Hospitals are a strange place. Sea of people pouring in and trickling out. Some rich, some poor. Some young, some all wrinkled up. Some teary eyed, some with tears dried up. All with their brow knitted in a frown. Every white coat that appears through the door raises their hope. They try to read into the eyes. Sometimes they see hope, and sometimes they exhale all hope. There is a mother clutching the bouncing toddler, trying to listen to the doctor’s brief about her mother’s health. There’s a family of fourteen, sitting on the cold steel framed rows of chairs, waiting for news about the young couple. Deathly quiet looms over their head.
Near the helpdesk is an old man – his wrinkles deepened by worry, his trembling hands resting on the shoulder of a frail, fading woman in a wheel chair. I wonder if that is the only family he has. The security woman turns away a bickering man for the third time. He is now swearing at the top of his lungs. The man is worried about his son – a boy of fourteen, admitted on the third floor. He is worried that his son is alone – surrounded by nurses, a busy doctor, tubes and wires, but all alone. The rules keep him from going to him so he shouts, screams, retreats, and slouches against the wall.
The glitzy cafeteria at the end of a never-ending corridor looks as inviting as any of those food courts in the mall but people inside do not feel invited. They eat with whispers, murmurs and more frowns. The food is to keep them going – keep the frowns intact, and prayers flying up.
Hospitals are a strange place. All these different people with similar lines of worry streaking their face, sitting quietly beside the person they would probably stand a step away from in a queue for the movie ticket. The classes, the biases, the differences, all blurred by the grief, and the worry they share. Sometimes they exchange glances, and briefly, the eyes say to each other – keep the faith. Sometimes, the eyes witness people crumbling. The white doctors, the pink nurses, the pastel green ward boys, the navy blue cleaning lady – all feeble attempts at colouring a place so grey and dark despite the stark white paint on the walls, shiny floors, and huge glass windows.
Life’s balance seems somewhat tipped in the favour of the Undertaker here – much anxiety, masked hopelessness, and so many frowns. That woman over there, she is a visitor. Her hair is in place, and she is pretending to listen to the worn man while keeping an eye on her watch. The man must have given the blow-by-blow account of his journey to the waiting room umpteen times already. The visitors are easily recognized – all pleats in place, sorrow swimming in the eyes, the slow shake of the head and a sly eye on time. Half a hug later, she leaves. The man is still there, trying to muster up energy, and the will to repeat the account once more for another visitor, who will make that customary trip to mark his attendance.
And then the gloom is briefly shattered. An exhausted lady is wheeled out of a lift holding a tiny wrinkly infant, followed by a bewildered father. The infant carries a wand, for everyone she passes by breaks into a smile, no matter how faint or weighed down by tears. A doctor blows away the deathly quiet looming over the family, and tells them that the young couple made it out of the ghastly accident. They shall live. The family starts chattering, hugging, and smiling like a family of fourteen should. The fading old lady in the wheelchair gives the warmest smile to her husband.
Hospitals are a strange place. There’s hope carried in the hearts under the veil of grief. The sea of worried faces, sometimes, turns a tide and flashes a glimpse of life – a new-born with tiny fingers wrapped around the mother’s finger, a teenager being wheeled into a car with his leg held straight by a cast more prolifically autographed than any online petition, the couple who just found out they have tested positive for a life time of sleepless nights, diaper days and finger-painted floors, and a grandma being taken home by a six year old, who talks endlessly of her friend at school, ‘Nani, Arti is so silly! She painted the sea with a rainbow!’ Out from the ER door, a mortuary van snatches some dreams, and shatters a family. But the sea remains a colour of rainbow.