Her pediatrician was also her father’s good friend, so she went looking for him in his clinic. The clinic looked smaller to her adult eyes, it wore a deserted look. There was another younger doctor working, Dr. Lokanathan came in late. He was somewhat emaciated. He smiled at Madhu, she expected him to talk. Silence was ominous, austere like a cadaver making her nervous. She was familiar with an ebullient rapid chatter, like the quick breeze of a sunny afternoon from him, a sort of defeated; look as though words belonged to another world, confused her. There was an air of long standing silence here. The room appeared hollow, ready to echo any sound. There was neither accuse, nor guilt in his silence, like the silence after the climax chase of a motion picture, the silence of finality. The floor of the room was like a parched river bed of sand , when the river is dried, in that invisible river had drowned the baby cries, cooing, and occasional laughter of a convalescent baby.His assistant explained, Dr. Lokanathan was diagnosed with laryngeal cancer two years ago and his voice box was operated out. Madhu gaped, as though she could see a voice, as though it had a body separate from the doctor, recalling the resounding voice hypnotizing suggesting her to breathe out, to expire. Why would he lose that miracle, this was like deafness of a musician, how to make music which the maestro could not hear himself? Dr. Lokanathan gestured her to come near, when she sat close to him, he whispered, there was greater volume of air movement in his throat “I have learnt to speak in this esophageal voice, I only need more breath, I don’t need those cords” His eyes shone like those of an eagle, pitch black, like coals with hidden fire, defiant like those of an insolent adolescent, cupped by the halo of gray hair. His son’s photograph was lone without company on the wall. There were some withered jasmine flowers on the photo. Like the droppings of a binding vine after the flying out of the sparrows.
The ceiling fan was heavy, yellowing at the edges, the money plant behind the Venetian blinds, did not seem to be fresh. She infused her voice with an artificial optimism, talked about her education and her confusion over the choices of study for PG, seemingly unaffected by his disease. He would not take pity from her; she needed to believe in his invincibility, as much as he did. The strong hands which massaged her flanks that tired morning, of childhood with a gentle force lay limp on his lap. Flute was indeed a bundle of holes, pain silenced even the scream, he could not groan or whimper. He was unable to even say that he was unable. Questions echoed. ‘Why’ had no answer .Science, like the confession box of a grilled chamber in the corner of a prayer hall, had speckles of light, like the gauze of a wound it could be looked through, it explained the progress of the disease, described all the pains dryly like a morbid dictionary, it justified the pain, final solution was in the cytotoxic drugs and the coffin of natural killer cells.
The net of tennis court outside his clinic seemed new, she noticed. He was in the game, though not counted for the scores. That was how little ones were treated in a serious game. When she got up to go, he also rose from his chair; she hugged him, like in her childhood. She was made to realize that faith was not blind when she had come here several years ago. Science was her faith now, facts were inescapable. His once strong muscular body, was flaccid like a flat punching bag, she felt his defenses were gone. She stood firmly, despite his bigger height, she was aware that he needed her to hold him. His chin was above her head , he whispered “ You reminded me of my son, blind in devotion and emotion, so clear sighted in science” She knew that her gender did not prejudice his inner sympathy towards her person, since he met her as a child. Therefore he knew to smooth the ruffled wings of that child, holding her like how a flower holds it’s own petals or mother holds her baby, a silent gentle grip urging her to extend beyond her limits, to grow. Even to outgrow him. He distanced her, holding her shoulders, tearing away from that embrace, looking at her limpid eyes he touched her chin “Putting you to sleep was my privilege, I promise to dream of you dancing before I sleep, think of me when you pray, will you?” She nodded. But she was not going to pray, she was too angry for that. Blood on the bed sheets, her father’s poems, doctors silence, she did not want a questioning mind. Questions were so lonely, she was tired.