The journey to the colony took most of his time. It was a mistake, Vinodh thought to himself. Getting into the Siddha medicine just to fulfill his father’s desire had almost ruined his life. He was working as an assistant to one of the Siddha doctors in the city. Nobody is willing to take Siddha medicines now-a-days. The cases they got were the one which were pushed to them because the doctors thought few patients were not worth their time or people who lost all hopes in every other medicinal form. He was pedaling his cycle towards one such patient.
In the first year of college, like every other student in the class he wanted to serve the people. He didn’t care much about earning money then. Everything changed with his father’s death. He had to go to the government hostel. He was supposed to get food and money as subsidy. He understood the true meaning of subsidy there. He wouldn’t even give his hostel food to the worst of his enemies. Only water helped him to get through the hungry nights. There was no money. The less said about the hostel facilities the better. They would run to the nearby bushes daily morning. If they had to use the toilets, the college authorities made the hostel students to clean them. The humiliation coupled with the poverty changed Vinodh into a different man. He didn’t really want to save people anymore. If he had to go through the miseries of life, then everybody else in the world deserved it too.
That was why the patients who were deserted by the English medicine were a treat for him to watch. Their physical suffering somehow compensated the mental suffering he had to go through. He could have become a terrorist or a serial killer. But he had a family to feed.
The doctor he worked for was a curious person. He believed that any ailment could be cured by Siddha medicines. “We just haven’t discovered it yet”, he would say. Now he was pedaling to treat a person whom the doctors washed their hands off. Muthu fell off from 16th floor of the construction site where he was working in Cape Town. He was packed and sent to India. The doctors were clueless. He could not talk, walk or do anything by himself. After the marriage of his sister he went abroad to earn and get out of the loans. Fate had different plan. Now the Siddha doctor wanted to massage him with some of his ayurvedic oil and wrap him with select herbs for few days. He believed that will bring Muthu out of his suffering by increasing blood flow to his brain.
Muthu was not a pleasant one to work with. His spinal cord was damaged beyond repair. He was well built. It took three people to lay him down and wrap him with herbs. A tube was attached to his throat for his intake and few tubes were attached for his bowel habits. His home stank like a mortuary. His father religiously washed him daily and powdered him before Vinodh went to their house. Vinodh has changed his routine to evening to take care of other chores in the morning. Muthu didn’t show any improvement even after 20 days of treatment. He touched his bag to confirm the oil bottle was intact.
Muthu’s father was tending the plants when he parked the cycle near the wooden gate of their house.
“Come Vinodh.” He said. Even there was no improvement; his eyes would light up at the sight of Vinodh as if he was God sent. “Lakshmi! Prepare something for Vinodh to drink” he yelled at the kitchen and went in to Muthu’s room to get him ready for the treatment.
Vinodh squatted near the door till the mother came out. She handed him a cup of horlicks.
“His sister has come today” Lakshmi said. Vinodh looked at a pair of women sandals and also a pair of kids’ sandals. He looked questioningly towards Lakshmi. “Her kid, Jothi is also home”
“The kid is not afraid of her uncle?” Vinodh asked.
“This has become normalcy for us son” Lakshmi said. After cooking, cleaning the house and supporting the family she took care of a grown son and was also changing his soiled clothes on daily basis. She had become numb to her suffering as well as Muthu’s. Vinodh checked whether the oil is still intact in his bag. The roads were not good and he couldn’t rely on the lid. The oil was very important.
A week back Sankaradi, the no-good neighbor of his came to him and took him to the local toddy shop. He was commissioned there by one of the leading pharma company executive there. After few drinks they started talking.
“We need a help from you” the executive said.
“I know. There are no free drinks in this world” Vinoth slurred.
“We know that you are treating Muthu. We have oil that can help him. We need you to try it on him.”
“You can do it yourself. Why do you need my help?”
“This is not cleared by the government yet. This would work only with the oil that you are using right now, we suspect.”
He proposed a large amount for the favor. He warned not to use that on normal people, which may cause severe consequences. He was sure he would not give it to anyone else. All he had to do was to save it from his mom from using it.
Muthu’s father and Vinodh entered the room where Muthu was sitting. It was hard to say whether he liked Vinodh or not. Not that mattered to him. A child was sitting in the corner and was playing with her dolls. Muthu was not responding to the oil. His face showed immense pain when it was applied on his body. The parents didn’t suspect a thing. Today Muthu’s groans grew louder from the moment they started applying the oil. The kid came running towards her uncle.
“What are you doing to my uncle?”
“We are treating him. So he can come and play with you when you come next time” Vinodh said.
“What will this oil do?”
“It will take away his pain”
“But there is no wound”
“There are wounds inside.”
Muthu’s voice grew louder and louder. They stopped massaging him with oil. Jothi started to pester Muthu’s father.
“Who is this Uncle?”
“He is the doctor”
“What is doctor?”
“He is like a God. He will do something and uncle will become alright.”
“Does he know magic?”
“No. As I said he is like God. He will bless us with his studies and talents”
“Can I become God too?”
“Sure. Uncle will get well and make you study medicine and you can become God like me” Vinodh said. They were wrapping Muthu with herbs. Vinodh felt some moisture in Muthu’s face. He didn’t care what it was. He was in a hurry to leave the place. Kids always make him uncomfortable. Before they finished wrapping the power supply was gone and he had to rush to his cycle before it was too dark to get out of the place.
Jothi was standing near the door while he wore washed his hands and wore the sandals. Without warning she fell in his feet. Before he could resist, she got up and did three successive squats.
“This is what we should do when we see God. My mom told me” she ran away before he could say anything.
His Doctor’s phone call woke him up in the morning. He rushed to Muthu’s home. Jothi was wrapped in a banana leaf double her size. Muthu’s father was crying. “Poor girl! You forgot the oil he brought. Doctor had given powerful oil for Muthu. Jothi fell down and thought the oil would cure her and applied it on her. Suddenly her skin got burnt and the little thing couldn’t bear the pain. The oil fell on her and now the limbs below her waist is burnt. Do something Vinodh” .The family was pleading Vinodh. He gave her basic first-aid and left the place before calling the ambulance.
Muthu’s sister got down from the bus after treating Jothi in Government hospital. She bought a bun from the bakery for Jothi wrapped in a newspaper. It read that a pharma executive was dismembered in the city. A man named Sankaradi was killed because of burns in his private parts. Vinodh was not to be seen around the place since the event.
The new assistant of the Siddha doctor pedaled past them to their colony.