“Next please” the shrill voice boomed across the silence in the hospital OPD room. OPD or out-patient department was the most crowded area in the hospital. At any time of the day,one would see patients all lined up waiting to see the doctors who seemed to surface from nowhere . As Roy looked behind his shoulder wondering if he was next in number, he saw much to his chagrin, it wasnt his token number on the indicator.
“Next please”, the shrill voice boomed again and as Roy looked towards the voice, he saw a face for it the first time. With curly black hair and small eyes, her nose seemed to just be placed right in the centre of her face. A busy looking female he decided to look away from her but was somehow taken back to her face. There was something to it. He couldn’t place what.
There were so many types of people in the OPD. There was this couple who were more into themselves than the reason they were there. Oblivious to others, this couple were chatting, laughing and sharing common jokes waiting for their turn to come. Two boys sauntered in, and looked around for the nurse who would guide them where they had to go. BOth of them were wearing jackets. With flat slippers on their feet they looked as if they had ridden a bike a long distance. One of them had spiked his hair up, while the other the fairer one seemed to have just got out of a bath.
With such people around the two hour wait seemed to get more interesting than Roy had thought. But the face behind the shrill voice took most of his attention. He saw her colleague asking for water . She asked him to go take it himself. “HOw insensitive” thought Roy. Couldnt she help her friend with a small errand? Again there was an old woman walking by who dropped her file down on the floor. Several hands sped to help her but not this shrill voice woman. There she was sitting by the desk doing absolutely nothing but would she get up to help this old woman? NO, while the rest of the world worried about it, there she was tapping away at the keyboard as if she was the only one busy here.
“Hullo how are you , Mister?” asked a voice from behind. Roy saw his physiotherapist who was taking care of his leg now. Roy had recently met with a small accident wherein he had torn a ligament. The physio helped him to tone his muscles up. “Oh Hi, Benny” said Roy.
“All well?” asked Benny. Roy nodded in the affirmative and continued “yes, the regular. i have come here for my check up.” From the corner of the eye Roy saw the lady with the shrill voice refusing to pick up a paper fallen near her chair. “This is just too much” muttered Roy to himself and rushed to pick up the paper and give it to the woman who had dropped it. He glared at the woman behind the desk and continued speaking to Benny who bid a hurried goodbye and went on with his routine.
Roy continued to look around and see the people who interested him more. There was this lady with a loud voice who seemed to have got fed up of waiting for the doctor and was having an argument over it with the nurse in the lobby. The two boys who looked like they had a joy bike ride had settled down at the corner of the lobby on a full seater and had lied down there.
The three nurses in charge came and sat near Roy and started chit chatting . Roy had come with his wife and she got around to talking to them. It was interesting to get a few facts from them too. Roy in the meantime had got bored of talking to people and somehow got distracted and again looked at the lady with the shrill voice. Something about her bothered him. He didn’t know what.
Hospitals always bored Roy as he never could figure out what one could do while going through those long waits but today it was different. Roy couldnt figure out what was different but something was amiss.
The two year old played with the ball and attracted everyone’s attention. The youngest in the crowd assembled outside the OPD, this infant had something to it that was filled with a lot of life. The child said”Baa” and its mother used to roll the ball back. This continued for some time till the mother got bored and started reading a book.
“Yes, I have a nine month old kid” said the nurse beside Roy’s wife. Roy shook his head in disbelief at how his wife could manage a conversation with anyone and anywhere. As Roy turned towards the baby with the ball, he could find it nowhere. The mother was still reading a book, butt where was the baby? Roy’s eyes franttically searched for the kid, but it was nowhere to be seen. He got up, and casually sauntered around just to see if it had got somewhere below. He decided not to worry and headed back to his seat when he saw something that sent chills down his spine. The two year old with the ball was on a window ledge that was right behind the lady with the shrill voice. If he made any noise, the baby could get startled and fall of from the second storeyed window ledge. He had to be cautious. He wanted to call out to the baby’s mother but his movement could distractt the baby who was loooking at him. Everyone was busy and no one had noticed that the baby had reached such a precarious position. He reached for his cell phone in the pocket to call his wife but his slightestt hand movement made the baby move a little towards him so Roy hurriedly pulled out the hand in a fraction of a second.
The lady with the shrill voice was right next to him, looking at his pale face. He looked down at her and told her “slowly turn around and catch the baby on the window ledge'”
“Whaaaat?” she asked . Luckily the baby didnt hear her voice in the commotion of the OPD. Roy whispered and told her to get up and pick the baby behind her on the window ledge without delay or the baby would fall down. Tthe lady just looked at Roy with her big eyes and not doing anythign about it.
“this is it,thought Roy, “I dont know why this mean monstter is sitting here int he hospital if she doestn want to help others”. So saying he made a swift movement holding the chair she was sitting on and in one stroke managed to catch the baby, balance his broken leg and swing back to where he was standing. he handed the babyt over to the mother and continued glaring at the woman who didnt help him.
“What do you think you were doing …….there sitting about doing nothing.? You know the baby could have fallen off.? You guys dontt deserve to be in a hospital working!” As Roy blurted these words out an attendant came from the aisle next to the door, and came in. He gave something in the hand of the woman with the shrill voice.
As she came out from behind her desk, Roy saw the torso of the woman come down. Hip below the woman had nothing on her. As he saw the torso holding a carrier and rolling down the aisle, he felt a tear in his eye. He felt a hand on his shoulder from behind. He looked behind and he saw a man standing behind him.
“She lost her legs in a train accident, while she was trying to help a hundred others escape when the train caught fire. I was one of the hundred. I am her father.”