(for Kartik Kadian)
Along with getting inside the flaccid skins of psychology, strictured arteries of emotions, medicine postings help us witness the broad limbs of death. Every time the 45-day shift ends, we share the number of deaths, remembered neatly on the domes of fingers.
We watch the tic-tac-toe of life and death—it starts with seizures. The knees, elbows, hips shake furiously as if trying to assert their autonomy like the refugees. Slowly, the internal force dampens, heart shuts down. The sweat-grimed CPR regime flickers the heart with a lukewarm contraction but it is like the gleam of a shooting star. And your patient heaves, his chest accelerates up and down as the notes of a Thumri singer, his neck propelled like a chameleon trying to trap the elements of life. His longing for life deepens our thirst to live.
Life blooms in us node by node.
Slowly, death comes—hushed, light-footed, with a whisker of smile. She sits near him, comforts the tsunami waving in his chest, dulls the ringing in his ears. He lies still like an art model—fingers fanned, tongue back-flipped, penis slumped, palms sky-faced as if begging for a last spurt of blood.
The family knows that the odour of his body trickles down their nose for the last time. They touch the body as a father feels the skin of his newborn child. With a pint of sadness, the ward boy wraps the body twice in a white sheet, tightens it with strings of sobs: one near ankle, another closer to heart. This compact packaging for the society’s casket hides a cyclone of questions the body raises against Gods—life spent in ironing the pleats of relationships, death quick as a gunshot wound, phase on rusted steel beds when the ratio of death to life kept escalating.
With tears, the body vanishes as smoke rings in the sky.
But the sting of death, its spillover on the wall stays
like the framed photo where the family
once smiled like sunflowers.
Kinshuk Gupta uses the scalpel of his pen to write poems. His chapbook has been shortlisted for the chapbook contest organised by Rhythm Divine Poets, Kolkata, in 2017. One of his poems was amongst the Top 50 Poems in The Great Indian Poetry Contest. His poems have been widely anthologised in India and abroad. Most of his poems talk about his experiences as an undergraduate medical student.