Perceptions Unplugged

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Short Stories

A small gesture of humanity

auto rickshaw

‘Didi ,I am not going to come to work for next two days,’ our housemaid announced when she was mopping the floor.

‘Why?’ I was not at all happy with her unexpected notice.

‘I have to attend my sister-in-law’s wedding,’ she replied nonchalantly.

‘Vandana ,what is this? We don’t complain when you don’t come to work without even informing us.But at present, you know what we are going through. Still if you decide to take leaves in this manner and make things more difficult for us, then I don’t know what to tell you.Moreover, it’s the sixth time in the month that you have taken leaves in this fashion.’

‘I understand Didi ,but I need to attend the wedding.Otherwise my in-laws will feel bad.’

‘When did I tell you to not attend the wedding?Wedding is going to happen at night.You can come early here in the morning, finish the chores and leave.Right?’

‘But how Didi.When you have a wedding in your home, then you have hundreds of tasks to take care of.Furthermore, I have told no to other homes also where I work. Then how can I come here alone?’

I understood that there was no point in arguing with her. She had already made up her mind. It was impossible to stand firm in front of her excuses. I couldn’t think how I was going to handle this additional strain for next two days.

My mother was lying in hospital bed for last five days. She had a fracture in her patella after slipping from a chair. The doctors advised for a quick operation. However, we were facing one hurdle.She would need two bottles of blood during the operation.Collecting just two bottles of blood was not a big deal these days.But her blood group was AB(-)ve and it was rare in nature. My uncle and my younger brother were trying their level best for last three days to manage at least one bottle of blood. No hospitals, blood donation camps, relatives or friends seemed to have this blood group. It reminded me how my late father had arranged blood for her few years back ,when she had to undergo uterus operation.He used his amazing networking skills and tackled the situation.

Without my mother around, the entire household was at sixes and sevens.I was in constant move between home and hospital.My brother was running here and there inquiring for blood.I had taken leaves from my office for few days. Still, ensuring the house was in order in my mother’s absence, kitchen had enough groceries, arranging food (sometimes cooking)for my mother at least three times a day, making sure it reached the hospital and taking care of all her other needs- in short, the harmony of life was at complete mess . Vandana’s help in the household work gave me a good amount of relief. But it looks like she was in a deeper crisis than me. Else how could attending a wedding in her own home be the most important thing in the world at that point? Specially when it was located within a walking distance from our house.

‘Don’t worry Didi, I will be back after two days. I realise this is a testing time for all of you ,’ Vandana assured me.

Yeah her concern was quite obvious. That’s why in the middle of everything, she wanted leaves and wasn’t ready to even consider my problem.

‘Any hope?’ I made a phone call to my brother hoping that he was able to arrange blood.

‘I am still in search of it.’

‘What are you doing now?’

‘I just met a friend of mine. He has the AB(-)ve blood group.’

‘Oh ! that’s a great news.’his words felt like music to my ears.

‘Hold on, Di. Don’t get so excited,’ his tone didn’t sound much promising.

‘Why?What happened?’

‘He refused to donate blood.’

‘But why? Isn’t he a healthy guy?’

‘Yes he is.’

‘Then?’

‘His family members don’t want him to contribute blood.He came to tell me this.’

‘I can’t believe that people could be so insensitive and foolish.After all, donating blood is a noble deed.’

‘Leave it, Di. It’s useless to talk about these things right now. Let’s see if I can find out someone else. Uncle is also trying. Are you going to hospital now?’

‘Yes ,I need to carry lunch for mother. She must be waiting.’

‘Okay, I will join you there after sometime.’

‘All right.’ I hung up the call.

I was astonished by the fact that we still have such people in this world who could say no to someone in need of blood. In spite of so many decorative awareness advertisements in newspapers and television, we could not erase the wrong perceptions about blood donation from the mindset of people.Many (like that friend of my brother) hesitated to donate blood.

Anyway, it was lunchtime for my mother. I needed to rush to hospital with her food.Just when I was about to leave the house, my mobile phone rang It was my boss calling.

‘Hello Sir,’ I answered the call wondering what made him call me.

‘Hi, how is your mother now?’ he replied.

‘Still in hospital.She needs blood for her operation.We are searching for it.’

‘Okay, inform me if you need anything.’

‘Thanks a lot Sir. Please let me know in case you know someone having AB(-)ve blood group.This is the blood group for my mother.’

‘Sure. Now coming to the reason why I called you,’ his voice regained the official tone.

‘Yeah, tell me,’ I was waiting for this.

‘I hope you know that there is a presentation at 4 p.m today in front of the management about the Information Security strategy.’

‘Yes, I know. I have already emailed the slides to Rakesh. He said he will handle the presentation today.You are also marked in the email.’

‘That’s why I have called you. Rakesh will take care of the Server Infrastructure part. I don’t want to burden him with any more slides.’

‘Well, I have discussed the topic with Rakesh over phone. Both of us have worked on the slides together. He doesn’t have any problem with the presentation.’

‘Maybe he is fine with it. But I don’t want any mess during the presentation.It’s your area of expertise. So, you better come to office today and carry on the presentation yourself.’

‘But Sir, I have taken leaves due to the emergency going on in my family. I am going to hospital now.’

‘See Moumita , I really want this presentation to go well. You can leave office once it is over.’

‘Okay Sir,’ Vandana was certainly very good in getting things done in her own way. And I was definitely not someone like her.

To add to my woes, it started raining heavily.I wondered if I would be able to get any ride to hospital in this weather.Normally, I changed two shared auto rickshaws to go to hospital.This was the easiest means to reach hospital quickly for me. This also saved me a good amount of money for a trip to hospital compared to a reserved auto ride. But the way my luck was pampering me till that moment, getting hold of a ride in a rainy day and that too with a heavy lunchbox & purse in one hand and an umbrella in the other, appeared a challenging task.I decided to reserve an auto that day.

‘Will you go to TMC Hospital?’ I asked one man sitting idle and protecting himself from rain inside an auto rickshaw.

‘No Madam. It is already booked. I am waiting for the passenger,’ he replied.

I didn’t waste much time and progressed towards the empty auto rickshaw stand. Few more autos passed by, they were all filled up with passengers.After five minutes , one empty auto approached where I was standing.

‘Where do you want to go Madam?’ he asked

‘TMC hospital.’

‘Sorry , it’s too far and the road isn’t good at that location,’ he declined and went away.

‘Okay,’ I sighed. But I wasn’t surprised. I was sure there was much more bad luck awaiting for me.It was just the beginning.

Almost fifteen minutes had passed and I was still in the process of auto rickshaw hunt. In the meantime, two more vehicles refused to go the hospital. I felt bad when I thought about my mother sitting hungry and waiting eagerly for me. I was almost loosing hope to reach hospital in time.

‘Where did you say you want to go?’ a voice came from somewhere. I looked around and saw the auto driver whom I had approached at first.

‘TMC hospital,’ I responded.

‘Hmm, let me see if I can do something,’ he dialled one number from his mobile phone.

‘Hey, this is Alok speaking,’ he was talking on the phone.

‘Can you do me a favour? I need a ride to TMC hospital for a lady. Is it possible for you to come down now to TG Road auto rickshaw stand?’ he continued.

‘Oh, okay.Great.I am waiting,’ he cut the call.

‘Don’t worry Madam, I called my elder brother. He is also an auto rickshaw driver and is nearby. I told him to drop you to the hospital.He will come down here within a few minutes,’ he told me.

I was simply listening to him all through.

‘Is it? You know I wasn’t assured if I could find a ride in this weather,’I couldn’t finish my lines when an empty auto stopped in front of me.

‘There he is. My elder brother, Avinash,’ Alok said.

‘TMC hospital. How much will you charge?’ I asked Avinash.

‘One hundred and twenty rupees Madam,’ he replied.

‘Hey, don’t charge this much. Take eighty rupees and drive her safely to the hospital,’Alok retorted even before I could reply.

‘Okay, okay.Come and sit inside Madam,’ Avinash agreed to his younger brother’s demand in no time.

‘Thank you so much, Alok,’I sat inside the auto. I wonder when I would learn to say a few more words besides a flat ‘thank you’ when it came to showing gratitude towards others.

‘It’s all right,Madam. I would have given you a ride to the hospital, but my auto is already reserved.Go safely,’ he said with a smile in return.

I had confronted self-centred attitude of people throughout the day. All of them knew the adverse circumstances me or my family was going through. Still that didn’t make much difference to them while they were worried only about their own needs.Due to the consequences that followed my mother’s accident in the last five days ,made me slowly lose my faith on the Almighty and His kindness. Alok’s small but significant gesture helped me to gain that confidence back on goodness to a certain extent. Was there any need for him to help me like this? He didn’t even know me. He could have sat comfortably inside his auto in that rainy weather.Yet he offered me his best hand possible.He reminded me that we should never forget our duty as a human being and always try to help each other in times of need. He made me believe that humanity still existed in this world. And it sometimes came from people on whom you had least expectations.

I was in midway to the hospital when my brother called.

‘Hey, what happened?’ I asked him.

‘Where are you Di?’

‘On my way to the hospital. I am going to reach there within next twenty minutes.’

‘I called you to inform that a donor has been identified.’

‘Really?’

‘Yes. He is coming to the hospital. I am going to meet him there.’

‘But what if he too refuses to donate blood ultimately?’ this time I wanted to be sure.

‘No, he won’t.He is a registered blood donor and it’s not a new thing for him.’

‘So, that means that we have finally got a donor.’

‘Right. He will donate blood today itself. Come soon.See you in the hospital,’ he hung up the call.

I felt a great sense of relief when I was putting my phone back in the purse. It was still raining and splashes of rain entered the auto rickshaw. But it did’t bother me much. I was hopeful that the rain would stop soon and would give it’s way to a bright & sunny day ahead.

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