Submitted into Contest #60 in response to: Write a post-apocalyptic romance.... view prompt

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Kalidas was sitting in front of the Dean of the hospital. He had recently admitted a pregnant lady in a very critical condition. She was one of the victims he saved from the ravaged gushing floods, coupled with chopping winds and heavy downpour. It was a tremendous job for him to wade through racing currents and whirlpools. He had virtually lifted and packed her on his back with her back on his back, so that her baby-bump was not suppressed. A miraculous escape for both, from the very mouth of death! How they survived God only knows! That was all about a week back.

Sitting casually in front of the Dean and thinking about the catastrophe was not any unusual affair for him. He had saved many people --- men and women, young and old, stiff and sick, under perilous situations. The lurking dangers remaining the same, only the situations and the scenes changed. He was a member of Disaster Management team. He had obtained extensive training in handling difficult situations and wading through disastrous disruptions. He had plunged into the wildfires at Theni, been under sudden cloud bursts in Uttarakhand and witnessed dangerous landslides in Idukki. He had even sniffed some burials under Nathu La snowfalls and dug out those almost dead people and brought back life into their frozen bodies and numb limbs.

Every member in that Disaster Team had vowed to throw themselves into the very epicentre of disaster and try saving the victims as many as they could. Their own life in danger was evident. Nevertheless, they plunged into it. Only those unarmed civilians considered every disaster as nothing less than an apocalypse. For the disaster team members, it was yet another adventurous experience and they moved on to the next. Thanks to their training. The training covered physical fitness regime, mental ability, psycho analysis, stress busters, counselling, developing presence of mind, constant alertness and such other features. It had helped him to change his very attitude towards life.

He had seen those victims under grim situations of life from very close quarters and how they failed to cope up with. He wanted to know how the pregnant lady was doing now. The nurse, without replying him had asked him to see the dean. With a puzzled look, he was sitting in front of the dean. He thought it could be some money matters or about settling the bill. The dean Dr. Reddy dismissed those guesses and assured that money part of treatment was met partly by the Government and partly by philanthropic societies.

“The problem that lay before us, is the woman. We learnt from her that she lost her husband recently in the same devastating floods. Now her baby also gone. It was a still-born delivery. The shock and stress were too much for the baby. The baby got choked inside the womb itself and died. The patient is too weak to know her reality. She is not healthy enough --- both physically and mentally to withstand. You are the only one whom we know as her relative.”

He paused a while. He allowed Kalidas for the subject to seep inside him. Kalidas was not prepared for this sudden turn of events. After saving the victims from the clutches of death, the saviours slowly withdrew themselves after due counselling. The survivors had to pick up their threads from thereon.

But this patient Vimala, she was different. Her ‘disaster time’ started now. She was brought to the hospital in a delirium state with a natural instinct for survival. Once she gained conscience and would take stock of life, it would be too much for her to put up with. Kalidas looked at Dr. Reddy if he had to say something more on this.

“Yes. Quite similar to her case, there is one more patient here with us. She delivered a baby today. Soon after delivery, she passed away as though her duties were over. The baby requires a mother immediately. There this Vimala requires a baby. As a doctor and as part of my ‘disaster management’ I can put the two together and save both. But this is a case of two different families. My decision cannot prevail. What do you say?”

Kalidas asked the doctor about the other family. The doctor told him that the mother of the healthy surviving baby was a mentally retarded street urchin rape victim.

“She was picked up by one of our staff members and we all of us took it upon ourselves to treat the case with devotion and dignity. We did our best. The baby needs a mother. Now the ball is in your court. What do you say?”

Kalidas said he knew nothing about Vimala till date, not even her name. All he knew was, she was in danger and struggling for survival. He was just a tool in helping her to cope up with life. That was all. So, he gave complete charge to the doctor and had no say on what so ever. The hospital was free to carry on what might deem fit. He was in a hurry to leave as there was one more call for ‘Save our souls’. He left in a jiffy and forgot all about this case. ‘Call of duty’ made him rush to the spot.

The floods had receded a few days ago but started rising again. It was partly natural and partly man made. It was due to sudden downpour and also due to opening of one of flood gates in a check dam in the upper range of a tributary. Nature’s fury or man-made omissions, the disasters do not distinguish between them for creating havoc on human life.

The team members never started their journey without remembering their role model, a fisherman --- K P Jaiswal who instantaneously crouched on his knees in waist-deep waters and was on his fours, to help women and children to climb on the rescue boats by stepping on his back. His ready wits and presence of mind at that hour of crisis helped them to move to safety. Kalidas invoked the blessings of Jaiswal and proceeded. It was his habit to remember and invoke the blessings of all those rare stalwarts in every field of disaster, like firefighters, trekkers, raft riders etc.

Kalidas was along with his team to a remote area. It was still raining and there was no current supply. But the team members always used to put on insulated dresses. No one ever knew if any live wire got cut and was left loose into pool of waters. With the help of a rope, Kalidas and others moved all the stranded people to safety who were wet through and through shivering feverishly. Kalidas somehow made arrangements for hot water, tea and biscuits. After receiving heaps of praises and blessings from those hapless victims, Kalidas and others returned home.

A call from the doctor brought him back to his previous episode flood-recovery. This time Dr, Reddy called him to say that Vimala was fast recovering, but was sceptical about her future. In a few days’ time she could be discharged, of course with the baby. The baby was the essential element for infusing life and hope into her. Medicines tonics, etc. were secondary. It was nice to know that the person whom he helped was picking up steadily. Having ensured that much, his role ended with that. The doctor did not allow him to leave. He had something more to offer --- Advices.

“You see! You saved a life. She too saved another. They both need a strong and bright future. Why don’t you accept her and provide shelter? I know you are a bachelor. That is what you wrote in the form, while admitting her here. I do not know about your dreams of a partner, your future, your aspirations in life. I won’t say a spouse. But why don’t you accept her as a care giver, as a partner, as a friend or worse cum worse as a maid servant? For the benefit of both. It is only my suggestion. Mind you it is not charity. Charity is a noble deed done without any expectations. A selfless attitude! If there is an element of very minute self-interest also, then it becomes a business deal. ‘I give this to you and you give that to me’. Just think over and tell me. I am fully aware that everybody is driven by one’s own destiny and we are just mere tools in His hands in shaping it.”

Kalidas was spell bound. This was something he had never thought of even in his wildest dreams. He requested the doctor to give some time to ponder over the issue. He also hinted to the doctor to think of some other alternatives. There was a reason for that. Not that he had any big dreams of any sweet girlfriend sweeping over him, nor any romantic overtures with any ladies. Why so much, never even thought of settling down and setting up a family of his own.

Now suddenly, a total stranger, a doctor is advising him to choose. Accept or Do Not! A lady who lost her husband and a child adopted by her! If he was accepting them in what capacity, would he be retaining them?

‘Partner means, a live-in-partner? A spouse means a wife? A friend means how long in his house under one roof? A maidservant means how long and where to accommodate them?’ His own ambivalent notions also prevented him to think further. His apprehensions.

He was the second son to his parents. His elder brother was just two year older than him. As per prevalent practices, he got his brother’s dresses as and when his brother outgrew. How he wished to be a girl then. If he were to be a girl, he would have escaped the second-hand stuff thrown on him. So were the case with toys, tricycle, shoes, raincoats, uniforms, school books, admission into the very school which offered half fees and so on. When he grew up, he was teased a lot by relatives and friends for getting used things for recycling. Occasionally when he wore something new, then also, it was taken as something that was passed to him from someone else. The stigma and the joke continued even in his college days. Both brothers were in the same college was also an added reason for sticking to the stigma. There the same old joke took a sharper turn. In life, Kalidas would never get anything new or original. ‘Car means used cars only, house means a second-hand property only which comes under resale value with discounts, all moveable and immovable assets, furniture and fixtures etc. all used by somebody and then passed on for sale or re-use. Ever getting things at a discount and at a cheaper rate! So much so that even after the two brothers had taken to different paths and were leading a totally different life in a totally different lifestyle, the pinch continued to pain him.

Kalidas was smitten by the stigma so deeply that once he left his school and entered college, he had vowed to himself that he would never adopt use or follow his brother’s ways and methods. He was very clear about it and told his parents also that they should not force things on him. Such a deep scar it left on him. Unfortunately, he could not get accommodation in other colleges as the choice of subjects he wanted were not available anywhere else. He had no option than to join the same college where his brother was studying. The same college and the same set of known friends triggered the re-use stigma and he continued to suffer from the sting of it.

The biggest relief was when they both got employed in different fields and were working at two different places. His parents were also no more now. The sting of used stuff and usage of recycled objects was almost forgotten. He joined police force and stood vehemently for Protector Of Life Institutions / Investments & Civil Establishments. Irrespective of the official interpretation of Police. After enrolling himself for Disaster Management, he was out and out a different person. His very attitude had changed. He stood solely for humanity. He never had time to think of self-imposed introvert childhood ethos.

Today suddenly, the doctor touched this live nerve and it became active. His college friends said jokingly that he would never get anything original --- moveable or immoveable. Kalidas was possessed by his own thoughts and it did not matter to him what Vimala and the baby were to him. He was lost in his thoughts and he dozed off without any whims bothering him. In his sleep, he dreamt of a holy couple Ramakrishna Paramahansa and Sharadamani Devi blessing him. He woke up with a sudden jerk. He was awe struck. A divine feeling and an aesthetic sensation took over him.

He understood it was a signal for him. He was very clear on what he had to do further. He had no apprehensions at all. First of all, he had no regrets. Once decided, it was final. He went to the doctor and gave his consent to accept both Vimala and the new-born, whom he fondly called Ramakrishna.

Vimala was undisturbed by his new outlook. She was the same one stricken by fears of swollen floods and gigantic waves waiting to engulf her. She held the baby tight to herself, lest the waters would snatch him and wash him away similar to her husband being washed away in the floods. Kalidas gently patted her and comforted her. She found that there was tremendous strength in his tender and gentle patting. A new aroma of romance was setting in there.

To this day, Kalidas remained baffled on one issue. It happened a few months after their settling down in his house. When he received an SOS call for going out on yet another mission, Vimala warned him to be careful. Then she said, “Take care. See that you don’t bring one more Vimala here. I do not like sharing or second serving.”

Kalidas stood stunned beyond words in spite of the call of duty beckoning him. It took a minute for him to come to senses. Then he smiled to himself.

The same words, ‘no second serving’ still ringing in his ears. They were his words. Now ownership got changed. No problem.

September 25, 2020 19:11

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19:13 Sep 25, 2020

loosely based on my children's rumblings in their childhood


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