Have you noticed that all hospitals have a mould?
Not as fixed as cookie-cutters, in exact shapes and dimensions, but moulds that give structure, functionality, and strength. I am old, and I have been to many of them, and let me tell you something. When you get old, your memory tends to fail, yes, and you can’t really hear much. Ever so often, you feel there isn’t really much you can do by yourself, for yourself. You shuffle along, and you try to keep up. You don’t understand a lot of things, and occasionally, you don’t seem to be making much sense either. Not to mention the ever present nostalgia, and the yearning for the good times that are now long gone.
I know all this, because I feel all this.
If you are ever in a hospital, you will notice two types of people. The ones that are healthy, and the ones that aren’t. The healthy – they are always easy to spot. Signs of disease, or more accurately, the lack thereof, can be made out. It’s like a survival instinct, a primitive assessment. These are the people that are faring far better than you, and your senile brain registers that quickly enough. It also reminds you there is nothing you can do about it.
Another thing you notice about old people is how they ramble. Like me, talking about the workings of my brain, while I must actually be talking about the ways of the heart, and forgetting entirely about the cookie-cutters.
When you bake cookies, there’s the standard ingredients you add – the flour, the butter, the eggs – the things that make cookies cookies. You can also add a million other flavours alone or in combination, and they are nice too. Every hospital has a set of people that walk in and out the doors everyday – the flour, butter and eggs – the old, the young, and the women with child. Everybody else is basically chocolate chips and raisins – hospitals can do without.
While you’re a part of the essentials, you become one of many. I have walked into hospitals for harmless hernia surgeries and I have been brought in on stretchers when I wasn’t able to breathe. Had needles pricked and catheters placed, have been in pain over and over again. You would think that the first time is the worst, and the pain might settle as the years pass, but it’s the kind that always there, in the back of your head, in the crook of your elbow, in the hollows of your chest.
I taught my children to hold my fingers and walk, and now they hold on to me. There isn’t much to be around for, but how do you tell them you want to leave? The heart has its strings and these are more often than not twisted around the fingers of your child, and their children, and then, how do you let go?
You hold on, to every single beat, to every ragged breath.
PSG Institute of Medical Sciences and Research, Coimbatore