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Friday, March 30, 2012

Tata Cancer

The local taxi drivers know Tata Medical Centre as Tata Cancer. I had to explain to the drivers why they should call it Tata Medical Centre and not Tata Cancer. It is sad why patients should not be made aware or reminded of what is making them sick.
The Bollywood movies have exhibited how the word cancer hits a person who is sick with it. The word cancer echoes and the viewers spin with the camera as it focuses on the character that receives the news from the doctor.  I felt moviemakers portrayed an exaggerated affect in a dramatic scene but now I think that is the closest anyone can get to if one is to show how one is affected when discovering they have cancer.

New places bring new acquaintances and I have made few. Most patients are not well off  they are commoners. Tata Medical Centre was established for the lower classes and though the treatment is given at a subsidized rate, it still hits most of the patients hard. I met a schoolteacher from Jharkhand whose ten year old son is sick with bone cancer. His name is Hari and talking with him I can see he is in more pain than his son. His face expresses suppressed emotions of anxiety and agony; his tone is tired and wavers like the fragile flower hanging onto its twig in the monsoon gale. He has been in the hospital for the past eight months and I can see it is draining his life. He admits he is disturbed and with his palms stretched, looks up to say, ‘God will do the rest’ I bring up the topic of teaching hoping it will divert his thoughts, about the possibilities of teaching in Bhutan. When I leave him he thanks me for talking with him, I am humbled and tell him it was a pleasure.

In the same ward a women is nursing her dying mother, the mother has lost her speech and cannot sallow food. The nourishment is pumped down a feeding pipe. She breathes through a pipe stuck on her neck and in the late hours of the night I can hear her breathing like a large snake hissing, and I can hardly see her complaining. They are from Mongar and it has been almost a month since their arrival. But they will have to go back because it is late says the doctors. The old woman is eighty-three years old and too weak for chemotherapy or radiation.   

Opposite to my grandfather’s bed is an old Bengali man who lies sobbing. He is alone most of the time, sometime in the afternoons a man comes to sit beside him for few minutes, he doesn’t cry when the man is by his side. But when the man leaves, tears leave his weak eyes like morning dews straining down the wide window glass frames of the ward in the morning. I gain knowledge that the old man has four younger brothers and when the father died he took responsibility of raising and educating all of his siblings. He did not marry he says because he didn’t come across the right girl but I think he never looked onto his own future being too busy making theirs’.  

In the corner bed a thirty-three years old man is undergoing chemotherapy for his stomach cancer. He is not able to eat, every morsel lands painfully in his stomach. His wife is pregnant and the due date is close, he fears he will die before he can lay his eyes on his child.
A man from Paro has been in the hospital for one month having been referred here from Chennai. His cancer is inoperable and he has to undergo chemotherapy. Till now his daughter had managed to keep him ignorant of his cancer but he was always in doubt. Now that he knows he doesn’t want to remain in the hospital any more. He says he will die at home in his country. 

The next ward is the children’s ward. I see tiny bald patients. Lives begun but faltering with pain. The innocent faces dumb founded and vivacity miss in their eyes. Like freshly planted seedlings in the punishing Calcutta sun their limbs are synonymous to wilting leaves. I say a silent prayer looking at them as my eyes strain to repress the tears, which are fighting to break free.       

Sympathy and agony sits heavy on my chest. Of course the hospital is very advanced and there is hope for the patients but cure doesn’t come easy. Painful moans are a regular part of the sound in the hospital. Troubled relatives linger in the waiting rooms calculating the medical bills. My friend, the teacher’s son will receive six injections and each injection will cost him two lakhs. And then I think about ourselves, the Bhutanese, we don’t pay a penny for the treatment we receive. Our government further gives us a daily allowance of hundred fifty per person to support us for other expenses. When an Indian patient is consulted, they are shown the treatment and the rate, the rate is higher with the better medicines and the treatments, but with the Bhutanese patients, no questions asked we receive the best medicine, the best operation, the best cure.
I look around and think, who must have got a loan to treat his father, or sold the family land to add few more days or months to their mother, or which mother must have sold her wedding ornaments to save her child.

Never before did I feel so much gratitude for our King and Government.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre for the second time.

I got acquainted with Bronte back in the year 2002. I read the book because I had to write a paper on it and did not have the mind or the heart to savor the richness of expressions that the words brought to me then. It was just a novel like any other and I did not take time to relish the words that drew feelings of intense emotional spontaneity that are now overwhelming me.

Now, reading it again I see what I had missed. I am grateful that I hold Bronte once more, I am reading it in a completely new purpose, letting the words form enchanting images of abstract and the known. The feeling that swells within my chest is immense with admirations for the word play that Bronte has so intricately unfurled in writing this simple and humane novel. I am amazed with her mastery of disposing words at such ease and grace in describing the deep emotional touches of a child who faces the worst tyrannies of the world and grows up fighting.

I was reading Socialism is Great by Lijia Zhang and she mentioned the Gem that Jane Eyre was and still is. It was Lijia Zhang who made me look for Jane Eyre again. Reading what Lijia wrote about Jane Eyre refreshed some of the very few but moving memories I had of Jane Eyre.  She wrote ‘’ There were gems like Jane Eyre, luckily. Hidden in the back of the meeting room, I felt safe from Wang’s (co-worker) flying spittle and swirling propaganda. I didn’t understand every single word I was reading, but I got enough to appreciate Charlotte Bronte’s masterpiece. When Jane thinks her beloved master Mr. Rochester is about to marry a rich society lady, she confesses her love in a moving speech. ‘’Do you think, because I am poor, obscure, plain, and little, I am soulless and heartless?... If God had gifted me with some beauty, and much wealth, I should have made it as hard for you to leave me, as it is now for me to leave you… It is my spirit that addresses your spirit; just as if both had passed through the grave, and we stood at God’s feet, equal- as we are!’’ Such praises for Jane Eyre created longings within me to indulge in the book once more.

I often tell my students that one can draw pictures with words and these pictures drawn by words are far more beautiful than the normal pictures. No other book draws forth such beautiful pictures, bold, indulging, touching and gleeful, which are sheer joys for someone who worships Words. Feelings are tangible and subtracted from the absurd, and features are so clear that indulging in them is a treat to eye of the mind. Bronte helps blossom one’s imagination with richness like the fertile earth that favors the nurture of beautiful spring flowers.     

Bronte has woven a humane story that reaches every reader’s heart. The moving story of an orphan who grows into a woman discovering the love of her life only to find she cannot be with the man she loves. Their parting is painful when Mr. Rochester says to Jane as she is about to leave him when she discovers that he is already married, ‘’Jane, I never meant to wound you thus. If the man who had but one little ewe lamb that was dear to him as daughter, that ate of his bread and drank of his cup, and lay in his bosom, had by some mistake slaughtered it at the shambles, he would not have rued his bloody blunder more than I now rue mine. Will you ever forgive me?’’ Bronte/Jane Eyre then addresses the reader and writes, ‘’Reader, I forgave him at the moment and on the spot. There was such deep remorse in his eye, such true pity in his tone, such manly energy in his manner; and besides, there was such unchanged love in his whole look and mien – I forgave him all; yet not in words, not outwardly; only at my heart’s core. Jane however, has to leave Mr. Rochester, tear herself from him like one tears away one’s own heart. It is a beautiful love story, bold for its time because Jane Eyre is a love story of a married man for another woman.

The real grandeur of the novel however, lies in the words that bring together the woven fabric of the book. I envy and marvel her writing. Jane Eyre, no doubt is a masterpiece that every book lover should read. If you have already read it, you know what I am talking about, but if you haven’t then I suggest you read it, because only after reading it, will you be able to make sense of what I am saying. My words are not lofty enough to describe her to you and cannot do justice. So, the best thing is to find out for your self by reading Jane Eyre.

I thought I knew Bronte, I was wrong. I am glad that I took the second chance with her and have come to appreciate her more than ever.