Impediments fail to fragment Suman’s firm faith in God. She is mesmerised in finding a divine resemblance between the eyes of a cleaning lady -Gauri, and the eyes of Goddess Parvati’s idol in the temple. What led Suman to converge with such an angelic episode?. Her convictions or her goodwill?
By Rhituparna Chakraborty
It was a vast and crowded hospital. Raju had no clue what to do. Suman was already in pain. At this point, the only resort for her was her God. She prayed silently and surrendered all her worries to her Almighty. It was scorching hot. Raju completed the formalities and admitted Suman. Natasha’s brother was a doctor, and some of his batchmates worked in that hospital. Thanks to them, Suman got attention; soon, she was moved to the labour room. The room had only one bed left. Fortunately, Suman got that. Some women in the other beds kept on groaning with pain. The nurses and the doctors were outstanding but were busy all the time because there were innumerable patients. Although they tried their best to provide the best services yet, humanly, it was impossible to attend to so many patients without some hiccups. Suman’s pain increased, and she wailed in pain. The doctor rushed to her. Her blood pressure was way too high. The doctor called Raju and told him about the tests that had to be conducted before taking Suman to the OT for an emergency C-section delivery. The doctor also said that the pregnancy was highly complicated. There could be some difficult decisions that Raju may have to take. In between mommy and the baby, if only one could be saved, who would it be. Raju signed a form and requested the staff to save Suman no matter what. The hours seemed to have stopped for Raju. He sat outside on the stairs dejected. He wanted to see his baby and his wife safe. But he did not know what news awaited him.
After some hours, one of the nurses told Raju that Suman delivered a baby girl and both mommy and baby were doing well. Raju could not stop smiling. He thanked God and waited for permission from the doctors to see Suman and his daughter. Since the baby was born prematurely, soon she was moved to the hospital’s neonatal intensive care unit(NICU).
After the effect of anaesthesia faded, Suman was in gruelling pain with the stitches. She tried to get some rest. A nurse from NICU came and told Suman that Suman had to come and feed the baby in some time. It was difficult for Suman. Her entire body was in pain. The stitches were hurting. But her baby was hungry, so she had to go and feed her. She clutched her tummy and said, ‘Oh dear Almighty, help me.’ She wanted to cry, but then she had to be strong. She walked to the NICU. The NICU was located on the first floor, and Suman’s room was on the ground floor. Since the hospital was an old one, the building did not have elevators. Suman held the railing and somehow went up the stairs. Once Suman reached the NICU, the baby was handed over to Suman by a nurse with proper sanitising measures. Suman tried to feed the baby, but at that point, Suman was not lactating much. The baby kept on crying. Suman was crestfallen. The nurse in the NICU said, ‘Sometimes it takes time for breastmilk to form. You have to continue feeding your baby. Once the milk starts forming, things will be better.’ The baby kept on crying. Suman did not know what to do. The nurse went away, and Suman stayed there with the baby. The baby tried to suck, and Suman sat there hoping whatever milk the baby got would be enough to satiate the baby’s hunger. Suman closed her eyes and prayed. A cleaning lady was busy mopping the floor. She saw Suman engrossed in her prayers while the baby tried to get some milk. When Suman opened her eyes, the cleaning lady smiled and said, ‘Your baby is adorable.’ Suman smiled at her and said, ‘Thank you!’ After some time, the nurse came and said, ‘If you are done nursing the baby, I will take her back to the crib. You have to come again in some time to feed her.’
Suman was somewhat happy that, though significantly less, at least she was lactating somewhat. Some mommies in the room were not able to feed their babies at all. After some time, Suman was about to go to the NICU to feed her daughter again when Suman saw a gentleman standing outside the room with a bowl in his hand and crying, ‘Please, someone help me with some milk. My wife is in critical condition and my daughter is hungry. Please help me with some milk.’ Suman’s heart went out to that man. He seemed poor. And there was no way he could afford formula for his child. Pumping milk was also hard because there were no breast pumps for that. Suman thought about her own child. She would also be hungry. If Suman tried and squeezed some breast milk for that gentleman’s child, what would her daughter have? As it is, Suman had a heart of gold. She walked up to the gentleman and said, ‘Take me to your child. I will feed her.’ The man was delighted. His child was kept in a different unit. Clutching her tummy, Suman walked with the gentleman. The gentleman got the baby and gave it to Suman. The baby was crying out loud. Suman held the baby gently and started feeding her. The baby immediately stopped crying. With tears in his eyes, the gentleman knelt down and thanked Suman profusely. The gentleman then left. While Suman fed the baby, a cleaning lady came and said, ‘You are a beautiful person.’ Suman looked at the lady and asked, ‘Did I see you yesterday at the NICU? You were wearing a mask then, and even now, you are wearing a mask, but I could recognize you with your eyes. They are so bright and beautiful.’ While mopping the floor with the mop stick, the lady replied, ‘Thank you! Yes, I am the one you saw yesterday.’ Suman asked eagerly, ‘Did you get a chance to see my daughter? Is she crying?’ The lady smiled and said, ‘I just saw her some time ago. She is fine. Sleeping now. Don’t worry. She is in good hands and is getting full care.’ Suman was relieved. She told the lady, ‘Thank you so much. What is your name?’ The lady replied, ‘Gauri.’ Suman said, ‘My name is…..’ The lady immediately said, ‘Suman. I know that.’ Suman said, ‘Have you been working here for long?’ The lady said calmly, ‘Yes, for years and years now. I stay here. I live in a beautiful red-coloured house, right across this building.’ Suman nodded and said, ‘That’s nice.’ Just then, the father of the baby whom Suman was feeding came. The cleaning lady continued her work. The little girl in Suman’s lap was fast asleep. The baby was satisfied. The baby’s dad thanked Suman profusely and took his little girl with him.
Suman then went back to the NICU to feed her daughter. The nurse smiled and said, ‘Your daughter is fast asleep, and she is absolutely fine. You can go and see her, but don’t disturb her. Let her sleep.’ Suman said, ‘But she must be hungry.’ The nurse replied, ‘Not at all. Your relative had come and nursed your baby till your baby’s heart’s content. Your baby was so satisfied that she stopped crying and fell asleep.’ Suman asked, surprised, ‘My relative? I don’t have any relative here.’ The nurse asked, confused, ‘Then who is Gauri?’ Suman was perplexed. She said, ‘You mean the cleaning lady Gauri? The one with beautiful eyes? The one who was here when I had come to feed my daughter some time ago?’ The nurse replied, ‘Cleaning lady? There is no one named Gauri in the housekeeping staff here. And when you came here, it was just two other nurses and me. There was no cleaning lady here.’ Suman asked, ‘Are you sure? She was talking to me some time ago.’ The nurse replied, ‘Of course, I am sure. I have been working here for ages now. There is no one called Gauri here.’ Suman was baffled. She went back to the nursery where she had nursed the little girl. The father was outside. Suman asked him, ‘Sir, did you see the cleaning lady who was standing beside us when I was feeding your child?’ The gentleman replied, ‘Cleaning lady? There was no one there besides us. I did not see anyone else.’
Suman thought again. She remembered very well what the cleaning lady had said. She had said that she had been working here for years and that she lived in a red coloured house across the street. Suman walked across the street and looked around. Apart from different buildings of various departments of the hospital, she could not see any red house. Suddenly she saw something. It was red, and it was tiny, and it was beautiful. It was right in front of the department of medicine. Suman froze. It was a lovely little temple of Lord Shiva and Goddess Parvati. Suman stared at the idols there for a while. The eyes of the idol of Goddess Parvati resembled the eyes of ‘Gauri’, the cleaning lady. Suman was stunned. She joined her hands and said with tears in her eyes, ‘You have always been with me, but I never thought you would come to meet me, dear Mother Gauri. I love you. Thank you for everything!’
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Rhituparna is a content developer and soft skills trainer. An ardent fan of diaspora writers like JhumpaLahiri, she has written around 199 stories so far, some of which have been published in The Sentinel. She writes a blog https://rheetuparnachakkravorty.medium.com/