Last leaf

Hospitals are a strange place. It’s stranger if it’s a government hospital in Kolkata. Recently, a colleague’s brother was admitted in one such hospital. It was the patient’s first brush with any such place and so he was quite scared. He was allotted a general bed for the night before being shifted to a cabin. And equally scared was the patient’s mother and elder sister to leave their babu-shona alone for a night amidst strangers with strange diseases. Another patient occupying the adjacent bed was observing this and was amused at the predicament that the kin of his neighbours were in. Finally, the visiting hour came to an end and babu-shona was left on his own. First visit to the filthy toilet and he knew he will have to ignore nature’s call for the rest of the time he would be there. The observant one saw this and starting talking to him and kept on talking for the rest of the night. He would just not stop even when asked to. He said he had robbed two banks and kidnapped a wealthy man’s son. He talked about how cops beat such people and also the innovative techniques to torture. He abused his parents and talked about his brother who was 23 years old but had passed HS recently. He also talked about nurses whom he called “sundori mahila” and not sister. He abused the doctors who would ill-treat the patients who had nowhere to go other than cheap government hospitals and be polite to others who would visit him at his private clinic. The man kept on talking till the sun rose again and was finally intimidated by the matron. He also said that the cats frequenting the general wards were actually bara-sahebs in their previous lives and had breathed their last on the beds there. In the morning, when the patient’s family got to know that their babu-shona’s neighbour was a dangerous criminal they went to ask the doctors about him. It was later known that the man hails from a poor but a respectable family and the babu-shona wasn’t the first victim of his wild imagination. He was critically ill and it was unlikely that he would live long. He had done this with all other people who had occupied the bed next to his. What would you call this? O Henry’s Last Leaf reversed?

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