done in a long time. He had always been up to something. Today, he was bound by syringes and saline that kept dripping colorlessly into the pipe. A pipe that kept him from going into the oblivion.
He had seen them often, these black figures, the so-called messengers of death. They seemed to roam freely in the whole ward. But somehow they seem to have forgotten his bed number. The pricking needles did not hurt anymore. The color of blood was just red.
Earlier in the year, the doctors had diagnosed him with renal failure. At his age it was fatal. Fatal yes, but only for his body. The body which had forced him to live for fifty-two years longer than he wanted to. He had lost his soul long back, he was sure of that. People came to visit one by one. They came, stood by his bed, looked on and left. He could see the pity in their eyes. He could hear it in their voice. They silently offered prayers to the Almighty to forgive the old man, to free him of his sins and pain. It was indeed a sin to have lived so long in a meaningless existence.
A meaningless existence full of meaningless relationships. He had tried nurturing them in the past but it was too late. He had failed miserably. In his marriage of fifty years, he had neglected his wife for the most part. Somehow he had known very early in life how it would end for him.
He knew he would die alone. Now alone on this hospital bed surrounded by other random sick patients, he kept waiting for his turn. Unlike other, the beeping ventilator offered no hope for him. He had no hope, no desire. The people around him, some very young, some old had this faint hope and this hope led them on to survive. They all wanted to walk out of this icy ward. But not him.
Those invisible creatures should have come for him, he was ready. Lying on the bed, eyes glazed like glass waiting to let go. Yet they would not come for him. Soon, his son would be here to stare at his pathetic sight. Maybe he came to check if he was gone or still alive. Poor kid! That boy should have gone home and taken his pathetic sister along. His wife, who was once beautiful, had come to see him once. She could only look at him and him at her. Over the last thirty-five years, they had traveled vast distances in opposite directions. They had nothing to share. He did not blame her as the fault was entirely his.
Just this morning, the doctor had announced that he was in a coma. That means, to the world he would be unseeing, unfeeling and almost dead. But not yet dead. He wondered why he couldn’t die.
Why was death eluding him? His son had been by his side again. A grim shadow had fallen on his face. Perhaps, he had finally given up.
Like his son, wish life would give up on him too. Maybe not just yet. He had this one desire left in his weeping heart. He wished to travel back 52 years in time to Pune railway station where he had first met her.
At 19, Dolly had the world at her feet.
At 23, Sanchayan was trying hard to find meanings in his life. Together, both disgruntled destination-less travelers set out on a journey unknowing that it would change some part of them forever. For Sanchayan, it changed the way he looked at the world. He remembered her in that blue swimsuit at the pond in Chandigarh, that silly fight she caused in the market, her mirthful laughter and that vision she was in her red saree? He wanted all of this back.
He knew he had made a mistake of sleeping on the journey back to Mumbai. When he had awakened, she wasn’t there. He had waited and waited for some more time. Then he had checked the bathroom, thinking, probably she had gone to fix her makeup. She had to be around. Only a few hours back they had confessed that they felt something for each other. It was going to be difficult. She was a free spirit, unrestrained and he, well, he was her polar opposite. But love triumphed all differences, didn't it?
He would have knocked... but the door was ajar. She wasn’t there. He paused for a moment as his eyes turned to look at the mirror. Stained with rust bubbles, “Dolly loves Sanchu” was written across the mirror with her lipstick. Now he had memories of these, etched in his mind for eternity. He had been angry at his failure to accept.
But he did not feel restrained anymore. There were no boundaries or limits. An abrupt tear rolled down to his left cheek. “Sanchu Loves Dolly…”
The ventilator stopped beeping a second later.