It was my first day behind the desk of the Dean. It was a fine March morning with brilliant sunshine outside. During my drive from home to the hospital, I was filled with anticipation mixed with a little uncertainty. I was new to the intricacies of administration and would have to manage on the run and learn the ropes while being on the job. I had heard horror stories of problems that crop up that need immediate attention. Being a surgeon, I was used to making swift decisions but this was in a different league altogether. The glare of the media would always be on the hospital with every little mishap making headlines.
I had a steady stream of visitors. The old timers were very happy that one of their ‘boys’ had risen to become the Dean. Several local politicians dropped in. I could see that they were curious to meet the former resident of Sion hospital who would now be at its helm. Several visitors brought in bouquets of flowers. The Dean’s office was filled with the fragrance of roses and champa. Mrs Desai had plonked a huge pile of correspondence that needed attention on the table. I immersed myself in the administrative jargon of the Municipal Corporation missives.
“Excuse me Sir, Sister Thomas is waiting outside. She wants to meet you for a moment.” Mrs Desai informed me. I told her to usher her in. Sister Thomas looked frail and old. She peered nearsightedly about her. It was obvious that she had undergone a cataract surgery recently. Her eyes were magnified behind her thick glasses. She carried a small bouquet of roses.
I went around the desk to greet her, but ended up giving her an affectionate hug. Her eyes were moist. “These are tears of joy, Dean Sir” was her greeting. Please call me doctor as you did when I was a resident, I begged her. “You are the Dean now, Sir. I will not show disrespect to the chair. My God shower his blessings on you Dean Sir. I hope you achieve great things in that chair,” was her reply. She had a cup of tea with me, chatted about inconsequential things and left.
I remembered Sister Thomas in her heydays. She was an absolute martinet. Her ward was always spotlessly clean and won the award for being the cleanest in the hospital every year. In her ward, shortages of stuff was a rarity. She ran the ward with an iron fist. The fresh residents were terrified of her acidic tongue but soon realized that her hard exterior hid a very soft heart. She would shield them from the bludgeoning manner of the Prof. She would not take any nonsense from the patient and ticked them off if they acted ‘fresh’. She would make it a point to know everything about her patients; where they lived, what did they do for a living, how many relatives visited them, in short, the entire family and social history. She loved her ward so much that she would drop in on Sundays as well. We would see her after the morning service at the local church, dressed in a starched white sari comforting the really ill patients.
She had retired some years before I became the Dean. She had volunteered to help out at the newly established rehab center for the addicts. She would spend the entire day at the center listening to them, solving their minor problems, in short being a mother figure. She was totally involved with the junkies. Several of her friends warned her not to get too involved with the addicts. Most of the junkies were discards from the society and almost amoral. She knew that she was being used, but didn’t care. She would lend them small amounts of money to buy things. It was open knowledge that her only son, a teenager had died of a drug overdose. I suppose that she saw him in every addict that she came across.
Sister Thomas was not seen for several days at the De-addiction center. Her colleagues supposed that she must be down with the flu and would appear again.
“Have you seen the news today?” Naina asked me. She looked upset. “Retired Nurse murdered in her bed” screamed the headline. “Georgina Thomas, a retired nurse from the Sion hospital was found murdered in her flat. Her body was discovered in a state of advanced decomposition. She had been dead for several days. The neighbors noticed a foul smell coming from her flat. When the door was broken open, the woman was found dead with multiple stab wounds. The flat had been burgled. The suspect, a drug addict who knew her from the rehab center of the Sion hospital has been arrested in this connection.”
I felt a gripping numbness. I recalled the days of my residency. Prof, Sister Thomas, Dr Joshi and even Prakash had passed on to the great beyond. My mind went back to the day when my journey had begun……..