Free Press Journal

A series of unfortunate incidents, and the never-ending day


Our police force and hospital staff are always looking out for us. If anyone thinks this column has been written to defame them, they are sorely mistaken. They are doing a fine job. In fact, they are so good at it that they ensure that when we lose a loved one, we don’t wallow in sadness and mourn the person’s passing. Intead, they make sure that you are so caught up in paperwork and bureaucracy that instead of missing the person and feeling sad, you are left feeling frustrated, angry and tired.

Don’t believe me? Well, here’s a tale inspired by real life incidents…

A young man Ajay loved his father, Suresh dearly. Sadly, Ajay’s father met with an accident (he tripped while on his daily walk) and had to be hospitalised. Suresh’s advanced age did not help; he was declared brain dead following complications. Now, Ajay was distraught. After all, he had had to take the decision of switching off the life support and had to wait for official declaration of death from the hospital authorities. Our helpful cops and people manning the hospital desks didn’t want Ajay to be in that desolate state of mind and so they set about making sure that he was occupied.

Are you asking how they did so? As my professor would say, good question…

They did so by making the poor soul jump through the proverbial hoops. Now, can a man running around to get his dad released from the hospital, and procuring his death certificate, have time to even take a moment to say goodbye? You also have to understand that the hospital staff and cops are members of a team working in tandem, without appearing to do so. And therein lies the magician’s trick–deception; the illusion of appearing to be mean while all the time being kind. You just don’t get it, do you?

Ajay paid off his hospital dues but that wasn’t enough. He had to get the police’s approval to take his dad home. And then he was made to do the rounds of the police station twice to get the document that would allow the ambulance to take his father home.

First, the cops refused to accept the form sent over by the hospital because the doctor hadn’t mentioned if it was a ‘natural’ death or not. Once, the document was brought back to the hospital, the doctors refused to write ‘natural cause’ as reason of death since the form stated that it WAS for ‘natural cause’. They stated that it was the cops who were playing power games and you wouldn’t expect them to bow down and allow anarchy to reign, would you?

On the second visit to the police station, the cops stated that all the family had to do was tick on the phrase ‘natural cause’ in the form to resolve the matter. Of course, that didn’t end Ajay’s wait. He had to get the licence plate number of the ambulance that he was to hire to transport his dad, to get the police NOC since he was moving him from one jurisdiction to another (Mumbai to Thane).

To add to the experience, the form in Marathi described the deceased as ‘the body Suresh’. How appropriate! How can you grieve for a body? The system, in all its subtle wisdom, is teaching us to be dispassionate and detached from those who have left us for their heavenly abode.

Now that the police had done their part, it was the turn of the hospital. There was more paperwork waiting for Ajay on his return. And to top it all, Ajay had to wait for a photocopy of a document for more than half-an-hour and another hour for the ambulance. The polite staff did all it could to ensure that the family didn’t suffer even if that meant that they had to wait for over six hours from the time of death to get Suresh ‘discharged’.

By then, Ajay and his family were too tired to cry since they had arrived at the hospital early morning and were ready to leave only after 8 pm. All they could do was accompany the ‘body’ home while hoping that the authorities they would encounter en route wouldn’t point out any further discrepancy in their documentation. Mentally occupied yet again, grief could wait another day.