Thursday, December 8, 2011

Death of a tubercular patient

We were poor, they were poorer. We  had a tiled house, theirs was a mud one. An old man lived there with his older-looking wife and a tall lanky sickly young man, Sauru. He always coughed and I remember my mother mentioning  there were blood stains in his mucus. He used to come, sit at a corner of our veranda and make 'beedis' (cheap cigarette) as we weaved mats. He was very fast in his work. I used to watch his rhythmic motion of cutting the leaves, rolling them and closing the front with tobacco. He would be talking non-stop about the exploitation of the poor by the rich and extolling the rule of the proletariat. He was a communist and he used to attend the party study circles. Disregarding his illness, he wanted to marry and at last his people found a dark, short, uneducated woman. His parents died soon after his marriage. A boy and a girl were born to them and they were crying most of the time out of hunger or illness.  In the third year of their marriage his wife too started coughing non-stop. She was losing her vigor and youth. Sauru became very sick and was confined to his hut unable to even rise up. They had no food and survived on whatever his poor neighbors gave them. One day I saw him coughing thick blood. He died the next day.  Slowly, Tuberculosis tightened its grip on his frail wife too. Without food and medication she became a skeleton and died the following year. The children died soon and darkness (or light?) engulfed the hut once and for all.     

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