In July last year, when his staff at a private clinic refused to work with him as the number of patients presenting with symptoms of the novel coronavirus increased each day, he had no choice but to offer his services at another hospital in our city and treat patients afflicted with the disease.
There have been periods of many lows and a few highs. His joy is rooted to gratitude and smiles from recovered patients.
Since the onslaught of the second wave of coronavirus in India, I have seen less and less of him. I can count the minutes I get to spend with him every day. It is mostly when we have dinner or the time before he leaves for work at 7 am like clockwork. Even dinner time is interrupted by timely reports from the hospital.
It's been a couple of days since my brother, his wife and their three-year-old son came home to see us all. We had not met each other for over a year.
After my father comes back from work late in the evening, he finds my nephew eagerly waiting for him. They can hardly play for a while before its time for the naughty toddler to retire to bed for the day. I realise, none of us get to spend enough time with the man we adore.
He hasn't had any off days. Half a day, on a Sunday, is the most he gets. He does not get time to repair his spectacles that have become loose and need tightening or get a haircut. His greys are more noticeable now than they were a year ago. The most we can do as a family for him is feed him a hearty breakfast before the grind begins and ensure that he gets sufficient sleep at night, which on occasions get disturbed by emergency phone calls.
His accounts of treating people whose conditions deteriorate suddenly, are put on the ventilator and despite best efforts succumb to this deadly infection, is disheartening; so is the account of many untimely deaths that could not be prevented. On days we are privy to his heartaches caused by family members of patients accusing him of not doing enough, or for a patient being sent to the ICU when he seemed to be recovering the day before.
Though he is vaccinated, we still have our fears. He faces the risk of an infection every hour that he spends at the hospital treating the sick. Every day before he leaves for work I have been wishing him a good day as a habit. In these times, I know that it has no meaning but I still do it. I am grateful that he is safe today, but there is uncertainty about his well-being tomorrow.