Omana adjusted the intravenous poles as a routine though she knew the old man was sinking fast and may not survive the day. The doctors had given up hope and he was administered medicines only to ease his pain. He was in a coma. She nevertheless took care of him as if he would survive this ordeal.
The old man in his eighties was oblivious to the surroundings, the very short life that lay ahead of him, the presence of his dutiful wife who spent wakeful hours at his bedside praying for his recovery all the time. Omana turned to the old lady who appeared to be a few years younger than the old man. She was small-built, draped in nine yards and looked fresh after her bath in the early morning with a big bindi and ash mark on her forehead. She held in her hand prayer books. “How is he today?” she asked the nurse Omana.
What could she tell the old woman who pinned her hopes on her Goddess and her prayers? The old lady was quietly aware of the critical condition of her husband.
Omana said “There is no change, grandma. His condition remains the same and not good. Doctors are trying their best.”
“It has happened many times before virtually taking him to his end but he always recovered miraculously. My Godess will not let me down, I am sure, this time also,” said the lady.
“Grandma, don’t you have children? I see nobody here. You are here all the 24 hours without rest or sleep,” asked the nurse.
“I have one daughter in Australia. But her husband, ever since her marriage would not permit her to come to our house due to some misunderstanding. She is a good girl with two kids of her own. What can the poor thing do when her husband is stubborn and insensitive? Only the neighbours helped in bringing grandpa here. But I don’t want to disturb them.”
“How long are you married” asked the nurse? “I don’t know. I was thirteen then and I must be seventy eight now. You work out yourself. I am not good in arithmetic.” the lady replied. “
Wow!! Sixtyfive years both of you have been together. Have you taken any food? You didn’t seem to go out at all?” asked the nurse.
“How can I leave him alone? In case he opens his eyes and calls Chellamma, what will he think if there is no response,” she asked.
"The ward boy gets me plantains and idly from the canteen,” she added.
Omana turned her face away to hide her tears. “Okay grandma, you can be by his side holding his hands. No one will come today being Sunday. But you must take a short nap as grandpa is sleeping comfortably. I will come now and then. I have my night duty also today. Don’t worry. I will be there for you. Please ring the bell if you need me,” she said softly resting her hand on the old lady’s shoulder.
When she left the room after noting down some data on the chart, she saw the old lady caressing the old man’s face muttering something about her faith in Goddess and his recovery. Omana was busy with other patients one of whom was on ventilator and another needed close monitoring. She had a tough time and was on continuous duty for two shifts. It was around 4 a.m. that she finally got some rest. She came to the room and found the old lady asleep with her head on the bed and one hand holding the hand of her husband, while the other on his forehead. The prayer books were on the bed.
She went near the old man only to find that he had passed away. He was still warm. Though professionally trained, she could not hold back her tears and shuddered at the prospect of breaking the sad news to the wife who steadfastly trusted her Goddess's power to heal. She came around the bed to the old lady and put her hand on her shoulder telling “Grandma, wake up. Please wake up.”
When she did not respond, she nudged her a little harder only to find the faithful spirit had also flown away with her husband.