The train reached Vizag . It was 7am and the weather was cool .The child was fast asleep. Raju’s father and mother and a doctor and nurse from the nursing home were already at the railway station in two cars along with an ambulance. Ragini gently lifted the girl into her arms, brought her out and immediately transferred her to the ambulance. She sat with the nurse in the ambulance and looked very dejected, sleepless and sorrowful.
In the nursing home the girl was provided a very nice cool and spacious room of extreme neatness and subdued lighting. She was put in the intensive care section under the care of an expert doctor. After preliminary testing and medication Ragini was permitted to be present there along with the nurse. Her health was being monitored throughout the night. The room was lighted only by a low power bulb except when the doctors came. The doctor specially told them that there should be no bright lights in the room.Her physical condition did not cause any anxiety and it was only her mental state that required close monitoring for two or three days. The heavy green curtains were kept fully drawn to avoid any bright light. The air conditioner was on.
The sedated girl’s mind was full of images of her parents and other near and dear persons of Chennai of the times before the tsunami. Unless those images fade and disappear altogether in course of time her mind would not accept the new people of Vizag ,even Ragini. With this aim in view entry of new people into her rooms was entirely prohibited. The doctors and nurses came in only when she was in sedated condition and in deep sleep. Ragini was there at her bed side day and night keeping her protective hand on the girl.
It was really surprising that an orphan girl on verge of death could be rescued by a rich kind-hearted couple. Now she had so many people worrying about her health. Some philosophers would say that it is a reward for good deeds of earlier births! There was great sympathy and silent prayers in every heart. The other patients too prayed for her quick recovery. Two or three specialists examined her. A nurse was present round the clock. The director of nursing home arranged for continuous monitoring almost every one or two hours by a doctor .Ragini forgot the outer world and spent every moment at the side of the little girl in the dully lit silent room. There was still no guarantee that the girl would accept Ragini as her mother, forget her parents and other people of the times before the tsunami and would lead a normal life without becoming a mental and psychological wreck.
Luckily after about two weeks the girl showed a lot of improvement and started remaining in conscious state for longer periods. She was still like a vegetable, unable to speak, unable to recognize any person, unable to know how she came among new people. She looked at the surroundings with a vacant look. When she was awake she was deliberately kept in a very drowsy sleepy state. When she wanted anything she only mumbled something or cried weakly with a frightened confused look.
The chief doctor put her under close observation for many days and got her examined by some specialists . After two weeks of remaining in the nursing home the doctor declared that she can safely be taken home and that her recovery would be quicker in home environment than at the hospital . The chief doctor of the nursing home repeated much the same thing as the Chennai doctor said to Raju . He said that the child had a healthy and strong body and would recover quickly in the physical aspect. But she required a mother’s affection every minute. The doctor said that quick recovery depended on level of affection showered on the girl by Ragini . Ragini the new mother should be able to make the girl believe that she was same as her mother of the time before the tsunami.He said that the monitoring by specialists would go on even after shifting to house and that there would be keen monitoring. A little phone call would be enough in case of any difficulty and anxiety .But above all things, the chief doctor said, the girl required mother’s affection and a very loving atmosphere for two or three years.
Just before the girl was to be shifted Raju discussed at length with his father the arrangements to be made at the house. He requested his father to ready a calm and isolated part in the house ( —it should also be a neat and beautiful place—) for the girl to recuperate. Raju requested that the big rooms opening on to the back garden be emptied of all furniture keeping only the bed and sofas and a small table with a flower vase. Only soft hued curtains should be provided and there should be only soft lighting. No loud talking ,no loud music and no TV. Ragini and Raju painfully agreed that even six year old son Raghu their little son would not be allowed in to the girl’s rooms for a few weeks.All agreed that Ragini’s should be the only face the girl should see for a few weeks,the psychological state of the girl being so delicate.
After all this planning the girl was shifted to the home environment while under sedation .Her rooms were made up in a very simple way as in the hospital with low light and green curtains. There was a rose garden outside and cool breeze. Everything was utterly silent. The only sounds were the chirping of birds or the soft rustling sounds made by air passing through the branches of trees. The area was also far from noise of crowded roads.The girl was beginning to remain awake a little longer than before i.e. just for a few moments more. While awake she took a little food from the hands of Ragini treating her like an attendant employed by her mother of the time before the tsunami. She perhaps thought childishly that her real mother was sitting in the next room watching TV or busy with house work and would come in a few moments ! Children have many ingenious ways of shutting out from their brains the thoughts that they dislike.
In the few minutes she was awake the girl observed that Ragini always sat beside her silently with a sad face and a sad smile. The girl also observed that Ragini was also dressed fashionably in silks and wore gold and looked gorgeous like her mother of the time before the tsunami and also often wept like her mother. She developed great “belief” in Ragini and when the latter attended on her and gave her food , milk or fruits she did not object. Ragini looked very much like her real mother and would hug her and shower kisses on her and lift her in her arms. At such times the child would stare at Ragini and had a seed of a doubt whether she was her “real mother” ( i.e. mother of time before the tsunami) only changed by god.
But suddenly the frightening scenes of the tsunami would rush through her brain at violent speed and she would tremble like a leaf unable even to sit and would put her arms around Ragini . She wore a confused look at seeing new people and a new house with new rooms and would feel still more frightened. After taking the syrupy medicines and after being patted and kissed she would lose her fear a little. If you could manage to “enter” the brain of the girl you can know that she was inventing a story. She imagined that her “real mother” had fever and went to a doctor “to take injections” and that Ragini was an attendant kept in the house to take care of her ! But the girl having lost her power of speech could not express her innermost thoughts and would soon fall asleep unable to bear the burden of her thoughts.
With the great all round care both from doctors and her “new mother” she was showing much improvement. There were less and less occasions when she cried remembering her lost Chennai parents. Sometimes she would wake up from sleep and while lying in bed cry loudly waving her hands and beating her legs. At such times Ragini would pat her, give the required sedative medicine and gently put her to sleep. The girl started treating Ragini as a very good friendly nurse and wanted to have her by her bed side always.
Even many weeks after her arrival in the house relatives and friends were not permitted into her rooms as per request of Raju and Ragini. The little queen as delicate as a flower has to first entirely forget the horrors of the tsunami and memories of her lost parents. Everybody among relatives and friends who heard her story felt a great pain in their hearts and wished for her speedy recovery.
But the sad thing was that though she was recovering the girl appeared to have lost not only her speech but also hearing. She looked stone faced .Her looks were vacant and there was no trace of smile on her lips. The girl became extremely dependent on Ragini her only connection to the new world. She would go to Ragini without hesitation treating her as her nurse. She would cry if Ragini was not at her side even for a minute.
Let us hereafter call the girl as “Queen” till we learn her real name from her own lips later! The feeling grew stronger in her mind day by day — that Ragini might be her real mother of time before the tsunami slightly changed by the good gods. The girl’s vacant looks were too much for Ragini to bear. The girl would always hold a toy tightly in hand as a mental crutch and looked vacantly around. Ragini was ready to accept the girl even in that state as a precious gift from god. She was ready for any option—whether the girl recovered fully or remained a mental wreck and led a vegetable like existence . It was enough if the girl remained alive.Only at the times when the girl was asleep under sedation Raju would enter the girl’s rooms to have a chat with his wife. He felt much concerned about his wife’s health as she was over-straining herself .He would request her to take a little more care about her personal health. He told Ragini that the specialist doctor informed him that the girl was improving fast. The medicines should induce her brain to erase entirely old memories of the time before the tsunami.
However still the sad fact was that the girl did not know that a person called Raju (her would be father for rest of her life) ever existed on this earth! She did not see Raju so far! The girl saw nobody except Ragini in her woken hours and lived completely alone (but for Ragini)in a calm sedated condition in the dull light of the room. She saw only the lawn, the trees and the chirping birds in the cool morning and early evening hours.
The doctors opined that none except Ragini should come before the girl till a few weeks so that her slowly cooling mind is not subjected to new disturbances in the period of her mental and psychological recuperation. Her mental health was still extremely sensitive and not out of danger .Raju wanted the girl first to come out of her traumatic state and to recover fully . He and his wife already in their hearts most strongly and most emotionally accepted the little girl as their own daughter and were ready to sacrifice their lives to bring the girl to normal health .it appeared as if the traumatized girl was surviving by tightly holding on to the lifeline thrown by her “new mother “. However all in the house and relatives were happy and relieved to learn that the life of the little queen was out of danger and that she was on the path of recovery.All realized that the happiness of Raju and Ragini would be great if the girl fully accepted them as her parents .The entire house fell into a new routine soon after the queen arrived in the house. Little Raghu (six year old son of Raju ) was still not told who the little queen was and where she came from. He was permitted into the queen’s room only when she was in sedation- induced deep sleep. The boy jumped for joy on seeing such a charming little sister. He would ask his mother to first attend to his sister and complete all the work relating to her and then only to attend to him. His sister should bathe first, should dress first, should have her glass of milk first and should also be kissed first!
In such a loving atmosphere the health of the girl showed further improvement. The vacant looks of the queen were fast disappearing. It was a most delicate situation. The girl was generally only half awake and was not capable of recognizing anybody or anything. When she was awake the only person permitted near her was Ragini. If Ragini moved even an inch away from her or removed her loving hand from her the little girl would cry. The girl became attached so much to Ragini. After the girl’s health showed further improvement little Raghu was permitted to sit for some time beside her. Ragini’s teacher friends started visiting with their children. The queen watched the little children with wide open eyes and greatly enjoyed the noisy visits .Some children kissed her and some just touched her cheeks .Sometimes a little smile would flash on the queen’s face but disappeared soon and there was a vacant look. The child was unable to understand how she came into the new surroundings. She was coming to the conclusion that Ragini was after all her mother. Her eyes showed a new brightness and her face expressed a new intelligent , happy and satisfied look.
The all pervading affection of Ragini and her sad prayerful face worked wonders in improving the health of the girl as much as the medicines. The girl would cling to her new mother as she clung to her mother of the time before the tsunami. She would make a few mumbling sounds when she was hungry or wanted a walk in the garden. When she pouted beautifully Ragini was unable to understand her thoughts and would only smile. That little philosophic smile on the face of Ragini was enough reply for the girl. But the vacant looks persisted. Such vacant looks perhaps were indicative of her lingering doubts and her searching for a further confirmation that Ragini was her mother!Seeing the general improvement in the girl’s health Ragini once took her by car to her parent’s house which was three kilometers away. Her parents wept on seeing the beautiful child with vacant looks and their equally sad looking daughter .As the lean and sad faced Ragini sat with the girl in the front room or walked in the garden under the trees the parents felt very sad.
Ragini at another time took her to houses of her friends who were living nearby. There the girl having still the same vacant looks would walk through the drawing rooms, kitchens, dining rooms etc with her “mother” on her side. The women felt very sorry when they learned how the little queen was rescued from the tsunami days. They saw how pitiable her state still remained and would caress her and pat her on the cheeks. Seeing those fashionable,loving and beautiful women an intelligent questioning look flashed in the girl’s eyes. She enjoyed the noise and laughter and the running and tumbling of the little children. All this put a new light into her eyes.
She would silently look at the colorful toy- cars and toy-airplanes , the colorful soft rubber models of Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck, the little tricycles, the painted wooden horses etc in the houses she visited. At such times she remembered the toys in the houses of her friends of the time before the tsunami! The fritz in every house full of jams and cakes and fruits, the color TV showing Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck were just like those in her Chennai home of the times before the tsunami !Still the girl only half accepted Ragini. Raghu was angry that the little girl was still not talking to him. His parents would give him chocolates and kiss him and pacifying him assuring that soon the girl would talk and play with him.
(To be continued)