DG was diagnosed with cancer of the stomach three years ago. Post surgery he was fine until the tumour blocked his colon and the doctor said he could do nothing. For the last six months he has been in and out of hospitals . In the intervening periods he attended office , driving over six kilometres either way, in a desperate attempt to maintain a semblance of normalcy.
He ran away from hospital the day before the pujas started - on Panchami because he was afraid he would die over the Pujas in hospital- in an alien place without his family near him. People yelled at him , scared that he would indeed die and spoil the festivities for them . Back home he went to the market with his wife and stocked up on food . Mind you, he could not eat and had passed neither urine nor stool for around 15 days .But he was desperate to be with his wife and ten year old daughter . I ask you, was it a bad thing ?
The doctor told him he had just a week to live . He lay in bed and drank cold water with sugar candy in it and waited for death to claim him . The water trickled past his mouth and gagging he threw it up. His wife gave him cold thin soups which, too , he threw up . He tried the water and sugar candy again and and found that if the solution was thin enough it would trickle past whatever blocked his throat and go somewhere into his wasted body .
The apartment which he bought recently ,has three bedrooms and a huge living area . Restless he totters from room to room trying to find a way out of the terrible agony he is doomed to live with, till death- who insists on playing truant now, claims him - the red plastic bucket into which he throws up, a constant companion.
He likes the bedroom facing the south - there are a couple of mango trees where birds start their songs before the sun rises . The red curtains which screen the window reminds him of the evening he took his wife and child shopping to New Market. So many memories bubble and froth like the vomit that inches out of his mouth and sometimes shoots out in a trajectory .He tells me he does not know what sins he has committed - perhaps it is karma .
For the time being he is folded up on the bed , his six foot frame like a paper cutout , entirely one dimensional, groaning continuously, refusing to go to hospital, waiting to die , a man without food and water , with the cancer having spread to every conceivable part of his body.
It is a macabre scenario, this waiting for merciful death to release him , that has played for the last 30 days now- the doctor's prophesy of 7 days having stretched this far.
He refuses the comfort of any medicine to alleviate his pain , he refuses saline and will not have any more needles stuck into what remains of his body .Even the doctors are baffled and irritated at his refusal to die . He does not want to talk much, even less to listen.
There is a wife - protected and sheltered for so long by her husband that till a month ago she was unaware of how to go about writing a cheque .
There is a little girl, tall for her age . She flits in and out of the living room , into her father's room and back again She switches on the television, pirouettes and demands to know whether she is looking nice in her white chikan kurta and salwar. She settles down at the dining table with paper and pastels , seemingly unconcerned .
Suddenly she turns and says to us conversationally " I told Ma to wear all the nice sarees which Baba had bought for her for the pujas. He's going to die soon you know . Then we shall all have to wear only white clothes."