“Grandpa, tell us a story,” Divya and Harsha, six and ten years old respectively, asked at bed time.“Promise me you won’t get scared.” Kamalesh Grandpa said. “We promise.”
In our lives, events happen which appear detrimental at first, but in the end turn out to be good.” Grandpa paused. “A few years ago, one morning, I woke up and felt weak. I couldn’t sit. I called your mother. She was a college student then.”
“Grandpa, I don’t want a sad story.” Divya said.
“Divya, don’t you see I recovered from the illness. I’m healthy now.”
“Your Mom called the ambulance, and they hurried me to a huge hospital in Manhattan, I forgot which hospital it was. They admitted me to the medical unit on the tenth floor. The doctors said I had a stroke and performed various tests. They gave me several shots.” Grandpa pointed to his upper arms and thighs. “I slowly recovered. After five days, I could sit up, manipulate a wheelchair, and move around in the room.”
“That’s great, Grandpa. I didn’t know you had a stroke,” Harsha said.
“This happened before your Mom married. When I couldn’t rest, I wheeled my chair, up and down the medical unit. Next to my room was physician’s lounge and adjoining it were on-call rooms for doctors to rest and relax.”
“Once, I couldn’t sleep and tossed on my bed restlessly. The ward was silent. About 3 AM, I moved out of the room in my wheelchair and sat near a window enjoying the lights on Times Square. Far away, I saw the Empire State Building standing like Meru Mountain.
“I heard footsteps and saw a young man coming down the corridor. He pushed a big suitcase and carried a backpack. His wrinkled clothes and unshaved face revealed he hadn’t slept for a while.”
“‘Sir,’” he said, ‘the security downstairs told me the doctors’ rooms are here.’”
“I pointed out the place. He didn’t thank me. Obviously, he was tired. Then I heard muffled voices from the residents’ on-call rooms. Probably, he met the doctor in charge of the rooms and likely found a place to sleep.
“An hour went by. I saw a tall Indian doctor pass by toward the doctors’ rooms. Soon, I heard a booming voice. “‘Hello, who is sleeping in my bed? Get up.’”
“‘Sir, I’m Dr. Kishore. Dr. Alfonso from the Philippines, who oversees these rooms, found this bed unoccupied. He said I could rest here tonight. My plane landed 12 hours late, and I got here just now. I’m exhausted.’”
“‘I hear you. I’m a fourth-year surgical resident and sleep here whenever I’m on call. I’m tired as well. I don’t have the patience to discuss and hear your problems. So, get out. Right now.’”
“Now I heard another voice, very likely of Dr. Alfonso’s. “‘Dr. Rahul, this young man is Dr. Kishore, he is joining us as a first-year internal medicine resident. He travelled 10,000 miles from Bengaluru and is exhausted. His luggage is here as well. Let him rest for a while. In the morning, I will give him a ride to his apartment. We all know a bed is empty, anyone can sleep there.’”
“‘Enough of this nonsense. I assisted a ten-hour surgery and my legs are killing me. I have another surgery scheduled at six. You find him another place. If he does not go, I’ll throw him out.’” I heard him push the suitcase out of the room.’”
“‘All right. I must talk about it with the hospital administrator in the morning. Dr. Kishore, I will show you to the doctors’ lounge. There is a reclining chair which you can use.’”
“There was calm for some time. As the Eastern sky lightened, patients awoke, and I heard them moan and complain. The nurses dispensed medicines. Food Service served breakfast to patients. The ward woke up to a beehive of activities.
“I was curious about the young man from India. I slowly went to the lounge in my wheelchair and joined him. He stood at the window and watched the scene outside. It was cloudy and tiny snowflakes floated down like petals of jasmine from heaven. A few flakes fell on the window sill and made whispering sounds. A thin layer of soft snow covered the road below like a white carpet.
“Dr. Kishore faced me. “‘I’m from Bengaluru and had never seen anything like this. What a beautiful scene.’”
“It’s unusual to snow so early in July. It won’t last. I didn’t sleep last night, I overheard what happened.
“‘Don’t worry about it, Sir. Some people are inconsiderate. In our country, before independence, there were 565 Princely States and rulers. There was no unity and they fought among themselves, so people from outside could conquer and rule India. We still haven’t learned. Instead of helping a fellow Indian, this doctor was ready to throw me out.’”
“‘Not everyone is like Dr. Rahul. Don’t take it seriously. Look to the right. Do you see the tall statue in the harbor? She is the Statue of Liberty. She stands for freedom, hope and opportunity for people seeking a better life. You’ll be all right here.’”
“I took a piece of paper and wrote my name, address and phone number and gave it to Dr. Kishore. ‘If you need help call me. If you don’t find a good apartment, you can stay with us until you settle down.’”
“Thank you, Sir.”
“Don’t call me ‘Sir.’ I am Kamalesh.”
“After I was discharged from the hospital Dr. Kishore visited us several times. A couple of years went by.”
“Now, dear Divya and Harsha, do you know this doctor by any chance?”
“What is your dad’s name?”
“Kishore, we got it. He’s our dad,” they chorused.