Conversations on Living, In medias res

A prayer for quietness


The hospital lobby was chaotic as usual. Anxious patients, family members, nurses, doctors at the Sundaram Medical Foundation hospital crisscrossed without banging into each other. I always wonder how as Indians, we comfortably melt into crowds in public spaces naturally without any training.

In the middle of the choreographed chaos, a piano was placed on an elevated platform with some chairs around. Anil Srinivasan, pianist was about to give a performance, a poster announced. “How will you play in the middle of the hustle and bustle?” I had asked him earlier.

The seats filled up slowly. A father who had a small boy in bandages sat next to me. He held his son tight but affectionately against his chest. The boy looked tired of crying, but comfortable and secure in his dad’s warmth.

An older lady in patient clothes inched slowly towards the chairs. Within few minutes she began crying, looking down, silently. There was no one next to her.

“Kaatrinile varum geetam..” Anil had started playing. The soft music floated without getting polluted in the din.

Nurses and hospital staff stood in groups behind the chairs. Some took deep breaths in silence, the next few minutes were precious for them, a much needed breather before the madness begin again.

“Senthamizh then mozhiyal..” Anil punched in a yester year magic of a song, which brought in some energy and the flowing audience joined along. Two elderly gentlemen in crisp white veshti and shirt in the front row listened in rapt attention, while their feet tapped along.

As soon as Anil played “Unnai ondru ketpen….” a golden song by Susheela and composed by MSV, the elderly lady began to cry again, perhaps the song reminded her of something from the past. A nurse came her side and held her hand tightly. The nurse asked if she wanted to go back, she nodded against but continued to cry in silence.

Someone tapped my shoulder from behind. It was a friend whom I had not met in ages. “All well?” I ask and quickly bit my lips. An inappropriate question in a hospital I thought. He looked anxious. “My father-in-law has been rushed to the ICU. Heart attack. I just came, don’t know what to do,” he stared.

“Kurai onrum illai…” a song immortalised by M S Subbalakshmi brought the much needed peace to the place and people yearning for some quietness.

Anil, thank you.


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