'So who exactly is a neu.. mmmm...niro...oh..olo..guest'? - the little 5 year old next to me, questions.
'The who'? - I ask back.
This conversation between Adi and I was from the waiting room at a hospital nearby. I was there with my parents for my dad's Orthopedic check up. Adi arrived with his mom and a huge cast on his right hand. The room was packed with patients from every walk of life and of every age group. Before long, Adi and I got over the introductions and soon got ourselves deeply engaged in conversation. It had already been over a 2 hour long wait and from the looks of it, certainly going to go on for at-least another 2 more hours, if not more. For the likes of us who arrived early to get the initial token numbers, sitting that long on an empty stomach was torturous enough. I couldn't even begin to comprehend how much worser it would be for the tiny 5 year old with the cast on his hand. He was waiting eagerly for his appointment so that he could finally be rid of that heavy addition on his hand and be free for his adventures. To make the wait more bearable, his mom and I decided to keep him occupied so that his anticipation remains under control. As part of that plan, I engaged him in conversation. Something I really love to do. Especially if the age group is less than 5!
Going back to the conversation. In response to my question, Adi points out straight ahead to the door in front of us. Beside it, in big letters, was the name board for the consulting neurologist in the hospital.
'Oh! Neurologist you mean?' - I question him back.
'Yes. Yes. That one. What does he check'? - He is excited.
'Do you know the nervous system?' - I wasn't sure how else to begin to explain a neurologist to a 5 year old.
'No.' - He replies. 'I don't know. But next time, I will break my nervous system and not my hand'. He looks triumphant.
Both his mom and I and pretty much everybody around us, turn to give him a look.
'But why Adi mone?' - His mom joins in now.
'Because there is no rush to see that doctor. We can come and go soon amma. We won't have to wait this long right.'
And that is how the little 5 year old managed to break the ice in the tightly packed waiting room, giving us all a hearty laugh. Taking the cue, adi's mom takes the little one down to the canteen to get him something to eat. My parents find likeminded acquaintances nearby, to share the woes of today's hospital management systems and the frequency of hospital visits given the increasing age number.
Once again bored and badly in need of stretching my legs, I walk up to the window, well aware that I was bidding goodbye to the chair I held on to so dearly for the past couple of hours. Anyways, in a room filled with mostly 50+ aged orthopedic patients, I figured it was selfish of me to hang on to a chair for so long. Preparing myself for the longer standing ordeal in front of me, I was just about to check if my mobile could come to my rescue, when I noticed her walking towards me. Not walking actually. Limping. Literally taking baby steps. What I covered in the fraction of a second, she took minutes to walk. I wasn't sure if I could extend a hand to help her walk faster, maybe. But she seemed determined to cover it on her own. So instead of extending a helping hand, I decided to keep an eye on her till she reached where she intended to finally go. She didn't look much older than me. Except for her gait, which made her look like somebody in the late seventies.
'Hi'. She smiles. In my determination to keep an eye on her, I forgot that I was actually staring quite unabashedly at her while she was walking. Maybe that's what prompted her to smile at me when she came near.
'I am sorry. I didn't mean to stare'. I apologize to her.
'Oh no. You are fine. If at all anybody has to apologize for staring, it's my husband sitting back there trying to save my seat for me. If he had his way, he would have walked with me till here, but I insisted he save the seat instead. I cannot stand for long anyways. Just stood up for a stretch.' - She explains.
I look at her husband. He didn't seem much older than me either. But the pained look on his face gave him shadows that aged him much beyond his actual age. He was still intently looking at her. Ready to be at her side at the tiniest hint of discomfort in her. And she turns back to give him a smile. He relaxed a little.
'I made him write me a vow at our wedding you know. The for better or worse kinds. You know.., in sickness and health and all that blah blah.' she continues. 'But we didn't know that the trial would come so early in our life. Anyways, so far he's sticking to his words you know. I think he really meant it when he said that, even though he just flicked the words from the internet'. And her face lit up with the brightest laugh in that hospital room ever.
'Well. You are damn lucky then.' - It was my turn to smile at her now.
'I am.' Her face turned grave again. 'I used to fight with him that he never told me I love you's often enough. But now, I wouldn't trade him for anything in the world'. Her eyes on the verge of tearing up now, she hastily mumbles about feeling tired and wanting to sit down and turns back. In a jiffy, he is by her side, escorting her back to the chair. I watch the husband wife duo make their way back to the chair. Once settled, she gives me the faintest hint of a smile and turns her attention to the mobile in her hand.
It was quite amazing, how, in that sea of people in the room, I, a random stranger, was suddenly the one to know something so deep in another.
Maybe we need to start writing vows at our weddings too. Not the cheesy I love you or To the moon and back kinds. But real ones. Real ones that we remember when life throws a curveball at us. Real ones that make us feel glad about having that hand to hold on to or that shoulder to lean in to.
And maybe I really do need to stop writing about meeting random people and their lives !