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E-Pao! Incidents - Hospital as Home - An Experience of Different kind

Hospital as Home - An Experience of Different kind

From my comfortable hostel room to the corridors of hospital, it was a sudden change. But this corridor was not an ordinary one but a rendezvous of different people with different cultures. No, not to be mistaken, this was not the hospital corridor of RIMS or JN Hospital. I would have been a patient myself from the stings of the heavy weight mosquitoes had my father been admitted in RIMS or JN Hospital. Thankfully, I was in the midst of friendly mosquitoes of Shija Hospitals and Research Institutes (SHRI), Langol.

It was a long journey in a screeching Bramhaputra Mail, from Delhi to Guwahaty. It was longer so much because my father was at the threshold of life and death. The moment I received the reassuring and tensely calm voices of my uncle on phone, I perceived the very gravity of the problem. But elders are always elders, taking care of the education and mental pressure of their sons and daughters. So the calm voice from the other side of the phone. Homecoming has always been a rejuvenating experience for me. But this time it was tinged with sorrow though the idea of meeting my ailing father lightened the heavy heart a bit. As I strode nearer to my destination, the good news of my father's successful operation and the recovery started pouring in. This gave a much-required breather to the stuffed chambers of my body and mind.

The drive from Imphal City to the precincts of Langol was a strangely joyous one. Strange because the destination was a hospital. But the lush and virgin carpets of paddy fields on the both sides of the pot-holed road made the journey a refreshing experience. Above all the breeze and drizzle made the whole process utterly romantic in that strange situation. The journey was full of ironies. The journey accomplished, I reached the hospital. But the first impression was not that welcoming. How could that unfinished and little shabby looking building house a bunch of talented doctors? What an irony. But that turned out to be the backside of the whole compound. The frontside changed my mode of thinking. That experience disproved the universal saying that the first impression is the last impression. In this case the second impression was the last impression. The location of the hospital is eye-catching and health oriented to both patients and attendants alike. The place is suitably called 'Chingtam Bazar'. It is the confluence of green paddy fields and the breathtakingly beautiful horse-shoed Langol Hills. The ever-present smoky clouds perched on the hilltop reminded me of 'Meghdoot'. It was a good omen rendered by the Almighty up there. The whole environment with its unadulterated air serves as the oxygen cylinder giving a lease of fresh air to the choked lungs of Imphal City (due to the adulterated fuel). This location again proves that the success does not lie in the throng. The creativity and the skills of the doctors come out fullfledgedly in this friendly environment.

The social scenery of Langol itself was a thrillingly beautiful one specially to a sociological eye. The harmonious blending of different communities made the living more enjoyable. Hearing them speak a common language (Manipuri) in their obviously accented fashion, abandoning all the prejudices was satisfying enough for this land of differing identities. The simple life, beautiful social etiquette, coarse jokes made the social gathering in the leisurely evening, more enamouring. Very similar but little more diverse kind of social composition was witnessed amongst the family members of the patients. For me it was a first hand opportunity to mingle with all i.e. Chingmi, Tammi, Nepalese, Assamese, North Indians etc. At the same place for a considerable long time. It was a changing face of Manipur. The corridor just outside the ICU (Intensive Care Unit) became the hub of activities for days. The long benches became our cosy beds and for some the floor also served the same purpose. Suddenly the corridor was transformed into dormitory. The attendants of the patients started knowing each other as we were there day in and day out. Our thinking or the looks might not be similar to each other but the common purpose of serving our ailing fathers, mothers, brothers, sisters etc. bound us together into the same mould.

Hospital is the last place anybody wants to go, let alone staying there. But it was a happy stay at SHRI. Slowly the alien building of sheer concrete and mortar crumbled down and started dissolving into each and every vein and nerves of mine making it my home. The reasons for this metamorphosis were multipronged. First and foremost, the affable and ever-smiling doctors, nurses (rather sisters), and attendants. Had there been no devoted services coupled with their high standard knowledge and skills, my father would have not seen the new day. This U-turn made all the differences. Otherwise this hospital would have remained only as hospital. I think the humane touch is one of the most important medicines to have a very rapid recovery of a patient. After all doctors should not be robots with only mechanical movements. They should also be spiritual leaders. What a patient wants is also the smiling profile and caring behaviour, which touches her/his heart. A doctor should have the tenderness and confidence of a mother and toughness of a father and should know where and when to use them properly. This may seem to be an ideal picture. But then this is their profession and it is pertinent on their part not to ignore the attributes of this profession no matter how difficult they are. Most of the attributes were seen in SHRI, be it the love and affection of Dr. Jugindro for the children or the friendly and down to earth manner of Dr. Palin. The nurses specially in ICU, were really helpful and their address to my father as 'baba' deeply touched my father and a kind of father-daughter attachment grew up between them. Should we say that it was a distinct form of 'Stolkholm Syndrome'?

The second reason was the beautiful and spacious building and its cleanliness. Though it was located in the low-lying area with mud due to rainy season, the interior of the building was a stark difference from the outside. The ceaselessly sweeping, scrubbing and cleaning brigade of its volunteers made it sure that the building remained as new and bright as any new bride.

The third reason could be the diversity of the people with whom I exchanged many things, from ideas to eatables. One thing which captured my interest, was the composition of a Nepalese family whose old mother was lying in ICU next to my father's bed. Their family was a mini India in itself. The eldest daughter was married to a Manipuri Muslim who looked very much like any North Indian. From the talk with her I came to know a little about the intricacies of Muslim society and its comparatively stricter social norms, specially to the womenfolk. She also expressed her helplessness, which I empathised with. The second daughter was married to a Tamilian who spoke flawless Hindi. His ponytail was cynosure of all eyes and was not at al offended. He amusingly told that his children and even his wife played with it. After a couple of talks I came to know that he was a principal of a school (though I presumed that he was a businessman for very obvious reason). The youngest daughter was married to a Meitei man. She came only in phanek mayeknaibi. In the first meeting I was impressed that women of Non-Meitei communities also had started wearing it. But her marital background dispelled my suspicion. The mingling with this family proved to be an enriching experience. It also disproved my presumption that most of the Nepalese were least educated and were involved in lower strata of the conventional job structure. All this opened up my mind, which was floating in the ideal world having less connectivity with the reality. This was more so interesting since I procured the sociological senses.

The circular-waiting place on the ground floor also served as a rendezvous of various people. When night approached, it changed into a dormitory with burning mosquito coils of various brands and scents. The Television set put up there was the common source of entertainment as well as information. I even took out time to enjoy 'Nokphade' with giggling face forgetting the very purpose for which I was there.

There was constant duel between the conscious and subconscious beings of mine. The psychology of a tense hospital changed into the psychology of a cosy home. If there was running around for the medicines and blood tests, there was also the time for relaxed morning walks in the pristine environment. The psychological changeover was so complete for some time that I started questioning myself why someone was sobbing incessantly there. Then I came to know that her husband was dying in ICU of bleeding from mouth. Suddenly I became conscious and criticised myself for not being considerate. After sometime the news came in that he just died as he was brought in the very vulnerable stage. It was utterly shocking when I saw him rolled away in the stretcher from inside the same room where my father was lying. The stunned faces of the doctors and sisters told the same story. Very concerned I walked in to the side of my father as if I did not know anything. But my father turned out to be braver lot and narrated the story himself to me. That incident aroused inside me the importance of living or rather the celebration of being alive. Life became very precious though the value of life had come down drastically in this trouble-marred land called Manipur.

The death was unfortunate. Or should we say that he was destined to die on that same moment? But my father was lucky. The doctors snatched him back from the jaw of death. The operation was so risky that even the doctors were awe-struck when it was successful and gave the credit to the almighty though it was their accomplished mission. It was no less than any miracle. When he started recovering slowly my father retold the prediction made by a 'Panji' some years back that he would face a major life-taking hurdle at the age of seventyone. Now that his horoscope tells that he is seventyone this year, we are all happy without any bounds that his life span has been extended with the permission of the almighty assisted by doctors of SHRI. Since my father's discharge, I have been troubled by the thought why anybody should die for want of medical care. Why any serious patient should go to private hospitals in Imphal leaving the organisations like RIMS and JN Hospital? Or more unfortunately, why to Down Town Hospital in Guwahaty or AIIMS in Delhi or anywhere outside Manipur? SHRI's motto says, "World class health care at the door step at an affordable cost." Why cannot this be the motto of every hospital be it government or private? Why not Down Town in Manipur? Miserable conditions in the government hospitals are not because we are less agile than anyone in other parts of the world. We have skills and talents competent enough to meet any adversity. What we lack is proper work culture and value system. The health care system, specially in the government hospitals, has collapsed. The employees in these hospitals are heftily paid as compared to those of private ones (the non-payment of salaries for months is a different issue). Then why is this unbearable stench, lazy staff and stone-faced doctors? In fact RIMS can be declared as a national sanctuary for poison immune rats, the size of any full-grown cat.

There can be many reasons for this grim negligence. First, the coarse management, leaving the employees to their own command. The fear of losing one's job in private hospitals makes the employees sincere to their respective duties. This is lacking in case of government hospitals. Secondly, mushrooming of private hospitals and clinics. Doctors in the government hospitals prefer to call their patients to their hospitals and clinics for consultations or even operations. This means that their offices serve only as reception room. Question is, do they need somebody's diktat to do their duties properly? Do they have to wait for somebody to shoot them so that they deliver the goods? Completely miserable. It is an insult to the very noble profession for which they so dearly competed for. Thirdly, bankruptcy of the state government. Non-payment of the salaries for months serves as a major moral killing mechanism. If both the parties (government and employees) are into loggerheads, then, where we are heading for?

For time being, let us say that hospitals in Imphal are O.K. if not very good. Then consider the conditions in other parts of Manipur say Wangoo, Maram, Tamenglong, Yairipok, Naransena etc. There are no proper infrastructure, no skilled doctors, and no proper nursing system. Should any serious patient die on the way to Imphal? My father was lucky to have been taken to Imphal in time by a car negotiating the thirty-six kilometres long potholed Tiddim Road. The big question again before us is that Imphal is not all Manipur is. Here everything is Imphal centric and peripheries are suffering. There is urgent need for wide decentralisation of health care system in every nook and corner of the state where people are dying even of diarrhea. This is a Herculean task, which requires lot of sacrifice, confidence and sincerity from the sides of both government and individuals, specially the doctors.

Am I privileged to dream of a better Manipur? Or should I be complacent with the name 'Sanaleipak Manipur'? Or, will god only save this land from its doom? But I am a dreamer and dream of a healthy Manipur with no diabetic patients or stone case patients. I imagine the flowering of many SHRIs in different parts of Manipur to serve the people in pain and people then will say that the hospitals are really their homes. Human beings have the tendencies of learning good things from others. Do not we have it in us too? Better wake up from the sound and long slumber, my folks.

KSH. IMOKANTA SINGH.
Ph.D. Scholar,
Jawaharlal Nehru University,
New Delhi.




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