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Escape to Bangalore
Dhruva Saikia

A self-deemed great man wholeheartedly sets off a horde of repelling nuisance for his near and dear ones, especially when death approaches this privileged but unfulfilled one.       

Death is inevitable. A natural death is indeed natural. But when you see in death-bed a person of Mr. Barua’s class you can’t help wondering if old age is also at times unexpected.

A wonderful person is Mr. Barua, mostly to his family and friends, neighbours and relations, colleagues and juniors in the Indian office where he worked his whole life. Barua is smart, handsome, and elegant. That is essentially the first thing to be said about this seventy year old youngman in a corporate hospital for a week now. Then he loves to be complimented as a gifted sportsman, a notable connoisseur of art and culture and a prominent person with an easy access to power and gaiety. Of course the seventy year old man has had his admirers and they extol him consistently.

Mr. Barua is not flamboyant but gracefully handsome. He is in his seventies now and talks, walks and sits with the flair of a forty year old commendably. He is always neatly dressed, economically smiling and articulating the physical gestures with an Indian bureaucrat’s acquired precision. The men and women around him, in his old age defied dexterously, nervously extol the esteemed ill person and Barua needs it, this incessant appraisal of his worth and value, as a life saving drug. The nervous movements of his wife and relatives, the comfort words of his supposed admirers and attention of the medical staff pleases, flatters and soothes him. The self-deemed great man extends his life in this Indian regional city overwhelmed by new cars, new buildings, new markets, new hospitals, new everything. Barua is a seventy year old young man with an unfulfilled dream of landing in the USA though he is determined to realize his dream.

But the man is truly imposing, if not intelligent or exceptional. Barua firmly believes in some extraordinariness in him and his immaterialized trip to the States, therefore, was a birthright cruelly snatched from him. Instead his brother made it to the dream land who is now sending medicines from the States to the ailing handsome man.   

Mr. Barua reached the hospital the very day when his only son living with him received his transfer order. Barua is blessed with a son and a daughter, both married and well settled. Barua’s son and daughter-in-law live with them making it a typical Indian content household. Mr. Barua the head of the family, his wife a devoted companion, son a competent, loyal successor and the daughter-in-law a deserving addition to the family’s grace and standing.  

Barua is in the hospital now. When he felt a pain in the chest and slumped to floor, his daughter-in-law rushed him to hospital. The son was not around, Barua’s wife was too nervous, so the daughter-in-law handled the situation efficiently. It was the day when Barua’s son, an engineer with a big company, received his transfer order from the small city to Bangalore where he is supposed to be in a week. But the father’s sudden illness seems to have become an unanticipated block. Barua, however, is being dutifully looked after by a host of sincere relatives including ebullient young women in the family

Mamoni and Mamu, both Barua’s reliable attendants.

Doctors allowed Mr. Barua to leave the intensive care unit after three days and he is now in a cabin. Mamu and Majoni are also there with him. Barua’s wife comes over to stay with him during night. The family members are anxious for Mr. Barua’s release from the hospital at the earliest. His son must leave with his wife for Bangalore in two days.

The doctor enters the cabin. Mamu and Majoni walk out. Mr. Barua gets examined in the privacy of the cabin. Then the doctor sits down to write the medical prescription and release order. Mamu enters the cabin and receives the papers from the doctor. Uncle Barua is fit to leave for home now. So Barua’s son would also be leaving unworried. Mamu tries to read the prescription. She is unfamiliar with medical terms or medicine names, but patient’s Name—Address—Sex- Age. No, it can not be the correct age of her ailing uncle.

‘I am afraid the doctor is incorrect about your age, uncle.’ Mamu gently utters only to irritate Mr. Barua.

‘Don’t be silly. My correct age is that.’

As Mr. Barua’s daughter-in-law arrives, Mamu and Majoni are to be relieved from hospital duties now. They take leave.

The reliable attendant pair reaches the hospital exit. Here Mamu goes back to the age matter again.

–‘How can it be sixty years, I mean my uncle’s age, whereas my father---

-         Ah, why you are so worried about a silly thing. How old do you think he is?

-         He is seventy.

-         No, he is eighty plus. He hides his age. 

-         Really. But a respectable man like him—

-         Damn with your respect. He is a liar, an incurable liar. His ill health is also a big lie.’

-         How dare you make so crude allegations about a respectable man in our family?

-         I don’t bother. If you don’t believe me, you can confirm it from his daughter-in-law. She plainly says that the old man wants to live with them in Bangalore. He says had he not wasted his life in the small city, he would have been some big success today. So all these exaggerated complaints of chest pain, heart trouble or this and that. Years ago he wanted to be in the States, but he could not.. Instead his brother is there now who regularly sends him medicines to keep fit for young women like his daughter-in-law. His daughter-in-law is fed up, so this flight to Bangalore.

Dhruva Saikia is a journalist and writer in Assam, India. Contact Dhruva.