Varanasi Again – 61: Urban legends

‘Tell us some stories Papa’, Vandita said. ‘There have to be some stories, some interesting anecdotes from your times, some urban legends that were handed down, or were circulating in the hospital?’

‘Legends?’, I said, my eyes twinkling,’Yes, I do have some.’

‘Tell, na…’, the children sang in unison.

I laughed and then obliged.

‘When I was doing my residency in general surgery,’ I began,’ we used to work in the hospital twenty four hours a day, tending to patients, looking after emergencies, finishing paperwork, wrapping up pending cases, assisting other teams if they were overburdened and the like.’

I paused, and then looked at the children to see if I had their attention; I did!!

‘The hospital is a scary place at night,’ I resumed,’ the corridors are deserted, and often dark and dingy and ill lit, with strange people lurking around in dark corners, with dressings and other medical contraptions strapped to their bodies making them look like Frankensteins. At least, that is how it was back then. The hospital seems to have improved a lot now.’

The children snuggled close to me, holding my hand tight.

‘When I was in my first year of residency, I used to stay in the hospital till very late at night on most days, and throughout the night on duties which were once or twice in a week. Thus, I ended up spending at least three to four nights per week inside the hospital roaming its dark, deserted corridors. It was during this time that this legend of the patient with the Ryle’s tube started to circulate in the hospital.’

‘What is a Ryle’s tube Papa?’, the children asked.

‘It is a tube put through the nose to reach up to the stomach so that the patient can be fed through it, or the contents of the stomach can be pulled out through it if the patient is unable to digest them.’

‘So, the doctors, in my time, would often talk about how late at night, while working in the hospital, they would often see a patient roaming around the corridors asking doctors or medical staff to remove his Ryle’s tube which hung from his nostril, taped to his nose. It was troubling him, he said, causing him pain. Initially, people stopped, talked to him, and asked him what his name was, which ward/bed he was on, which department was he admitted under. The first one of these good samaritans even approached the said ward, and asked the sister-in-charge of the ward about this patient, only to be informed that this patient had died a few weeks ago…….’

‘The news about the dead patient roaming around in the hospital, requesting everyone to remove his Ryle’s tube spread like wildfire, and had already assumed proportions of an urban legend by the time I started my night duties.’

I paused. The children were listening intently, spellbound.

‘Did you ever see this person….er…ghost, Papa?’, the little one asked, her eyes wide with wonder.

‘No sweetie,’ I said, ‘I was always on the lookout, in the corridors, on the stairs, on the ramp, in the elevator, but never saw him. One time I thought I saw him on the ramp which goes from the emergency, up to the wards, but I could not be sure. Guess he must have gone to his rest by the time I started my rotation.’

From the expressions on their faces, I could tell that the children were both disappointed as well as relieved.

‘I think we should enter here,’ I said to Vaishali, pointing at a glass door with a board on top of it which said ‘128 Slice CT Scan – Radiology Department’. Vaishali looked surprised. No wonder, since the door and the board were new. The Radiology department had never opened out on to the main road back in our time…….

To be continued………

Check out these Amazon Bestsellers from the author –

The Battle of Panchavati and Other Stories from Indian Scriptures
Daffodils: A Bouquet of Short Stories

By Divya Narain

Additional Professor in Plastic Surgery, doting father, loving husband, newbie author. Love travel and literature. Love reading religion, politics and history!

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