My footsteps echoed with a plangency, that almost scared me. As I walked, through the lighted but empty hallway, I could hear, the westerly winds, making the Eucalyptus tree leaves, rustling with fear. It was that kind of a night. My palms were wet with sweat and my heart was racing ahead of me. It was as if I was walking through the deep dark forest with the sunbathed leaves crunching under my foot, only this was the lighted hallway of my Operation Theatre. Every footstep accentuated the deadening silence that engulfed me. Suddenly, her giggles broke the monotony of that engulfing silence and grew louder. It was her trademark giggle and somehow it was music to my ears. Women have this nature of arriving from nowhere and imposing themselves on the scene. Perhaps, God has made them that way. “Meena”, I called in desperation.
Meena was the best Scrub Nurse, that I, a young and inexperienced Surgeon could have, in my graveyard shift. She opened the Operation Theatre door with a smile and said, “Perfect!! your patient has already been wheeled in”. I peeped in to see, the young kid, with a stick inside his abdomen and said in exasperation, “I dunno, whether the child will survive”. She immediately shot back, “It’s not for ours to think of survival. We are the means, never the end”. Women do that. They are masters at a refocussing back to ground zero realities and whenever they do that, God above smiles. You might think, “how insensitive!!”, but they love blurting out pathway driven truths. “The Anaesthetist is on his way and before he arrives, I have brewed some Coffee. It’s not the best in the World but will serve the purpose of re-energizing us“, she said smiling. “Gosh!! I need the coffee”, I thought. “How did she know that?” A million dollar question which men have been trying to answer since times immemorial. Women somehow know the onlooker better than the onlooker knows them. It’s a thought process that’s engraved inside that busy brain of theirs, since birth.
The coffee was soothing. One sip and my parched and drought-ridden throat suddenly had a voice. Meena was wearing her blue scrubs and sipping coffee with me. “Hows it?”, she asked. “It’s not the best in the World, but serves our purpose emphatically”, I said. “Ahh!!! the humour is back“, she blurted out immediately. “My coffee works, Isn’t it?“, she said it with a chuckle. I kind of knew by that time that she was loathing me back to confidence. Eleanor Roosevelt once said, “Women are like tea bags, you can’t tell how strong she is until you put her in hot water. Women somehow love to stand up and deliver in difficult situations, a thing we men always note but forget to mention until Valentine’Day or Women’s Day.” She expectingly asked, “Sir, how is it, that you are quickly able to sip away the piping hot coffee?”. I answered with a smile, “coffee is always good when hot because it fires up the fatigued neurons to act”. She immediately retorted back, “Isn’t this patient similar to the hot coffee, you are drinking?” When I gave an inquisitive look, she further added, “to operate on a difficult and diseased patient, takes courage but results in increased skills, which go down a long way to make you more daring, for such cases”. I argued back saying, “Surgery is an art, Meena!!” She coyly smiled and said, “Sir, Surgery is definitely an art, but Surgery is also a dare. For the skills to get better, the dare is essential”. She had a point there, I thought. Just then the Anaesthetist arrived and we scrubbed for the Surgery. We operated on the kid, and found a hole in the intestine and repaired it. The child remained over 2 months in our Surgical Ward and went home after that.
Its been 10 years since that day but it still rings clear in my head, whenever I am reluctantly operating on a sick patient. Meena’s words still echo and have over the years become a guiding light. Here was a woman, who taught me something, that no Medical College did. That eventful night, she changed a mindset for good. Now I relish a dare because 10 years back she proved it for me. She gave me belief, hope, desire and topped it with lots of smiles. For me, she has and will always remain a “Woman of Substance“. As we celebrate International Women’s Day, I salute her indomitable spirit. Its always has been my prayer, “May her tribe increase“.