We were seeing at least 200 patients in our rural clinic those days. Naturally, by evening, everyone was completely drained of their energies. So we physicians decided to freak out in the evening at a nearby chicken outlet with its famous fancy chicken fry and chappathis.We were all famished and scampered to get a piece of the delicious dish and I succeeded in procuring one.The fun and frolic of the evening had just started when suddenly,I felt a sharp pain like lightning in my throat a piece of bone had fot stuck somewhere inside my throat. I tried to catch people’s attention above all that noise in that dingy restaurant. In what seemed like a lifetime, someone suddenly took notice of me. Amongst the shocked faces, the first one to jump to action was my junior physician. She forced me to drink a glass of water. The waiter panicked and gave me a banana which I gulped despite the agonising pain. My eyes welled up and my bladder burst. I had wet myself and all over the chair. All hell had broken loose In the drama that ensued, in a few minutes I found myself at a hospital. Being a Sunday night, the sole emergency surgeon on-duty tried to depress my tongue to visualise the throat. The bone travelled down. I wet my clothes all over again. This time, I felt no embarrassment. The young surgeon panicked and gave up. We went to three more hospitals that night. Finally ,it took all of the good offices of my neonatologist brother and Sir, to pull some strings and get me admitted at one of the most reputed hospitals in the district.
By now I was in a downward spiral.
At the pre-operative ward, the junior surgeon, showed me the position of the bone from the scans. She assured me that by using the latest endoscopic techniques, one could come out with minimal injury. I saw the bone on the cricoid cartilage next to the vocal chord. I was wheeled into the pre-operative room was asked to lie down on the cot. Due to the position of the bone I couldn’t lie down. The kind nurse helped me into a comfortable sitting position and left me alone for few moments. My eyes soaked in the disinfected room and the surgical instruments which would be used on me.
There would be three possibilities. I may come out like nothing ever happened, I may come out with permanently damaged vocal cords or I may simply never come out of the surgery. Just the previous week a very similar case had occurred in a nearby mall. An Ayurveda doctor had collapsed and died on the spot. It felt like lightning was traversing across the length and breadth of my body.
It was a moment of satori. I asked to myself? Haseena…these could be the last moments of your life on earth. Are you frightened? No came the calm answe
Faces flashed across my mind. That of my son who would be orphaned, my bed ridden parents who are dependent on me, my supportive siblings who stood by me through the worst phases of my life. My “Sir”, who was my mentor and guru in my professional and personal life. I asked myself if I wanted to see any of them, for just one more time. No…came the answer again! Did I regret any of my life’s decisions? Divorce to single parenting to being the caregiver of my aged parents? Though I was deeply spiritual, I was never the believer nor follower of religious norms. Did I fear the wrath of Almighty and would I face my judgement in hell? The answer was again a calm and emphatic NO.. Right then, I experienced the true meaning of the word “serenity”. I was in a state of bliss. It was really the most beautiful moment of my whole life. I smiled inwardly and wondered why this ultimate truth called death is such a frightening prospect for all? I had read stories of near-death experiences where they have had beautiful encounters. However they were all unconscious or patients in coma transitioning through to another realm of existence and back. As a doctor, I have witnessed cancer patients and many terminally ill patients, wailing and wishing for a few more years on earth. Pining for their children or grandchildren settled elsewhere, wanting to live a little more with their better -halfs. To my amazement, no thoughts of any such yearnings crossed my mind. I made myself comfortable on the cot and said the last words that a devout Muslim is supposed to say, ‘The shahaadath kalima..’ I felt an immense sense of gratitude for each and every moment that I lived till then.
As the anesthetist closed in on my face, I promised myself that if I were to open my eyes to this world again then I will write about this beautiful tryst with death. How beautiful a feeling it is to be returning to the Source and it is nothing like priesthood or misinterpreted scriptures make it out
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