When my good friend and fellow blogger Sid B (http://iwrotethose.com/ and http://foodnessme.com/) wanted to post an epilogue to my novella “Onus of the oath” I was honored (obviously) but more thrilled to bits as this is a writer whose work I tremendously enjoy and to me it was more of an acknowledgement that Sid found my novella good enough to pen an epilogue to and add his two cents to the narrative.
Without further ado, here goes Sid’s epilogue to Onus of the oath.
A loud set of knocks on the door brought Ravi’s attention back from the oath he’d been staring at. He looked at the clock on the wall. He’d been in the room for over 30 minutes. He replayed the earlier scene in his mind, where Circle Inspector Bhaskaran had been at his feet, begging him to save his daughter’s life. As he continued to replay the scene in his mind, over and over again, he could start to feel his blood boil. It was because of Bhaskaran that he’d not even had a chance to tell his father how proud he had been of him. And now he had the choice to make Bhaskaran go through the exact same pain and anguish, that he had been through.
The series of knocks started to get more persistent and Ravi walked up to the door to unlock it. It was his head nurse, Mariamma. “Doctor! The girl’s condition is getting worse. We have put her on the respirator. But you need to tell us what to do next!” she said, her face etched with panic. Ravi simply continued to stare at Mariamma and said “Keep her there. I will let you know”. He slammed the door shut and looked around the room. He hated Bhaskaran with ever fiber of his being, and he wanted him to suffer. But every object in that room, stood as a testament to the oath he had taken. His eyes stopped at a picture of his late father, Dr. Sudheesh Nair. As his eyes started to brim up with tears, only one thought crossed his mind.
CI Bhaskaran had to pay the price for his grief.
Ravi looked at his disheveled reflection in the mirror. He hadn’t slept properly for days. His eyes were bloodshot and his 3-day-old greying stubble gave him the appearance of a drunken, homeless person. He leaned over the washbasin and splashed his face with the freezing cold water, giving him goose bumps. He shut his eyes, unable to look at himself in the mirror. The face haunted him, as it had been doing for the past few days. He looked at the Tissot watch on his wrist. It had been his last present from his late father. It was almost time for the meeting.
Ravi slowly put on his checked blazer and tried to pat down his messy hair. Dr Tharakan had specifically asked him to clean up and dress up well for the hearing. But Ravi no longer cared. He closed the door to his apartment and looked up at the sky. It was cloudy and overcast. It looked like another storm was headed their way. He sighed and started the long trek to the medical center where Dr. Tharakan had offered to pick him up from.
Dr. Tharakan put a hand on Ravi’s shoulder as if to help him relax. Ravi stared blankly at the three senior doctors from the Medical Council. One of them, Dr. Lakshmi Warrier, an octogenarian and head of the disciplinary committee, wrinkled her nose and pouted her lips in disgust as she glanced over his disheveled state. “Dr. Ravi Nair, you have been summoned here, before the Disciplinary Committee of the Medical Council, because of a complaint filed by Circle Inspector Bhaskaran R. He has raised allegations that you neglected the oath that you had sworn to protect and uphold, when you completed your medical degree. He has also put forth an allegation that due to your personal rivalry, you initially refused to treat his daughter, Preethi Bhaskaran, aged 10, which led her condition to worsen. Do you deny any of these allegations?” asked Dr. Warrier, in a shrill voice.
Ravi remained silent and continued to look straight ahead, his face still expressionless. “Dr. Ravi, I repeat. Do you deny any of these allegations?” recapped Dr. Warrier, her voice starting to quiver slightly with anger. But Ravi still said nothing. One of the other members of the disciplinary committee, Dr. Joy Thomas, interjected at this point and said “Dr. Ravi, Do you have anything to say to defend your actions? If you say nothing, we will have no other alternative, but to revoke your medical license and also pass the case to the Police department for further investigation”. Ravi slowly stood up and pushed his chair backwards. “I have nothing to say. Do what you must!” he said, and walked out of the room. The disciplinary committee looked at Dr. Tharakan in shock, who too stood up from his seat.
Outside, Ravi took a long drag of the cigarette. The nicotine from the cigarette surged through his body, and he closed his eyes. He could see their faces again. But one lone face appeared clearer and sharper than the rest. It was that of Preethi Bhaskaran. Her expressionless eyes stared back at him, giving him a chill. And then, she slowly spoke in a raspy voice. “Why did you have to let me die, doctor? I was only ten years old. I had my entire life ahead of me. You took out your anger on me. What did I do to you, doctor? Why?”
“Ravi!” Dr. Tharakan’s voice snapped him out of his nightmare. “Let’s go,” he said to Ravi and together they walked towards where Dr. Tharakan had parked his dilapidated Maruti Zen. As he started the car, Dr. Tharakan asked “Don’t you want to know what they decided?” Ravi just stared through the windshield, without muttering a word.
Ravi slowly opened the door to his office at Nightingale Medical Center. Everything was as he had left it on the fatal day. He shut the door behind him, and walked towards his desk, behind hung the portrait of his late father, Dr. Sudheesh Nair. Almost instantaneously, images from that day, a few weeks ago, raced through his mind.
Though he had wanted to punish CI Bhaskaran, he knew it was against his ethics to let his daughter pay the price. After all, his father had been the epitome of an honest, ethical doctor and he would have not accepted that. So he’d asked Nurse Mariamma to get the operation theatre ready, and had started the preparation for the surgery. However halfway through the surgery, Preethi’s lungs had given up and they were unable to resuscitate her. And as a result, she had died. Though he’d not intended for that to happen, Ravi had been ridden with guilt ever since that day. He’d rushed out of the operation theatre and gone home, leaving the nurse to convey the tough news to CI Bhaskaran and his family.
Initially he thought that he would get over it in a few days. The morbid image of Preethi in the operation theatre haunted him every time he shut his eye. And slowly, his guilt worsened. Deep down, Ravi believed that he had been inadvertently responsible for her death, because of his delay in making the decision to operate on her. Although Dr. Tharakan and the rest of the doctors had told him otherwise, he couldn’t help but feel, that if he hadn’t let his hatred for Bhaskaran get in the way, Preethi would be alive today. Due to Dr. Tharakan’s testimony, the medical committee had agreed not to revoke his medical license, even though he himself had walked out of the room, without offering any kind of defense.
As he put on his clean, white overcoat, he looked at the piece of paper he had cut from the local daily a few days ago. He slowly placed the stethoscope around his neck and picked up the portrait sized black and white image of a little girl. “I’m sorry Preethi !” he whispered as he placed the paper cutting back into his desk drawer.
It was time to do what he knew best – be a good doctor.