Death, Guilt and I

“Hi Kamesh”, I had almost laughed out, having heard strange jokes on that name. But I didn’t finally, because being at a hospital, and hearing the cries of wailing relatives of some dead patient far away, my laugh would have been outrageous. When we talked, we both felt a strange sense of surprise and shock. We haven’t met in at least fifteen years, and it was ridiculous that we had to meet in the given circumstances, or that we could remember our names without a problem. Looking at him I had a doubt that the person in the hospital could be his elder brother, who used to be my classmate, hardly forgettable because of his long name – Mathala Naga Venkata Shiva Rama Krishnayya or because of his huge issues with his health since we both were in ninth standard! Here now, Kamesh told me that after almost sixteen or seventeen years doctors were able to finally find what Krishnayya’s problem has been – Wilson’s disease. He was in the I.C.U., and I wouldn’t be allowed to see him, until the visiting hours, and he also pointed that it would be not so useful meeting Krishnayya as he was only able to talk in ‘signal’, as he lacked the energy to even talk.

Any other time I would have told Kamesh to take care of his brother, and that we will keep in touch, knowing that I wouldn’t. Because obviously how can my meeting after fifteen years do any good to this fellow, and I wish that he’d rather bother about making his health better than reigniting friendship with me. I like to believe that I’m an objective thinker! I remember one early morning, few years ago, when I received a phone call from one of my closest friends. He told me his father had passed away the previous night. I don’t remember what I talked to him, because after talking to him, I dozed off into my sleep again, without an iota of guilt, believing that my friend is as objective thinker as I’m! Yes I was that much an objective thinker.

I never thought death or guilt could affect me anyway, until atleast few more years! It was not that I have seen too many deaths, neither have I been too impervious to the way deaths affect others. But deep down I know that death is a natural part of our living, and I would block any reaction towards anyone’s death, including the deaths of my grandparents or grand aunts, or uncles etc. And then, recently, it all changed.

***

Late one night Sampath called me, and told me his brother had been found dead. Sandeep, Sampath’s brother, had been missing from home for almost a week before this news came out. A week or two before running away from home, Sandeep was in a hospital, having corrupted his liver with excess drinking. For all the pain his liver was going through then, Sandeep was just about 27 years old. Doctors were shocked, not just about his liver or age, but also when they learned that he was a doctor himself. Of course, they gasped in disbelief, I was told, when they learned that Sampath was also a doctor himself. “How could he allow his brother to be so,” they must have thought! Anyways doctors are doctors; they all thought my friend’s brother was getting better. He did get well too, at least it so seemed.

Sampath left his brother in their mom’s care, and went to take care of his patients hundreds of miles away. I told Sampath that I will visit his brother, and I told myself I could make Sandeep talk about his addiction (yeah I thought I was a counselor of some kind). I didn’t visit the hospital, obviously lacking any sense of guilt of breaking a promise. Two weeks later when I came to know that he had died, I didn’t feel a thing except my heart went into my belly for a second. I reasoned, “That’s what happens, when you hear the news of the death of a twenty seven year old doctor, having been found in a lake, in which you and your friends paddled boats for fun”!

Few seconds later that night, Sampath’s fiancée called – she was crying, obviously she had heard the news. “Why so much drama”, I thought. Of course I was being me. But I didn’t know what was in store for me that night. I was extremely sleepy, and when I tried to sleep, I just couldn’t. I thought it was the usual reaction to a death for a guy like me – the ‘objectively’ devoid of guilt or pain, but I just couldn’t sleep. I thought of my friend who had to break the news to his mother yet, and how their mom would react looking at her young son’s body! Then it struck, – a strong feeling that had I visited this boy in the hospital, I could have at least seen what he was going through. My brush with guilt wasn’t obviously pleasant; I didn’t sleep that night. I do not have words nor do I remember what I was going through – possibly this is how guilt works!

Few days later, Sam had come home, and before leaving he left me with few medicines to be returned at the hospital from where they were bought. He told me he just doesn’t want to return there soon. “Not so good memories” I thought, “was it necessary to dramatize them so much!” Another shock was in for me.

When I finally managed to go to the hospital, parked my car and as I sat in checking the medicines, a strange disturbance took over me. I had become extremely serious, and the same feeling of guilt that cost my night’s sleep that night, had come back. I walked slowly, and just as I entered the main gate, I saw a face that seemed familiar. It hadn’t changed in all the years we haven’t met, but except instead of the boyish charm, this face had some beard, and eyes were sad, looking at nothing in particular. It was Kamesh.

***

It was strange that the gentleman taking the ‘returned’ medicines didn’t ask any questions about it. I guess he already knew the answers, otherwise why would anyone return ‘most of the medicines’. He argued that the single pills will not be taken back, and I didn’t want to extend his argument. Having done the job at the hospital, I ‘promised’ Kamesh that I would ‘try’ to come back to have a look at Krishnayya. I went out, threw the remaining ‘single pills’ away on the road, and it was only after throwing them away I realized I could have at least offered the pharmacist the pills back, for free – they could have helped someone. I wouldn’t be this illogical most of the time, but it was then I realized that I was too caught up with my guilt and probably sadness. Sitting in the car I understood what goes into people’s minds when they are faced with certain situations, even though such were inevitable, they just don’t know how to react, and that’s when they dramatize, and that’s why they cry.

Half an hour later, it was time I.C.U would be open for visitors, or that’s what I was told. I begged the nurse who wouldn’t let me in, and somehow I could convince her. That’s when I met Krishnayya, after probably fifteen years. Jaundice had left a strange yellow color on his rather dark skin, and his eyes were even darkly yellow. He smiled at me, and talked to me. I talked back too, and turns out that I was a natural at how to talk to recuperating patients! We cracked some jokes and laughed out loud. I said bye, and he smiled yet again, not knowing that his smile had wiped away the sense of guilt that I had recently burdened myself with. I’m not sure how serious Krishnayya’s problem is, but he had solved my little problem. Now I can be guiltless again and ask shameless questions about others’ dramas, or so I think I can.

P.S.:

I later received an sms from Kamesh, that his brother Mathala Naga Venkata Shiva Rama Krishnayya, my once classmate with whom I shared adult jokes at quite a young age, my mate of a Rock climbing camp in which I took his picture of him smiling while looking upwards into the sky, with tall trees and blue sky in the background had passed away. I didn’t know what to reply to Kamesh and am not sure if I did reply anything at all. I wonder if that is because I still consider myself an objective thinker or have I begun to doubt my objectivity. Am not sure yet! I called him much later. Death seems too strange, probably that’s why the romance with life perhaps – while it lasts!

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