Blog: The Comedy of Everyday Life
The comic drama of existence unfolds itself in every situation. It's the approach that counts. I was, by the force of circumstance, in hospital and happened to be reduced to an avid witness of the comedy of gross, the vulgar, the subtle and insidious at a rich period when the public meets the ailing and the vulnerable during visiting hours.
Bottles of mineral water outnumbered all other gifts. It was strange why the visiting hours offer an unconditional holiday from discipline especially related to gastronomy. The diabetic drank juice galore, ate black grapes... Some wives are heard to have brought mixed rum with water to pander to the unrequitable thirst of spouses whose marital authority was stronger than the doctor’s warning.
Numbers make odd counts in hospitals. When two visitors are supposed to pay their respectful call on the sick, they finally multiply into four by one magic of concession and compromise, a very subtle mauritian ethic concocted out the laws of kinship. The nearer the kin the more can the attendant janitor admit into the ward.
It is strange to realise the content of the conversation beetween visitor and patient. "How do you?" If the patient has to answer this question ten times, he will be fit for rest and retreat for the rest of the day. But then very often this question is not anwered and is taken to be no different from a greeting or a salutation. A visitor is very often a pretext for a gathering of relatives. A rural congregation of Bhojpuri speaking aunts opens up vistas of hilarious narratives. We can hear about all the ills of a rural underworld where the least discomfort deserves a saga meant for storytelling. Some of these meetings are reputed to be ending up with alienated kins settling scores with salvoes of invective.
I have always wondered why nurses want everything to be spick and span before the visiting hours open their floodgates to a miscellaneous mass. Infact they should be amidst the visitors to answer their questions, to know which food to bring from home and what not to bring. Visitors have the right to know the status of their relative’s health. I was pleasantly surprised to find a new rapport between specialists and patients. It is unfortunate that all young Registered medical officers are not able to guide patients or visitors. Specialists were found carrying out enquiries, explaining the nature of the disease, and warning patients against abusive medical behaviour.
Visiting hours too often degenerate into chaos. The mauritian public is highly emotional and is driven by the emotions that a situation provokes. To be bedridden is a family event. Kins from all sources converge to throng at the gate of the ward. No one ever obeys the rule of visiting two by two. The multiplying factor increases as visiting hours wear out and the well wisher feels that his disturbance will go to waste if he is refused access.
At certain moments visiting hours look like a market fair well attended by eager customers. Mauritians are bighearted and can travel many kilometres only to exchange a few words or to have a silent yet meaningful look of the sick relative.
Class differences become eloquent during visiting hours. Special visitors do not want to blend with the riff-raff. They may wait for the small fry to take their turn and disappear from the scene because they want to accaparate quality time with the sick.
In the midst of all this hurlyburly, there are those who receive no visits. Some of these are used to neglect or the dereliction. Others fret because their relatives did not find time to pay them a visit. They are the most unfortunate ones of the lot.
The post visiting hours are interesting to live. There this one is seeking space enough to store his bottles of water that could have made Mare aux Vacoas shy during drought season. The other is tasting every bit of the variety of food ,fruit brought to express sympathy.
This article is the result of the kind treatment I received at the hands of the medical and paramedical staff in the cardiology departement of Flacq hospital. I thank them all for the respect they showed to me.