7: Immune to Love?
Shantanu searched the hospital discharge papers looking for Khanak’s card. He couldn’t find it. He saw that he had a follow up appointment set up with his surgeon the following afternoon and not with anyone else. He called her clinic which happened to be right beside the hospital and the phone was lifted by someone who appeared to be her secretary.
“Hello. This is Dr. Agarwal’s office. How may I help you?”
“Uhhh…I need to make an appointment.”
“For whom sir?”
“Umm.. have you seen her before?”
“Yes… Uh actually no. I am a new patient. It’s just that she is so popular, I feel like she’s my doctor.”
“Hahaha! That’s a new one. Your name and age sir?”
“Ah..ummm….” no Shaan no deceptions this time! “Shantanu Khandelwal, old enough to be a father to half a dozen kids but yet to start. I’m 29.”
“Oh! Then Dr. Agarwal cannot see you. She doesn’t deal with infertility issues.”
“No you are mistaken! I think that part of me is working very well!” Shaan said with an embarrassed laugh. “I actually wanted to see her for something with begins with an ‘h’ and ends with an ‘ache.’
There was a slight pause on the other side of the line. Then the woman said; “Sir just a headache? Have you tried some over the counter medicines?”
You guessed wrong but I won’t tell you so. “Ah! Would I give you a call if those things had worked? This ache has been bothering me continuously for the past week and it gets worse every day. I am in so much pain!” Shaan groaned aloud for added effect.
“I’m so sorry to hear that. May be you should go to the emergency room because Dr. Agarwal won’t be able to see you until day after tomorrow. I could check with Dr. Krishnan though.”
“No! Only Khanak can fix it! I…I mean Dr. Agarwal!” Abey Shaan, watch your tongue or you’ll lose this chance! “I’ve heard that she is an expert is dealing with pains of all kinds in particular the one I am suffering from. Please why can’t she see me tomorrow?”
“Hmm that’s strange. Let me see. She has a very important meeting in the morning and her afternoon is full…”
“Yes, I know she’s a busy lady but please look again. I can’t wait any longer! It’s a matter of life and death! Well almost.”
The woman cleared her throat; “Let me see, she does usually keep a slot open at 6pm for emergencies. We don’t fill it unless she tells us to.”
“This is an emergency. Please give me that time. It works perfectly for me!” Shaan couldn’t believe his luck.
“But sir we are not supposed to do that. What if she finds out?”
“She won’t and if she does I will take the blame. Thank you very much, you are doing a great job.” Shaan said and before she could protest anymore he disconnected the phone.
If Shantanu had known that Khanak was not feeling any more at ease than he was, he would have been happier. The encounter with a living, breathing Shaan in his room had left her drained both mentally and physically. His personality was an intoxicating cocktail of effortless charm, good looks, sharp intellect and most of all an incredible vital force that nearly paralyzed her mind. She felt drawn towards him. It had taken a tremendous amount of will power to break the spell yet she found herself still reeling from its effects.
Is this how some women self-destruct themselves? Am I falling in a similar trap? No, my dear, you are made of sterner stuff. You can take care of yourself.
So she avoided spending a lot of time with him after their initial encounter in the hospital room and made sure that each time they met again it was in the presence of his family. She in fact hurried his discharge despite his family’s protests. She felt happy that at least in that aspect she could exercise complete control over him.
As if it wasn’t enough Deepak had become a nasty pest who she couldn’t squish under her foot no matter how hard she wished she could. She even dreamed about it. He hounded her constantly so much so that even her colleagues and the hospital staff had gotten used to seeing them together and had started dropping hints of a potential coupling in the future. Though she vehemently denied it the rumor soon developed a life of its own.
The following few days weren’t good for Khanak. She couldn’t stop thinking of the way Shaan had looked at her as if she was the most beautiful thing in the world. The way touching his flesh had almost seared her fingertips. She saw him everywhere, on the streets, in her favorite coffee shop, in the crowded elevator, in her dreams. Even at home her family had started noticing her odd behavior.
One night at the dinner table her mother noticed that she wasn’t eating. Instead she was breaking the chapati into tiny pieces.
“He loves me, he loves me not, he loves me, he loves me not. Mom, didi is in love. Yeah!” Palak announced loudly.
Sunita shook her head and smiled while Pramod (their father) laughed out loud; “Palak, that disease will never affect your sister. She has immunized herself against it.”
“Yes Palak, papa’s right. I am immune to love.” Khanak glared at her sister while giving her father a grateful smile. She then turned to her parents, “I was just worried about the new Charity Hospital. Remember Mom, Dad, I told you about it? We are going to have a meeting tomorrow where we are going to discuss about its location and if we would be able to come up with enough money to bid for the site. We have been getting quite a lot of donations lately so I am optimistic. But you never know in a city like Mumbai where land is at a premium.”
“Don’t worry my dear, you won’t have any trouble bringing this noble cause to its fruition. I have total faith in you,” her father declared and her mother nodded in agreement.
Khanak smiled at both of them. Her dream of getting a state of the art hospital constructed exclusively for the poor and needy was finally getting beyond the conceptual stage. When she volunteered in the field clinics for a half-day each week, she saw the facilities barely met their needs. Frequently a lot of them needed specialized care which was beyond their reach. Government and community hospitals were so overloaded and poorly run that a lot of them got turned away or ended with inappropriate and or substandard treatments. She knew the new hospital would hardly scratch the surface of the problem but if it succeeded perhaps it could lead the way for others like it. So far everything had fallen in place like clockwork. She had even succeeded in getting companies like GE and Siemens to donate medical equipment. This she had achieved while attending the Innovations in the Medical Diagnostics conference in New York as a representative of her hospital. If only they could get the building completed. Dad’s right, if I don’t trust myself then who will? I will win. Dr. Khanak Agarwal will make her dream come true.
Shaan woke the next day with a smile on his face for the first time since he had left the hospital. Today is D Day. I’m going to meet my Khanak with all my faculties intact. Hmmm…I am calling her my Khanak already. Not bad. Though that day may not be too far away when she’ll let me do that openly right to her face; my Khanak.
Akshay accompanied him for his appointment with his surgeon, Dr. Kabir. Though he protested that he was fine and could very well take care of himself Akshay insisted saying that he wanted to hear it from the horse’s mouth.
Dr. Kabir was a big, burly man as wide as he was tall, but he spoke in a tiny voice that they had to strain hard to understand. He gave Shaan a clean bill of health after squeezing his belly for a few seconds with his giant hands. The appointment was over in less than five minutes.
“Happy that your brother is H and H as mom would say.”
“You mean hale and healthy:” Akshay laughed.
“Yes. So stop feeling guilty and let me be. I don’t need a chaperone and I want to come back to work.”
“Okay bro. Your feet are now unbound. I’ll tell Dad but don’t hurry back yet. Take your time. Have a little fun because once you get hooked your shackles will become permanent like mine;” Akshay winked while mocking a noose around his neck.
Shantanu shook his head and laughed. It was true. He was planning to get hooked today for sure but by a person who would set him free.
We are both trapped
In a web of our own design
The harder we struggle
The more we get entwined.
PS: Mucho thanks to all who post regular comments. They encourage me to keep writing! HAPPY HOLI!