Joined: 25 May 2010
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Joined: 25 May 2010
Joined: 25 May 2010
Joined: 25 May 2010
Joined: 25 May 2010
Chapter 4: Missing forgotten memories
Several weeks had passed since he joined the hospital. The experience was exhilarating even though he was bone tired almost on a daily basis. The one day off a week was spent walking around the city and driving to nearby towns. His previous job rarely gave him off days much less touring opportunities. He was savoring every moment he had for himself and had reached a certain level of peace with his inner self. His past did haunt him on regular basis and his difficult childhood never really left him. His current work and work colleagues whom he now called as friends had helped him stay stable and at bay. He was thankful for the people he now had in his life. He was surprised to know that chief of medicine, Dr. Shashank Gupta was actually Riddhima and Anjali's father.
Few weeks earlier:
"Welcome to Sanjeevani. I am very glad to have you here." Shashank was sincerely happy to have Armaan in his hospital. When Abhi had first talked to him about Armaan, he wondered what kind of a person he would be. Generally men like Armaan would be very well known in UN circles and there would be many international organizations who would readily accept Armaan purely based on the credentials and the recommendations that he would have.
"Thank you very much sir. Sanjeevani has its reputation as a good hi-tech hospital and is well known for the expertise it offers. I hope I can learn new things under your guidance", Armaan replied.
"Good to hear that Armaan. As a hospital and also as a corporate, we have a responsibility towards society to offer our services for those who are in dire need. The hospital board is planning for a rural reach program where villages identified by our sister NGO would be receiving free medical care on a periodic basis. I would request you to help Abhi on this matter given the expertise that you already have in that area." Shashank explained the nature of his request. Armaan nodded.
"I can help you with the planning and execution but I will leave resources and budgets to Abhi", Armaan replied with a smile. He was glad that he could still do volunteer work and also work in a good hospital at the same time. The meeting had gone smoothly from then onwards and the three men talked about lack of basic health care, education and resources in smaller towns and villages.
A few hours later he had met Riddhima in cafeteria picking up a late lunch.
"I heard you were recruited for the hospital's rural reach program", she asked him after they had taken seats at the back of the cafe.
"Was that news official or unofficial?" Armaan asked.
"Dad told me, so technically unofficial", she responded with a laugh.
"Are you interested in this?"
"I am. Dad was very excited after he spoke to you. I honestly don't know how the whole volunteering thing works though I did go to with the hospital affiliated NGO few times. I think the experience of being a part of a program of this scale for the whole cycle is a different experience, is it not?" She asked him curiously.
"It is. I think you are truly suited for the job. You know not everyone can be a volunteer irrespective how motivated they are towards the cause. "
"Why is that? Isn't being motivated enough?" She was surprised by his statement.
"Though having right motivation is a fundamental requirement, having the right attitude and a will to see it to the end is more important. Many people lack that when it comes to execution." He reminisced his days where in there were many people who left the job after few weeks or even days of being there. Not everyone was cut out of NGO work. She had absorbed his answer and changed topic to much lighter subjects.
The three hours of undisturbed and uninterrupted sleep he had the previous night had lifted his mood up. He was feeling pleasantly refreshed and was even humming a tune as he prepared a modest breakfast. He walked to the patio with a glass of juice and took a deep breath. He was very particular about his requirements for an apartment when he met real estate agent.
The real estate agent was downright irritable when Armaan refused all premium properties. Armaan had merely asked for a house with lots of space and air and light. He was as vague as one could get. The real estate agent was about to give up when Armaan's eyes had fallen on one of the brochures and in few moments they were already talking to the owner to finalize the deal. The estate agent had breathed a sigh of relief as he was being paid handsomely and also the feeling one would get when a satisfied customer leaves the office.
The apartment was quite odd in the way it was built. It was a lone structure on top of a small apartment complex. There was space all around the house and the previous owner had even maintained a roof top garden. On the first day of his stay in that house, he had slept on the bench outside the house. The dying noise of the traffic, odd sounds on the streets had lulled him to a serene sleep. He knew that he had made the right choice then.
The view wasn't that great from his home but it did give him a perspective of life. He could see the streets and many other houses around him which was bursting with life. It gave him peace when he saw people around him living and breathing and going about the day. His thoughts drifted to events of last night and wondered how long he would have to deal with this. He already had enough baggage as such and his previous employment was perpetually haunting him of late. He hadn't missed the trick Riddhima had played when she asked him to tell her a happy memory. It was the process of bringing an order into the chaotic mind and reinstating balance between order and chaos. Once he spoke of something that made him happy, peace was only the byproduct.
After finishing breakfast he drove to Atul's house as promised to him earlier. Atul's bicycle was under repair, again, so he had asked Armaan to come and pick him up. Armaan knew that there was a lecture waiting for him as by now he was well aware of Atul's concern for environment. Atul was the happiest even more than Armaan to see Armaan's house as there was a roof top garden available. Atul had generously added many more plants and even helped Armaan to take care of them whenever he had time. Armaan hadn't even thought twice when he gave Atul a copy of his house and gate keys so that he can visit his plants whenever Atul wished. He was actually moved by Atul's enthusiasm and his perseverance in the belief that the world is indeed a good place to live in as long as you give back to nature everything it deserves. There were many things one could do around them to help environment sustain better and Atul taught him that.
Atul was already waiting for him and he waved at Armaan with a wan smile when he spotted him.
"Right on time Armaan", Atul wished good morning in his own way.
"Morning to you too Atul. Your holiday was good?" Armaan asked him. Atul was away for the past three days which according to others was a yearly tradition.
"It was, in a way. I had to pay respects to my late parents", Atul said it with a smile. Armaan looked surprised at his casual admission.
"I am sorry Atul, I did not know."
"I know you did not know about it Armaan, it's fine. I lost my mother when I was two or three year old I think. I don't even have memories of her. All I have is a faded picture of her, my father and I when I was about a year or so old. My father died when I was twelve. I don't have many memories of my childhood when my father was alive. I was actually in hospital when I was told that my father was dead."
"What happened? I hope I am not prying."
"It's alright Armaan. My father mostly kept to himself. I never saw him with his friends and never went out of the house when he wasn't working. He was an electrician freelancing with many small businesses across the town. He had a small shed next to our house where he worked for most part of the time when he wasn't away from home. He didn't care for me or my studies and I was okay with that as he took me to fairs and flea markets almost every weekend."
"And then?" Armaan asked.
"My memory is little vague during his last year alive. I really don't know why but after that all I can remember is waking up in the hospital and looking at strange faces." Atul sighed. Armaan felt bad asking about Atul's past.
"Atul, it's alright. Let's talk about it some other day."
"I am okay Armaan. It's just that I feel that I am not remembering something very important related to my father. Did you know it was Dr. Shashank who treated me back then?" Armaan looked at Atul in surprise.
"Yes. It was his face I saw when I opened my eyes. It took me couple of days to come in terms with reality. I was only a kid and I was scared and confused. A bunch of police officers came and asked me few questions about my father and finally told me that he was dead in an accident. In a matter of hours, my whole life had changed." Atul took a deep breath. It was more than fifteen years since all of this had happened but he could never forget the day he woke up in the hospital and the confusion he had gone through.
"I had nowhere to go. Dr. Shashank enrolled me into a boarding school and took the role of a guardian."
"That was very nice of him", the respect Armaan had for Shashank grew a notch more.
"It was. He took care of me like a father would and I had promised him that one day I will work for him in the same hospital and save many lives. It was dream of a kid but he encouraged me to make it a reality. I truly admire him for that." Armaan nodded in affirmation.
"What is the last memory you have with your father?"
"It is surprisingly a happy one. He had taken me to a fair in nearby town. I remember asking him to buy me a cotton candy and after pestering him for a while he had agreed. He finally took me to a stall and bought me a snack. I was irritated with him but kept my mouth shut. And then there were two pretty girls about my age who were buying snack and they even smiled at me. After that I think we got home, I am not sure. That's the last memory I have with him." Atul responded.
"It's alright Atul, I am really sorry that this has happened to you."
"You know Armaan, in the beginning that's what I thought. When I went to boarding school I actually that my father dying was probably a good thing. I could not believe that I thought something so horrible about my own father but it's true. I felt relieved, liberated and finally happy." Armaan didn't respond. He didn't have the right to condemn the man sitting next to him for abandoning the feelings he had a son towards his own father when Armaan very well knew that not all relationships are as simple as it seemed on surface. Atul was sporting a devastated look and Armaan felt sorry for him.
"I will not say that I understand what you are feeling because I truly don't. I don't think anyone can understand what you have been through. But complicated childhood can give birth to much complex adult psyche Atul, you know that." Armaan was truly feeling sorry for his friend.
"I know Armaan. I was in therapy for a long time. The problem wasn't with the damaged psyche. It was the absence of memories which worried everyone." Armaan didn't press further. It wasn't the time or place to discuss latest psychological therapies. He would research more for his friend's sake and help him heal. But he knew the cost of knowing the truth. It always came with a price.
"Thanks for the lift Armaan. I must apologize for dumping all this personal info on you."
"Please don't Atul. I know that repeating these things again and again only adds to your mental turmoil and not every time talking helps."
"Everyone in the group knows about this Armaan and it was time you know it too. I know that none of them would talk about any one's personal life so I had to tell you about it myself. It's not that the group generally shares secrets or pasts because we are some pledged group. It's only because it merely decreases all future misunderstandings and reduced work complications. "
Armaan was impressed with the dynamics of the group. Given their work, it was always nice to know that someone had your back. When things went downhill or saw a case which hit someone personally, then other would naturally step in to relieve the pain it would cause the other. He was overwhelmed by the closeness of the group and the casual acceptance of him in their own world.
As they walked into the hospital greeting people as they walked towards lockers, he thought about his own past and everything he had gone through.
He wasn't sure if he
had the courage to be as honest as Atul was.
To be continued.
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