I woke up to the news that Surekha died in the early hours of the morning. "Good" I said. "I'm glad she's dead." I couldn't stand to see her eyes, to have her smell on my fingers, her voice in my ears. My friend didn't say anything to my comment. He knew how I felt about her.

Surekha Chavan was your average college going girl. Funny and a charmer, she was decidedly good looking. To her credit,she never used those looks to twist any young man's heart. She was the stereotype do-gooder, the girl who always had a ear for your problems and in turn, would run your ears ragged with her incessant chatter. She was the batch sweetheart,, the girl whom you could take home to Mom.

It is, I have found, often not your actions that decide your fate, unlike what self help books try to convince you. Often, fate has it's own plan and tries to fool you into thinking that you have a role to play in creating your path. It watches you with glee as you plan and dream and hope, knowing fully well of the impending storm that is about to catch you unawares.

Surekha was a dayscholar, living with her parents. In between mobile chats and air- guitaring to an imaginary crowd in her room, she also helped out with the cooking and housework. She hated cooking, she told me once, but enjoyed the time she spent with her mom and the maid in the kitchen and the banter.
It was a week before her exams. As usual, when given the choice between a truckload of books and gossiping in the kitchen, Surekha chose the latter. In between the chopping of the vegetables, the making of the curry and the preparation of the chapatis, her mom noticed an annoying army of red ants roaming all over the kitchen. Surekha offered to disperse them the old fashioned way, using a bit of kerosene to cloud their senses. She had no idea when the kerosene caught fire in that crowded kitchen or when the kerosene had spilled onto her dress... not till it was too late.

The woman I met in the hospital was in a separate room, isolated from the rest of the patients. It was for her own good. The burns were extensive and infections travelled easily across an open ward. Surekha received severe burns to her face, upper chest, both arms and thighs. The room was rancid, the smell of burnt flesh distinctive even a week after the accident. She had two eyes, a nose and a mouth, but was that the same as having a face ? Her skin sat in layers over her face and body, differing in tones and colours from ghostly white to an infected green to bleeding red to the charred black.. a badly done army fatigue uniform. The voice, unaffected by the flames, was young and sweet, and so out of place in that dreary room.
We talked as I took her history and later on, as she underwent her dressings under anaesthesia. She was unlike any other patient I knew or had come across. Talking to her, you could sense she was gonna fight fate.. through the burnt skins, along with blood, courage oozed. She was a born comic too, joking about everything through the pain, whether it be about how much money she wasted on fairness creams only for it to end up like this ( Unlike in the movies, her laughter here at her own condition did not end in a sob or tears ) to how she doubted even this would be considered adequate grounds for her to get sick leave in her strict college and would just be seen as an excuse to bunk exams. She joked a lot, I guess. She reminded me in that sense of someone I knew very well.... she reminded me of myself.

In the days to come and as dressings continued, we spoke less. It wasn't by choice. She had to be kept sedated as the pain started once the anaesthesia ended. Still, when she was awake, she'd call us over for a chat on everything from state affairs to doc-sister affairs, giving me valuable advice on my love life while I will never use. She spoke of how she'd go on to be something big once she got out of here.. a pilot or a kung fu champ, so we'd better be nice to her or we wouldn't get a mention in her autobiography.. or worse,end up reading a bad review of ourselves in her book.

On her 8th day in the hospital, the 14th day after the red ants had crossed the path of her mother, Surekha went into septicemic shock. Her fragile body, ravaged once earlier by flames, now was under the onslaught of microbes unseen. She was no longer conscious of her surroundings as fluids and drugs waged war to keep her alive. The next two days were a torture, watching for signs of improvement as she alternately deteriorated and stabilized. She was fighting the battle hard... She was determined to become the pilot with killer Jackie Chan moves. We were determined to get a mention in her autobiography, even if we had to pay for her medicines to do it.
I saw her on the second night after she went into shock.It's hard to say whether she looked better or worse. The windows to her soul, her eyes and her voice both were closed. Her face remained a collage of what was once skin. The room still had the same stormy stench that drained the colour of many unaccustomed faces. A fever was raging within her, a battle being played out within her body at a level beyond our eyes. We were doing all we could to aid her in her fight, antibiotics and blood transfusions aiding her immunity. That day, as she slept, I saw the one thing in her sleep that I had not seen in all the days I'd known her and through all the pain of the operations and beyond. I saw tears pooled in her closed eyes. She was fighting her condition with all she had. Knowing her, the microbes were not gonna win easily, I knew.

I woke up the next morning to the news that Surekha died in the early hours of the morning. She fought valiantly, a losing battle from the start.
"Good" I said. "I'm glad she's dead." The thought of her struggling through the repeated infections, her brave face as she underwent the painful skin debridements, the future ahead... she was too nice a person to have to struggle with this for a lifetime. Pilots and planes be damned, a girl like her deserved adoration, not people's pity and scorn while she lived. In death, she was freed from the curse that had destroyed all her dreams.
I needed to be free too. I couldn't stand to see her eyes, strong beyond her years, hiding a lifetime of dreams squashed. I couldn't have the smell of her on my fingers after the operation, which refused to leave no matter how much I scrubbed my hands. I needed not to hear that voice any more, a voice that made us feel lighter at heart with it's cheerfulness but broke us down all the same.
My friend didn't say anything to my acid comment. He knew how I felt about her. He felt the same way too.. as did many of us.

Surekha never saw her 20th birthday. She lived her life to the fullest, I'd like to believe. I'd like to think she met God upstairs and God had the balls to look ashamed at what he'd done. I'd like to think he's given her his private jet to play with. I'd like to think that unknown to us all, she's flying it around up there and waving to us all, making notes of us for that soon to be released autobiography.

People tell me I've grown dark circles under my eyes recently. I have. They tell me it looks like I've not been getting any sleep these days. I've not. Part of it is work. But part of it is an image that hasn't left me still.. of a beautiful girl without a face crying in her sleep.. an image that I can't get out of my head no matter how much I try to. An image of a girl full of life who was as good as dead the first time I saw her. A girl we all tried to steal back from death's grip... and failed.

Increasingly, I find myself amidst crowds these days, trying to bask in the glory of their young love under the excuse of going out for a walk... trying to find happiness amidst ruins. Increasingly,I find myself returning back to my room numb and empty. I find it gets harder and harder to laugh, to find solace in the midst of others suffering.
To find closure for this heartache.

50 Comments

Dhanya said…
Even I would say "I'm glad she's dead." Had she lived, she would have had to face people's pity that she doesn't deserve for sure. So we can also hope that she's chasing her dreams in God's abode. HE knows what's best for everyone..
black coffee said…
you made me cry. i mean real jumbo sized tears rolling down my cheek and fogging my glasses.

thats so much of heartache for me i wonder how you are doin it.

you are stronger than you realise roshan. its just scary sometimes. when you see lives slipping thru the crevices of time and you see people "living" their lives(amidst crowds) i find it all meaningless.
i guess thats how we sound when there is no hope left.

but there is always hope. something beyond the respiratory center and the heart beating that makes us go on.

don let this world get to you roshan. just don! i have seen the humourous side of you and please let him take over.
its saddening to see you like this.
i know life is tough think of the other lives that you have helped save and try n find solace in that.

i know its just some advice that can be happily ignored but i am tellin you all this cos i cannot see such pain myself!
Roshan R said…
Dhanya, agree with you upto the last point.trust me, big G has no idea What's best for whom...

Black coffee, a lot of what you say is true... But sometimes, losing one patient can affect us a lot more than helpin a 100 others get well. I too need a good month ahead to get this out of my system.. And a whole lot of leftover sleep! Or maybe i just need to watch some ipl cheerleaders.. Life goes on after all. Thanks for the advice.
Lalith said…
Roshan,

Words cannot express the feeling I had after reading this post. I can only imagine the pain you must have gone through and the pain the girl and her family must have gone through.

This post reminds me of a story which I read in my 7th class.

http://srinivassekha.livejournal.com/1773.html

Take Care,
Lalith
Magnolia said…
It is unfair and stupid and absolutely worth being sad and angry over. Based on what I have read here on your blog, were I ever in such a terrible situation, I would hope that my doctors would be as compassionate and dedicated as you.
~nm said…
That was so heart wrenching. So painful. I would agree with you completely "Glad she is dead".

And again pops the same question in my mind "Why does God do things to such lovely people?"
Enigma said…
well even i have to say glad that she died, coz she doesnt deserve all that pain.. had she lived also it would have been too much for her... ia am so sorryy...hummm

life is indeed so unexpected...
Pri said…
yaa i hated my surgery posting mainly because of the burns cases...
the first time i hated the debridement...the silver sulfadiazene dressings...the stink in the unit...the screams...felt very inhuman!!
and i almost always had 100%burns cases on my duty day :(
Roshan R said…
magnolia, trust me.. sometimes I feel its better not to be compassionate.. to play 'all high and mighty' where patients are concerned..

nm... why does a mean kid hurt a poor puppy ? because he can!!! Same answer to ur question... thats my opinion anyway

enigma, true.. life is unexpected.. thats the only sureity.

pri, sigh. dont remind me
Prats said…
Maybe I should have just gone away without saying a word...Was too shellshocked after reading this...

I have seen such cases too..and though I never knew whom the faces belonged to, I felt a shiver going up my spine.
You said it perfectly...God has his reasons...and whatever happens happens for the good!! Though i've never had good reasons for that last one...I knew it was right...
hopefully she'll find her peace and fly her dreams wherever she may be.
Roshan R said…
True prats, sometimes we're just left to wonder what the 'big plan' is god has in store for us all. Either way, there better be belly dancers and balloons up there in heaven or i'm demanding a refund for all these good deeds!
padma said…
the post left me completly unsettled, sad, shocked....:-(
guess its really true when you say life is what happens to you when you are busy amking plans/ plain enjoying something.. completely unexpected ...
cheer up! am sure its just a phase.. after all LIFE GOES ON..
Gazal said…
After reading this....i thought to myself....DOES GOD EXIST???probably yes, coz hope floats on our lips in the form of a prayer.

you have said a prayer for her,and all of us have too by reading this post.

sulekha,in heaven you are.i'm sure.

i always revered doctors.It's a bloody tough prof to be in.To make your heart and head work in different directions.
Roshan R said…
Padma, i know. It's just a phase.. Hopefully these phases will be coming a lot less frequently! Even if it means no work...

Gazal, that one thing is a definite Yes even if i say so myself.. This is one hell of a tough profession for those who think with their heart.
Nisha said…
hmm...thats a very sensitive post. all i feel is that we are all here to fulfill a purpose. I also believe in reincarnation. If we struggle too much in this life, then the next one has special things for us.
sounds weird, but all we can do is believe in this and hope for the best.
Roshan R said…
Nisha, I'm honestly on the fence on that one. I do believe in reincarnation, but i don't know how much i value the whole 'It'll even out in your next lifetime' bit.. Perhaps cos There's absolutely nothin to support that statement !
brocasarea said…
reminds me of our casualty burns ward!!:))....[nice blog]
padma said…
Hi..ee roshan,
amen to what u said! Am sure in ur profession u r making a difference every day... so lets pray for that positive phases......:-)))
Roshan R said…
Brocasarea, thanks.. And nice name!

Padma, somehow i think i affect more people with my humor .. Then again, i wouldn't have it any other way. Better a healthy guy seeking a laugh than a dying dude anyday
Suma said…
i honestly didn't want to comment...'cos i'm too numbed....

and to think of what the dear ones she left behind must be thinking..."if only we had not seen the red ants"

this was so very sad...
~nm said…
Go here - Something for your eyes! :)
Tys on Ice said…
iam glad that there are people like you...who r doctors and really do see...i guess its pretty foolish and one dimensional of some of us to assume that a doctor is devoid of any feelings..

i guess its only the truly compassionate amoung us that 'choose' to do wht u do...

sleep well...you too have fought well.
Meira said…
Whatever God has in store for such wonderful people, it Better be good!
You take care.
Blog-hopped from ~nm's blog.
Anonymous said…
Hey Roshan!
hope u remember :D! long time I know, although I used 2 come over here always,..
anyways..I would also say that i m glad shes no longer, better than bearing up with the pain..
I kinda believe..God needs all good ppl with him always tht he takes them away soon too...
and like everybody said, just like ow u make a difference to many known/unknown faces in the blogger world, am sure you light up many souls around you too!!

and, hope evrything else in Pune is great tooo!!!
TC!
Roshan R said…
Suma, That's true.. Imagine living on that guilt for a lifetime.

Thanks nm, will display it on my blog.

Thanks tys.. To be frank, after reading all your posts, It's feels weird hearing 'serious comments' from you... I guess That's how people feel when i mistakenly post serious topics here too.

Meira, thanks for dropping by. Do come back :-D

shams, wierd. I was thinking about you last week. Wondering whether to mail you or not.. Good to hear from you. How are you? If free, reply via mail sometime...
chandni said…
life has his ways...and offers no explanation...why do things happen the way they do??

Your guess is as good as mine...
Preetam Adwani said…
One of the best post.. i ve ever read..
really tochie...
Keep it up...
Roshan R said…
Chandni, isn't the usual explanation given to us that we're suffering for d sins of our past... Which is funny since not all religions believe in reincarnation?

Preetam, thanks man. Ironic, since It's not a post i enjoyed at all for obvious reasons
Madhumita. said…
At a loss for words and what is there to say really ... but if I could give you a hug, I would. Take care Roshan.
~nm said…
Tagged you! Pick it here
C R D said…
Very touching story..tht comment of urs hit me hard, as i know it would have hit others too...but i guess anyone who knew ur frnd would have wish for an end to her misery too. some people never fade from our memories...shes definitley one who'll always be there.

really touching narration. i dunno if u fell the same but id also like to perish suddenly rather than run a marathon and fade away when 99% of the people i love have already left the building

keep writing
chris
www.crissdude.blogspot.com

adding ur blog link on my blog

btw ive made a bloggercommunity on orkut.id like to invite u

http://www.orkut.com/Community.aspx?cmm=51446226

join this new blogger community.

atleast have a look
Roshan R said…
Madhumita, thanks. That's a first. That's a welcome first.

Nm, will get on it .

Criss, no doubt. I too would rather exit pronto rather than have to suffer a long death or watch everyone around me go. Will check out your community when i get online (checking via mob right now)
aishu_here said…
Silent prayers for that lovely soul.

Brilliant narration Roshan, made me question my faith in God for a while. I realize there is no hope without the faith either..

Hold in there strong and here are some more from me too -

{{{HUGS}}}
Satish Bolla said…
is this truth or fiction? i wish this post to b a work of fiction.
but the narration was excellent. it was as if i was there instead of u, as if i was treating her instead of u, as if i was feeling the pain instead of her
Roshan R said…
thanx aishu, glad to hear from u.. been a while.

satish, how i wish it were fiction
Satish Bolla said…
roshan, that means this is true incident. oh god, can't even imagine
k10 said…
Heart wrenching....
I'm numbed.
Roshan R said…
just another day in a docs life.. thats what they tell me anyway!!!
asbah said…
few things are so sad in life that you dont know what to do with them, they grief you they devastate you. You're right Roshan, may be doctors should think with their mind not their heart. else they'll cry, spilling salt to their patients' wound.

thanks for sharing this. it told me how to be positive even when there is no point being positive. it told me hopes can still live when nothing else can.

keep writing.
Roshan R said…
thanks for ur comment too... it reminded me of how important a balance i need to maintain between heart and head... as u say, we have to keep thinkin positive rt ?
Rejoy Panakkal said…
what happens next?
to her...
to u...
to the rest...

may our souls rest in peace...
Roshan R said…
what happens next ???
I carry on.. thats what we docs do.. thats what's expected of us right...

she gets a better life hopefully...
PurpleHeart said…
I am glad that Surekha had someone describing her and her life profoundly well. God bless her soul ! U take gud care !
Meety said…
:-( life is soo injust
Dr Roshan R said…
that is true, Meety..
I cannot even begin to imagine. I do not want to. I am glad I read this though. There are things in life I still need to wake up to.
Roshan R said…
Its a sad part of our life Saumya...its a cross we all have to bear as docs ; watching the innocent pass away
Unknown said…
Hi Roshan,

Read all you posts til this one right frm the first post. Some were hilarious, some giving a quick peek into your professional life and some into your personal.

I wanted to become a doc too but I am too much of a mushy gal n got cold feted at the last minute and opted for a different field but your blogs constantly talkin bout how you can't detach itself frm the lives or emotions of people ur treating made me think day good I don't become a psychiatrists, else wild hav gone mad by now! :-)

I like the way you write about serious stuff yet joke about the most difficult things in life! And I do share wit you on believing in Him but not trusting him cos he plays big time with all of us!!

Thanks for providing so much intellectual n spiritual fodder for thought!!
Keep blogging!!


Regard,
Mel

Ps I am an avid reader and came across ur blog thru one of my friends blog...I am not such a tender soul as you are but wen I read ur blog, I have I'd feeling of déjà vu.....as if my thots are reflectin back frm the page!
Unknown said…
Hi Roshan,

Read all you posts til this one right frm the first post. Some were hilarious, some giving a quick peek into your professional life and some into your personal.

I wanted to become a doc too but I am too much of a mushy gal n got cold feted at the last minute and opted for a different field but your blogs constantly talkin bout how you can't detach itself frm the lives or emotions of people ur treating made me think day good I don't become a psychiatrists, else wild hav gone mad by now! :-)

I like the way you write about serious stuff yet joke about the most difficult things in life! And I do share wit you on believing in Him but not trusting him cos he plays big time with all of us!!

Thanks for providing so much intellectual n spiritual fodder for thought!!
Keep blogging!!


Regard,
Mel

Ps I am an avid reader and came across ur blog thru one of my friends blog...I am not such a tender soul as you are but wen I read ur blog, I have I'd feeling of déjà vu.....as if my thots are reflectin back frm the page!
Thanks Mel... in some ways, I'd say I'm glad you didnt choose the medical field. The things you have to see and endure before you ever get a degree... they can be satisfying yes.. but they can also be some of the most harrowing and painful moments a young adult can face.

Everyone finds a way to escape the pain... for me, the easy way out is in writing.. making people laugh and yes, occasionally think too.