Cuckoo in the parking lot
While mixing the canteen porridge with pickle at the Govt hospital waiting room,David's mind was roaming over the question:what exactly am I doing here? When David started to drive back native for a 2-week holiday, this was not the way he had planned to spend it. To start with, David and Manoj are colleagues in the same IT firm and previously batchmates. Manoj's father had to undergo a cardiac surgery on an immediate schedule basis;Manoj couldn't come over from Karnataka to Kerala as his immediate team member reported covid +ve; Manoj had to be in quarantine as he is the primary contact.That was when David came over to Kerala and Manoj could not find any immediate siblings or trustworthy contacts to be the hospital by-stander for approximately a week's time. The 5-year old relationship threatened David from denying the role that otherwise he would have rejected without any second thought. David himself has not been talking to his parents for over 3-4 years;the vacation for him had to be at sister's place, playing over the joystick with kids or watching another season of money heist.
The procedure whatever David has been doing is the standard one as per Govt hospital rules.
Day 1:Admit patient to the hospital as per the diet or conditions suggested, pay advance bills for the surgery.Give signature and contact info wherever required;You'll get pass to be in & out of the hospital building. Once admitted, no visitors except the by-stander and if asked about the patient condition, the person at information counter replies:"Will call you over phone if required"
Day2:You get a call at 4am and the person over will ask for the patient's previous hospital records. Expecting this call, the stay is planned at the lodge at a walkable distance from the hospital. Finishing the bath in a hurry and getting the files to the hospital, the person at the counter repeats the same.
Day3: Present day. David finished lunch & reached back to his only possible favorite location of the waiting room: bench with the open space. Front side of the waiting room is noisy with people talking over the phone or announcements. Previous day, the expert doctors were in discussion over the files given, but they didn't start surgery;it's the 3rd day & they did not even start a surgery which they had told immediately required. Telling responsible replies to the calls coming from Manoj's relatives began to feel as a headache for David.
David had to tell the well-being status of a man whom he had seen or spoken with 2 days ago,that too in a hurry.
Neither the lodge nor the hospital building had space for car parking;David had to do it at a far place inside the compound. Next to where he sits was the bike parking lot. With bikes & scooters squeezely fitted, it also had some trees and greenery in between. A cuckoo is searching for twigs or worms, walking and jumping over the parking lot tracks. David was wondering how unimaginable that artificial ecosystem can be a home to the birdie. During daytime, his chores other than replying to office mails or WhatsApp call to sister's kids, included breakfast, lunch, tea and watching over the cuckoo. At around 2,nurse from the ward updated patient is being taken to theater. The reply from Manoj and his mother was that "At Least David is here with father, that's our relief". By 6,the chief doctor called in. David was keen on grasping the gist of doctor's summary:even though he couldn't understand the updates, it needs to be reproduced to Manoj as it is. The heart beat rhythm condition has gone wrong from previous and in-between pause also happening. That makes the situation demanding for a CRT-D instead of a regular pacemaker. So, they will get the right device next day and start the procedure.
Doctor went for the day, leaving the terrible task of communication to David.
Day 4:David had started to be more curious about the cuckoo's actions and when being followed, found a small nest at the roots of the single banyan tree. The cuckoo, even with a half broken leg, had been fetching food for the baby by searching around the whole parking lot which seems to be a nut-cracking job.
At noon,when they took Manoj's father to the theater, he asked David how the daily routines were being managed,and before entering the theater room,he told David "God will bless you for being here at this time". David started to sense the moral responsibility of Manoj's absence. The realities and difficulties undergone by parents in bringing up their offspring need appreciation and recognition even after any age,even before any self esteem is being compromised for the offspring. Any human task can be delivered with or without the emotional bondage of understanding relationships;the choice lies along the one who does it. David managed to find a staff nurse to do the stitch or dress the cuckoo bird without making it panic.
Day5:In the morning itself,the baby cuckoo gave a welcome scream to the entire area. David spoke over the phone to his parents who had no news from him for a long time. The issues which he had been carrying like hills over heads melt like ice over steam. The surgery came successful and Manoj's father was shifted to ward for a day's observation.
David began to see the story of each person who is sitting in the waiting room in their eyes. Being not slept for days, waiting for the calls from inside, far away from home, not sure of going back together, it's not easy to be the person who has to be there.
Day6:By 5 in the evening,the doctor called up for discharge summary. David had to run along the counters to do final settlements and submit the claim related documents that Manoj had asked for.It was a pleasing sight to watch Manoj's father telling adios to people who were fellow inmates till now.David had extended his vacation plans to stay along with his parents once Manoj's father is safely dropped at home. After clearing the lodge bills, he reached the parking lot one last time- the cuckoo and baby had been gone; he heard the voice a flight away. David was helping himself by helping the cuckoo.