It was raining heavily. All the roads were full of puddles, big and small craters, filled with water. The rivers were full to the brim. The force and volume of water in them reminded me of how we crossed this riverbed on a December day in our newly purchased Scorpio to step into this garden for the first time. The tea garden has ever since become my home, my abode of peace, my shelter in rains and chilly winters.
Hailing from Assam, a neighbouring state full of hills and tea gardens, I was well acquainted with the large sprawling bungalows surrounded by huge lawns and swimming pools, large trees of all kinds, beehives, flowering bushes, cowsheds that created a world of its own. In fact, I grew up in one of them until standard seven after which my parents sent me away to Assam Valley School. But the tea garden bungalow which is my home now is unbelievably beautiful even to my accustomed eyes. Nestled in the valley of nearby Bhutan hills, (the border with the neighbouring country passes through the territories of my garden), and set deep inside the picturesque tea garden, my bungalow has a creek passing through it. The benign look of it is so deceptive that I had no idea how much it could swell in the monsoons.
That day we had some company guests. After instructing the helpers how to prepare the dinner, I went out for a walk. The sky was overcast and a soothing breeze was blowing which made my walk really pleasant. It was late in July and incessant rains for the last few weeks had already swollen the creek. It was flowing fiercely, the water gurgled down with a lot of force. While returning I noticed some boys playing near the creek.
Dark clouds hung ominously in the north sky and soon it was about to pour down heavily. Suddenly one of those boys tripped over a rock which must have turned slippery and collapsed badly lying flat on his face. By the time I could reach there, the other two boys had turned him over and I could see even from a distance that his mouth was profusely bleeding. I rushed to them and sent one of the boys to call my cook and gardener from the bungalow. The boy who was injured was from my garden, both his parents worked in the factory, so I knew them as my workers, being the manager of the tea garden. I called up the parents to inform about the mishap. I wasn’t aware that his parents no longer stayed together. The father said he would fetch the mother and reach as soon as possible. Meanwhile, I sat on the open veranda of my sprawling bungalow and sipped tea as my gardener was applying an ice pack to the injury of the little boy.
Suddenly a jeep screeched to a halt in front of my bungalow. And the man who jumped out of the driver’s seat was Dr. Mehta from the group hospital of our garden. Dr Mehta was in his early fifties, a handsome and charming person and a good friend of mine. Whenever he arrived my lonely bungalow echoed with his deep baritone, our laughter and endless chats which often ended late at night, and the servants suddenly became too busy serving us delicious snacks and dinner which accompanied our long sessions of endless adda. He was an endless reservoir of interesting real-life stories. Today seeing him unexpectedly on this rain-washed afternoon, I was filled with joy and anticipation of spending a wonderful evening.
He flopped down on the couch, called my cook and instructed him to prepare a steaming cup of Darjeeling tea.
I found it an opportune moment and told him about the accident that had just happened. I requested him to treat the boy. He willingly obliged, called up the RMO at the hospital, instructed him how to stitch the gaping wound and sent the boy along with his parents to the hospital in his jeep. The parents were so overwhelmed that they had fallen on their knees. Dr. Mehta dispersed them off with a mild rebuke. Then we sat down to sip our cup of tea with crunchy pakodas.
Dr Mehta said, “Don’t worry, he will be alright. I will tell you a story today. How I encountered a frightening case of oral injury as a young intern. Back to my college days when I had just finished my final exam and awaiting the results I was posted in the emergency department for a month. There were five interns including me and our job
was to tackle the emergency cases till the senior doctors arrived. One such evening I had just returned to my hostel room for quick snacks and a change of clothes. I had worked through a sweltering summer afternoon, I was suddenly taken aback by a huge commotion outside
the hospital. I received a call from my friend Deebakar to rush back to the hospital immediately and I instantly complied. I was pretty unnerved by a huge crowd of around a hundred odd people outside the emergency section demanding immediate attention for two young boys who were profusely bleeding. For a few seconds, I stood there stupefied, indecisive. Then I rushed to call Dr. Banerjee, the senior consultant and doctor on call that night.
Incidentally, two of my friends were on leave that night which meant I was the only one to assist Dr Banerjee in this case, and the atmosphere was charged with tension. Dr. Banerjee was his usual composed self and told me not to worry. Apparently, the boys were engaged in a scuffle which eventually led to a huge fight and both sustained severe oral injuries, broken teeth, bleeding mouth, swollen eyes and a fractured jaw. Dr. Banerjee instantly tackled the crisis, major surgery was conducted on one of them. After a sleepless night when we came out of the operation theatres before daybreak, my heart missed a beat to find a huge crowd gathered outside. The news had spread.
They were quite aggressive in their attitude but when they learnt that the patients were out of danger and were put on observation for 72 hours, they thanked us and greeted us with gratefully folded hands. Later I learnt that the boy with the broken jaw was the son of the local councillor and the other boy was from a different neighbourhood and the scuffle was
the obvious result of a love triangle.
Anyway, ever since the local councillor and his men gave us a hero’s welcome whenever we met.”
As soon as the doctor finished his story my cook rushed to inform us that creek near my bungalow is overflowing and I would have to seek shelter elsewhere. Dr. Mehta drove me in his jeep to his hospital quarters.
After dinner, we sat down for another round of adda session over steaming mugs of flavoured Darjeeling tea. I couldn’t help asking the jovial doctor why he chose to remain a bachelor lifelong. He smiled an enigmatic smile and told me that’s quite another story, but he would certainly, share it with me someday. I had a sound sleep in his quarters that night and woke up in the morning to learn from the injured boy’s father that he was perfectly alright and would be released soon.
The grateful parents came to express their gratitude with a jar of pure honey and a basket of mangoes. Humble offerings, but the glitter in their eyes was worth a million dollars.