Hanging out in the ICU is not a pleasant experience. Especially when it's your mother who's battling it out inside. But as hours grow into days, you begin to achieve a rhythm in the whole thing, and then, it's all about project management.
I noticed that people around me were dealing with pain in quite different ways. Some were magically stoic and contained, as though they had a secret formula that I didn't have. Some couldn't stop their nervous chatter. Others, like me, were pacing up and down, prioritizing the list of things to be done.
But the most trying part is not the hanging around all day, waiting to be summoned. Neither is it being told by the doctors that they are trying their best, but we should be prepared for a tragedy, in case it decides to "befall us." Or waiting with bated breath as the doctor pronounces his verdict after an entire day of ultra-sound, echocardiographs, colour dopplers and INR ratios for prothrombin time. Or arranging for 16 bottles of blood in less than four hours — friends, friends of friends, absolute strangers showed up in their Saturday best for my mother as soon I sent out the alert.
And even that is not the most trying part. The most trying part is handling the relatives and their questions
"What time was she admitted?"
"Why /how did this happen?"
"Who brought her to the hospital?"
"Can she talk"?
"What about eating?"
"How come we got to know at X time?"
"Is your brother coming?"
"What airline is he flying?"
"Why is he not flying ABC airline?"
"How is it that XYZ knew about it before us?"
With friends, it is so much simpler. "Tell us what you need and we'll do it for you." And they did. Whether it was offering money, blood, a hug for my mother or me, or just their prayers. Two days later, people are still calling or texting, and wanting to donate blood.
But then, there is something democratic about pain. My mother—retired school teacher with no print space to her credit was separated by one bed from Parle scion, Prakash Chauhan whom the nation reads about every day. I don't think my pain is any different from his daughters' who hang around all day—pacing, agitating, breaking down and going on about their business just like me. Or Kajol's, as she comes to visit her dad at the same hospital every day. Or even Amitabh Bachchan's for his ailing mother Teji Bachchan. Incidentally, my mother is still hoping that she runs into her longest crush before she is discharged. "At least some good should come out of this," she says.
She's a brave girl, my mother, and this is her third escape from death. And right now, I feel like the mother of a rambunctious 63 year old daughter who is itching to run away from the hospital, the tubes and the incessant poking, to her haven with two cats who worship the ground she walks on. She is itching to get out of the hospital gown, which she thinks is not very befitting to her figure. And she is itching to start being the boss all over again, and not being told what to do.