11: You’re too Good to be True
Shaan was mystified when he saw Khanak plop down in front of him. Then he laughed. Obviously she was putting on an act. His future wife was not only a good doctor but seemed to have aced it in theatrics as well. Their life together was bound to be full of fireworks and definitely not boring. “Okay Khanak you can get up now. I can tell you I’ve seen a lot of actors and your faint compares with the best of them.”
When she didn’t respond he sighed. “Alright. You win this round. I didn’t know we were playing a game but if we are then I accept defeat.”
She didn’t stir.
Shaan felt the prick of sweat under his collar. He glanced to his side and caught a young couple at an adjacent table watching him with keen interest and snickering.
“Khanak!” he urged his companion in a harsh whisper. “I don’t think it’s good for your reputation to draw attention to yourself in such a manner even if you want to teach me a lesson. Particularly in a place where everybody knows who you are!”
“Sir, lagta hai madam behosh ho gayee hain. Kya mein paani laoon?” said a very concerned looking cafe attendant.
That Khanak could have passed out hadn’t once occurred to Shaan. “Yes please bring some water.” Then he grabbed her gently by the shoulders and propped her up against the back of her chair. She moaned softly but her eyes remained closed and her head lolled to one side. Shaan was shocked to see her face drained of color. She really didn’t look well at all. When he sprinkled water on her face she briefly opened her eyes and muttered something unintelligible under her breath.
“Shayad unko hospital le jana hoga. Should I call the ambulance?”
“Uski koi zaroorat nahin. I can take her there faster.” Shaan said hoisting Khanak gently in his arms. He then walked out of the cafe and proceeded towards the Emergency Room which fortunately was only a block away.
His burden felt as light as a feather. Her skin silken and fragile. He anxiously examined her face. It looked very pale yet somehow peaceful as if she were asleep. Shaan would never have believed he’d find her this close so soon and certainly not under such circumstances.
He arrived at his destination to find it jam-packed. But the crowd was unlike what he had ever encountered before. It was a gathering of sickness in various forms and shapes. Crying babies and children with their anxious parents. Women and men. Wives and husbands. Grandmothers and grandfathers. And those with no one to share their sorrows with. He noted his agitation escalating rapidly.
Fortunately, he didn’t have to wait a long time. When the staff discovered that Khanak was one of their own they quickly got their act together. A stretcher was brought and a nurse started an IV line promptly though Shaan cringed at the sight of Khanak’s tender flesh being pierced with the sharp needle. Then she was shifted to an examining room.
As he waited anxiously for the attending physician to arrive Shaan was relieved to notice an improvement in Khanak’s color. She was also moving her limbs though her eyes remained closed. She looked exhausted. He recalled she had appeared somewhat drained when he had met her on the day of his appointment. And he had at the time wrongly attributed it to nervousness on seeing him.
When several minutes later a lady doctor entered the room Shaan quietly stepped out. He ambled to the end of the corridor and perused the surroundings once again. To his surprise it didn’t appear as frightening and confusing as it had before. Rather he felt a strange sense of solace. And a connection. Why wouldn’t he? He owed his life to this place. To these people. To Khanak.
All of a sudden he was overcome by a new wave of affection for her as he saw her in bringing joy and hope to the lives of others besides his own. He had known it to be so but hadn’t given it much thought. But now that he had seen and felt it, he realized he loved her even more.
“Hello. Were you with Dr. Agarwal?” the lady physician tapped his shoulder.
“Yes doctor. I… I am a friend.” Shaan said then spoke on when he saw the woman give a knowing smile. “How is she now? Will she be okay?”
“Yes she will be fine. Just a case of severe exhaustion and perhaps some dehydration. Took on too much work. Don’t know what she was trying to prove. I’m giving her some fluids. I also gave her a sedative. She was worried about her shift, who will cover it and all that. Poor girl. I tell you some of these young docs think they are something else.”
She extended her hand, “By the way I am Dr. Shobha Virani. Could you inform her family and tell them they can probably take her home after some routine tests? I’ve met her mother. She must be getting worried.”
Shaan nodded and smiled his thanks as she rushed away to see another patient. Of course, Khanak’s family had to be informed but how did he go about doing so? Besides what would their reaction be when they heard the news from him, a stranger?
As Shaan pondered over the dilemma he realized he was holding Khanak’s lab coat. He had all but forgotten about it. The nice cafe attendant had brought it to the ED and handed it to him for safekeeping.
Her cell phone should have her home number.
Shaan dug into a pocket and found a small purse. After some hesitation he opened it. Never before had he poked his nose into a woman’s personal affects, let alone her purse. He smiled when he found a few sticks of gum, the usual lipstick, and tissue. No woman would want to be caught without those. He also found a credit card, some rupees and loose change but no phone.
He was about to give up when his fingers closed on a crumpled piece of paper that looked strangely familiar. It happened to be his own personal note sheet on which he had scribbled his message to her. He felt disappointed that she had crumpled it but then she hadn’t thrown it away either. That gave him some hope. He looked into her other pocket and heaved a sigh of relief when he found her cell. But he was surprised to see several missed calls. From Home, Mom and Palak. Why wasn’t Khanak answering her phone?
As Shaan puzzled about what he would say when Khanak’s family asked him who he was the phone rang. It was Khanak’s Mom.
Shaan pressed ‘Talk’ but before he could say anything a harried yet soft female voice began to speak—
“Khanak! At last! I’ve been trying to reach you for so long! Both me and Palak. Your father has gone to Pune. Haan, yes I know. You will say you were busy and because you are a doctor you can take care of yourself. But I’m your mother. At least you can call me sometime and let me know you are fine can’t you? Mere dimaag mein kaise kaise khayal aa rahe the! Kuch to bolo! Say something Khanak please!”
Shaan hesitated. He sensed the profound anxiety in Khanak’s mother’s voice. She must love her daughter very much and was obviously worried crazy about her. Now what will she say when she heard his voice.
He cleared his throat, “Hello Auntiji?”
He didn’t hear a response. “I am Khanak’s friend Shantanu…”
“Shantanu? Khanak’s friend? I haven’t heard the name before. Where is Khanak? Has anything happened to her?”
“No. nothing. Auntiji, I’ve known her for a short time only. Khanak is absolutely fine. She became a little dehydrated and therefore passed out. She’s okay now.”
There was a pause. Shaan could almost hear Khanak’s mother trying to come to terms with what he had just told her. In the background he heard a younger female voice speaking anxiously— Maa tell me, has anything happened to didi?”
“Bete?” Khanak’s mother’s voice sounded a little calmer. “Where is Khanak?”
“She is in the emergency room. Doctor Virani says she can go home in sometime.”
It was past 1 in the morning before Shaan reached home. The entire household had gone to sleep yet he felt wide awake. The thoughts in his mind seemed to echo even louder in the silence of the night. He decided to sit down and listen to some of his favorite classics. In the past the act had always helped him get back on an even keel.
Tonight he felt that his relationship with Khanak… if he could call it that, had reached a new level. He felt closer to her now. Her mother was a sweetheart. A petite, unassuming woman but with an inner strength that she could call upon at moment’s notice. Not a person to be taken lightly. Palak, her younger sister, with those sparkling mischievous eyes, had all the qualities he would’ve liked in a sister of his own, had he had one.
Khanak’s mother after reassuring herself that her daughter was not in dire straits, had thanked him profusely. She had appeared genuinely pleased on seeing him. Palak had at first given him a strange look then she had said something that had made him feel happy yet guilty at the same time.
“Now that I know the reason behind didi’s sleepless nights…,” she had said with a big grin. “Gosh she has had it! Miss touch me not!”
Though Khanak’s family had given him all the positive vibes, Shaan felt reluctant to join them as they fussed over her. Rather, he felt satisfied to hang around in the background watching as they interacted with genuine affection and love. A thrill rushed through him when he saw Khanak’s tired face light up with a beautiful smile when she laid eyes on her family. He was glad that he was at least in part responsible for it.
Once he had reassured himself that everything was going to be okay with Khanak, he hurried to her mother’s leave while avoiding Khanak’s eye for fear of upsetting her again. But as he was about to exit the door he heard her call out softly; “Shantanu…Thank You.”
The sweetness in her voice was unmistakable making him turn around without hesitation. Her lovely eyes met his and seemed to convey a lot more than those words.
Shaan smiled and fell into a blissful sleep as the strains of a song echoed the feelings in his heart.
You’re too good to be true
Can’t take my eyes off you
You’d be like heaven to touch
I want to hold you so much
At long last love has arrived
And I thank God I’m alive
You’re just too good to be true
Can’t take my eyes off you