LOVE IN THE TIME OF MRIs
Hospitals are places of trauma and anxious moments, but a few people actually found their life partners here
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
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