The landscape is breath taking from the 9th Floor of a Rehabilitation Centre in the busy town of Insaaga,. Tall buildings in the distant horizon create a jaw like pattern. The lake on the western side glimmer in the setting sun. Water birds dive from the air, glide on top of the water and take off into the air with a prize fish. The park adjacent to the lake is lush green; children play ball on the soft turf; some fall as they run; the lawn acts as a cushion against each fall. Pets held by masters in their leashes stroll along the sidewalk. Cyclists woosh along in their lane, while cars, buses and street cars tug carefully on the busy road. Lining the pavements are coffee shops, restaurants, stores, and offices as people move about their business walking, talking, and laughing. The multitude of lights spread across the landscape appear like star studded jewels in the galaxies. The scene would inspire any artist to bring life to his canvas.
The inmates of the 9th Floor of the Rehab Centre are oblivious to the magnificent view outside. Most of them are victims of accidents either challenged by neurological conditions or lie in coma, some more than 20 years. Family members visit these victims every day to spend hours nursing, caressing, feeding, and talking in the hope that they will wake up one day. Medical doctors think otherwise. Patients in their comatose state hardly realize that there is a world outside. They are in a world of their own. We know they exist, but do they know we exist. Sometimes uncharitable questions cross our active minds –
• Do they serve a purpose in living?
• Do they serve our purpose in living?
Examining one of the inmates would give us some insight to these sensitive questions
Niku a young man of 37 entered the Rehab Centre 4 years ago in a state of coma. He was a victim of an accident, when his speeding motor bike rammed into a car that crossed his lane from a joining lane. It was not his fault, but he was thrown up in the air and landed on the road with all his bones shattered and head badly damaged. Despite being attended to by the best doctors in town, he ended brain dead, but his organs were all secured. His mutilated legs and arms were put together only to realize that his brain will not allow its use. He could not see, he could not hear, he could not speak, he could not move, he could not even eat. He escaped the jaws of death on 3 occasions and against medical expectations he came through. Now, the only thing he does is breathe. Everything else is done by a host of caretakers – doctors, nurses, cleaners, physiotherapist, dieticians, medical technicians, family, and visitors. A photo of Niku before and after the accident is on the notice board. It will bring tears to the seeing eye. A handsome young man vs a lifeless life on a bed.
This is the story of one victim and there are many on the same floor in the same state but from different causes. Knowing these sordid cases, the natural expectation would be one of gloom, despair, and frustration. Despite their hopelessness, the irony is, these helpless victims have become a source of hope, love, energy, peace, and humanity that none experience in the real world outside.
Niku lies in bed 24 hours. His body needs to be moved every 2 hours to avoid bed sores; he is fed through tubes directly into the stomach; his pampers are changed every 12 hours to avoid infection; he is washed every day to keep him fresh and every night he must be tucked in bed before the lights go off. In addition, his face is shaved once a week; his nails cut monthly, his overgrown hair cut quarterly and when weather permits, he is taken on a wheelchair for fresh air. These activities are done for the last 4 years by a host of people taking turns – some from within the Rehab Centre and others from outside in the form of family members, relatives, friends, social workers, and unknown visitors.
When those taking care of Niku are asked what makes them do all this, the underlying answer is – we realize our humanity, experience love and gain peace.
This is the irony of life. The world outside the Rehab Centre has a grand view from the 9th floor. All looks good and the scene is picture perfect, but do those in the picture experience humanity, love, and peace? It takes a Rehab Centre in that picturesque landscape to provide a window for many to experience humanity, love, and peace.
Let us step back a little and ask this question – Can all days be perfect, happy, and elevating?
Some days are perfect; some frustrating, some happy, some sad, some elevating, some depressing. We understand perfection, happiness and elevation through frustration, sadness, and depression. In the same way we learn about life through the lifeless! Niku, though his lifeless state has explained life to the living.