The Covid-19 Hustle

posted in: Short Story - English | 0

It was around 5.00 AM Saturday morning, Thresya sister’s phone rang.

It woke her up from a nap leaning back in an armchair amidst her night shift.


“Thresya sister, this is me Maya, please, can I talk to papa? Is he awake, I just want to hear his voice, oh my papa…?”


As Maya’s incoherent speech over the phone transitioned to muffled sobs, Thresya sister shrugged off her sleepiness.


“Let me check, if he is able to talk. Call me after fifteen minutes”, she reassured Maya.


Her legs waded into the gloomy hospital hallway to the changing room. Soon she came out as a faceless human, trussed up in the PPE and face shield.


She pushed open the ICU door gently. Michael sir, was awake and out of his delirium following a mild septic shock in the night. His body was extremely pale and mottled. His hands were shivering.


“Michael Sir, are you awake”?  

He was still dazed, but slowly opened his eyes, which strained in a futile attempt to decipher the figure clad in PPE that stood beside him.Soon, he was at peace with her familiar voice.

 “Ah… Thresya sister”, his response was slow and slurred.


Thresya sister took a moment to text Maya to call back and the phone rang immediately. She placed the phone next to his ear.


 Michael sir was lucid than Thresya sister had imagined, he lay with his eyes stuck at the ceiling, listening to Maya.


He was standing near his wife’s coffin with his 11-year-old twins on his either side. In a giffy, he clasped the girls and ran upstairs to hide behind the closed door. That was the exact moment, his life had changed for the rest of the thirty-one years! He had come to the rescue of the girls from the melancholy prayers, the prying eyes of the relatives, the funeral service, the committal and everything that evoked their mommy’s memory.


When did Maya stop talking? Thresya sister saw Michael sir getting restless.


As she took out the phone, his feeble voice caught Thresya sister’s attention, “Please, no intubation, no ventilator support, my girls are now bold enough to let me go”


The preparedness of the dying soul haunted Thresya sister, more than ever. It was the sixteenth day since Michael sir was in the hospital. After each test result narration, he had smiled to her. He knew the prognosis. Forty-eight years of his medical practice wisdom would have helped him to read his body’s vital signs. She dreaded his transition from a doctor to patient, with each passing day he knew the certainty, up to the extent of making the choice of his final moments.


Desperate to put him at ease, Thresya sister swallowed her own feelings of confusion in the matter and reassured him.


“Yes sir. I will pass the message to Dr.Arun, please try to sleep.”


Extreme fatigue caused difficulty for him to stay awake. He mumbled while closing his eyes.


“Please be here, by my side when I die”


“Oh… Sir.” She choked up. She could see his frail body shaking in labored breathing. The loneliness he was going to endure at the face of death tormented her.


Michael sir was extremely confident on his first day in the hospital that the symptoms he had would not be of COVID-19. His life has been a penance for the sake of his girls and he had taken utmost care to maintain himself healthy. However, his genes did forsake him in his mid-fifties and he grew lean due to diabetes to the dismay of his twins.

 In his apartment in Mumbai, first time when COVID had arrived at Mr.Jerurkar’s, both of the girls had watched him through the security camera and ensured that their Papa is not stepping out of the flat, except to pick the newspaper and the provisions left by the delivery boy. If at all Michael sir did an absent-minded stroll in the corridor, they had fought with him. Michael sir too was extremely careful in using sanitizer every time he stepped out. He was reading all available literature on COVID-19. In his evening video calls with the twins, he had shared all precautionary measures, Maya in Italy and Mary in U.S, had listened attentively to their Papa. Both of them have been depending on their papa’s medical advice and knowledge in their daily lives. It was their hobby to make medical case arguments of their friends and acquaintances with Papa, and the only time Michael sir had lost his argument with the girls was when they teased him about the late finding of their mommy’s uterine cancer at its third stage. Nevertheless, he remained a perfect encyclopedia for the girls on medicine.


When Michael sir had tested positive for Covid-19, both of the girls were wondering about that weak moment he had missed his hand wash or sanitizer, and the wretched virus had entered him. Both of them spent hours discussing the chronology of Papa’s daily routine for the previous ten days, analyzing each of his actions and trying to find that significant moment when their Papa had fallen prey to the wicked virus.  They questioned him in an investigative manner, but left with no clues.


Thresya sister had a miserable moment when she had received Mary’s call the following day.


“Thresya sister, I am lucky to get a flight ticket. I will reach Mumbai on Wednesday. I want to see my Papa once, is there a way I can be allowed in the hospital? Can you please help?  Maya is also trying for a flight ticket, but left with no luck”.


Thresya sister did not have an answer. She knew all COVID-19 patients had died the same, alone.


Thresya sister did not know when the twins came to a consensus with Dr.Arun and hospital authorities to allow a natural death for Michael sir, without any intrusive life support system. He passed away the same night Mary had arrived in Mumbai. She was not allowed in the hospital. To her agony, she was left with no other option than having a video call confined to her hotel room.


As promised, Thresya sister stayed by Michael sir’s side when he breathed his last. She helped the twins to bid him farewell through a video call. The girls started very boldly as Michael sir wanted. They had tried to make him laugh through their common jokes, in vain, followed by anecdotes to say how dear their Papa was to them, and then they chanted all the prayers they knew, finally they let out screams as the technician had pulled out Michael sir’s heart beat monitor plug.


It was heartbreaking for Mary to return to U.S without having a glimpse of Michael sir’s final journey. She had cried her heart out in the hotel room for having him cremated in a public cemetery by corporation workers. The twins resented their philosophical friends who had glorified Covid-19 to be the great equalizer.


Thresya sister could get over neither Michael sir’s death nor his twins’ agonizing calls. A month had gone by since Michael sir passed away. Thresya sister was attending a call from Maya. “Thresya sister, what did papa say last, did he leave any message for myself and Mary? Please, I can’t sleep, oh my poor papa, he was all alone, what could have been his last wish?”


As always, Thresya sister determined to console her replied, “Oh, dear, please do not bother. He wasn’t conscious when he was dying and hence he did not say anything specific”.


Nonetheless, a secret joy overtook Thresya sister while disconnecting the phone,

for being the chosen one to stay with Michael sir in his passing..


Name : Bindhu P.S

Company : Infosys, Trivandrum

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