Im in Coimbatore. Its 6 am and still dark outside. I go downstairs and the front doors are wide open, kept ready for me to sail out on my walk. Athai says with a sniff, ‘ what you are just going? I thought you have come back from the walk. ‘ I wonder if the next generation feels as much parental pressure as we do.
My father and his sisters are hardy village folk. Hard working, independent, uncomplaining, undemanding yet demanding in very subtle ways which makes it harder, disciplined, morally upright and judgemental… they are a little hard to live with. Tick all the opposites and you have my mother’s family.
Chinna athai has been here for two weeks. She came for a wedding from Trichy where she lives alone a
nd is staying on hoping for medical treatment. We’ve been hoping her son, who lives in the same city will take her but he hasnt. Today is hospital day. There is some discussion about hospitals and doctors. I call my sister in chennai. She promises to fix up with a colleague in Coimbatore. She calls back. Go before 8.30, otherwise the doctor will leave for rounds. Its 8 a.m. Ten minutes later I have the car out and go to fetch Athai. She has draped a rich maroon pattu saree and looks beautiful. I tell her that and she glows. She slowly combs her hair, cleans the comb, washes her hands and takes leave of the gods.
We reach the hospital at 8.30. I have no idea of the medical history or her records. My sister has given the wrong name. I give the wrong age. The doctors are going to sigh impatiently and give me loathing looks. Ive been there before.
We get to see the doctor at 9.30, jumping the queue some of who have been here since 7 a.m. and will continue to wait till evening. With a 86 year old woman to take care of, I sit strongly on my moral misgivings. Athai tells of her falls, the blackouts, the pain in her arm. When we walk out, she can barely stand. We sit down for a while. Why didn’t you tell the doc about the pain in your hip I ask? That is because I havent been very active these last two weeks she says. I can hardly go back to see the doctor.
I call my sister. She recommends a wheelchair. Athai refuses. We make our way slowly through a battery of tests. Too bad, she’s eaten, now wait for an hour, says one technician . Ive had a hard time persuading her to eat in the canteen . Too bad, there is oil in her hair. Shampoo and come back says the Eeg technician making it sound like a beauty treatment. With pressure, he unbends after vigorous wiping with a hanky.
A few hours later we go home to wait for results. Go back and get a couple of xrays for that hip and back orders my sister. Back again in the hospital and then we are in the queue to see the doctor. There is something wrong in the Eeg and her back is bad. Take these tablets and come back after 15 days. He is dismissive. Do doctors these days stop with such simplistic explanations? Dont they owe us some more however busy they are?
I go in search of my sister’s friend. She gives more details. At home, my father says with dissatisfaction, she should have written out her diagnosis. I retreat to a book. Tomorrow it is going to be a day with the ear doctor and him.
Ah, well, the life of a middle aged woman can be taken only one day at a time.