HP messaged, "He just passed away, Tanu". I was sitting at the table and just about to shut the laptop when it hit me; it's over and the only friend with Junior is HP. I could be there but I was told to stay put and so I have been writing. The one coping mechanism, cure and celebration I know does not fail. And so, for the first time in my blogger's life I will write a second post on the same day.
My thoughts are with Junior, his family and other friends. For days together HP has been upset with the behaviour of other friends; individuals who seem to be there only so that no one could say that they were not seen...
Friends; that takes me back to another conversation earlier today. I made a statement that I have never found Bombay to be a warm city. Of course this December night it's cold but I was referring to the warmth of a place or person. "Why? Don't you have friends?" Of course I do, but if I was to visit Bombay as a stranger, I would find it impersonal, in rush, disorganised and confounding; in short not warm. And yes I have friends who not only make this city special but make me want to make it less rough for their comforts.
As I am praying for Junior's father and his family, I am taken back to the time when Appyrichvictor's father was diagnosed with cancer. It was early January, four years ago, when he called me from his abode in Europe, asking if I knew an orthopaedic who could give a second opinion. I did; but what was the problem? After a few questions and patient cajoling I realised it was the metastasis of his father's cancer that was the reason for this subdued, troubled sounding and hesitant call. I had no words that came to me. Uncle was the healthiest and most active individual in the seventies I knew. Well that being said, the situation had to be handled. We decided on a course of action and Appyrichvictor decided to fly down to Bombay.
From airport to home, we decided to catch up with the other events of one another's life. Neither of us spoke about the actionable items in the next few days. I guess we were tardy. That very evening we had to admit uncle to the hospital and there we were faced with complications. Appyrichvictor consulted his brother in law in UK, the only doctor in the family, and then took the decisions that needed his consent. The Sporty Biker and I hung around for any need that Aunty or Appyrichvictor may have. Hospital staff behaved as if it was just another day, which of course for them it was, but they lacked any and all compassion. The doctors were unclear and impatient in the way they dealt with the family. All in all, the worried son who had been away from India for over 20years was not in a comfortable place. Aunty went home and Appyrichvictor of course was on ground zero. After a post mid night dinner I left the hospital but Sporty Biker decided to stay on. The battle against cancer had just begin.
The next two and a half years were similar. Doctors who promised to see the patient at 6:00pm would rock up at 2:00am. Asking questions would infuriate some, others needed further consultation to give clarity and yet others were not available. On days when we rushed uncle in emergency I distinctly remember ER staff not giving him a blanket till a ruckus was created. Or for that matter, the ER doctors lacking thoroughness of taking a proper history. Proximity to home, the only oncology speciality hospital in a twenty kilometre radius and uncle's condition; there seemed to be no option but to deal with this hospital. So the treatment, the late night dinners at the hospital stairs and reluctant second opinions became par for course.
Demanding auto rickshaw drivers, the horrible roads and the poor infrastructure; all added to the woes of the family of the mother and son. When Appyrichvictor was away, he had a job to keep, Sporty Biker and I tried to be around as much as we could be. But Mumbai distances and the rushed life we lead, meant that we were not there as often as we would have liked to be...
On one of her annual visits to me, in London, mother fell ill in the middle of the night. I dialled 101 instead of 111. While 111 is medical emergency number, 101 is non emergency police number. After hearing me out, the 101 operator alerted the paramedics, assured me they were on the way and then politely told me that next time I should dial 111 to save time. The paramedics reached in less than 10minutes. They came up, examined mother with the utmost kindness and care and suggested that we take her to the AnE. I got worried then but patiently they explained that her ECG, Blood pressure, pulse etc were all normal but as a precaution this was recommended.
I had friends in London, in fact in the same building, but I did not need to bother them at that unearthly hour as the strangers who were care givers gave me no reason to feel vulnerable. Yes the next morning, an unfeeling boss demanded that I haul myself into the office and that is when all friends and their wives took turns to be with mother. Yes friends make life easy but sometimes we cannot do without them and at other times we don't need to inconvenience them.
No this post is not about London being better than Mumbai. Nor is this post about merits of friendship. This is a post about the environment that we have created in our cities; an environment that forces us to look at self more than all that impacts the life of the self and the impact the life of the self could have on others. This is a post that expresses a wish that maybe someday Mumbai, a fascinating city, can also become a city with open arms. This is a post, to say that it is you and I who make this city, let us make it a better place for all of us. Because once we are gone, we would have lost any opportunity to make any difference. Because when we go, we probably would not even know that time is up. Because after one chance has gone, we may never get another chance even though life may be long...