Mrs. Sylvia D’Cunha seemed to be an ordinary woman who lived an ordinary life in the small Goan fishing village of Sequolim. But there was one thing that was quite extraordinary about her—she was able to see the future; although that had not always been the case. It had all started with a visit to her GP, Dr. Almeida...
“Glad we caught it in time, Mrs. D’Cunha. Even if it is a benign tumour, we can’t let it grow any bigger. It can press down upon your brain and can cause all kinds of unpleasant symptoms.”
Mrs. Sylvia D’Cunha sat across from Dr. Almeida in his surgery, only partly comprehending all that the good doctor was telling her. She had lived out most of her life on her farm that she had inherited from her father, tending to the animals, doing physical labour, and waiting upon her husband of twenty-five years. Some might say that Mr. D’Cunha was a slovenly and slothful old drunk, or that he had married her only so that he could live off of her, but Mrs. D’Cunha knew better. Poor Salvador was frail! He was not suited to carry out the heavy duty farm work!
“Are you saying that I will have to go under the knife, Doc?”
“Yes,” said Dr. Almeida, giving her his most reassuring smile. “And after you’ve undergone the surgery, you will be as good as new!”
“But I don’t want my skull cracked open like a coconut! Who take care of poor Salvador?” She would have gone right on ignoring her symptoms for all eternity, had not the ‘funny turns’ impaired her ability to work.
“Mrs. D’Cunha, nobody is going to crack your skull open! Only a small burr hole will be made to access the growth. It is imperative that you get your brain tumour removed!”
“But you said it wasn’t cancer!”
Dr. Almeida took a deep breath as he surveyed the short, heavy-set, middle-aged woman in front of him. He had been her GP for most of his professional career and knew well enough that she could be mule-headed, especially if it meant ‘poor Salvador’ having to fend for himself. It would not do for him to lose his temper.
“Even if it is not cancer, it is still dangerous. You need to get it removed! I will make an appointment for you with the neurosurgeon for the coming Monday.”
“Perhaps I should try homeopathy,” mumbled Mrs. D’Cunha, fidgeting with her scarf.
“Mrs. D’Cunha! You will do no such thing! If you do not get the tumour removed, it will destroy your brain tissue and render you useless around the farm! Is that what you want? Look here, the procedure is quite simple!” Dr. Almeida had opened an illustrated book of human anatomy and was doing his best to explain the procedure to her in lay terms, but her eyes had glazed over again.
“Alright, alright! But I have got a bad feeling about this!”
“Breathe slowly and easily into this mask Mrs. D’Cunha. That’s it!”
Mrs. D’Cunha was starting to feel sleepy, and the bright lights overhead made her want to screw her eyes shut. The sooner it got over, the better it would be. She looked absolutely ghastly with the one side of her head shaved. It was only right that poor Salvador had not accompanied her to the hospital, despite Dr. Almeida’s misgivings. He would not have survived the journey on the rickety old bus. How would he manage on his own for the few days she would be away? She needed to get out here!
“Don’t fight it Mrs. D’Cunha! Nice and easy! Good girl!”
“Is she under?”
“Yes! Finally! Had to use a higher dose of the anaesthetic. ”
“Let’s hope she doesn’t wake up in the middle of the procedure!” The surgeon guffawed loudly, even as the anaesthetist rolled her eyes. He made this ‘joke’ before every procedure.
A neat incision was made, exposing the underlying skull bone, which was quickly hidden under the blood oozing from the incision site.
“Gauze.” The blood was quickly mopped.
“Cautery.” Vessels were cauterized, stopping the flow of the blood.
“Burr.” A small hole was drilled into the skull. Bits of bone flew everywhere.
“Saline flush.” And on it went till the surgeon reached the tumour.
“Margins are nice and clear, hand me the forceps,” the surgeon had grasped the growth with his left hand and held out his right hand, waiting. “I’d rather have the forceps today, Nurse!” He said impatiently tapping his foot.
As the nurse hurried to hand over the forceps, she accidentally pulled the OT cart and the momentum of the action propelled her forward, hitting the surgeon’s elbow, which in turn caused him to unexpectedly tug at the tumour and pull it out before he was ready.
“Watch it!” he yelled
“Sorry!” mumbled the nurse.
He hurriedly inspected the area, watching out for any signs damage to the healthy tissue. It all seemed just fine.
When she woke up, it was in a bright and airy room with white-washed walls. Everything was so strange, so new. She looked out of the window and found nothing but buildings. The door to her room was open, and there was a constant movement of people in the corridor. She needed to close her eyes for a moment.
Mrs. D’Cunha is your next patient.
Who is that again?
The meningioma you operated on yesterday.
She felt someone shaking her shoulder gently and opened her eyes.
“The surgeon will be here on his rounds. How are you feeling?” The smiling lady in the blue uniform asked her.
Mrs. D’Cunha’s lips moved without making a sound, and then she eventually said, “OK.”
The activity near the door caught both their attention. The surgeon was on his rounds and Mrs. D’Cunha’s notes were handed over to him. They paused outside the door; the scene that had flashed through Mrs. D’Cunha’s mind was now playing out in front of her! Confused, she looked at the lady standing next to her.
“I don’t understand...” she began.
“The doctor is here.”
“Mrs. D’Cunha, I’m happy to tell you we were successfully able to remove your tumour. You can go home today!”
“You were here!”
“Well yes, this is a hospital and I am a surgeon,” said the surgeon somewhat impatiently.
“She appears to be disoriented,” said one of the nurses.
“Can you tell me your full name?”
“Sylvia. D’Cunha.” She replied hesitantly, as if testing out the name on her tongue.
“Do you know where we are?”
She shook her head uncertainly.
“Can you tell me what day it is?”
“I... I don’t think so...”
“What is the last thing you remember?”
Mrs. D’Cunha strained hard to remember anything, anything at all.
“You were here...”
“Yes, so you have said, but apart from that.”
Perplexed, she looked at the surgeon, then the nurse by his side.
“Do you remember anything at all?” The surgeon asked again more forcefully.
“The lights...” she mumbled after a while.
“Seems like the patient is suffering from transient global amnesia, probably brought on by the stress of undergoing the surgery. Her memory will come back on its own. There is nothing we can do. Discharge her today,” replied the surgeon rather nonchalantly.
“But I’m telling you, you were here!” Insisted Mrs. D’Cunha.
“Are you sure see is alright? We could keep her under observation for a further twenty four hours!”
“Sure, let’s do that for every patient who appears slightly disoriented after a surgery. Let’s start letting the patients choose when they want to be discharged while we are at it!”
“You don’t have to be rude!” mumbled the nurse.
“This is a civil hospital or have you forgotten the fact? We need to keep the beds empty for patients with genuine need. Mrs. Whatshername can easily recuperate at home!”
And so that had been that!
Mrs. D’Cunha was now settled in her what was supposed to be her farmhouse. She had tried telling the people up at the big hospital that she kept seeing things before they happened, especially when she rested her eyes, but they had said everything on her reports was normal and she was simply a little dazed after her surgery.
There was a rather unpleasant man she was living with whom she recognized as her husband. It was all strange and unfamiliar, but more than anything else, she was growing tired of seeing things in her head. Particularly so since Mr. D’Cunha was moaning about something most times.
It was like being subjected to the man’s whining twice—once in her mind, and as if that was not vexatious enough, she had to live through it! Considering the fact that the man felt practically like a stranger to her, it made everything that much difficult.
Sylvia, I ‘aven’t ‘ad me tea yet! Sylvia!
Sylvia! Feed the chooks! Stop ‘em from making that awful din!
You ‘aven’t fixed me lunch yet!
And on and on it went! She went along with his demands just so that he would shut up.
Even though she was supposed to be recuperating, she had taken to spending almost all the daylight hours at the farm doing various chores simply to keep away from that irritating man.But a visit from Dr. Almeida put a stop to it.
She was trying to get into her tractor, struggling to pull herself up into the driver’s seat.
“Mrs. D’Cunha! What do you think you are doing?”
“Working the tractor,” she said, completely missing the point that the question was rhetorical.
“I can see that! But you’re not supposed to be operating it! Not so soon after the surgery!”
“There’s nobody else that will do it!”
“Put that lazy husband of yours to work. Where is he? Mr. D’Cunha?”
The doctor had given Mr. D’Cunha an earful. He had also impressed upon him the fact that if he did not help Mrs. D’Cunha out on the farm, she would be taken away to a hospital and he would have to do all the chores himself. He had also advised Mrs. D'Cunha to spend more time resting with her eyes closed.
“But doctor I can’t do that!”
“Every time I close my eyes, I see things!”
“Things that first happen in my head and then they happen again!”
“Mrs. D’Cunha, all the more reason why you should rest! You are having hallucinations! Every day you are to take frequent breaks and rest. Do you understand? Sit on the porch on the rocking chair and shut your eyes! You used to love sitting on the porch!”
“If I do that will I stop seeing things?”
“You will recover much faster!”
And so every morning, noon, and evening, Mrs. D’Cunha took a breather from whatever she happened to be doing and sat rocking on the chair on the porch. She tried her best not to shut her eyes and nod off as that’s when she saw things the most, but it was not always possible.
Every time she did nod off, all she saw was Mr.D’Cunha, grumbling about the state of his health, the state of the farm, him having to work.
What did you ‘ave to go and get the surgery for?
Me poor back!
Look ‘ow frail I am!
She tried her best to pretend to be asleep when he was around, but that didn’t stop him from saying the things she knew he would say. It went on day after day with nothing changing. First she saw horrible things in her head, and then she was forced to live through them. Was this how the rest of her life was going to be? She had to do something!
By now, it was evident to her that she was seeing glimpses of the immediate future. Perhaps if she tried to manipulate the images, could she manipulate how they played out in real life?
So to test out that theory, as she sat down in her chair on the porch, she tried to imagine Mr. D’Cunha walking out of the farm gate and never coming back. She screwed her eyes shut tight and rocked the chair furiously to and fro, doing her best. But no matter how hard she tried, the image just wouldn’t form. Sighing, she gave up, and didn’t realise when she nodded off into that semi-awake state.
And there was Mr. D’Cunha, coming out of the farmhouse.
“That patch of land by the fence needs turning over!” she was telling Mr.D’Cunha. “Run the tractor over it!”
“I’ve ‘urt me back something awful! I need a little rest meself!”
“Alright then, I will turn it over. Then maybe they will take me away to the hospital for a long spell!”
“Fine! Fine! I’ll do it!”
Mr. D’Cunha started up the tractor. He was a bit rusty, considering that he hadn’t handled the machine for years. He put it into gear and it suddenly lurched forward. Swearing a little, he tried again...
Mrs. D’Cunha woke up from her slumber smiling and sure enough, Mr. D’Cunha came out of the door.
“That patch of land by the fence needs turning over! Run the tractor over it!”
The rest of it played out exactly how it was meant to.
She sat back in her chair, rocking herself gently to and fro, watching as Mr.D’Cunha fell from the seat of the tractor. Her smile widened to a grin as the tractor seemed to have a life of its own; as it reared back and crushed his head under its heavy wheel.