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Note: This part of the story is not meant to be taken too personally or seriously. It is just an attempt to bring the smile back on the face of Dr Ashutosh and also the readers. Enjoy!
Priyanka was thoughtful for a long while. "Tell you what, Dr Juhi...there is a new Develepment team in place now, let's go and talk to the head of the team...I know her well, she will certainly work out something...
"The Development team head? You mean Ms Tanu?"
"Yes, that's the one... a very formidable woman..."
"Has Dr Ashutosh met her?"
"I don't think so...he might have, but then the way things have been with him since the past few months...he might have even missed it all!"
The sun rose a few hours later, as was the routine of nature.
The silver grey coloured Honda city, driven by Dr Ashutosh, rushed to the residence for the daily routine of the middle aged surgeon. Hiraman kaka already had the door open by the time Ashutosh parked the car, the routine was so fine tuned since the past three months that you could have set your clock.
"Shall I warm the breakfast, my son? And would you like to have some tea?" the old caretaker was besides himself with worry about this young master of the house.
"No thanks Kaka...I am not hungry..."
"Now that's not good, son...at least have..." But the young master was gone.
Kaka sighed inwardly. Ashutosh was a shadow of his previous self these days, coming home just for freshening and a quick bite, if at all...for hours he would sit in the rocking chair and stare at the wall opposite, speak only when spoken to...even his favourite music failed to rouse him. Ever since the mistress of this house had left for the shopping trip...never to come back.
"Hiraman Kaka..." the maid was calling at the backyard. He hurried to her.
"Yes Geeta, What is it?"
"I am not keeping good health today, so my sister will come instead...her name is Deepa"
"Ok, Deepa, please come in..." Kaka ushered the young substitute for the day, who walked in with uncertain eyes
"What should I do?"
"Here, all these clothes have been ironed. Please put them in Dr Mathur's room. Its that way." Kaka gestured to Dr Mathur's room. Dr Mathur had enrolled in an early morning Yoga class and had not yet turned in for the morning breakfast. Ok, let me finish making the young master's breakfast, and later I will give her the instructions to help me in cutting some vegetables, Kaka assumed and turned to the kitchen, only to be startled by a scream and a yell in complete synchronisation with each other.
"What's the matter?" He rushed to the bedroom as fast as his legs could carry. The sight inside the bedroom was quite astounding.
Deepa stood in the middle of the room, her jaw dropping, her eyes with a dreamy expression, staring at the man who had stepped out of the shower with just the towel around his waist.
Kaka took in the scene in utter confusion. This was Dr Mathur's bedroom after all!
"Kaka, what is she doing here?" Ashutosh crossed his hands to his chest, thoroughly scandalized by the sudden appearance of the maid in the room.
"Ashutosh, what are you doing in Dr Mathur's bathroom?" Kaka was thoroughly surprised himself. After all, he had sent Deepa in this room to clean on certain assumptions at all, didn't he?
"The geyser in my bathroom is not working, so..."
"Ok, I will see that it is repaired by the end of today..." Kaka sought to reassure the young master, "And Deepa...DEEPA!!"
The raise in the volume was very much needed, as the young maid continued to be in a trance, her vision single-mindedly tracking the exit of the handsome surgeon from the room. Shaking his head in a sheer exasperation, he clapped his hands when the raised pitch did not help.
"Yes Sir?" Deepa landed back on the planet with a heavy bump.
"Please leave the clothes here...and then help me in the breakfast preparation. Mopping can be done later..."
"Ok Sir..." Deepa was yet to return back to the sane world. She followed the old man meekly, back to the kitchen.
"Kaka, breakfast please..." The young master was clearly in a hurry.
"May I help, Kaka?" Deepa offered.
"Sure, my dear..." Kaka was bringing out the cutlery and was glad for the offer. He quickly handed over the loaded tray to the young girl.
"What's for breakfast, Kaka?"
"Cornflakes and Milk, my son..."
"Good...Good. Healthy food at last!!"
"Yes Sir...and you know the top seven reasons why one should have this sort of breakfast?"
Ashutosh choked on his first morsel. Deepa continued in her enthusiasm as she passed over a glass of water to him.
Reason no 1: Soaked cornflakes have a very little chance of choking anyone!!
Reason no 2: Anyone, including someone like me, who doesn't know cooking, can make it.
Reason no 3: The cost of cornflakes...
"Kaka, I am done..." Ashutosh clearly was not in the frame of listening to the top seven issues that morning. He picked up his coat and was about to depart the scene when he tripped over something and collided with the doorframe.
The bucket, which the maid had forgotten in the hall.
"What's the matter? What was that sudden noise? Oh God, Ashu, you are hurt!!" Kaka rushed out on hearing the sudden unexpected noise.
Ashutosh stood like a zombie, his hand fingering his temple, wherein a thin trickle of blood appeared.
"let me see..." Hiraman Kaka anxiously felt the injury, "Ok, not something serious, will heal on its own, with first aid...the scar also will vanish in no time..."
'Oh God, let the scar remain...he looks so cute..." Deepa murmured to herself, and this was not missed by Kaka.
"Now, Deepa...please concentrate on your work...and please remove the bucket from here...and how can a scar look cute?
Deepa's voice stopped him mid-stride.
"Arre Saab, zara hamari nazar se to dekho!!"
Ashutosh opened the door at the same instant as the doorbell rang...startling the people on either side of the door. A young woman, in the plumber's overalls, an arm extended to the doorbell, which had just chimed, stood on the other side of the door. She folded her hands,
"Namaste, my name is Mudra...I was told that there is a plumbing problem here?"
Ashutosh stared in disbelief. A girl as a plumber? The girl seemed to have read his mind.
"What's there to gape at, Sir? This is very common in the west, wherein ladies do all sorts of jobs, including driving a truck!! And this is a country wherein you have a woman prime minister as well as a woman president, but you can't imagine a woman plumber?"
Ashutosh gulped hard. The girl was obviously tough.
"Who is it, Ashutosh?" Kaka had followed him to the door and his lined face broke into a wide grin, "Ok...so the plumbing service has sent their most efficient representative today? Please come in, Mudra, my dear..."
Mudra set in to work immediately and located the problem within no time at all.
"Ok, Sir, so the problem is here...there is an airlock" Mudra tapped a part of the pipe with her spanner and opened the pipe within no time at all. She then worked for the next ten minutes and the geyser was up and running as usual.
"Well done, My child..." Kaka was full of praise for the young girl, "Only that, how do you manage these tough tools of the trade? This spanner is so heavy..."
"Ohh that's nothing Kaka... there is a piece of Yoga that I do every morning, it gives me stamina required for this job and also patience"
"Yoga? For a plumber's job?" Ashutosh finally found his tongue.
"Yes, there is an apt asana for this job: it improves your grip like anything. It's called Mallikasana!! I have been doing it since the past 12 years..."
"Ohh really?" Ashutosh's tone was dangerously polite, bordering on sarcasm.
Mudra continued in her enthusiasm, "And there is another asana called Mardasan, the great actress Suhasini Devi is a proponent of it...my god...it really gives you astounding powers to understand the mind of the man..."
"Ok Kaka, I think I will push off to the hospital now..." Ashutosh finally gave up trying to understand the fine aspects of the overlap between yoga, human behaviour and plumbism.
"Ok beta...take care..." It was Dr Mathur in a kind paternal tone. He had just come in and heard the exchange between the plumber-woman and his foster son. He decided to add on a bit.
"You know what, Ashutosh, there are miraculous healing powers in the art of Yoga..." Dr Mathur continued in his newfound enthusiasm, "there is a new instructor at our class these days, you know what, she is advocating a new method of stress relieving these days..."
"And that is?"
"Through the art of making funny captions over a stressful situation..."
"What? funny captions?"
"Oh yes, Ashu...say if you have a difficult patient entrusted in your care, you could design an emoticon of the person with smoke coming out of his nostrils...or some other part..." Dr Mathur couldn't help but giggling a bit, "and then write a funny poetry on the person, imagining a weird scenario..."
Ashutosh couldn't take it anymore, "OK Baba...understood. Now it is high time I..." But his foster father was not yet done with him.
"Ashutosh, don't take me lightly. This new instructor, her name is Sumi...has successfully helped many people overcome their stress and depression. You should also see her sometime..."
Ashutosh rolled his eyes and started his car. Today was a day he had started on a wrong foot. The geyser was out of action and he had to go to this father's bathroom for a shower. And then he had forgotten to take his clothes along and had to come out of the shower with the towel wrapped around his waist. And the maid was dusting at that moment, the earth should have parted and swallowed him alive. And then the advice at the breakfast table, about 7 different reasons...Pufff!! He wiped perspiration from his forehead as he absent-mindedly engaged the gears and the car shot forward with a jerk.
Mallikasan? A Yogic posture to improve the strength of fingers...and Mardasan, to understand the male psychology?' What has the world come to? Ashutosh thought to himself as the car took a graceful turn and entered the parking lot of the hospital.
"Good morning, Sir..." he jerked awake. The voice was new.
He turned his head to the direction of the voice and discerned a tall bespectacled girl in a formal suit. She put out a hand.
"Good morning Sir, this is Tanushree, or Tanu for short. The Management has set up a development team here to manage the hospital forum, with me in charge. I will be reporting to you on a dotted line basis with a solid line to the CEO..."
The words droned on with the ample use of corporate parlance; what a way of putting things across... the Management of the hospital had setup this function without informing him, but then, they all had realized that he was functioning more or less like a robot after... He suddenly jerked awake at the mention of his Nidhi.
"First of all, I am sorry to hear about your loss, Sir...please accept my condolence..."
"Thank you" His reply was quite automatic.
Tanu continued, a formality having been taken care of.
"Dr Ashutosh, I have put forward a few rules of do's and dont's for the forum. First of all, bashing of anyone for whatever reason is not permitted. If you suspect bashing, then you can put a complaint to me or even the Management. Then comparison between two doctors is not permitted. It must be realized at this point that every doctor is an individual with his/her own style of treatment. Any queries are to be posted on the board there, wherein they will be answered in due course, and... spamming, i.e. getting in your own friends and relatives as patients to increase any particular doctor's value is not allowed. Anyone found to be doing so will be sacked without further notice...
Tanu's mobile trilled at the opportune moment and Ashutosh heaved a sigh of relief. His head was reeling with this sudden information...At least now let me go to my desk, he thought and started towards his cabin.
His cabin was the same as he had left it a few hours before. The files needing initialling were arranged neatly in a pile. He sank in the chair with a tired sigh and opened the first file for the day.
Smriti's file. A girl, age 8 years approx. He carefully went through the file and noticed a few things.
Smriti was apparently an orphan, who had strayed accidentally near to the site when the bomb exploded. On admission, she was able to recollect her name and nothing more. Nobody had enquired about her, despite the numerous posters and notices in the local newspapers as well as the police. She had a few days ago, remembered the name of the school she went to, and when the hospital authorities had checked further, they had found a school run by an NGO. The school had dutifully provided the girl's parents address and other residential details. After that, the trail ran cold. Apparently, the parents had perished in the blast...The NGO had requested for a waiver of the treatment charges, which the hospital had readily complied with.
"Ashutosh Uncle..." A small voice said at his elbow. He shook himself and turned around.
Dr Juhi stood with Smriti in tow.
"I was feeling bored and lonely..." Smriti began and Dr Juhi hastened to add, "Sir, if you don't mind..." her voice trailing with uncertainity.
"Ok, no problem...leave her with me" Ashutosh smiled wearily.
There was a long stretch of silence as Dr Juhi left and Smriti stood in the room indecisively as Ashutosh stared at the wall carrying Nidhi's garlanded photograph.
"Uncle, who is she?" Smriti's vision had automatically followed his preoccupation.
Ashutosh picked Smriti in his lap, "She is my titli...I have lost her somewhere, beta..."
"Why didn't you search for her?"
"I did, beta...Didn't find her anywhere..."
"Didn't you search in my school? You know what, whenever my doll gets lost, I go and ask my Principal, and she finds out for me for sure..."
Ashutosh smiled bitterly. If only the child knew the meaning of being lost forever? He chain of thoughts was interrupted by a tug at the sleeve by Smriti.
"Ashutosh Uncle, you know what...you just ask my Principal about your missing titli...she will know for sure. And she will search everywhere and find her for you!
Tears prickled his eyes as he hugged her close. Now this was getting too close for comfort. He had to distract her somehow.
"Ok, I will speak to your Principal...what's her name?"
"You like her? She is nice to you?"
"Yes, very much...you know, she can make Kundali of anyone!!"
"Kundali? What's that?"
"That's something you call horoscope...kiska shani kaisa hain, phir aur kaunsa grah bhari hai...She will make yours also, if you feel like..."
"Ok...I will ask her sometime later..." Ashutosh obviously had no intention of doing so, but he had to distract the little monster sitting in his lap. He changed the topic.
"Did you have your breakfast?" The girl shook her head.
"I don't like the food served here..."
"Then what is your favourite food? I will get that from the canteen..."
"OK Uncle, can you get me Mangoes? I just love them..." Smriti slurped her lips. Ashutosh rolled his eyes, 'Mangoes? In this season? Heaven help me!!' as the girl renewed her chant, 'Mangoes, Mangoes, Mangoes, Mangoes...' Dr Ashutosh reached for his intercom.
"Yes Sir..." A feminine voice answered.
"Dr Ashutosh here...May I know who is on the line?"
"Oh Sir this is Suvika here, how may I help you?" Ashutosh frowned, now that was really an unknown person. Generally the canteen intercom was answered by the canteen vendor, or one of the waiters. Who was this lady? New people, alien names... So much was happening in a single day. Was it something to do with his Kundali for the day?
"Hello Sir..." the receiver crackled to life once again as the person on the other end cleared her throat. Ashutosh refocused his attention to the task in hand.
"Ohh sorry, I just wanted to know whether you can arrange for some Mangoes? I know, that this is not the season, but there is a patient here, who won't eat anything other than those, so..."
"Not an issue, Sir...there is a new hybrid variety that has come in from Sri Lanka. I will get the fruit right away in your cabin now Sir...I am assuming the patient is there with you?"
"Ohh thank you so much Ms Suvika..."
"You are welcome Sir... Be there in a jiffy!!"
There was a knock on his cabin a few minutes later. The door opened to reveal a bespectacled woman of about 25, dressed in a formal suit and an apron, bearing the logo of a catering college.
"Good morning Sir...My name is Suvika, I am an intern here, from the catering college..."
"Ohh now I understand...since how long have you been here?" Ashutosh took the platter of the cut fruit and handed it over to Smriti, who started relishing it right away.
"I have been here since the last week, Sir..."
"Thank you, aunty..." The fruit was polished off in no time.
"You are welcome...Shall I get something for you also, Sir?"
"Oh No...but thanks for asking..." Smriti was now drawing something on a sheet of blank paper and Ashutosh turned his attention to the pending work on his desk. Suvika cleared her throat once again.
"What is it now?" There was a hint of irritation in his voice, "I don't want anything to eat or drink..."
"Not to eat or drink...Shall I get you some nice reading material?"
"Reading material?" Ashutosh's eyebrow shot up in a characteristic fashion, "So the canteen has started stocking film magazines and periodicals also?"
"Not that, Sir...I write stories, and would be honoured if you would read them..."
"Stories? I thought a person like you would write kitchen tips or cookery books..."
"Oh no Sir...writing is my hobby..." Suvika continued in her enthusiasm, "I write fiction..."
Her talk was interrupted by the sound of telephone ringing. It was Dr Ranganath, head of admin at the hospital.
"Sir, there is an emergency...there has been an accident nearby and a lot of casualities are expected, I am just alerting everyone..."
"Ok, coming over to the reception..." Ashutosh next called up Dr Juhi and handed over Smriti back to her, quoting the emergency, before rushing out to the casuality wing himself. And yes, true to what Dr Ranganath had alerted, the stream of injured people had started trickling in. The doctor in charge, Dr Anjani, was dressing up the injuries of a woman.
"Awww...it hurts..." the woman screamed as Dr Anjani applied some tincture Iodine to the wound.
"So, how did the accident happen?"
"How would I know? I was sitting in the bus...Ufff..." the woman whimpered.
"Was it the other bus which came from the opposite direction?"
"No idea..." Another whimper.
"Did you fall sideways or in the front?"
"Who was sitting next to you?"
"I have no idea, Dr..."
"Why didn't the driver apply brakes?"
"Dr I swear I don't know...I dozed off..."the patience was wearing thin; the wound had stopped hurting now. The woman looked around with the hope of escaping this doctor who had more questions than answers.
"What's happening here?" Ashutosh's voice cut through the din around.
"Dr Ashutosh, I think Dr Anjani has missed her profession. She should have been in CID...like Dr Tarika" Dr Ranganath winked at Dr Anjani, and hastened to add as Ashutosh's expression changed to something unprintable, "Dr Anjani, there are other patients also, would you please attend to them? And no questions...Ok?
"Oh Sure, Dr Ranganath..." Dr Anjani hurried away. Dr Ashutosh shook his head in sheer exasperation as his peripheral vision reported Dr Anjani grilling another casuality about the disaster. This one had seriously missed her profession.
"Dr Ranganath, let us see the wards..." Dr Ashutosh had seen another senior doctor, Dr Mehta walk-in the casuality. And it was better than witnessing Dr Anjani act like a supercop!!
The day passed on in a blur with the doctors on their toes. Fortunately the casualities were not much and the remaining patients were discharged after first aid.
"What next, Sir?"
"Well, let me get back to my desk, there are a lot of pending files..."
What an action packed day it had been! Ashutosh got back to his desk to the remaining files. The job these days was merely administrative, with supervisory capacities...The hospital management had clearly understood his limitations at this point of time and excused him from all surgeries. The only hitch was that someone was needed to maintain his schedule these days...
There was a knock on the door and a slim girl of about 25 peeped in.
"Yes, Aishwarya?" Aishwarya was his personal assistant, who had taken charge a week back.
"Sir, there was a call on your direct number an hour back..." She gestured to a small chit on his table, "the details are in there..."
Ashutosh looked at the chit. It read: Ms Alka Parmar, Principal, Little Angel's school. The same lady, according to little Smriti, who could find her lost dolls in a jiffy? Could she...? Subconsciously, his eyes strayed to the wall opposite: Where are you, Nidhi...
"Shall I get something for you, Sir?" He became painfully aware of the fact that Aishwarya had not left the room yet and was observing him carefully. He shrugged himself with the sole aim of distracting himself.
"Oh no thanks...can you please call Ms Parmar?"
"Sure, Sir..." Aishwarya's slim fingers were soon dialling the number. Ashutosh, in the meanwhile, stood up from his perch and casually strolled to the wall opposite, his mind miles away.
Ms Parmar...the Principal of the school where Smriti studied...with a penchant for searching for anything lost on this planet earth. If only...if only...could she search for his lost titli? He could hear Aishwarya connecting with Ms Parmar in the background and enquiring politely whether this was the right time to speak to her...then one odd word, in the smooth English conversation, caught his attention.
"What was that, Aishwarya? Which language was that?" He was curious as she handed over the receiver to him, saying that Ms Parmar was on the line. The rest of the conversation was quite mundane, with him appraising Ms Parmar of Smriti's progress and accepting an invitation to visit their school sometime.
"Any follow up, Sir?"
"What's my schedule tomorrow?"
"Tomorrow morning you have a board meeting in which the development team is giving a presentation, then you are going to have a visitor from the US..." Aishwarya consulted her diary, "and then nothing..."
"Okay then...just book my slot for tomorrow afternoon...I need to visit their school sometime..." Ashutosh disconnected the line and turned to her, "By the way, what was the language?"
Aishwarya smacked her forehead, "Sorry sir...it was a just a slip of tongue. Won't happen again...I apologize Sir...very remiss of me..."
Ashutosh waved her away, impatiently, "Forget it...I was just plain curious. What was that language? And what did you tell Ms Parmar?"
"Tamil, Sir...my mother tongue. I am BA in tamil, jisme English bhi shamil...Actually the two phrases meant 'is that so?' and 'Excuse me' and that's what I said to Ms Parmar..."
"Ok fine, Aishwarya...now, if you would please..." the curt dismissal was totally missed out by Aishwarya, who continued in her enthusiasm, "Sir, and you know what, I am teaching tamil here to all the staff, who-so-ever wants to learn...for 'are you doing fine?' you should say 'Soukiyama' and for saying I am fine, you should say "Nalla irrunkinge"...
"Perfectly, Ms Aishwarya...I will also join your class one day. But now, I have enough work, so if you would kindly leave me alone..."
"Ok Sir..." A suitably chastened Aishwarya left the cabin, mumbling under her breath, 'Heartstone...Phuut!!'
The day was done soon and the hospital was deadly quiet once again.
Ashutosh stretched his tired limbs and yawned. Today's day was one such day, fine he had started it on the wrong foot, people around him had given him unwanted and unsolicitated advice. Today was one of the few days when he just didn't have the time to sit down and stare at the wall bearing his titli's photograph...and for the first time he realized that he was famished.
"Oh what a pleasant surprise, Sir..." the canteen was usually empty at this time of the day, Dr Vidya, the gynaec resident was having dinner by herself when Ashutosh walked in for a quick bite.
"So how is the Ob-Gyn today?"
"Fine, sir...no new complications, the same C-sections and labour room scenes..." Dr Vidya paused for a sip of water, "And what about you, Sir? Not going home?"
"Yes, a few pending files and then..." Dr Ashutosh trailed off.
The drive back home was quite eventful!! He was driving at a slow pace when a girl driving a motorbike overtook him from the wrong side, and in an attempt overbalanced herself and landed on the road. Ashutosh, his expression murderous, parked his car and ran to the fallen girl. Maybe she needed some help?
"Take it easy...I am a doctor...does it hurt somewhere?"
"Oh No, I think I am quite fine..." the girl ignored his outstretched hand and tried to stand up.
"Fine, just take it easy...may I drop you home?"
"Oh not needed, Uncle..." The girl brushed herself and tried to gather her scattered belongings, when Ashutosh saw that her jeans had been torn on a knee. So maybe she had a scrapped knee?
"Hey...the jeans are torn..."
"Oh Uncle, that's cool...that's the in-thing these days. By the way, my name is Jyothi, and as I am so cool about anything, my friends call me Jyothi_cool..." Jyothi obviously was quite inert to the concerns of the middle aged surgeon, "And now, I am getting late for the night out..."
"Night out? You mean you are going to spend the night with your friends? And do your parents know?" Ashutosh finally found the place to vent his concern. "And the way you drive...do your parents know that too? Overtaking, driving in a zig-zag fashion, speeding, driving without helmet...I wonder how did you get your licence at all?" Ashutosh finally exhausted all his vocabulary and missed out on the part that the girl was staring at him with her eyes wide open.
"Hey...please continue... you look so sweet when you talk like that...one eyebrow raised. Awesome part ... please continue..."
Ashutosh shook his head in exasperation and continued his journey back home. What had the world come to? The girl obviously had no shame...
The next day dawned as usual, with the hustle-bustle of clogged traffic and honking scenes. Ashutosh was well within time for the presentation from the development team. And soon the other invitees came in.
"Good morning Dr Ashutosh..." Tanu extended her hand for a handshake. Another girl stood behind her.
"Dr Ashutosh, meet my colleague Deepa...she prepares the presentations for me. She is very good at preparing powerpoints and also Vms...
"Vms? What are they?" Ashutosh was genuinely confused.
"Ohh something like a video movie, you can have a video snippet running with another background score, or even two...makes a good viewing, Sir" Deepa volunteered the information.
"Good...good...Can you make something that the children here will enjoy?"
"Ok Sir...after office hours, I will make something for the children..." Deepa was genuinely glad to be able to help.
The meeting went on further without a hitch and soon it was time for a small snack break. Deepa picked up her cup and approached Ashutosh, who was lost in his own world again.
"Hmmm?" Ashutosh jerked up to reality.
"Shall I get something for you?"
"Some tea or coffee? Or better, shall I make a Vm for you?"
"For me? I..I don't understand..."
"Yes, Sir...something that will cheer you up?"
"No thanks...you better concentrate on your job here. And you don't have to think about my grief: that's my personal domain. Do you understand?"
The words, uttered in the heartstone no-nonsense manner, chilled Deepa to the bone. She retraced herself immediately. The rest of meeting was wrapped up in no time.
Dr Ashutosh was lost in his thoughts as he walked back to his cabin. What was wrong with him? Was he going back to his old days? That girl, Deepa had only tried to cheer him up, right? Then why had he hyperreacted?
A block away, Tanu was also walking down the corridor to her cabin when she saw a couple of girls giggling in the waiting area of the OPD. Something was bothering her, she frowned as she entered her own cabin. Then it struck her.
Of course, the girls were familiar. They had been seen yesterday also.
Even today, they were there since early morning. Was the doctor not in or something else was the problem? She decided to investigate a little and walked back to the waiting area.
"Good morning Ma'm..."
"I have seen you waiting here since yesterday...may I help you? Is the Doctor not there or something?"
"Oh no Ma'm, we are taking turns to see the doctor...he is so handsome and dashing..."
Now this was unheard of. What were the girls talking about?
"OK...may I know your names please?"
"I am Sukirti and she is my best friend Deepali..."
"OK, nice to meet you. But then if your appointments are done, can the doctor see some other patients?" It was time to be a little curt.
"But there won't be any other patients, Ma'm...we booked his entire morning slot!!"
"Now that's spamming and it is illegal!!"
"What's that and how is it illegal, Ma'm? The hospital continues to earn the revenue as usual! And we get to ogle at the doctor..." Sukirti high fived her friend, "You know what, Deepali...you rock!!"
Tanu walked away in disgust. Of course, the development team had made the rules, but then implementation of those was a far cry...
Late afternoon found Ashutosh driving to Smriti's school to meet Ms Alka Parmar. He had mentally conjured up the vision of a portly middle aged woman, heavily spectacled, who would blank out the sight of a chair easily once seated.
Contrary to his expectation, Ms Parmar was a young woman who took to shayari and horoscopes to kill her time. Obviously she had plenty of it that way.
"Welcome, Welcome Dr Ashutosh...how is our Smriti doing?"
"She is improving day by day...severely traumatized. Any sign of her parents?"
"Yes, they have been admitted to a nearby hospital, and are expected to be here any moment..."
"Oh, that's nice...how is it that they never tried to trace their daughter so far?"
Ms Parmar looked acutely embarrassed, "Actually I asked them the same question. It seems all these days they were in some sort of daze and the treatment cost can be quite prohibitive, so..."
"Yes, I understand their problem...you see, my hospital waved off the charges for Smriti..."
"We would be eternally grateful to you for that..." A voice spoke from the door behind him. He whirled around to see a middle aged couple; the man was in crutches and his wife's arm was enclosed in some kind of sling. They hobbled slowly in the room and Ashutosh fetched a pair of chairs for them.
"All this is...because of the blast?" He asked after a while. The couple nodded, with their eyes downcast.
"So you see, Dr Ashutosh, so many days, we were not in a fit condition to follow up on our daughter, plus the medical expenses literally sky-rocketted...and we asked Ms Parmar to request for a waiver. Somewhere, we were stupid enough to fear that if we came to check on our daughter, the waiver would be gone..."
Ashutosh couldn't believe his ears. How could they...?
"Anyways, I am much better now, and we would like to take our daughter home..." The couple stood up slowly. Ashutosh felt glad that Smriti was going home to her parents, and yet another feeling took root: what about him? Wouldn't he miss her? ...
"Dr Ashutosh, would you like to see the school?" Ms Parmar sought to distract him.
"This way..." She led him to a small playground, wherein a game of the blind man's bluff was in full swing. Little children of all ages ran helter-skelter around a blind-folded woman, tugging at her dupatta, poking her, calling her and then running away when she reached out to catch them.
Ashutosh stood still. He couldn't just believe his eyes.
The blind-folded woman was Nidhi.
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