February 26, 2014

The Final Act - Soumalya Chakraborty

One doesn’t usually associate hospitals with banquet halls. The smell of disinfectant, white uniforms, a looming specter of gloom and seemingly insensitive brisk activity in the face of it hardly gels with the gaiety and high spirits of a party. Yet, today, the small meeting room adjoining the medical college’s department of surgery wore a festive air. The doctors, nurses and departmental staff were dressed for an occasion. The room itself appeared to have shed its skin of professionalism with tables laid out for dinner and a decorated cardboard cutout adorning the wall.

“Farewell Dr. Amita Chowdhury. We thank you for 25 dedicated years and wish you the best in your future endeavors”-the cutout proclaimed.

Dr. Amita Chowdhury was one of the most respected trauma surgeons among the Indian medical fraternity. Her’s had been a decorated career with visits to almost every major medical facility in India and several notable ones abroad. Today, she was retiring after serving as the head of the surgical department for 6 years and 19 years as a surgeon preceding that.

After the customary felicitations and vote of thanks, it was time for informal discussions over dinner. “Dr. Chowdhury,” asked her colleague Dr. Saha, “we all know you must have handled hundreds of cases. Yet, if we ask you to recollect one which stood out from the rest, would you be able to pick one?”

Dr. Chowdhury took a sip of water and smiled. 

“Very easily”, she replied.

“Really? Can we know more?” several guests turned to her with inquisitive looks.

“Sure. It was when I attended to an actor by the name of Suhas Mitra 10 years back”

“Suhas Mitra? The actor who died in an accident?”, Dr. Saha quipped. 

“Yes, the same. He was still alive when they brought him here.”

“So you could not save him and yet this is the case you remember?” another guest remarked, surprised.

“Well, it would be tricky to say that I ‘couldn’t’ save him. In fact, when he was brought in, I felt he had a chance. But above all our expertise, experience and medical advancements, there’s human will. Suhas could not be saved simply because he did not WANT to be saved” Dr. Chowdhury replied in a slow and even tone.

The gathering fell silent as the celebrated surgeon looked out of the window. The air of festivity was replaced by the familiar smell and sounds of the hospital as she travelled 10 years back to that eventful night.

“Doctor, the patient has gained consciousness. He wishes to talk to you”, the nurse had come running and out of breath.

“Has anybody from his family been informed?”, Dr. Chowdhury sprang to her feet.

“Yes, the Police have already informed them but he doesn’t want to see anybody else”

Dr. Chowdhury hurried to the ICU where Suhas Mitra had been brought in. For a moment, she tried to picture her mother who usually sat glued to the television set in the evening lapping up primetime tele-serials. Suhas was a regular fixture in most of them. She wondered how her mother would react to this news.

Arriving at Suhas’s bedside, Dr. Chowdhury flashed him a smile. Suhas’s handsome face was contorted in pain, but he managed a weak smile back.

“So Mr. Hero is back to his senses?” Dr. Chowdhury said, “Well, you’ll be fine in no time”

“I am sorry to disappoint you doctor”, Suhas replied. “Yes, I am in my senses. Actually, I have never been so awake and alive in a long time as I am now. But at the same time, I want this to be my final moment. I have no intention of “being fine” as you put it”

Dr. Chowdhury frowned, “Why is that Mr. Mitra? Don’t you want your fame and stardom? I heard apparently you are being signed on for movies?”

Suhas smiled, “What you call fame and stardom has become an all-consuming curse for me. A force which has robbed me of who I am. Each day as I look in the mirror, I see a different person. Situations baffle me as I am left wondering which reaction to choose from the dozens I have rehearsed. Before answering any question, I first have to ponder which person among the many within me would be the best one to answer it.

I see a different picture of me in every eye that turns towards me. To make them happy, I must pour myself in a new mould for every stranger I talk to. I am supposed to be Suhas but I am also Prabhat, Raj, Ayan, Achintyo and so many others. I can’t take it doctor. I can’t exist as a stack of trump cards each bearing the stats of a different person. To destroy the cards, the whole deck must disappear.

I made up my mind while returning from the studio today. As I was driving along E.M bypass, I saw the perfect opportunity to rid myself of the cacophony of voices within me. As I swerved my car and headed straight for the concrete wall lining the road, I could finally recognize the face in the mirror the instant before the collision. In that moment of finality, all masks dissolved and I saw the real Suhas beneath them.

You could say it was the moment I took my life, but it was also the moment I lived as myself after a long time”

Dr. Chowdhury sat beside the bed, speechless. As the narration reached its conclusion, she felt she could see the light going out of Suhas’s eyes.

The waiters arrived to take clear the empty plates, jolting her back to the present.

“We gave him a sedative that night, but he never woke up the next morning”, she ended her story.

“Your driver is waiting downstairs Madam”, the gatekeeper had come up to fetch her.

Bidding farewell to all the known and unknown faces, Dr. Amita Chowdhury walked out of the room, leaving a spellbound audience to reminisce about a failed case which perhaps held the most important lesson of all.

Soumalya Chakraborty

About the author: Soumalya Chakraborty did his Masters in English Literature from University of Hyderabad and have been here since 2006. He currently works in a Gaming company as a Project Manager. Though professionally he is not into literature but reading and writing have always been an integral part of his life and will continue to be. Soumalya joined Bengalis in Hyderabad actively in 2011 and for him it's been a blast so far with all the friends. He has organised activities and has participated in. The networking he made in Bengalis in Hyderabad has benefited him till now. 


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