The night was ugly. They often were, in this ghoulish hospital ward. But tonight Saachi sensed a halo of melancholy that utterly surrounded each sense that she could perceive. The extended winter was eclipsing over the upcoming spring. The creaking sound of the frequently opening metal framed door was taking her mind to the edge. The patients were roaming around the ward in ghost-like manners. The constant inkling of her belonging to this place was suffocating her very sense of being alive.
Saachi had chosen to endure the distress of living in an absolutely unknown town in order to chase her dreams of becoming a paediatrician. The universities close to her hometown did not offer her the admission. It was before three months that she had checked in the town in a positive spirit. She had shown her workaholic trait of personality in initial few days. But soon she realised that she was not appreciated by her department. The professors barely made an eye-contact, let alone teaching anything to her. The senior residents were rudest human beings she had ever confronted. After drudgery of many consecutive sleepless nights, she would be rewarded with vile abuses from seniors, which often ended with her exile from the ward.
She had survived three months of malediction in this gloomy air of the hospital ward. She had now made a practice to bury her head in registers and ignore when the seniors cursed. She had realised that they were impossible to impress. She could not afford crying on every occasion when she is cursed at.
But tonight was different.
It was her birthday today. She was feeling emotionally wrecked after seeing her brother Aadi, the only family that had left. The heartbroken look on his face was constantly haunting her. She knew it would be painful for him to see her in such a condition. The lost weight and the sunken eyeballs made her look like a walking skeleton in colourful clothes. Aadi had almost begged her to go home with him. It was ironical how she convinced her brother that better time was about to come soon and she will be okay; as she herself lived in a constant dilemma whether she would survive here or not. She promised him that she will eat better.
It is nice to see someone who cares about us. But when they leave, they sometimes leave behind a void that is surged by a deep wave of melancholic turmoil. The same wave of depression had consumed Saachi tonight. She could feel the tinge of evil in the air. Something was going to happen.
Saachi was suddenly reminded of the monthly data of the ward she had been given to sort as she saw Dr. Pathik Mehta coming towards her. Dr. Pathik Mehta, her senior resident in charge, was the coldest person she had ever dealt with. She knew that she was going to be sworn at in front of her patients, in front of the nurses, in front of the sweepers. Normally such humiliations had become routine for her. But tonight, she shuddered as Pathik Mehta started to talk.
“So, Dr. Saachi, it seems like you are done with your birthday? By the way, was it your real birthday or did you just cook it up?” Saachi pictured that irritating smirk on his face without looking at him.
She remained silent.
“Well, I am glad that you have had your fun time. But doctor, I hope that you didn’t forget the data sorting I requested to you earlier in the morning?” The word ‘requesting’ was animated and that successfully irritated Saachi.
“I remember, sir.” Saachi spoke in a low voice, avoiding the eye contact.
“Good. Is it ready then?”
“No sir. I could not complete it,” her voice barely audible.
“Complete it?” He cried banging his hand on the wooden table. He had attention of the entire ward now. “I am sure you haven’t started it yet. Have you, you retarded lazy bitch?”
Everyone was stunned. They had heard him shouting at her, and at other junior residents before. But he hadn’t ever called her names in front of them.
She couldn’t help crying. She started to sob with her head low. A nurse who was sitting beside her stood up and held her shoulders. Pathik started to realize that he had stretched it far too harsh.
Lowering his voice, but still firm, he said to Saachi, “You have till tomorrow morning. Before the OPD time, I want that file on my desk. You have had enough fun today and I didn’t say anything as it was your birthday, but now I want this done. Gather your commitment. Stay awake throughout the whole night if you have to, but I won’t tolerate any mistakes in this report. I am presenting that file directly to the head of the department first thing in the morning. So make sure that you don’t mess up otherwise you have no idea how much more measurable your life can get.” He almost spat on her face.
Having made himself clear, Pathik slammed the file on the table, and rushed towards the residents’ room. Saachi sat there terrified, hating herself for crying. She knew that even after staying up all night, it was impossible to complete that job with the amount of precision that Pathik was unduly expecting from her. Burying her pale, but still pretty face back in the patient files, she sat there wondering what she allowed them to do to her. For too long a time and for too often she had allowed others to insult her, to bully her. She could be weak, but not coward. But her silence had made them think the otherwise. But tonight, her conscience reacted differently. All the abuses of the past came alive. She felt ravaged, raped.
Saachi felt the amount of anger that she had never felt before. She wasn’t sure what she was feeling. But the feeling was very strong, and disabling. Her heart started to beat faster. Little droplets of sweat precipitated on her forehead. Her head started to boil. A gush of warm blood passed through her eyes. Then suddenly, it stopped. Everything was calm now. The feeling of self-disgust was gone, so was gone the anger, and the fear, and the fear of anger too. She would have been utterly disturbed by the moment of thoughtlessness, if she had the ability to feel anything. She did not exist. She was not from this world. In the serene silence of eternity, she belonged.
And, her gaze fixes to a spirit lamp that is burning with a steady flame in the corner of the platform. Saachi rises from the chair, and walks in that direction. Nobody notices her as she walks towards the residents’ room carrying the burning lamp in her hand. On her way towards the room, she sees a large spirit container in an extra dressing trolley that she never had seen being used before. She doesn’t have a plan. But she knows what she is doing. She carries the container in her free hand. She walks smoothly despite the heavy container she is carrying. She sees Pathik fast asleep as she opens the door without giving a knock. After locking the door from inside, Saachi walks round the bed in steady and slow pace. She notices a corner of the thick grey sheets which Pathik is wearing. She bends down and torches the end of the cloth, her hands firm, no hint of quiver in her eyes. Staring at the flameless fire in the sheets, she opens the lid of the container, and empties the whole container of spirit on her sleeping senior. Pathik wakes up. It takes a couple of seconds before he realizes what is going on. Before he speaks anything, the bed is covered by the tall flames. Pathik screams. The scream, that penetrates the eerie silence of the ugly February night. He grabs Saachi’s arms. She does not try to escape. In no time, both the bodies are caught in the flames.
Anyone who unfortunately was there that night will never forget those screams. The screams of the senior resident, Dr. Pathik Mehta, a poisonous narcissistic beast; and the cries of the sweet slave, a butterfly, Saachi.