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He’s positive.”

Anurag draws a sharp breath through his unmasked mouth. The tropical March air seems cold enough to run a chill down his spine and freeze his feet to the white tiles of the hospital floor. “Prepare a bed in the isolation ward and move him there, right away. Get in touch with his family, track down the people he came in contact with. Quarantine everyone.” The nurse looks at her doctor, like a sheep looks at the world, seconds before the axe is about to fall on its neck. “Nurse! We don’t have time to think.”

Stepping out of the ward, Anurag takes off his gloves and shoves them into his lab coat’s pocket. He stares into infinity, through the window and remembers the time he went to Tokyo with his parents. He had drawn a sharp breath through his mouth. A chill had run down his spine and his feet had frozen to the ground, where many Sakura blossoms lied. He had seen the Cherry Blossom tree for the first time. A flower had fallen into his hands and his face had broken into a smile. “Come on now Anurag we cannot stay here all day, we have a lot to see”, had hollered his father. Turning back to him, Anurag had held up a little notepad. And had waited for a command from his father, just like animals do inside a circus ring. “You and your sketches, Anu. Told you so many times now, that my jaws hurt. Artists are mere humans. Doctors, God. Now who do you want to be, young man?” Anurag had looked down at his shoes. A pair of brown, leather topsiders that his father had bought for him, from a store back at home, in India. Quite an expensive one but Anurag’s father had never let money come in the way of his son’s happiness. Anurag had put his notepad back in the pocket of his trench coat and they had taken a train for the next destination with his parents. His father had said, “That’s my boy.”

Dr Anurag, if you would give a bite to the media. They want to know about the

first coronavirus patient in our city.” The hospital staff’s words made Anurag make the quickest journey from Tokyo to the hospital, where he has been serving for the last seven years. Nodding at the nurse, he takes brisk steps and goes to his cabin, shuts the door, draws the curtains. He washes his hands for twenty seconds. He gulps while looking at his own reflection in the mirror that is hanging above the washbasin. His eyes tell him that the lack of mask and other personal protective equipment puts him and the other hospital staff in the potential danger of contracting the coronavirus. He looks away from his own eyes and now they fall on the dirty white Adidas sneakers that he is wearing. He smells himself. He hasn’t been home in a week. Taking a bath in the hospital and wearing the same set of clothes and undergarments. The coronavirus has been declared as a global pandemic. Anurag knows the hospital needs him, more than ever. He had convinced himself by saying, “In any case, I didn’t bathe for 14 days, right before my MBBS finals. That weird dream I had, that I have taken a bath and it has washed off all the things that I had studied... surviving like this is nothing new for me.” Anurag wipes his hands with a tissue paper, takes out his phone and records a message. “Hello everyone. I am doctor Anurag talking to you from the Get Well hospital in Vagadi. The first positive case of Covid-19 has been confirmed in our city. The patient is currently in our isolation ward undergoing treatment. We will keep you posted as and when there is a development. Also we are tracking down the people he had come in contact with and will put them in quarantine for 14 days. We all urge you to stay at home and not go out unless absolutely necessary. We need your help so that we can stop this deadly virus from spreading. Let’s fight this together. Thank you.” Anurag stops recording. He opens the gallery of his phone. It is full of screenshots of sketches and drawings that artists all over the world have posted on social media. He opens and browses through a few of them. This has always been therapeutic for him. Art has been his gateway to a stress-free world. In that world he is still a 10-year old, hoping to see the cherry blossoms one day and sketch them in the notepad that his mother had gifted to him. The first page of his notepad has always been kept reserved for the Japanese flowers to be drawn on, someday. He keeps browsing and then coming to the end of his gallery, he emails the video he took moments earlier, to the hospital governing body.

Back at his home, Anurag’s mother is making chicken stew for her husband. A sixty-eight-year-old lady, still standing straight like a pillar and doing things with such swiftness as if she is not going to stop in the next ten years if not more. She brings the stew to her husband who is sitting on his rocking chair with a frown on his face, reading an article on the impact the lockdown imposed by governments to curb the spreading of the virus will have on the global economy. They have a lot of investments in the bank and he depends on the interest he gets from them to run his family. He doesn’t want to take Anurag’s money. He wants him to save enough to be able to earn ample interest and be comfortably off in his old age. Anurag’s mother pulls up a folding table where her husband is sitting. She puts down the bowl of stew and a plate of rice. She wipes a spoon with a tissue and gives it to her husband. “Thank you Neeta”, says Anurag’s father, folding up the newspaper. “You start, I will get mine.” Anurag’s mother gets her food and sits on the bed. She holds the plate in her hands and starts mixing the rice and the stew with her hands. But before she can put the food in her mouth, her phone rings. ANU. Anurag is calling her. “Anu’s calling, maybe he’ll come home today.” She quickly keeps the plate on the kitchen top and without washing her food-clad right hand, she picks the phone with her left. “Put the phone on speaker”, says Anurag’s father who has also stopped eating by now. “Hi maa, hello baba.”
“Son, how are you?”
“I am ok, maa.”
“When will you come home? You are not the only doctor there”,
says his father with a dry voice.
“I know baba, but all of us combined are not even close to cope with what the numbers are now.” “Yes but doctors are also humans. It’s been 2 weeks now”, argues his father. Anurag doesn’t say something for a few seconds. He clears his throat as if preparing himself to say something he didn’t think he will have to. “No baba, doctors are God aren’t they?” Anurag’s mother gives a sharp look to her husband, who pretends not to notice by looking down at his knees. “Okay, now listen very carefully. Please do not step out, it’s extremely dangerous. I will be here I don’t know till when. We have more positive cases than beds in here.”

The food on Anurag’s mother’s fingers has dried by now. Her hand is cold and she is feeling the same chill her son had felt that day standing in front of the patient and many years ago while seeing the pink flowers. Anurag’s mother didn’t realize when tears started to roll down her eyes. She has never cried in front of her son. She has been the pillar of Anurag’s strength, the window to his soul, his only source of warmth on a cold, windy night.

Anurag had always wanted to be a painter. He didn’t write alphabets first but drew something resembling a bird. He could have been a child prodigy as they call it. But Anurag’s father was a practical man, born and raised in a lower middle class household; struggling to make ends meet before he bagged a job at the Indian embassy. He never encouraged Anurag to draw. He ingrained in him from his childhood that he has to be a doctor, because others are humans but a doctor is God. He just doesn’t earn good money but like God, he is a giver of life. Anurag’s father wanted his son to be seen in the same light as Dr. Mukherjee, his neighbor. He was the most respected man in the entire neighborhood. Once he performed a 12-hour-long heart operation and revived the patient. Anurag’s parents were expecting him at that time. The conversation doesn’t continue long as the hospital needs Anurag and all other doctors’ hands on deck. Anurag’s mother disconnects the call. She says nothing for a moment. Anurag’s father stares at her. His wife doesn’t look at him but breaks the fragile silence in the room by saying, “I wish you hadn’t forced him to become a doctor.”

Anurag’s father suddenly felt a weight on his chest, as if someone was standing on it. He realizes it is him. Standing on his own chest. Him, when he had become a father. At a hospital, looking at a newborn, curled up in the crib. Someone asks him, “Have you thought of a name?” He says with a shine in his eyes and a determination in his voice, “Yes. Doctor Anurag.”

A few weeks pass by. The newspaper headline reads, Doctor dies after contracting coronavirus while treating the rising number of patients in the city. The summer loo is howling like a hooligan running free on the streets in the deadest of afternoons. The hot wind flutters the pages of Anurag’s notepad kept on the table. The first page is not blank anymore. The long suppressed artist in the father has done his bit.


Born among a species that discovers things like diet coke and semi-colon, I am trying to find their purpose and my purpose in life until the day comes when I will accept all I am is just a speck of dust in the corner of the universe and then drink a diet coke and quill a semi-colon. Also, as a copywriter I am trying to write short sentences, continue with my hobby of paper quilling and not bother people with my bad jokes. 


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