By: Praniti Gulyani
There’s a lot that goes into your dad being a doctor. When your dad is a doctor, you get to step into a white coat that almost blankets you; covering you from head to toe. You get to wear a stethoscope around your neck, and check the heartbeat of the walls, as you go about injecting no one in particular. And then, you get this unlimited supply of lollipops and chocolates that are ideally meant for children who howl and scream during vaccinations, but in all honesty, you could not care less. You become the heart and soul of the waiting room, getting your tangled mop of hair ruffled, and your cheeks pulled.
But, as you grow older, and your comfortable feet touch the hot, tarry roads of (almost) adulthood, the lollipops meant for children who howl during vaccinations do not melt in your mouth, instead they stick between your glow and dark braces. From sunlit waiting room days, you move into sultry, diary-and-pen nights. Your tangled mop of hair is a knot on the top of your head, and you hate it being touched, let alone ruffled. And suddenly, when you are seventeen and three quarters, your dad who is a doctor stops coming home. You hear the mention of long nights and cramped halls, and one day, out of the blue, someone mentions a pandemic. And then, when you ask what a pandemic is, a doting relative says that it is a part and parcel in the medical world. It is one of the things that goes into your dad being a doctor.
A sense of obviousness has been imposed on you. After all, there a lot of things which are part and parcel of the medical world. You shrug this off, and plug in your earphone, seizing every bit of the extremely temporary oblivion that rock music bestows upon you. It isn’t as though you don’t know what the pandemic is about. Of course, you do know about the virus, the mask and the sanitizer. Wearing a mask, or being surrounded by the pungent odor of sanitizer does not feel strange. Again, these are some of the things that go into your dad being a doctor.
On one crispy-thin, frost-hemmed winter afternoon, you decide you want to go out and get some fresh air. As you step outside, you see the pitiful wisp of moon. Clad in a veil of clouds, which seem to be haphazardly woven together, it is trembling. The incompleteness of this celestial being engulfs you, and suddenly, something within you starts to ache.
You wince and look around for your inhaler, almost instantly anticipating a bout of asthma. But, moments later, you realize that that this ache is not something that emerges from a place as simple as the chest. It is rooted in a place that is deeper, complex, and much more intricate. And suddenly, you begin to want.
You want your white – coated doctor dad. You want that white – colored, antiseptic scented hug and you want to feel the crinkle of the lollipop which he would, more often than not, force into your unwilling teenage hands. As you go back inside, you reach out for your cellphone and dial his number. After all, you are a human, and you cherish instant gratification, no matter how big or small your want may be.
As your fingers run, or rather skid along the keyboard, you pause. You do not remember whether it is a nine before the eight, or a four before the eight. You are confused. Lost, even.
Finally, you dial his number. A woman picks up. She asks you are, as your lips struggle to form the word ‘daughter’. The woman mutters something about death, about your mother already being at the hospital. She continues to converse, her words blurring at the thin line between condolences and apologies, but you cannot hear anything. You are cold and numb, pushed to a state of immobility. The blackness of the sky seems to have vaporized into absolute whiteness. It is a whiteness which isn’t like any ordinary kind of whiteness. It is the kind of whiteness that would overwhelm your gaze when your dad who is a doctor would lift you and hold you close. Your open eyes would press against the golds of his white coat, and the whiteness that would fill your gaze then, was not just absolute. It was intense, and most importantly, it was pure.
They see you standing in a supposed trance, a little away from the balcony. I think they misunderstand you. They take you down – you are hugged, but you don’t hug back, you are spoken to, but you don’t speak back, you are looked at, but you don’t look back. And then, suddenly someone says that maybe, just maybe, you were prepared for it – and expecting it all along.
After all, death is one of those just other many, many things, that go into your dad being a doctor.