sickindia02Life is cruel. It just is. Living beings eat each other in a never-ending quest for survival. We are on are own, yaar – but fortunately not always.

When my friend, Mark Jacobs, worriedly urged me over an email to get to a hospital and get intravenous fluids, having lost a close friend to hepatitis A, I questioned it for a while and thought it was probably a good idea as I was hardly eating anything. I also needed to get some follow-up blood tests.

In the morning, I caught a rickshaw to Safdarjung Hospital in Delhi where a doctor had told me to go and it was like a massive train station, with dozens of queues and huge display boards trying to provide direction.

I tried to find out where to go, but was lost in endless lines and confusion. So many people were sick or busy that no one seemed to notice me. I was very tired and weak and wasn’t supposed to be walking around, but I found myself hopelessly ignored and realized that if I were closer to death, the world would have let me die there.

sickindia01After some time, I gave up on that hospital and took a rickshaw to a smaller hospital, where again, I was ignored and lost, jumping through hoops trying to find my way to care. I was growing weaker and again, it was evident that had I been closer to death, the world would have simply let me die.

Eventually I gave up on that hospital as well and took another rickshaw to a lab for a test, giving up on the idea of the I.V.. On the way, I passed so many poor and sick people and even a fresh corpse lying on the street. I’m not sure what kind of accident had caused such a massive exposure of some poor person’s innards, but I knew that the universe was giving me a lesson on this day – exposing me to the misery of the world.

It took several more hours of work to finally get the tests taken and I was drained.

sickindia03Days later, Mark P. befriended a neighborhood couple and told them about my condition. The husband was a seriously high ranking police official and had me driven and escorted to AIIMS Hospital – supposedly the best hospital in India to meet with one of the best doctors. Outside, the sick were lined up, hoping for care, but this hospital generally only takes the more serious cases or referrals. I could have protested the inequity, but when you are sick it is hard not to accept care when it is offered.

In direct opposition to the neglect I had experienced earlier, I was now being treated like a VIP.

This illness has exposed me to so many extremes. Some of the people closest to me have been unimaginably uncompassionate and even cruel, while other strangers have gone far out of their way to ensure my well-being. When I was near my worst, I told Jayeshbhai about my condition and he immediately wanted to fly to Delhi. I told him that was sweet but silly and he arranged for Nirmala Deshpande’s staff to bring me food. They went out of their way to nurse me back, and perhaps they saved my life.

Later, I left Delhi for Ahmedabad and have been staying at Jayeshbhai and Anarben’s house. My friends Mark and Yoomi took a train all the way from Pondicherry to see me and brought with them lots of healthy products from the US. Here, I am being served a never-ending stream of drinks and food, with friends and compassion abounding. And even under these ideal circumstances, when sick enough, life can often seem pretty hopeless.

bouquetliliesKnowing how pampered I have been, all I can think of are the millions of ill people in the world, lying in poverty, in their baking huts, with access only to bad water, lacking the money or support to get proper medical attention.

Basically, without a network of support, most of us are pretty vulnerable in this world. Perhaps my first instinct is to want to reject my fortunate network because of the gross inequity existing in the world, but I quickly realized that this network of support is the thing that is most right with the world – what we need is to expand this net until there is not a being left without optimal love and care.

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