The Arrangement

In continuation of The Introduction

Sneha watched Ajay for a long time as he sat on the chair, his head in his palms. There had to be a way, if there was not, all this would have not happened in first place. She sat in the same corner, thinking and replaying the conversation. The one she had with Ajay before the old man arrived. Shreya could not be left alone at home and hence her grandmother had decided to stay with her. Sneha knew she had to talk to the woman. She walked towards Ajay and asked for his cellphone, which he gave to her without saying a word or asking any questions. She walked out of the room and dialed the last dialed number. It took a while to be answered.

When Sneha entered the room, Ajay was asleep. She walked towards him and moved her fingers through his hair. A daring move, she knew but she could not resist it. Ajay did not stir. He was fast asleep, exhausted by the latest developments. She walked out of the room and at the enquiry desk she asked for the doctor in charge of Smriti. She wanted to talk to the doctors, best – she wanted the doctors to talk to Smriti’s mother. When Sneha had called the woman, she did not find it strange that the line went silent for a while on the other end. Sneha’s voice had obviously confused the woman. Sneha explained what had happened in the hospital when Smriti’s father had visited. Just as she had expected, Smriti’s mother was co-operative. Sneha wished it was her who should have come to meet them instead of Smriti’s father who was very intimidating. Sneha promised that she would talk to the doctors and visit her personally so that the woman was sure of Sneha’s intentions. The doctor was in his consulting room, talking to the relatives of yet another patient. Sneha wondered what must be happening in the world of the other patients on the same floor. Maybe few had better chances, she hoped they did. She silently prayed for the well-being of the patients in I.C.U. and she also prayed for Smriti. If, right now, Smriti was to wake up, open her eyes and talk to Ajay, things would be a lot easier for him, for Smriti’s parents and for Shreya as well. She momentarily felt a pang of jealousy when she imagined the future she wished for. There was no place for her in their lives. No one would need her. She would be back, making sandwiches and living her lonely life.

The door to the doctor’s room opened and when the doctor saw her, his reaction was what she had expected. He recognized her face, and then came the stage of confusion, shock and lastly, the understanding. She introduced herself and got straight to the point asking the doctor about Smriti. Initially the doctor was not ready to disclose the case details to her but she convinced him. She got the same answer. The scenario was bad. She wanted the doctor to tell this to Smriti’s mother. She wished Ajay had done this earlier, allowing direct communication between the doctor and Smriti’s parents, but then she could not blame him considering the state he was in.
The doctor asked her why she was so concerned about Smriti and her family. She had no answer. This was the question she had asked herself as she had showered in the morning. She just could not explain it to anyone, including herself.

After the doctor spoke to Smriti’s mother, Sneha disconnected the call. She knew that the mother needed time alone. Hearing it from Ajay was one thing and hearing from the doctor was a different thing altogether. Both the parents were hoping against all the odds that their daughter would open her eyes, they did not want to let go. But, they had to. They all had to decide whether they include Shreya in the scene and make her go through the same pain they would go through. The immediate answer of Smriti’s mother was no, when Sneha had asked her the question. There was hope.
Sneha redialed the number after a while and decided the time and place to meet. It meant she would have to travel for hours and skip her kitchen duty. She looked at her watch. It was already late, too late. She would have to call it an off. And, she could not call in sick because obviously she had signed the register. She would have to lose the pay. It was worth it, all this was worth it, a voice inside her head told her.

Sneha returned to the I.C.U. and saw that Ajay was still asleep. She walked closer to him and sat on the stool next to him, watching him sleep. He stirred after a while and opened his eyes. Sneha smiled and returned his cell-phone. I am going to visit Smriti’s mother, she told him. Shock and understanding came over Ajay’s face at the same time and he simply nodded. That’s it. No words were needed. She glanced over at Smriti who was perhaps unaware of all the happenings around her. Sneha felt sad all of a sudden, sad for the woman whose life she was about to live, that is – IF Smriti’s mother believed her intentions and decided to talk sense into the father. She felt connected to Smriti, like a sister. Sometimes, people feel connected even though they are not related or do not know each other at all. Things like these could not be explained and to seek an explanation was waste of time. Sneha walked towards Smriti. The woman seemed to be at peace despite the condition she was in. It seemed she was already beyond all the material things.

Without wasting much time Sneha walked out of the hospital. Thankfully, no one from the staff saw her as she walked past the cafeteria and signed the register on her way out. While on the bus, Sneha prepared herself for the conversation she would have with Smriti’s mother. They had decided to meet in a restaurant, rather than meeting at residence and risking being seen by Shreya. After a bus ride of four hours, Sneha got down from the bus and headed in the direction of the restaurant where she was supposed to meet Smriti’s mother. When she reached the restaurant, she saw an old woman staring at her. It had to be Smriti’s mother, the look on her face told Sneha. Before she could reach the table, the woman collapsed on the floor and fainted.