Subhashi died quetly and without a
fuss. This 30 year old woman from Tinighoria village in
the Kerandimal hills of southern Orissa had been coughing
for six months before she was brought to our little
dispensary. Too ill to walk, weakened by anaemia which
caused her feet to swell up, she had an air of calm
acceptance about her. As if to say, I'm ready for
whatever life has in store for me.
A jeep was returning to Mohuda from a field trip. Her
husband and daughter brought Subhashi to us in it. She
was only skin and bone and obviously very ill.
Examination showed that her lungs were extensively
damaged, probably by tuberculosis. Her sputum showed
numerous acid-fast bacilli, the deadly mycobacterium that
We started her on the appropriate drugs. We also
explained to her husband that she needed blood and
oxygen, both of which we did not have. They were only
available at the large medical college and hospital in
Berhampur, about 10 km away. But he was adamant: he did
not want to take her there. He seemed to feel that he had
wasted enough time and effort already, bringing her to
Mohuda. "I would not have brought her if the villagers
had not forced me to," he grumbled.
Subhashi was extremely cold, and spent most of the next
day in the sun. I got somebody to take her photograph,
sure that she would not recognise herself even two months
later. Anti-TB drugs act almost miraculously on a
patient. She said nothing when the picture was taken, but
I could see that she was pleased.
At 10:30 that night, Subhashi woke up to go to the
toilet. Since her husband and daughter were asleep, she
walked by herself to the bathroom. By the time she
returned, she was out of breath. We had gone to check on
her just then, so we put her back in bed and propped her
up. Once again, we asked her husband to allow us to take
her to Berhampur. Once more, he refused. He said she was
going to die anyway, so there was no use worrying about
her or wasting any more time and money on her. Her
daughter fast asleep beside her, Subhashi lay there and
listened to both of us. I was arguing and getting
angrier; the husband remained indifferent and quite
immovable in his opinion.
Suddenly, Subhashi stopped breathing. We tried to
resuscitate her, but I knew it was futile. Anaemia and
the TB had defeated her. Or was it something else which
made her give up her will to live?
Even in death, Subhashi's face wore that same look of
calm acceptance. I wondered then and still -- how did she
remain so? I do not feel calm when I think of her. Nor
can I accept her needless, lonely death. Is there a
lesson I must learn from Subhashi?
"You must be the change you wish to see in the world."
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