Mein Tenu Phir Milangi


“I won’t leave you so easily. Mein tenu phir milangi!” The eighty-seven-year-old’s boisterous laughter and mirthful glee resonated among the white corridors. Hope and love are a rare find in our intensive care unit and among us, the white-coated people.

Ninety-two-year-old Mr Seth trudged his way out of the ICU, “You have been on my case for the last sixty-five years, and I know you won’t let me live in peace. Mein vi tenu phir milanga! I promise,” he hollered.

Their domestic banter nudged me to accept my mom’s constant demand to see me married. I saw him leave, knowing that he will be back at sunrise and sit all day, waiting to catch a glimpse of his ailing wife. The clickety-clack of his walking stick brought back memories of the month gone by.

“Doctor! My wife had a fall, please help her!” The anguish-laden voice alerted me in the emergency ward. I saw a frail man pushing a wheelchair-bound elderly lady bleeding from her face. The crew rushed in to take charge but the old man didn’t let go. He held onto the chair and the lady as if she was his life support. Nurses shifted the lady on the bed and asked the gentleman to take a seat but none could break their eye contact. He staggered, not letting go of her as if warning her to not let go of the tiny thread called life.

Something pulled me towards him, “Mr Seth,” I said looking at his hospital registration papers, “please relax. I assure you, she will be fine.”

“Oh, I know she will be, she has promised me a life term. She is a woman of her words. You think I don’t know that she will be back to her nagging self again!” I could see tears threatening to make an appearance in his misted eyes but the nonagenarian was schooled to hide his emotions, especially love.

The couple became a habit. Yes, their appearance every second day, to get her wounds re-bandaged, was awaited. However, her investigations revealed something that needed to be further examined, thus I approached Mr Seth, and said “Mrs Seth needs to be evaluated for her heart condition. It seems to be missing a beat.”

He was stunned into silence, but just for a moment. His witty self soon took over, “She is so busy monitoring mine that her own forgets to beat.” His words shook me; was it just humour or a plethora of love?

“We need to do an angiography at the earliest.”

“How soon, and how much shall it cost?”

“Mrs Seth told us that your daughter and son are doctors in the U.S. then why bother? I am certain they will rush, the moment you tell them,” I assured.

Beta, they are busy. They won’t be able to,” his eyes for the first time, took refuge behind his lowered eyelids. “They have families and careers while we are living extra innings. Please don’t tell Mrs Seth, she thinks our kids send us money for our daily needs. I have been trying to make ends meet with my savings, but angiography sounds expensive.”

My heart broke. His embarrassed smile requested help and my heart couldn’t deny it and I registered them as my kin. Mr Seth took his time with his vintage ink pen to fill in the forms while Mrs Seth caught me off guard, “Beta, thank you for your help.”

“Help? Ma’am, we are just doing our job.”

“A job that costs a lot of money but you are making it happen for free.”

I didn’t know what to say, “No ma’am, your kids,”

“My kids are good for nothing, I have known it for long. Mr Seth hides the truth from me thinking I wouldn’t be able to take it and I play along just to keep him strong to deal with our problems, otherwise, we would both just fade away with grief. So, thank you.”

Do they make people like them anymore, I wondered as she was wheeled away? However, her heart played truant and she reached the critical care unit directly. Her heart seemed to have given up. Did acceptance of grief break all dams?

The shrill beeping of the monitor pulled me back to the present, to the shuffling of feet near Mrs Seth’s bed. She wasn’t responding; her eyes were focused on the door. Her breathing was short and staggered. She didn’t struggle; she seemed tired and drained away. The continuous beep ripped my soul, I could just hear, “mein tenu phir milangi!” Soft sobbing and sniffles made me aware of my failure. She had gone but Mr Seth was waiting for her. I trudged with heavy steps towards him.

He sat peacefully snoozing on a chair, his stick on the floor by his side, a smile on his face; content.

“Mr Seth…”

He fell into my embrace. He couldn’t even live for a moment without her. I smiled through my tears. If this was what love and marriage were all about, I wanted it more than anything in the world.

The hospital staff performed their last rites according to their children’s wishes, as they couldn’t come, yet again. We celebrated their passing and love by reciting, “Mein tenu phir milangi!”

Shweta Mathur Lall