One glance, and Neha stared at the patient with dilated eyes and her mouth wide open. The hand that had held the plate involuntarily sprang up to cover her mouth.
Shikha came rushing to the doctor’s chamber on hearing the sound of the crashing plate.
“I’ll call for the housekeeping right away to get the place cleaned. Meanwhile er . . . Sir, please if you could excuse the doctor. This is his personal hour as I had insisted before when you wanted to meet him. This way please, Sir”, said Shikha as she led the patient away by his arm, who though headed for the door, kept turning his head back again and again blinking in confusion as he looked at Neha.
Now that the two of them were alone, Neha quickly closed shut the floodgates of her mind through which memories had started to trickle in and threatened to gush in any moment. But, she was at a loss how to react? It was him, no doubt! Or was she hallucinating? All she wanted was to do was run away from the doctor’s chamber and get a grip of what she had seen and heard. Her head started spinning and Rajan’s face blurred before her eyes. In a moment she blanked out and fell as Rajan stretched forth his hands just at the right time to prevent her from crashing onto the floor where the broken pieces of the plate were strewn.
“Shikha, call for the stretcher boy quickly”, shouted Dr. Rajan over the intercom as he eased Neha into a sitting position in his chair.
“I should not have started off with my story when she didn’t want to hear. I should not have allowed just a strange patient to intrude on our private time. Neha is right! After all, this is the only hour that we usually get to ourselves. I should have just allowed her to de-stress herself. She does so much for the family without a grumble. She must’ve been really fatigued, though she came in sporting her vibrant smile as always”, Dr. Rajan thought out aloud.
The stretcher boy rushed in and helped shift Neha from the chair to the stretcher. Dr. Rajan instructed him to wheel her into the doctors’ resting area. Though he was tensed, he was sure that it was nothing serious and that Neha would be up in minutes. He had seen Neha slip into and out of consciousness in the initial couple of years of their marriage. He had been a good friend to her then, unlike many a cribbing husband who want an all perfect wife for all purposes.
It was only when Neha felt comfortable and trusted him enough to share as to how her love relationship before marriage had come crashing down with the sudden death of Rishi, that he understood the psychosomatic manifestations that she was going through.
Being the compassionate doctor that he was for all his patients, it didn’t take him long to treat Neha with his daily dosage of love, trust, understanding, patient hearing and sparing the personal space that she needed most. It was difficult for him, considering the expectations of his large family from the new daughter-in-law. But, then that is how he won her trust, by rendering his unconditional support to Neha and taking her side often before his parents.
It had been years to this day since Neha no longer slipped into sudden spells of unconsciousness. So, Dr. Rajan didn’t get alarmed about it.
Thankfully, the doctors’ resting chamber was empty as probably all of them were on duty. Rajan sat patiently by her bed, gently stroking her hair.
An uncanny feeling gripped him as he saw the same pale expression on Neha’s face as he had seen in the initial few years. He rubbed her palms softly hoping that she regained consciousness soon.
Just then his mobile buzzed and he walked two steps away from the bed to answer the call. Two minutes into the call, he heard Neha’s mumbled voice. He excused himself and disconnected the call immediately and stepped back to her bedside.
“Neha, I am with you. You are alright, dear”, whispered Rajan softly into her ears even as her lips moved with her eyes remaining closed. Rajan caressed her cheeks gently and kept assuring her of his presence.
“It is ok, dear . . . don’t try to speak. Rest for while and then gradually open your eyes. I am by your side. Nothing to worry”, said Rajan. Neha’s lips stopped moving for a few seconds.
And, then just as Rajan took his hand off from her forehead, he heard her speak.
This time it was clear but too faint to make out –
Issshi . . . Rrrrishiii . . .