intensive care

Post 59, DMC Hospital, Ludhiana

7 p.m.: Rachit whatsapps me to ask if I will be free this evening to accompany him to the hospital. I agree.

8 p.m.: Rachit picks me up from my room in Arati Chowk and we drive to the hospital. He is wearing the black jacket he wore yesterday. We reach the hospital in fifteen minutes.

8:15 p.m.: Rachit heads into the ICU where Birjinder’s aunt is admitted. I wait in the area outside. He emerges from inside the ICU with a gate pass and a prescription for an ultrasound which needs to be performed on Birjinder’s aunt. We go downstairs to the reception area where Rachit has to make the payment for the ultrasound. One of Birjinder’s brothers-in-law, Parminder, trusts Rachit with his credit card so that he can make all hospital-related payments with ease. Rachit swipes the card to make the payment of INR 13,500.

8:45 p.m.: Birjinder telephones Rachit to instruct him to stay at the hospital tonight. Although the aunt’s daughter will also be staying, somebody will have to be on call to do any leg work if required.

Rachit and I go to the cafeteria to buy ourselves some coffee. He borrows my power bank so he can charge his mobile through the night.

Post 54, DMC Hospital, Ludhiana

4:00 p.m.: Rachit attends to Birjinder’s aunt who is still admitted in intensive care. He is wearing his usual red and black coloured jacket. His brother Suraj has sent him a video of a devotional gathering in their village, which Rachit shows me with much enthusiasm. He then borrows my phone to watch some Punjabi music videos: one of these depicts a young Punjabi man trying to woo a woman in a European location.

Rachit informs me that Suraj will get leave for a couple of days for Makar Sankranti, the harvest festival as it is celebrated elsewhere in India. Alas, he cannot hope for any such leave since he must be at the beck and call of his employer.

7:00 p.m.: Rachit is relieved of his caregiving duties for the day, as another member of Birjinder’s family takes over. We walk over to a langar in the neighbourhood, a community kitchen organised by the neighbouring gurudwara, where we are served with a sumptuous meal.

Post 53, Arati chowk, Ludhiana

8:45 p.m.: Rachit stops by on his way from the DMC Hospital to meet me. He has been there since 2 p.m. and says he needed a break. Birjinder’s aunt has been readmitted into intensive care.

A huge bonfire illuminates the market place, lit by traders and residents of the neighbourhood, to celebrate Lohri, a festival at which people pray for good harvests. Rachit and I stand near the bonfire as people sit around it and chat. In a while, we are both invited to join as they stand up and begin to walk in a circle around the fire. We are all given some rice grain, pop corn and sesame seeds to throw into the flames as we circle it, with some people chanting phrases which I cannot understand: Rachit later tells me that these chants are to invoke the gods to bless the land and banish poverty.

Rachit then leaves to return to the hospital.