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It takes a village

Six people are in a room. Three are pacing, two sitting. Every single one of them has their faces staring into a phone. The light from the screen shines back at them, barely visible in morning light. The sun is now peeking over the trees and the birds have quietened as the day grows warmer. The sky is clear and so is the task at hand.

One person is dead on the floor above. A natural death, in their own home. The rest of the building knows by now. Some of these people have come together to try and find a doctor — a general practitioner (GP) specifically — to certify that the person is dead. Only a GP can certify a person who died outside of a hospital as dead. Now, these people come together are trying to find a doctor for a person who hated going to doctors. It is ironic but the humour is for another time.

“Did he have any doctor he visited regularly?”
“Only an ayurved.”
Where does he live?”
“Let it be. We’ll find someone from the area.”

Phones are being worked. Most are not being answered.
“Must be sleeping.”
“May be having a bath.”
“Come on, pick up.”

“Did you ask the doctor who treated him last time he was in hospital?”
“Yes. He said he was a consultant, not a GP.”
“Does he know any GP who can come?”

“i’ll just check what’s happening upstairs and come back.”
“Okay, we’ll keep trying. Will call if anything happens.”
“Thanks, will do the same.”

One person goes bounding up the stairs. They are greeted by the sight of a person covered by a sheet lying on the floor — dead — with another sitting next to them is feeling dead. Engaging this person is not easy. In many ways, it is easier to talk to the dead. At least one knows no answers will come from them. The living seem more complicated.

“How are you?”
A blank stare, a hug.
“No doc as yet. Will let you know once we find one. See you in some time.”

Bounding is heard on the steps again.

“Have you called Dr. B?”
“Oh, he had operated on the hernia previously. Twice”

The person who died had been complaining of disturbance in the ear a week ago and had spoken of finding a GP to treat it, to everyone’s amazement. A week later, a GP is being requested-hunted-wanted-needed. Else, the funeral will not happen.

“Hello-What-When? Let me ask a friend. He will surely come and take a nominal fee.”
“That will be wonderful. The fee will not be a problem.”
“Let me call you in some time.”
“Thank you.”

“Hello? Here’s Dr. V’s number. Please call him. He can come in an hour.”
“Thank you.”

Seven hours after the death, Dr. V certifies that the person is officially dead. Now, bureaucracy can start functioning and the remaining rituals of death will start making the living dance.

It takes a village to raise a child, goes the saying often attributed to cultures from Western Africa. This morning, it has taken a village to lay the dead to rest.


Published by appamprawns

soni writes about children and people in controlled spaces, in his quest for appam stew. homi writes in the hope of being able to buy prawns to make patiyo.

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