Sathya Narayana

Gold Star - 7,045 Points (12-06-1958 / Nellore, Andhra Pradesh)

Dyspnoea (Short Story) - Poem by Sathya Narayana

"He's choking" I cried
looking at that sixty plus old man in a dhothi and a tattered wet shirt.
"Dyspnoea! " commented my friend Rajan
staring at him.
"What's dyspnoea? " I yelled.

The rain-lashed black-top road
was looking like a crawling snake..
That desolate bus-shelter beside
that village road was damp and leaking.
The old man settled on the cement bench
was panting, coughing and staring into the skies as if he's waiting to see the angels from heaven or agents of the Hades.
His wife was pressing his back and telling..."Wait...the rain will abate won't take much time."

I cried at her, "Give him his inhaler! "
"What's inhaler? " she asked.
"I mean inhaler; O' God! " I cried.
"How do they know about inhaler? " Rajan said coolly.
Ignoring my friend, I cried again,
"Don't you have any medicine ready...
Something like deriphyllin or salbutamol? "
I didn't wait for her reply...rushed into the rain and reached the street corner and asked a passer-by, "Where's the medical shop here? ", "No medical shop fact up to a distance of 20 kms" he replied. "No medical shop? ! ! " stunned I shouted aloud.
He added, "That old couple live in a small hut. Even a small rain is enough to make them run. They come to this bus-shelter and remain till the rain's usual for them...don't worry...once the rain abates they go back to their hut"
Returned to the bus-shelter and cried at her
"Take him to the town by next bus...his condition is serious. We're riding on a motor bike. It's too risky to drive him town"

We returned to town, but remained my heart guilty.
"I could have done better than leaving that old man like that"
I thought.
Next morn, Rajan called over phone, "Read today's news...that old man died"

(In India there are hundreds of villages where no medical shop is available. This poem is based on a true incident. Rajan is a real name of my friend who is a newspaper correspondent.)

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Poem Submitted: Wednesday, April 18, 2012

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