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Is all well that ends well?

Four-year-old Krishna, under the weather, dances on

My phone buzzed again. Though I had kept it in the silent mode, the sound of the vibrating device was felt by everybody including my nurse and the patient. The patient looked at me and then looked at the display placed just above the examination couch, “Please keep your phones switched off”.

It was my wife again. After repeated conditioning techniques, I have made her believe that she has to call me twice only if it is “extremely urgent”. Today she has called me for the third time in three minutes, and so I quickly explained to the patient about his problem and came out of the room to call her.

She picked up the phone on the second ring, “Enga (respectful way of addressing a husband in Tamil: an endangered term), Suji madam called me now and she wants me to drop Krishna in school by 8-30. She said the school bus is leaving now to the main school, and if I am late, then I have to drop him by myself.” Krishna is our four-year-old unusually tolerant son and Ms. Suji is his lower kindergarten teacher. He has been selected to perform as one of the 12 dancers for a programme in his school annual day function. He has been practising rigorously for one month in his school, but despite me and my wife cajoling him to show one of the dance steps, he has always jumped twice and said, ‘That’s all, appa.’ My wife convinced me this was the best performance that could be expected from a doctor’s son.

Unfortunately he has caught a viral fever and missed school for the last two days. Yesterday also Suji mam had called my wife and clearly explained that she can manage without Krishna for only one day and he should be there today morning for the rehearsal at any cost. The annual day programme is scheduled for today evening at the main school premises and hence they have planned to take all the kids for a stage rehearsal in the morning. When I left home in the morning today, Krishna was still sleeping due to ‘sub-toxic levels’ of anti-histaminics that I had given him for two days. Now Suji mam had called my wife at 8-15, asking my wife to bring Krishna to school in the next ten minutes. Though I was happy that somebody can threaten my wife, it did not make sense to me to send Krishna for the stage rehearsal. So I told my wife, “Don’t worry. Just leave it. If he is eager to go in the evening, we will take him for the main function.”

My wife appeared convinced and before she could think of other random question that usually crops up in her mind, I cut the line and started seeing the next patient. But after 10 minutes she called again. “Engggaaaa [she was trembling]… Suji mam called again. She was furious and said so many kids are practising with fever and diarrhoea (My god!) and asked why Krishna cannot come. The principal seems very strict about the quality of the dance and if one kid does not come, the entire show will be spoilt and I have to bear the brunt. So bring Krishna immediately.” My wife further said she is taking him in the car now to the school and will call back later.

It was quite surprising how even kindergarten teachers are so strict about their wards’ performance. These annual day functions were probably initiated to bring in joy, fun, participation and camaraderie and reduce the monotony of academics in schooling. But the way Krishna’s teacher was insistent that he and some other sick kids should dance despite being ill was disappointing. I tried to call my wife to prevent her from troubling him. But she did not pick up my call. I continued seeing patients with more sympathy on my face, with half of my heart worried about my son. Patients’ were surprised to see their doctor unusually sad and mistook it for empathy for them.

An hour later, wife called again. “[this time, no enga] By the time I reached the kindergarten school, the school bus had left. So I drove to the main school fearing Suji mam. Halfway through (about 6 km), I suddenly realised I had not switched off the gas stove in the melee. So I took a U-turn immediately (confused a few other drivers on the way) and reached home now. Thankfully nothing major happened with the burner. I am not going anywhere now. We will face the consequences in his school.” I told her, “Don’t worry. Let him relax. We’ll go in the evening if he is alright.” I finished the out-patient clinic in the evening a bit early. When I went home, Krishna and his little brother were all dressed up for the evening. In fact Krishna was well in his spirits and I was worried Suji mam will not believe my wife’s story about what happened in the morning. Out of curiosity, I asked whether he remembered all the dance steps. He grimaced and shook his head.

We drove to the main school and dropped him near his dance partners. Suji mam behaved as if nothing happened and was happy to have Krishna back. We searched for a suitable place in the crowd to watch him perform. The programme started 30 minutes late since the chief guest came late. At the back of my mind I was worried about Krishna coughing and leaking from his nose. The programme started and one after the other the kids performed different dances. We were eagerly waiting to see Krishna on stage. Finally his dance started and we were disappointed to see him standing at the back. With an innocent smile he was watching three of his girl friends dancing in the front. As the dance progressed, his turn came to dance on the front stage. He performed with zest and joy with his friends. Unlike his dad, he danced so gracefully.

After his dance, we went to the changing room, where he introduced us to his friends. I could see lot of other children still standing in queue waiting for their turn to perform. I don’t know how many of them were unwell or sick. I don’t know how many of their parents were troubled to get them into shape. But all of them were waiting to perform.

Krishna was unaware that his dancing efforts over the last month could have suddenly gone waste if his health was a little worse. He was unaware that we have troubled a sick child for our pleasure. He was unaware that for his two-minute stay on the stage, our daily lives today have been thrown out of gear.

Anyway it seemed he enjoyed that day evening. On our way back, my wife was cribbing about Krishna’s future in the school being at stake, my professional incompetence in clearing the fever much earlier and the girl child who was dancing in front of Krishna hiding his performance. Anyway, all is well that ends well!

 

The author is a spine surgeon in a Coimbatore hospital. E-mail: rishiortho@gmail.com

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Printable version | Feb 18, 2020 9:41:17 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/opinion/open-page/Is-all-well-that-ends-well/article16946995.ece

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