“How much can you afford?” Agent Neel asked.
His eyes fell all over Renuga. Renuga appeared gorgeous despite her simple clothing. She just wore a red cotton saree with sandal blouse. A faultless glowing fleshy skin coupled with fair complexion made her look much closer to a film actress. Standing tall, she looked like an Arabian horse capable of excelling in any discipline.
“A little over a hundred thousand…” Renuga said thoughtfully.
Neel sighed instantly making it abundantly look like disappointment.
“Treatment at that cost is impossible in this hospital” he said.
Renuga stared at Neel in anticipation.
“But it is not like there are no other options left for you at the moment” he said in an offering tone.
Renuga now eagerly looked at Neel.
“It is going to be the same treatment at a lesser cost. I can arrange for it provided you know what is in store” he said.
“Please Neel, I am willing to go through anything for my husband’s speedy recovery. He is the only earning person in the family. I and my 2 years old child are dependent on his earning. With him in the hospital we are accruing debts. We want him back as normal as before, as quickly as possible” Renuga said in a pleading tone.
All that was needed for Neel was a bait to catch her attention and keep her stick to him and Renuga didn’t realize she innocently and unintendedly gave him one with those words.
“I get that. See Renu, usually such treatments costs high because it is a very new and very advanced technology. But there are hospitals which do it at lower costs too. There are ways to reduce the cost, you see”
“What do I need to do Neel?”
“Nothing much. You just have to give us the consent. That is all.”
“Consent for what?”
“Consent for performing the treatment on your husband. Our experts will handle it in such a way that there is no difference and zero side effects”
“No ‘but’ Renu. Between the treatment and the cost which one you want us to favor you in? Be aware that this treatment cannot be done with papers at what you can afford. We may have to skip the paper work. So the risk is yours. Decide yourself and let us know.”
Neel stood and walked out of the room. He knew any more words could screw things. He was well aware that detailed conversations will not help in preying.
Renuga was still seated in Neel’s room.
She was unsure which one to favor. Her bank account was in poor state. Neither she nor her husband Ganesh had pledge-able assets to derive money from. All she had was her Mangalsutra which was the last piece of ornament left with her. Any money she could raise was from that last piece of ornament. It was an antique piece that came from her grandma through her mother.
It was part of her family custom. Daughters inherited mother’s Mangalsutra in marriages and it was believed that this successful inheritance brought good luck as it carried almost 100 years of relationship values, blessings and memories of her family.
But the situation was very compelling. Ganesh was suffering from cancer and now it went beyond limits. It was indeed a costly treatment but fortunately there were short-cuts to it at lesser cost. Even though these shortcuts were illegal, they had a 95% success rate which was quite convincing to take the risk.
In a nation which stands out by its population, illegal solutions are the ones that come handy for people living beneath and in poverty line. If Ganesh recovered from cancer, he could go back to work which would save her family from fall.
On the other hand, her Mangalsutra would lose its value and would be considered unlucky if Ganesh’s life could not be saved. If it turned unlucky there was no point in passing it to her daughter. That way possessing it would become meaningless. Without treatment Ganesh’s life cannot be saved. But the treatment costs a lot. Cheaper treatment methods needed some compromises on paper work.
After considering carefully all the above, she thought it was wiser to pledge the ornament and go ahead with the only option left for her.
By then, Neel had returned to his seat.
“I hope you must have given it a thought” he said.
“Yes Neel. I will arrange for the money that I promised. Please arrange treatment for my husband immediately” she said confidently.
“As I said there are no paper works. So we can start the treatment anytime now.” he said smilingly.
Renuga pledged her ornament at a cooperative bank and paid the amount at the hospital for Ganesh’s treatment. At the time of pledging she sincerely hoped the blessings of her parents and grandparents would help save her husband’s life.
The hospital carefully counted every note she gave and very carefully avoided giving her bills. Ganesh’s treatment was fixed the next day.
Renuga waited patiently outside the room in which Ganesh was treated praying all known gods for the life of her husband.
At the hospital Dean’s office,
“How did the patient die in first place?” The chief doctor Anand asked.
“There was nothing wrong in the instructions given to the robots. We employed ‘used robots’ for the treatment Anand” Dr.Sethi answered with Neel seated next to Sethi.
“Looks like the robots were not accepted by the host’s blood stream. It created allergic effects, eventually leading to the death of the patient” Sethi further added.
“How did you miss to foresee this Dr.Sethi”
“It was not my fault Anand. I did it right. I gave the right external stimuli. The robots responded too. There are so many reasons. People here have the habit of taking medications without the consent of the doctor in most cases. These medications are sometimes herbal, Ayurvedic and Allopathic. It could be the root for the allergic reactions. These random unconsented medications are not usually attached to a medical report. The medical reports of the patient from the Insurance Company lacked all these random unconsented medications. How would I know if the patient is allergic to these used robots?”
“So are you saying there was no way it can be figured out?”
“Medical reports are sensitive to such treatments Anand. You know it better than me. Moreover, we used the best sterilization technique to clean the robots before using for the treatment Anand. Chances are more that the robots picked up microscopic organic dirt that escaped our sterilization process.”
“So the real culprit is our sterilization process?”
“There is a reason why these tiny robots are still manufactured without reuse capabilities Anand. It is for the same reason why a light bulb is manufactured with a known defect. The sterilization process that we do here is something that was developed by our own researchers Anand. Looks like this is the first time the process has been proven wrong. We can take this as an opportunity to fix the defects in our sterilization process”
Anand looked at Neel and Sethi alternatively.
At the end of a considerable long pause,
“OK. Cover it up. Reason out the unconsented medications for the death. If the patient’s relatives bounce back stronger, we can go up to a million on compensation” Anand said firmly.
At Neel’s room,
“You should have kept us informed about the unconsented medications long been taken by your husband Ganesh, Renu” Neel said to sobering Renuga.
Renu broke into tears.
“It usually doesn’t happen here but in your husband’s case it could not have happened otherwise. Most people who are treated here belong to corporate companies which tie their employees with an insurance company. It helps us get a clear past medical history report about the patient. In your husband’s case, he had been taking a lot of unprescribed medications which turned his bloodstream a slow poison. Our medications were not intended to work in a poisoned bloodstream. We are deeply sorry for your loss Renu”
Renu began to cry louder. Neel stood up, came around his table and sat next to Renuga. He then drew his hand around her shoulders intending to give her support and consoling words.
“I can help you out Renu. I know your husband was the only earning person in your family and you and your 2 year old kid were dependent on him. They promised for a speedy recovery. They should compensate for your loss” he said.
Renuga continued to cry.
“I can take care of you provided you take care of me” he further added.
Renuga with weeping eyes now looked at Neel.
“Yes. I can take care of you and your child. I can fight with them and get you up to a million provided you take care of me” he said firmly.
Renuga felt his hand gripping her shoulders now. She could even feel his warmth. She didn’t try to resist which encouraged Neel.
At Anand’s room,
“The lady is a clever one Anand. She threatens to go to cops” Neel said.
“But she has no bills right?”
“That is not the point Anand. What if she approaches law? What if what we do here within the four walls come to light? We would end up spoiling our reputation which would not be good for your company’s future”
“Alright. What is her demand?”
“2 Million?! Is she crazy?”
“But I can talk to her and bring that down to 1 Million Anand”
“That is better Neel”
“Handle it. We have our targets to catch up in our business and I don’t want this to fall in our way. ” Anand said firmly.