17 August 2014
The Colonel's Stories
What is it about immobility that is most irritating? Well its actually in the magnitude of the immobility. Left stranded on a suburban train after the tracks got flooded? Mobile phone's battery drained out? Stuck in a 6 km long traffic jam on the Expressway ahead of a 4 day extended weekend? Lying on a hospital bed unable to turn and listening to your neighbour's rant 4 feet away seemingly in a similar preposition? Particularly if the the "co -patient" (in the same vein as "co - passenger") is a 82 year old person so breathless that he needs to stop midway thrice in a sentence, at least. Of course, that doesn't make him stop. He talks about his prolonged undiagnosed and perhaps undiagnosable illness and tries to console himself by talking about fortitude and what a good life he has had. But the wheeze from his chest is very audible. He talks about Sikkim just after its annexation by India and about Nagaland just prior to the ceasefire with NSCN (IM). He talks about his personal attendant (whose name he has forgotten) and his battalion's mule (whose name he remembers). He would like to look at disdain at the more recent wars, inglorious as they are compared with the "just" wars of the past that he fought. He would like to look at today's warriors with even more disdain than today's wars. However, he does not. In ways similar to, an affable grandfather looks at the antics of a grandchild. In the evening, or perhaps morning, he is visited by grave looking specialists followed by swathes of post graduate residents, nurses and others in the medical bureaucracy. They order him to be shifted to a special care unit (that is short of the Intensive Care Unit). A few days later I have been relieved of my immobility, more or less. Apparently, the Colonel is doing well too because he walks up to my bed assisted by a paramedic at 11 O'clock in the night. He gestures me to switch on the light. He hands me a device and asks me to see how it can be activated. He is breathless this time too, but only at the end of the sentences. I have never seen such a contraption and learn that it is a "respihaler". I fiddle with it clumsily and suddenly and unexpectedly the device gets activated. The Colonel immediately inhales the drug emanating from the it, thanks me and walks unassisted to his bed.