Posted by on Jul 3, 2013 in Short Story Translation, Uncategorized | 0 comments

A short story by Banaphul translated from the Bengali

I was in government service then. I was in charge of the Sadar hospital in a big town. One day two patients were admitted in two cottages. My job involved patients, I shouldn’t have worried but with these two I had quite an embarrassment. The main reason of my worry was not the patients but their fathers. One of them was a doctor ever eager to find my faults. I didn’t know what the other man did but he appeared a very harmless man, a good person. He used to perform religious rituals and read the Gita everyday. He was much older than me, all his hairs greyed; but whenever I went to see the patient, he used to rise from his seat and even when he asked me a few questions, he used to ask them with a lot of hesitation. He was a real gentleman. What worried me about him was his over-dependence on me. He relied on me completely in an attitude almost of resignation. He used to obey each and every direction I gave right to the minutest details but he was never in a hurry. But the patient was his only son and he suffered from typhoid, such a dangerous disease! Both the patients had typhoid. I used to treat the doctor’s son following the doctor’s advice but I couldn’t satisfy him. He opened a book that described very modern treatments which he had procured from abroad and he wanted the treatment to proceed that way. A hospital in a rural area didn’t have so many facilities. He was always regretting: “Ah, it would have been better to go to Calcutta!” Although he didn’t go to Calcutta, he had gathered almost every medical equipment, some by post, others by rail or with the help of messengers. He also received advices from a few reputed doctors of Calcutta. Obviously the gentleman was a man of action and he never neglected to set right the rural deficiencies with his enterprise.

The old man in the next cottage remained silent. He had no vanity that appeared unbecoming, no eagerness that was unreasonable. He nursed his son alone with his expert hands. He scrupulously followed what I told him without raising an eyebrow.

Too much dependence on science on the part of the doctor and too much reliance on me of this old man, both embarrassed me.

The doctor was an old acquaintance, who had his practice in a town nearby. His son was living in a hostel and studying in a college in this town. He caught the fever in the hostel. Since the fever grew to serious proportions and it was considered unsafe to take him elsewhere, he had been brought to the hospital on my advice. The doctor too came along with his family. It was expected of me that I would go frequently to see the patient. I was called again and again when the temperature rose a little, when the patient kept his eyes shut, when he felt a little restless or had a bout of cough. Each time I had to go and I found myself listening to his father’s regrets: “If I could take him to Calcutta in time!” The man’s wife seemed more repentant. Nilratan Sircar* was a very distant relative of hers.

The old man was a stranger here. I had never seen him before. On asking him I came to know that he came with his son and put up in a guest house along with his son. That is where the boy contacted the fever. But the fever rose and he had to bring his son to the hospital.


One day I received a call at the dead of night.
“Please come soon, come once please.”
The doctor came himself with everything about him dishevelled.
“Hæmorrahage has started. Please come soon”–
I rushed to the hospital. Every attempt was taken to stop the hæmorrhage and yet it happened. It was severe.
The doctor asked me — “Do you have a Vitamin C ampul? I don’t have any with me, whatever was brought from Calcutta were exhausted.”
I didn’t have any. I told him so.
“Congo Red?”
None of the pharmacies here has it. I checked each of them this afternoon. It was a mistake, I should have brought it from Calcutta.
He kept silent for a moment and then said — “Oh, such a backward place.”
I said timidly, “Can’t we apply a morphine?”
“I have given morphine, I have given calcium, serum, Styptisin, then I went to you …”
There was nothing else to do. The ice-bag was kept on the stomach. I stood in silence. The doctor asked again, “Can’t we find Congo Red anywhere here? Dr. Bhaduri seems very up-to-date in his treatments. Can’t we find one with him?”
“I can’t say.”
Let me try.
He somehow managed to get hold of a motor-bike. Soon the engine thundered. The doctor startled the darkness of the night as he went out in search of Congo Red.
……….He could not remain near his son when he died.
Although the boy’s mother sat near his head, she didn’t say a word of assurance to the departing soul. As long as she was there, she was only wailing.
“My dear I didn’t know you’ll have to go in such a helpless situation.”
Such groans continued near the ears of a boy who will soon leave the world forever.
The next day when they went away, they didn’t even thank me; as if I was the culprit.


After about two days the nurse of the Cottage Ward came to me with the news that the condition of the second typhoid patient was not stable either. The pulse fell in the afternoon — although glucose was injected. I visited in the morning but didn’t hear from there the rest of the day. On hearing from the nurse I rushed in. I could see that the boy’s mother had come. She was silently crying as she sat near his son’s head. The old man was loudly reciting from the fifth chapter of the Gita. The boy gasped for breath.
The old man smiled when he saw me. “Please come doctor, you have done a lot, now please help him in his last moments. Please touch his head and bless him. Pray so that for once all his pains end — all his weariness is erased.”
I stood there awkwardly.
“Please come….”
The old man said again when he saw me hesitating. “Why are you hesitating, you are a Brahmin, he needs the dust from your feet now. Please…leave your shoes and put the dust of your feet in his head…please come….”
Then he looked at his wife and said,”You’ll get a lot of time to cry later. Now please call the name of god. Your son is going, please give him what he needs now.”
For so many years I had tried to revive numerous patients from a dying state with my syringes, but that day I couldn’t take that step. Suddenly I changed my opinion. I couldn’t disobey the old man. I pulled at the laces of my shoe with my head bowed.

The next day the old man donated a thousand rupees to the hospital and left. When I went to the bank to cash the cheque, I discovered that he was a retired civil surgeon with a foreign degree.
*Sir Nilratan Sircar (1861 – 1943) was an eminent Indian doctor, educationist and philanthropist.