It was the usual routine. Today was the seventeenth day. Smriti came back from the hospital, crashed down on the soft royal blue sofa. Mini gave her a cup of coffee. The coffee box needed a refill, she reminded Smriti. Unmindfully she nodded. The mediclaim processing, the electricity bill all of it too needed follow ups. Bills were piling up by the day with very little hope, the doctors said. Was he going to recover? Was she going to manage the expenses? He could still recognise her. Did he recognise the bag she carried to the hospital everyday? The bag belonged to ma. She liked big spacious ones. Baba had gifted her this one on a rainy evening. Smriti could not recall what the occasion was. Perhaps it was nothing that significant?
The fuming mug of coffee was refreshing indeed. Smriti got up to change. The warm flow of water soothed her nerves. The aroma of the body wash reminded her of the days last month. It’s been almost a month since baba fell ill. She had not visited her friends since. The workplace too has been quite demanding since she started working from home, having admitted baba to the hospital. Work, visits to the hospital and exhausted lame gazes at the television news channels filled up her days now. Occassional telephone calls beyond work were majorly from friends and relatives concerned about baba’s health. Neighbors peeped in or stopped her on the streets often to ask about the octagenerian. Life now revolved around him. Or was it around his illness?
Now that he was in the hospital, Smriti decided to give his room a facelift. He might feel better with the change once he was back. The room smelled of baba, his medicines and his dog-earred books. The pillows whispered his frustrated complaints. Complaints about the younger generation’s lifestyles, complaints about bland food, complaints about the carelessness of Mini, complaints about Smriti being too busy, complaints about the doctor prescribing too many medicines that he felt was not necessary and many more.
His bookshelves needed a thorough vaccum cleaning. The dust was not good for his lungs. His santosh radio probably needed to be replaced by a contemporary model. May be this puja. He will really enjoy this gift, Smriti thought. The bedsheets were changed. The curtains too. With a bright striped crisp cotton one. This was the one he had once chosen for the house himself from the khadi store at Gariahat. The small bedside table, cluttered with tablets and syrups, a torch, his spare glasses and bookmarked half -reads were removed. A pretty happy flowerpot found its way there. He loved flowers. Baba’s room smiled happily now. Sunshine poured in through the open windows. The bright and colourful look would surely cheer him up. Once baba’s room got a new look, Smriti asked Mini to lay the table for dinner. She was tired and needed to rest before the next morning visiting hour. It would be another long day. Surely.
The telephone call was from the hospital. They informed Baba had succumbed. He was no more. His suffering had finally ended.
Smriti washed her face, opened her eyes, just to find Baba happy. The dentures in the glass bowl shone a sparkling smile. End of pain, she thought. Finally.