Archive for October, 2011
A few episodes at a psychiatric hospital in Ludhiana.
I was leaning against a door looking into the male ward. The young man on a bed, about sixteen years old, had just thrown away the drip administered into his arm. The cannula had ruptured and he was bleeding. Drop by drop, the white bed sheet was turning red. The nurse was trying to calm him, adjust the catheter. When she was leaving the room I asked, ‘What is wrong with him?’ She answered, ‘Not eating anything.’
The young man wanted to skip a ritual. A ritual that we don’t allow each other to skip. The ritual of eating. A hungry he would, on being given energy fluids, find ways of throwing away the feeding mechanism. As the nurse moved away, the young man tried to sit up in bed. Weak, he collapsed again. The society, the legal system, the public opinion, are all tilted in favour of fulfilling the ritual. The society demands that the young man give a coherent explanation on why he does not want to eat. Until then, we try to feed him, try to make him ‘see’ sense.
While we try to make him see ‘sense’, he also sees us. Like did another man who approached me while I was still standing at the door. A 40-ish Sikh man with an open beard. His tummy swollen. He reaches near my face, almost whispers in my ear, ‘You look familiar.’ I think to myself, ‘I have lived in your head a long long time.’ I asked him why his tummy was swollen. He says, ‘One week. I have not gone to toilet.’ I ask him to go to the medical counter opposite the ward and ask for a tablet to relive constipation. ‘Go get it. I am watching over you,’ I said.
He goes, gets the tablet. When he is ready with an open bottle of water and tablet in another hand, he looks at me. It is a ritual. In the hospital he takes tablets every few hours. He might be taking tablets every few hours even when he is not in the hospital. Who knows whether he has a home or if he lives on the streets or in a Gurdwara. I do not know him. Standing at that door, I am watching him. Our eyes meet. We both smile, add a personal touch to the ritual.
Another man sees us smiling at each other. In white kurta pyjama, his hair well trimmed, he must be around 65 years old. He holds my hand. ‘When I came here 2 weeks ago I was insisting that they give me something that would kill me.’ He wanted to end another ritual: of living. ‘And now?’ I asked. ‘Now I want to go home. Come to my room.’ We sit on cots across each other. The light is off, it is dark, we can barely see silhouettes. He counts all the times he takes food and all the tablets per dosages. Rituals. ‘Do you feel better Baba?’ I ask. He answers, ‘Yes.’ I will go home and pray. He is ready for another ritual. ‘Oh! I forgot to switch on the light,’ he says, and puts on the tube-light. I touch his feet, he pats my head. I leave him in his lit room.