LOVE IN THE TIME OF MRIs

Hos­pi­tals are places of trauma and anx­ious mo­ments, but a few peo­ple ac­tu­ally found their life part­ners here

The Hindu - - METRO PLUS - SOMA BASU

Hos­pi­tals are places im­mersed in sick­ness and dis­tress. But some­times, in the midst of de­spair and suf­fer­ing, peo­ple find love. Al­most three decades ago, I did!

It was in Fe­bru­ary that I was in­tro­duced to the then-pres­i­dent of the Res­i­dent Doc­tors’ As­so­ci­a­tion (RDA) of AIIMS, Delhi. Be­yond the of­fi­cial hand­shake, there was a sense of fa­mil­iar­ity. “Oh, you?” I re­mem­ber ex­claim­ing on see­ing him af­ter a gap of a few years.

In the au­tumn of 1991 my mother was di­ag­nosed with leukaemia. We had to meet a se­nior con­sul­tant at AIIMS, but the build­ings were blocked by res­i­dent doc­tors who were on a flash strike. In a state of anger and emo­tional tur­moil, I ar­gued with some of them. One kind soul let us in. No points for guess­ing who!

The big C took my mother away within eight months and des­tiny took me back to the hospi­tal as the health re­porter of this news­pa­per. I never imag­ined that I could fall in love with my go-to doc­tor for in­nu­mer­able ideas for the health sto­ries I wrote.

We mostly met in the hospi­tal. A quick hello over a cup of chai ora visit to PHCs in the sub­urbs; I’d watch him work with ded­i­ca­tion and empathy. He al­ways found time for me and his na­tive sense of hu­mour and in­ter­est in mul­ti­ple sub­jects other than Medicine, was a draw. There were days I vis­ited the hospi­tal to se­cretly hear him ad­dress the res­i­dent doc­tors’ meet­ings, smit­ten that I was by his or­a­tor­i­cal skills.

When our re­spec­tive pro­fes­sional de­mands took us to dif­fer­ent cities and coun­tries on as­sign­ments and schol­ar­ships, phone calls and hand-writ­ten let­ters brought us closer and made us re­alise that the two States — Andhra Pradesh and Ben­gal — had to merge! With all the un­der­stand­ing, ac­cep­tance, and ir­ri­ta­tions of a mixed mar­riage be­tween the Chen­nai-bred Andhra ‘boy’ and Dil­li­wali Ben­gali ‘girl’, the North-South di­vide was erased in our homes. This is not to say the de­bate over mishti doi and gongura pickle is dead. It keeps res­ur­rect­ing in var­i­ous forms two decades on!

The ad­ver­sity ef­fect

Dr Ra­jay Ku­mar and Bindi Ra­jda’s love story hap­pened in the can­cer ward of Prince Aly Khan Hospi­tal in Mum­bai, where Bindi’s mother was ad­mit­ted with ab­dom­i­nal sar­coma. For the Malay­ali onco-sur­geon, it was love at first sight with the Gu­jarati girl, and from 2008 to 2012, he be­came the doc­tor in­charge of her mother for ev­ery surgery, all the fol­low-up treat­ment and the nu­mer­ous hospi­tal stays.

“Ra­jay would ex­plain ev­ery­thing in de­tail to us, and quell our anx­i­ety. I would make hun­dreds of calls to him for ev­ery lit­tle thing and he was al­ways calm and help­ful,” says Bindi. There were times when, as she waited for him in the out-pa­tient depart­ment, she’d watch him treat ev­ery pa­tient with re­spect and care, but at the time, ro­mance was the last thing on her mind.

Her feel­ings for Ra­jay in­ten­si­fied when he went to Chen­nai to write his DNB exam, and the same night her mother’s con­di­tion wors­ened. “I pan­icked and called him. He took the first flight out the next morn­ing, miss­ing his exam. There were many such oc­ca­sions... I used to be emo­tion­ally over­whelmed and his pres­ence meant a lot to me,” says Bindi. She re­calls her first lunch date with Ra­jay in Novem­ber 2012, when her mother suf­fered a fa­tal car­diac ar­rest. “I had al­ways seen him strong, but that day I saw the softer side of him. He cried and was with us for ev­ery rit­ual.” Bindi had fondly spo­ken about Ra­jay to her mother a few times and she knew in her heart that they had her bless­ings. The bond of shar­ing a trau­matic ex­pe­ri­ence makes re­la­tion­ships stronger.

“Some­times I would drive an hour-and-a-half af­ter work and he would be busy in the OT but he would come out just for two min­utes to say hello. Even a glimpse of him thrilled me,” she says.

They got mar­ried in 2013 and de­scribe each other as dif­fer­ent as chalk and cheese. “I am the calm and ret­i­cent type. She is the ad­ven­tur­ous and out­door per­son,” says Ra­jay, adding how­ever, that, “Life is about mak­ing the other per­son happy, and we both are good at it.”

Worth the wait

There are mo­ments in the hospi­tal when nurses can make you bet­ter doc­tors, says Dr S Si­vaku­mar, a neu­ro­sur­geon from Kozhikode. He mar­ried Lilly Joseph, a nurse posted in the neu­ro­surgery ICU. “There is a draw to a co­worker you spend a lot of time with, and I was im­pressed with her hard work and sense of pro­fes­sion­al­ism,” says Si­vaku­mar.

“We got talk­ing and started shar­ing per­sonal fam­ily mat­ters,” says Lilly, think­ing back to 1992. “We hit it off well and be­gan meet­ing of­ten dur­ing off-duty hours. But I was scared too, be­cause he was an es­tab­lished doc­tor of re­pute and also be­longed to a dif­fer­ent re­li­gion.”

When Lilly ex­pressed her de­sire to go to Saudi Ara­bia in 1994, Si­vaku­mar agreed to wait for six years un­til her re­turn. Let­ters and weekly phone calls strength­ened the bond and Lilly came in 1997 to get mar­ried.

In 2000, she joined the Dis­trict Hospi­tal in Kozhikode, where she now works as Head Nurse. Si­vaku­mar, who keeps busy hours at the Baby Me­mo­rial Hospi­tal, says that when you un­der­stand the per­son well, it be­comes easy to ad­just to ev­ery­thing, whether it’s cul­tural com­plex­ity or work-re­lated mat­ters.

It has not just been a lov­ing hus­band-wife re­la­tion­ship at home. Both have also played the real doc­tor-nurse role for each other in the hospi­tal, when she was di­ag­nosed with a lump in the breast and had to be op­er­ated upon and he un­der­went a surgery for a swelling in his right palm.

Dr Ra­jay Ku­mar and Bindi Ra­jda’s love story hap­pened in the can­cer ward of a hospi­tal

GETTY IM­AGES/ISTOCK AND ■ SPE­CIAL AR­RANGE­MENT

Bound by love (Clock­wise from right) Dr S Si­vaku­mar and Lilly Joseph; Dr Ra­jay Ku­mar and Bindi Ra­jda; a still from The Fault in our Stars

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