We spoke different languages. We belonged to different religions. We stood on various rungs on the social ladder. Yet inside that waiting room we were one. We were united in caring, sharing and loving.
It was January 2007. The old man looking very orthodox in faded, but clean clothes insisted on buying me breakfast at the hospital canteen. He sat down with me, making sure I ate every morsel, before we went back to the ICU waiting room. His 63-year old wife was in a coma and my 46-year old husband was critically ill after a road accident.
For the past three weeks we had been giving each other silent company. There were others in that waiting room — some were there for a day or two, others for weeks. But we two waited day after day with hopeful prayers in our heart and anxious thoughts filling our mind. Each one of us died a thousand deaths each day, in that waiting room. A common thread of anxiety wove us together and each tried to be of comfort to the other.
There was this middle aged Muslim woman who wanted to know my husband’s name so she could remember him in her daily prayers. Another young woman who spent sleepless nights would instantly reassure me whenever the nurse came and bawled out my name at the witch’s hour. All she would want was a prescription filled out at the pharmacy counter!
Then there was the young gentleman who kindly volunteered to go to the blood bank halfway across town when my husband needed to be given blood urgently at night. A stately old lady, always in white cotton sari, would hold my hand in prayer every day. There were others I met at the pharmacy or billing counters who had come to the hospital for happier reasons, like the birth of a grandchild. One such person was an elegant woman who, even after happily going home with her daughter and grandchild, took the trouble to come back to visit me. She kindly offered to bring me lunch every day and even offered me her home in case I needed a good night’s sleep. But nights and days merge into one at hospitals!
Days passed. Some went home happy and relieved, like the Muslim woman whose daughter had recovered. But she did not forget me and often called assuring me that my husband was still in her prayers. The young man left. His brother-in-law never recovered. The young woman also left sad and inconsolable. Her mother died, never having regained her consciousness. My white cotton sari friend also left, her prayers for her grandson answered. There came others who took their places in the waiting room. And the silent bonding continued. The day came when I too left, alone, having spent 42 days in that waiting room. The old man tearfully blessed my sons and me. His vigil for his wife continued for a month more.
Today, almost five years on, I remember each one of these good people with gratitude. I wish them and their loved ones well. We never did ask each other’s names. We spoke different languages. We belonged to different religions. We stood on various rungs on the social ladder. Yet inside that waiting room we were one. We were united in caring, sharing and loving.
We cared for the well-being of each other’s loved ones. We shared our thoughts, our fears, our food. We loved each other through our prayers. Now, isn’t that what each religion preaches? Love, share and care for your fellow beings. If a traumatic hospital waiting room can keep us together in peace, why do we forget to be humane in the beautiful world outside it?
(The writer’s email is firstname.lastname@example.org)