This short story is selected as Story of the Month September’2012 and won INR 1000 (US $20)
This short story became SPIXer (Most popular story) on 20 Oct 2012 and won INR 500 (US$ 10)
Editor’s Choice: Short Story Love Hate – A taste of hateful love pudding
I was woken by the incessant ringing of my room’s intercom. For a moment, I was completely disoriented as to where I was or what time it was. I struggled to open my eyes which were forcing me to shut them, and somehow managed to pick up the receiver.
“Hullo?” I asked groggily. I was very exhausted as I had had a very long and tiring day. I had finally crashed on the bed at 2 am in the night after attending an emergency.
“Dr.Avani, anaesthetist on call?”
“We have an emergency surgery in OT 2. A sixteen year old accident victim with multiple injuries…”
By now I was fully oriented. I disconnected the call, quickly changed my clothes, grabbed my bag and stethoscope and dashed down the stairs of the hospital building.
The emergency room was in chaos. A young sixteen year old girl lay unconscious on a stretcher, her clothes stained with blood. She was having difficulty in breathing. Mohit, the surgery resident, was already there, making arrangements for blood. I immediately took over and we started resuscitating the patient. After about half an hour of stabilization, we shifted her to the operation theatre. The sister was ready with the operating trolley. I administered anaesthesia and the surgery began. I looked over at Mohit. He was fully concentrating on his surgery.
Mohit was my enemy. From the day I had joined this hospital as a resident in anaesthesia, sparks had flown between us. The usual bone of contention between us was patient fitness. Once I had remarked a piles patient unfit for surgery as his haemoglobin was only 6. But next day, that patient got operated as Mohit had converted the ‘6’ to ‘16’. My senior scolded me for not reading the report properly.
I swore to take revenge and soon got an opportunity to do so. I hid the cardiology fitness report of one of his patients posted for a major stomach surgery. He got a sound firing from his boss for the same, as no cardiology fitness meant no surgery. I remember the look on Mohit’s face that day. From then onwards, we never let go of a single opportunity to let the other down. It was like a cold war. To my great dismay, when my posting changed to one of the peripheral hospitals, Mohit too was rotated there. Here we had to tolerate each other more often as only few of us were posted here.
I watched as Mohit’s hands skillfully moved as they operated upon the young girl. For a second year resident, Mohit was doing a really good job. The young girl had been in a road traffic accident. She had multiple fractures and had injured her intestines as well. Had she been brought a little late, she could have been dead by now. I looked at the face of the unconscious girl. She was fair, beautiful, with brown hair and long black eye lashes. I felt bad for her. Wherever she had been headed to, she must have had no idea she would end up here, in this condition.
“She is beautiful, isn’t she?” the nurse assisting Mohit asked me, seeing me looking at her.
“Yes” I replied. Mohit looked over at her face and nodded at the nurse, and then for a split second, our eyes met. But today, there was no hatred in his eyes, no craving for a revenge. His eyes told me only one thing : we needed to save this girl, come what may!
After the surgery, the girl was shifted to a ventilator. But as there was no ICU facility here, we needed to monitor her round the clock. As I and Mohit came out of the operating room, the girl’s teary eyed mother rushed to us.
“Please save my daughter” she pleaded, her voice choking with tears.
“It was Geeta’s sixteenth birthday today. We were all going out to have dinner at her favourite restaurant, when a speeding car knocked her and her brother down” she said, and broke into a fresh bout of crying.
Mohit looked at me, not knowing what to do. I took her mother’s hands in mine, and reassured, “She will be fine, we will try our best. Have faith in God”.
I wiped my tears as I and Mohit headed towards the room where Geeta was kept. Geeta lay there, unconscious. It was very silent and the only sound was the eerie beep beep of the monitor. I and Mohit sat down on the chairs beside the bed. I glanced at my watch. It was 4:30 am. I rested my head on the wall and closed my eyes.
“Coffee?” Mohit asked me. I opened my eyes to see Mohit holding two steaming cups of coffee. I badly needed one.
“Thanks” I said as I took the coffee. One sip sent an electric current through my exhausted body.
We sat in silence sipping our coffees, not knowing what to say to each other.
“Where is her brother?” I asked Mohit.
“He is admitted to Global Hospital. He is in a really bad shape, has head injury” Mohit said.
“So bad”, I said, “No one would ever wish something like this to happen even with their enemy” I pondered.
“That means you won’t wish it for me?” Mohit asked.
I looked at him, startled at his question. There was a mocking smile on his tired face.
“Of course not” I replied agitated. He just smiled.
“I know you really hate me”, he said, now seriously, staring at nothing.
“It’s not that, hate is not the appropriate word, it’s just that, we have difference of opinions” I said, trying to handle the situation. My exhausted brain could not come up with anything better.
“You remember that piles patient?” he asked.
“ Haemoglobin 16?” How could I forget that.
“Yes”, he nodded. He carried his cup and went to stand by the small window which overlooked the entrance of the hospital.
“He was from a very poor family. He had his daughter’s wedding slated within a fortnight. He could not afford to stay in the hospital for more days. He cried the previous night to get operated and return home. That’s why I did so. I had no intention of getting you fired or letting you down. I just did that on humanitarian grounds”. He looked at me.
“But Mohit, you know it is risky to operate a patient whose hemoglobin level is so less. We also know patients have problems, but that doesn’t give you the right to bend the protocols”, I said.
“You are right. Had it been any other surgery, I wouldn’t have done that. But piles surgery is such a minor surgery. See, you went by ethics and I went by morals. I think a good doctor should be able to balance both, ethics and morals.”
I sat in silence. I realized the truth in what he was trying to tell me.
“The other day, that patient whose cardiology report went missing…” I said a bit guiltily. Now it was my turn to confess.
“Yes…how can I forget that patient?” Mohit smiled.
“I am sorry for that. But I was really angry because I got a firing because of you, for no mistake of mine. I wanted to get back at you. I am really sorry”.
Mohit waved his hand. “Don’t be sorry to me. I am used to getting fired from my boss. I was angry because the patient paid for your silly prank. His surgery was postponed unnecessarily”.
“No, that patient was not going to get operated that day anyway” I said. “I had confirmed with the ICU resident. No bed was available for him that day”.
Mohit smiled. “So now we are even” he said.
“I guess” I said. We smiled at each other. This was the first time we were smiling at each other genuinely, without any mockery or sarcasm.
Just then, the beep beep of the monitor increased in intensity. I and Mohit got startled. We rushed to Geeta’s side. Her heart rate was increasing, she was moving her hands and legs. I immediately administered the necessary medications as Mohit watched and waited with bated breath as Geeta gradually calmed down and was peaceful again.
We again took our positions on the chairs by the bedside.
“I have always wanted to ask you something” Mohit said.
I looked at him questioningly. “What do you carry in that small bag of yours?”
I smiled. “You know what? You should never ask a lady her age and the contents of her purse”.
“Good morning” we were interrupted by Mohit’s colleague, Sujay. “I am here to relieve you. You can both go and catch up on your sleeps.” He announced.
It was a Sunday, so we did not have routine surgeries that day. I and Mohit explained everything about Geeta’s case. My reliever, Disha also arrived by then.
I and Mohit headed to the canteen to have breakfast.
“Geeta should recover” Mohit said, more to himself.
Right from the beginning, I had sensed that something was on Mohit’s mind. Being a surgery resident, he must have attended to hundreds of such accident victims, but in this case, he seemed somehow…emotionally involved.
“I hope her brother recovers too” I said.
We quickly finished breakfast and headed to our respective rooms to catch up on some sleep. I don’t know about Mohit, but it was now almost more than twenty six hours that I had been awake, and my brain was now becoming hazy.
When I woke up, I woke up from such a deep slumber that I was confused whether it was day or night. Then I recalled the previous night’s events. I took out my mobile to check the time. It was 5 in the evening. To my surprise, there was a message from Mohit. I am going to the wards. Give me a missed call when you go to the canteen, it said. I checked the time. It had been sent an hour ago. I quickly freshened up and headed to the canteen. I gave Mohit a missed call on my way.
Mohit came within five minutes.
“God, you sleep like a baby” he exclaimed.
“It was a two day’s sleep” I said, smiling.
We ordered some snacks as the lunch time was now over.
“So where were we?”he asked.
“Where means?” I asked, confused.
“Ah, yes. Your age and contents of your purse”, he said with a teasing smile.
I shook my head. “So you won’t give up. Now age, that’s a top secret. My bag contains many things…but I will tell you the most important content. I always carry a novel as I am a book addict” I said.
“Hey, wow, I myself am an ardent fan of novels”, he said. “So what are you reading now?”
“Doctors, by Erich Sehgal” I replied enthusiastically, happy that someone was as interested in reading as me. “What are you reading?”
“Now – a – days I hardly get any time, but still, I squeeze time to read ‘Clarissa’ by Samuel Richardson”.
“Wow, that’s a long novel” I exclaimed.
“So who is your favourite author?” he asked me.
“Many to list and count”, I said, “Robin Cook, Mary Higgins Clark, Sandra Brown, Sidney Sheldon, Harlen Coben…”
“Okay, so you love to read mysteries…” he said.
“Yes…I love the thrill of the read…who are your favourites?”
“I love to read English classics; Shakespeare, Jane Austin, Charles Dickens, Emily Bronte…”
“So you love reading romantic novels” I contemplated.
“Yes, romantic, but pure, not erotic ones” he clarified. I laughed.
“I also love Shakespeare’s works” I said. “I would have loved to become a writer like him, some day. But alas…
For you and I are past our dancing days” I said, reciting a line from
Romeo and Juliet.
Mohit laughed. We left together to check on Geeta’s condition.
Geeta was better now. Her heart rate and blood pressure had stabilized. The bleeding from her stomach wound had stopped. She had started taking a few breaths of her own. She had opened her eyes once or twice, but the painkiller sedating drugs kept her sleeping. We relieved Sujay and Disha and took our seats near Geeta’s bed.
Now I was very comfortable in Mohit’s company. We spoke a lot, about our childhoods, our families, our dreams, our aspirations, movies, favourite songs, friends…everything under the sun. We did not realize how time flew by, and it was nearly 11:30 when Sujay and Disha returned to relieve us.
The canteen was now closed. Now we both were hungry.
“I can make us some Maggie” I offered.
“Okay” Mohit said and we went to my room. I quickly made Maggie on my hotplate while Mohit sat on the chair in my room, going through my collection of novels.
“You can start a library” he said, as I handed him his plate.
We ate hot steaming Maggie at mid night and it tasted too yummy, like never before. Whether it was because we were so hungry, or because of the night time or because of the company, I have no idea.
As Mohit got up to leave, I said “Good night”. Mohit turned dramatically around, and in a heavy English accent, said, “Good night, good night, Parting is such sweet sorrow, that I shall say good night till it be morrow”.
I laughed at his appropriate recital of one more classic line from Romeo and Juliet. I had certainly met a different Mohit today, unlike the one I had known till now, I thought as I drifted to sleep.
Next day morning, I went to see Geeta. Mohit was already there. A look at him told me that something was wrong. I looked at him questioningly, but he avoided my gaze. Geeta was now wide awake, breathing fine. So I and Mohit removed her breathing tube. Geeta got wild bouts of cough which gradually subsided. She smiled weakly at us.
“How are you feeling Geeta? Better?” Mohit asked, placing a hand on her forehead.
Geeta nodded. We ushered her parents inside. I was pleased to see their happy reunion. I and Mohit stepped out of the room to give them some family time. Mohit still wore the grave expression.
“What happened?” I asked.
“Her brother expired” he said, looking away. I was shocked to hear this. I didn’t know what to say.
Moments later, Geeta’s mother came out, tears streaming down her face. “She is asking for her brother. What do I tell her?” and she began to cry. I stepped forward to console her, but to my amazement, Mohit stepped forwards, took her hand in his and said, “From today, I am her elder brother”. I left the place, too overwhelmed with emotion to react.
That evening, I went to the terrace of the hospital building. I stood there, watching the traffic rush on the roads below. Moments later, Mohit came and stood beside me. We remained silent, watching the road below, for God knows how much time.
“Five years back, I had a fight with my younger sister, Pihu,” Mohit said, “She left the house to go to her friends place in a huff. That was when she was hit by a speeding biker, who didn’t even care to take her to the hospital and fled away. She lay there, in a pool of blood for God knows how many hours. She was dead when she was brought to the hospital. I, being her elder brother, couldn’t protect her, couldn’t do anything to save her. I didn’t even get a chance to say good bye.”
He wiped the tears that were brimming on his eyes. “From that day I swore to myself, no one would die such death. When Geeta was brought to the hospital, I saw Pihu in her…”
I said nothing. I allowed Mohit to vent his feelings. I felt sad for him. I now realized why Mohit had been so emotionally attached to her. This also explained his unusually humanitarian approach towards all people in general. Now that the blind fold of hatred was drawn away from my eyes, I was seeing different aspects of Mohit’s personality.
With time, Geeta gradually recovered. She got operated for her fractures. Mohit stood by her family just like her brother would have done, and I felt proud of him. Mohit and my friendship went on becoming stronger by the day. We shared everything with each other, even things we had not shared with anyone else, like our first love and break-ups. It was weird how similarly we had been dumped by our previous lovers. Or was it destiny? I don’t know.
Two months later, our posting changed. I got posted in the main hospital while Mohit was rotated to another peripheral hospital. That was when I began realizing how much I missed him. I would constantly think of him, the times we had spent together, the jokes we had shared, the canteen lunches and dinners we had enjoyed and the secrets we had shared on the terrace, under the moonlit skies. But I had no idea what he felt for me.
One day, he messaged me. It was a Romeo Juliet quote. ‘Is love a tender thing? It is too rough, too rude, too boisterous; and it pricks like thorn’.
I smiled to myself. ‘My only love sprung from my only hate; too early unknown and known too late’. I replied.
I waited with baited breath. ‘I love you’ came his reply. I felt my cheeks blushing as another sms came. ‘I swear by the moon J’
‘O, swear not by the moon, the fickle moon, the inconstant moon, that monthly changes in her circle orb, lest that thy love prove likewise variable.’ I wrote back.
‘I will love you till death does us apart’…this is a quote not from Romeo Juliet, but from Mohit Avani.