‘Puja is over, Roy.’ My dad announced. ‘I hope your mother’s effort bears fruit.’ He was a bit sad and he had every reason for being so. When one’s son ends up in the hospital every two months; he will feel low.
I managed a wry smile. I was feeling bad too. Since last one year, the frequency at which I was visiting Nehru hospital, my parents became worried. Sometimes, it would be fever, many days it was my bad stomach. To tell the truth, I never tried to avoid any thing. Yes, every time the guilt flooded me, cursed me but the prospect of seeing Radhika again was far too exciting.
It all started a year back when I broke my leg accidentally and was brought to this hospital. They called it ‘private’ hospital but they had everything here to make you feel that you are going to spend your entire life inside the weirdly painted blue walls. The ward-boys were strange; fat nurses were robotic and doctors were least assuring. But my chaddi-buddy Karan’s guarantee (who has just joined this hospital) that they will take care of me convinced my parents to bring me here. It was 2 days me cursing him when I saw Radhika first time.
Radhika Gulati, as small badge on her shirt said, was probably the only good looking female there. A doctor-in-making, she was tall, not too fair but good enough to attract attention (managing a patient’s attention is never tough when he is around medicines). Even in that environment, she dressed impeccably. Hair tied in a bun, the sky blue skirt with top that ran all the way to the knees and a dark blue cardigan- her features were like the yesteryear’s actress Mandakini, just a tad darker. And her fragrance was majestic.
I could never make it out what attracted me towards her. She was a decent girl with decent looks and it was not the case that I did not have female friends. I was quiet popular among girls in college and was still in contact. I used to hang-out and party on weekends; few trips on some weekends and had enough female colleagues in my office. And loads of them were better than Radhika. But the feeling that was making its way to the heart; it never happened before.
It was three days since I was admitted and now was good enough to walk with plaster. But in these three days, I could not strike a conversation with her. And this was the strangest thing. I tried to ask few things, really stupid ones like-
‘Is this the same plaster of paris that my room is done with?’
‘Do you think I will still be able to kick balls from this leg?’
‘When was the last time you waxed your legs? They freak me out.’
I had no idea how she perceived me- funny, moron, libido, jerk. But she never talked. The only words we exchanged were through my mother.
‘Aunty, please tell the patient not to move this leg till I come for the evening shift.’ My mother would forward it to me and I would just nod. Girl, if you have asked me not to bat my eyelid, I would have asked god to turn me into a zombie until your next visit.
‘Aunty, can you please tell the patient not to put too much pressure on this leg?’ somebody please tell this lady, it’s my blood pressure which is the culprit. It is damn happy and pumping insane amount of blood to my heart.
Sometimes, I hated her for being so robotic. And what’s the obsession with the word ‘patient’? It sounded so professional and formal.
The day I was discharged, I was visibly more sad than happy. My very religious mother understood that my stars and grahas have misaligned and have gone on a cold war and the family pandit-ji was ordered to pay a visit in the evening. I did not protest. I did not have the guts to tell them that the kundli is doing absolutely fine. It is the Radhika-effect. Gloomier I was because I could not talk to her. But nothing could be done now.
The first thing I did when I reached home was to call my Karan to ask about Radhika. And then I hunted her down on Facebook. There were the findings- two years older than me, alumni of Shivalik School and College of Medical Research and Innovation; she joined Nehru Hospital 15 months back. Lived around 5 kms from my locality and has one younger sister. Father was a government employee and mother was faculty in the same Medical College. Her DP had her in a bright red top and jeans which any normal guy would rate 8 out of 10; but I was so habitual of seeing her in that blue dress; the change took some time to register. And yes, she was single.
After I came back, I tried shrugging off her from my mind. I went for more trips, tried to be among friends, partied more, boozed but she remained there. I had nothing much to remember- a simple Radhika in a blue dress with a constant little smile but even these small memory was troubling me. I knew I had to go again. I knew what I have to do. And three days later, I was back in Nehru hospital.
I was unfair to my parents. My mother wanted to go and curse the owner of nukkad waali golgappa shop for serving stale gol-gappas to her son. I would never tell them that I myself ate roadside chole-kulche and chicken biryani. Sure enough, it was risky but it worked. And Roy Sinha was again in Nehru hospital, on bed no 7 under the heavenly care of Ms Radhika (that was not co-incidence; Karan helped me in getting that bed).
This time I was sure I would talk to her. And I hoped she would also like to talk to one of her ex-patients. I had ensured she do not find out my connection with Karan and will take it as a fluke.
I was so wrong. And this doctor was so professional. She came at the right time, prescribed medicines and left. There was never an iota of delay in her schedule. I was aghast, hurt and stunned by this lady’s ignorance. I tried to find out whether she was doing it on purpose but she never gave me enough time. My second chance also wasted. All I returned was with a hefty bill and 7 days of bad food and medicines.
After that, it became a routine for me to go there. My medical history also helped as I was very prone to fever. In winters, I slept without blanket, took a cold-water shower, drank coke and chilled beer liberally. Every time, I landed at the same bed. Then on, I did not make any attempt to hide the fact that I was coming here to see her, meet her. But she was the same. Smile, medicines and then, leave. It was getting troublesome for me and I was running out of ideas to get admitted there without making my parents doubtful. So, I decided to go for the final kill.
As dad left the room, I waited for Radhika to come. She came at her punctual best and hesitated. For the first time ever, there was no one beside my bed. Mom was, as I told earlier, in temple and dad was not there. As she came near, I blurted out- I love you Radhika.
She stopped midway. The smile was still there. I could not make out whether it’s the usual one or emerged because of my abrupt proposal. I waited for her answer. It never came. I said again- I love you Radhika.
‘do you think I did not know that?’ finally, I heard something from her directed towards to me.
‘you do?.’ I assumed Karan let it go and cursed him endlessly.
‘I am smart enough to understand that, Roy. This is your 8th visit and 55th day in this hospital in last 9 months.’ She was emotionless as she went on. By emotionless, I mean she did not make it clear what was her feeling. What was going inside this female’s mind? Why was she such a secret?
‘well, now that you know it..’ I finally asked her- ‘may I know your answer?’
‘what answer? The answer to what I asked.’
‘you asked nothing Roy. You just told me about what you feel.’
Smart girl, I wanted to appreciate her in Ajit sir (Lion fame) tone but guessed that was not the moment.
‘Ok then, Ms radhika, I love you. Do you love me?’
‘no.’ She was still plain. I was impressed by her ability of keeping a poker face.
‘why?’ I almost pleaded.
‘I know nothing about you and you know nothing about me.’
‘that’s wrong. I have gone through your FB profile comprehensively and found out few things. You are a Gemini, loves red colour, hate daily soaps and dreams of Brad Pitt and Bradley Cooper. A die hard romantic, in love with books and is learning cooking.’
She smiled, a bit wider.
‘about me, there is nothing much. An engineering graduate, I accidentally landed in banking. I talk straight, loves football and trying to get hold of some photography tips. And yes, 300 friends on FB. What else would you like to know?’
‘well....’ she started. I waited, held my breath for those nice words.
‘now that you have checked my FaceBook link, I think I should forward you my Shaadi.com profile link too.”
Ahhh..that hurt. I quickly re-composed myself and tried again,
‘so, as you have met me; I think you can delete it.’
‘no chance. I never take decisions these impulsively. And this one greatly influences my life.’
‘take your time. I am in no hurry.’
‘what make you so sure that I will say ‘Yes’ some day?’ she was feeling a bit excited. I was sensing it. I know all I need to do is play along.
‘to be honest, you are not the first girl I met. But then, nobody has been over me like this. You are a doctor and I am sure you know none of my ailments was serious. I took some unfair advantage of my mother’s too much affection. My 8 visits and 55 days, add to it around Rs. 50,000 of this hospital’s bill; I knew who I was coming for.”
I paused. She was waiting, too.
‘I spent numerous hours on that bed. Apart from the first time, every other visit has been on purpose. The reason was you. To get a glimpse of Radhika Gulati, I came here again and again. You never talked to me; I don’t know whether that was intentional or not but that got me more towards you. To be with you with our hands together on a nice evening looked and felt so romantic. And.......’
I stopped frantically. Mom and Dad entered the room. I looked at her for that last hope. And finally, amidst that smile, I think I saw one.
It’s been 6 months now since that day. Till date, I have not visited Nehru Hospital again. Mom has thanked Pandit-ji a ton. I wish I could tell her the truth. I will tell her when Radhika will say YES.
Yes, she has not said it. We have gone out few times; have been on phone but she is still reluctant to put a stamp. I am still waiting for her words and she is leaving no stone unturned to completely verify that I am a husband material that can take care of her post-marital needs and wishes.
Love does go through bizarre of tests.