They shut down the gym, and as I mounted the electric scooter my 55kg dad had bought (after selling our motorcycle), I saw how the streets were indeed clogged with people trying to get home. I thought of asking a security guard or fellow commuters which part of the city the explosions had taken place in, but was held back by the distant, unfriendly silence that exists in the ice before you break it. Something about Jaipur has always made me not just shiver at that ice, but actually dread it. I got back home in 15 minutes (the bloody thing – and bloody not just as in it’s bright red – doesn’t do any more than 35kmph).
There were eight blasts in all, all in the walled city, and for some reason NDTV kept referring to Sawai Man Singh (SMS) Hospital as Sawai Madhopur Hospital. Telephone networks had been broke-backed by the sheer volume of people trying to call at once.
To be honest, I am really just a selfish person, sort of like Shylock. I believe in the pristine fairness of barter. Granted there was a feral urge to be more than a mute, impotent spectator sponging in things through a televised sieve and an urge to help, what with the TV constantly declaring “extra doctors and medical support were being arranged for” by our quicksilver bureaucratic machinery. But I also wanted a karmic IOU. Something to flash and bargain with when cornered instead of merely cowering, cringing and repenting; something to fabricate a ball of moral spittle around. So I got onto the embarrassing red and white lawnmower-battery-with-wheels and plowed down to the hospital.
At 8, SMS really wasn’t as choked as you’d expect. There were at least 400 people there, but I had been expecting more. Most stood around with arms folded, frowning, ostentatiously ruining their cellphone keypads in vain, trying to look grim and important – you know, not answering in a single go when you ask for directions, relishing the evanescent importance in shoving someone aside and saying ostensibly polite things gruffly and loudly.
I made my way up to the polytrauma ward on the first floor, following both the trail of drying blood on the floor, and the lemming-like milling of hysterical people. The ward itself was huge, tiled hall the size of a basketball court, with massive glass windows, tube lights and piped oxygen sockets in the wall (contraptions which would, when required later, blow out and become useless). There were 20 beds, all occupied by people in every possible state of shatter. From broken bones, busted jaws and injuries to the head to not even real scratches and abrasions. And all around them, like on the inside of a giant ant colony, gloved worker-humans jittered to and fro, doing the same thing over and over again (this one chap was given four tetanus shots). The coherent and slightly better off people seemed to be getting the most attention and those who’s fat was well and truly in the fire were avoided, for responsibility can be intimidating.
When something like this happens, around 20% of the victims will die regardless. 60% will survive regardless. It’s the remaining 20% who have to be identified and dealt with or they will then die. And you will be the reason it happened. Therein lies the responsibility. As was said to me by a certain Lt Col Yoginder Singh, the swiftest-stitching Gynaecologist you’re ever likely to see. I want to believe I did at least something of the sort.
There was this gent whose name I didn’t ask. He looked like that bloke we see in movies but never know the name of, only better looking and fairer. He was one of a handful who kept the shit from hitting the fan – both gung-ho and grounded. I brought his attention to a lady bleeding from her left ear and a man with a pulseless, mutilated left arm. They are by now respectively either in a coma/out of a coma/dead or have probably had their arm amputated. At least he told me where to take them and how.
This picture came in the paper the next morning; he’s the one with the arrow pointing at him. The bloke in front of him wheeling the cot’s me. I spent the rest of the time doing some bandaging, some stitching and more triaging. But when the governor came and I was told to shove off by a corpulent security guard who refused to believe I was a doctor (no gloves or white coat, you see) at around 1030, I pretty much it was time to go home. Besides, no one new had come in for 20 minutes.
I came back and watched our minister for state vomit out the same impersonal, impossibly stupid statement he’d give about the Malegaon and Ajmer attacks. Cowardice and purposelessness seeped out his skin. And then changed channels, watched House on AXN and went to sleep.
I got a chance to use my IOU the next day. It was authentic.