Definitely” said the doctor, “you have to have hernia surgery done, immediately.”
“Really, doctor? Immediately?”
“Yes. Sooner the better.”
There was no turning back. I was admitted in a private nursing home and my surgery was completed without any hiccups.
In two days, the physiotherapist was coaxing me on my feet and making me walk down the corridor.
Now I became inquisitive about the others in the hospital and began to ask the nurses about the patients in the neighboring rooms.
The lady in the room to my left was young, beautiful and very wealthy. She was there for umbilicoplasty or belly button reconstruction surgery along with tummy tuck. Her husband did not like the shape of “things.”
So there she was making herself pretty for her husband and going through all that pain.
“Lucky husband” said my sister who sat with me at the hospital room for a few days.
“Lucky wife,” added my friend who came to visit me, “To have a husband, rich enough to fund that expensive surgical procedure.”
While the physiotherapist was making me walk down the corridor, I began to notice this sad-looking lady, often standing at the window looking down on the road down below. Obviously she was not a patient but a companion or helper to one of the patients admitted there.
Once I had made her acquaintance and began to talk with her, I asked her why she was at the hospital.
“I have been here for the past one month,” she said. I was shocked as I was not able to tolerate even my five-day hospitalization.
“My daughter is admitted here with burn injuries and she has to have skin grafting. Her legs were badly burnt in a fire accident,” said the woman woefully.
I wondered if it was a kitchen accident.
No. Apparently it happened at a religious place where she was lighting lamps before the deity.
Her saree pleats had caught fire.
“She could have just removed her saree immediately and cast it off.” I said. “It would have saved her legs from getting so severely burnt.”
“Yes. That is what she should have done. But as there were many men around the holy place, she was hesitant about removing her clothes in public. She panicked and tried to beat the fire out with her bare hands. Worshipers at the shrine came to her aid and put the fire out. By then the damage had been done.”
I wondered at the victim’s mentality. What traditional values we instill in women in India. Even at the cost of losing life or limb, she would not jeopardize her modesty.
The old mother was sad beyond words. Her first fear was whether the skin grafting would be successful.
The next was, how long would it be, before the daughter would be on her feet to be able to care for her husband and eight-year-old son who missed his mom so much.
She also talked about how a little carelessness on our part can imperil our lives. She used a harsh Tamil word, “porati podum” to describe her daughter’s current situation which has no English equivalent but would imply devastate, mutilate or ruin.
By the time I got discharged from the hospital, the ‘belly-button woman’ had left. I said bye to the mother of the fire victim but never got to see her daughter.
As my son drove me home, I could not help wondering at the situations, that put us three women on the same floor in a private nursing home – ‘the belly button woman’, the fire accident victim and timid me, so scared of an absolutely necessary hernia surgery.
Three Indian women from the same strata of society!
But what a difference in our circumstances!
Story By Gulsum Basheer@talkalittledo
Photo Credit of doctor with scalpel :
Photo Credit of nurse holding syringe : firstname.lastname@example.org
Photo Credit of doctor with stethoscope: