“Ward boy needed in ward 18”, the sound was such a pinching pain in the brain. The announcer lady had a voice like a steel plate rubbing on a sandpaper. I waited for some other person to step up and let me resume my sleep but the continuous blaring on the walkie talkie was simply too much to bear. I got up from the comforts of the stretcher and went upto the reception to collect my badge. “What took youu so long? You realise you don’t work at a railway station, it’s a hospital, act like it, now chop-chop”. That was mean, I thought to myself. An unpleasant voice and an attitude, an unbeatable combo.
I went swiftly to ward 18 and found an old boomer just lying and asking for water, I gave it to him and swiftly started to get back to my beloved stretcher, when he suddenly he asked me, “And where do you think you’re going?”
” I gave you the water sir, is there anything else you want?” I said in the most professional way I knew.
“You’re in 24/7 in care for me here, didn’t they tell you?” he smirked a little while he said that, which was very off putting to me because I missed my sleep that was now gone because some old geezer was placed under my care. He could already sense the contempt on my face.
“So young man, what’s your name?”
“Please rest sir, we don’t need to make conversation.” Again as professional as possible.
“Well then how will I pass the time? C’mon boy, okay, I’ll start, My name is Boman, now your turn”
“Shivam, Sir, and I think you should rest” I started to look his chart like a doctor would, as if I knew what was written and whatever it meant.
“Shivam do you have a nickname I can call you as?”
“Shivi, sir” and I continued looking at his sheet.
“Okay, Shivi, I just wanted to tell you that the board you’re holding and so keenly reading is not mine, it belongs to the patient who was here before me” and he smirked again.
So I added his smirk to the second position in my list of annoying things at this hospital just after the receptionist’s voice.
“Come here, sit, and tell me your story”
That was odd, most old people tell their stories, this one wanted to listen. I may have a latent feeling of being a loser in my mind so I sat down.
“Well ! What’re you waiting for? Go on”
“Basically, I am from Odisha, I have a bachelor’s degree in biology, and I have been working here for the last…”
The door to the ward 18 opened, a frail looking figure came in, white hair, deep dark under eyes, and a very worried look on her face. Must be his wife, I assumed.
She signalled me with some hand signs which I perceived as to get out, but as I was leaving Boman called from behind, “She is asking for water, Shivi.” Embarrassment was the word I was looking for.
I gave her a glass of water, and sat in the corner of the room as they both talked in hand signs about something or someone, who knows. I was starting to drift off to sleep again when Boman asked me to escort her out of the hospital to the cab.
I did. When she sat in the cab she signalled me something, and I just took video of that in my mind to ask Boman about it. I came back and in a few tries I succeeded in making exact signals and he translated it to “thank you”.
A few days went by, exactly like this, she would come, ask for a glass of water, they would talk in hand signs and then she would leave in a cab and signal me “Thank you”.
One particular day, I saw them signalling so fast and hard it seemed like that anime Naruto, signalling a water blizzard to drown the hospital. After she left, I asked Boman if everything was all right, he was in no mood to talk so gye just asked me to turn the lights off and let him sleep. I hadn’t seen Boman not talk ever. He was a chatty as his wife was mute.
The next day, they were still trying to conjure a tornado by their hand signs, when suddenly there was a lot of signalling towards me, it was awkward at first then a lot creepy as it became more and more. When she left I asked Boman about what they were pointing to me about. He told me that they both wanted me to be a part of their conversation from tomorrow. And that he would teach me sign language to communicate better.
I was reluctant at first but I really wanted to learn it so that I could see what those really fast hand signs were all about. So I said Yes.
He was so excited which was a little suspicious. So he started training me and showing me how to make signs correctly, a little more or less movement of the hand could mean anything so I had to focus.
It had been a week and I already was almost fluent, fast learner he called me, which was like being called Einstein to me. I also learnt that he was a teacher in some school and he fell in love with his co-worker who was now his wife. They were both teachers.
The next day I was reassigned to ward 6, a very professional, well dressed nurse was assigned to Boman.
I continued to practice the hand signs in private and also helped a lot of people in the hospital to find way to the bathroom, or wards or anything that involved hand signals.
I had gained quite a popularity in the hospital, at lunch people used to sit beside me all the time. Even the receptionist softened her voice when she talked to me, it was no longer annoying. During the inspection, I had given a tour of the hospital to the mute inspector all by myself.
Without fail I would go to Boman every evening and ask him about his day and tell him about mine. I had never seen a prouder look towards me before.
A few weeks passed by and he was getting discharged, I saw him on a wheelchair, weak and very sickly. I asked the nurse why was he being discharged early.
“It’s because he’s not getting any better and we need this ward for the people who we can treat successfully.”
That was a rude thing to say, but I insisted on escorting him to the ambulance. After putting his wheelchair in, he held my hand and put a card in my palm and asked me to read it in private.
I went into the supplies room where I read the card that said ‘Parsi School for the mute’. and on the back was the address circled with a pen and under that written, “You have an Interview tomorrow, don’t be late”.
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