It was in the midsummer evening of 2007, when I was doing short-term work in Labour Agent at Gelephu. The clouds had gathered round, preparing to pour a heavy rain in a little while. I can see the lightning and hear the sound of thunder now and then. I was all alone in my room, and had just finished punching the bills of the day’s work. I was a little worried as well because every summer I see the news about southern people hit by the lightening in papers. I just closed the Ghost Stories of Shimla Hills of Minakshi Chaudhary in the middle and started with new novel The Kite Runner of Khaled Hosseini because the nightfall was not really suitable to read the scary tales.
The rain has already begun to pour, and I was deep in the third section of The Kite Runner. Out of the blue, I heard the screaming of an ambulance incessantly above my quarter. The time was almost 10 PM, and such sound at that instance really frightened me. I cautiously pulled the curtain a bit, and peeped through the window. The ambulance is not parked, but it is moving at a snail's pace. I can also hear some vague sound of a woman crying. ‘The patient must be serious, I thought. It just provoked me to recall the teaching of Sufferings and Four Noble Truths by Lopen Karma Tshewang when I was in class seven at Ura Junior High School. I closed my novel because I couldn't concentrate. I just got into my bed and started chanting Chap Dro (The prayer of taking refuge to gods), until my eyes drifted closed.
The scary night finally came to an end. I can see the rays of sun through the portholes of my room, and hear the chirping of the birds all around. The time is almost 7 AM but I am still in my comfy bed. By 8.30 AM I have to be in my office because I have an appointment with Passang Construction to process the work permit for 12 Indian labourers. So, I reluctantly woke up, and rinsed my face. It’s already 8.17 AM by then. I hastily dressed wearing my black Gho and red leather shoes, and then walked off to my office.
The labourers of Passang Constructions are already ahead of me. I opened the door, and started filling the work-permit form. The medical certificate is one of the formalities that all the labours must produce to the immigration office. So, we marched towards the hospital in the scorching summer sun. It is not too far away if the weather is favorable, but it is hard walking a lengthy distance in rainwater and sun.
No surprise, all the sheds of the hospital are crammed with people – from newborn to old, as usual. ‘Oh! It is gonna take time’, I thought aloud. The man who overheard me responded, ‘Yeah, because they always give preference to the patient’. ‘Life is more important’ I said. A little shamed, but he agreed.
We wasted prolonged time watching dissimilar people and chewing the fat, when at some point he said his niece was seriously injured in a car accident the previous night. The one that I saw last night, I thought, but like a ghost this time – no sound. His tone changed when he continued with his pitiable story. He said he is looking for a blood donor. ‘What group?’ I said. The man stared at my eye instantly, and then showed me a chit. The required group was AB+ve. ‘My blood group is AB+ve’, I shot. The man looked with lots of hope at me, and smiled steadily. I smiled back, but only to see the teardrops falling through his cheeks. ‘Please help my child’, he cried. I unexpectedly accepted the appeal of an old man. My heart started beating more than necessary. Oh! Donating blood is a great means of alms giving – it saves lives I cheered up myself. ‘But I have to complete my work with the work permit for these labourers, I said. ‘They asked me to take two days’, he replied. ‘It’s fine then. I will get in touch with you soon’. ‘Thank you’. Then he unhurriedly moved away from me. I was all alone under the boiling summer roof of the hospital again.
Almost immediately, the health assistant came out of the clinic and called my laborers. I escorted them the procedure of the medical certificate. They have to undergo several medical tests including X-Ray and urine test. It almost consumed a couple of hours to complete them all.
Without wasting much time, we rushed to the immigration office because in the afternoon, quite often there was a disturbance in the power supply. Without power, the immigration office is idle, because they work with computerized system since 2006. We roughly took 15 minutes to arrive at our destination. As usual, all the counters are overcrowded with labourers and the labour agent people. We have to be patient yet again. Deep in my heart, I was still thinking about myself doing greatest means of alms giving – the blood donation.
In just about half an hour, the population grew a little thin, and then soon I was able to put my labourers in. The fat and arrogant immigration officer verified the form one-by-one. He normally asks Pitagi, Umer, and district in his commanding tone. Most of the labourers shake as if like they were before the lord of death, where most often I had to prompt the answer. Once, one of my labour even peed out of fear in front of the counter.
It almost took around 45 minutes to complete the complicated procedure. The time has already past noon. So, I swiftly handed over the labourers with their work-permit to the delegate of Passang Construction and then hurried to the hospital. I rummaged around for the poor old man and his patient from ward-to-ward as if like a stray dog searching for food from trash bin to trash bin, but in futile. There are dissimilar kinds of patients – some in a critical stage while other as healthy as, or even healthier, than their attendant, but there is no sign of the poor old man who I am looking for.
Soon, I realized that there is no hope in struggling myself gratuitously, and thus I approached the nurse-on-duty to find me the patient. The slim and polite nurse fished one of the file from the rack beside her and flipped through the bunch of papers. She said that victim of the car accident who is suffering from severe bleeding is in ICU. Asked upon whether I will be able to see her, she said she will be soon referred to the ward number 07. ‘Thank you’, I expressed my gratitude. But, as soon as we are done with our conversation, the old man came along with his nice lying flat on the wheel chair which is pulled by two little trainee-nurse… (To be continued)