A muffled conversation between hospital staff and visitors filled the surrounding area. The smell of disinfectants and medicines wafted in the air. A middle-aged woman, wearing a soiled sari, wiped the floor.
Pratibha, arms crossed over her chest, waited outside the ICU along with Prakash. Her breath increased and she controlled her surging emotions. She hadn’t thought Murali would act so irresponsibly.
She felt pity for him for not showing any determination to embrace life, which was so precious. She was astonished yet sympathized with him for his foolish act. Murali's heart had been broken twice.
She thanked God for saving Murali’s life. Had they waited for an ambulance, they wouldn't have gotten him to the hospital in time.
Her mind repeatedly wandered to her office. She had missed her one-on-one with Sai Krishna that morning. She had told Simran to inform him she would be attending the office a bit late. But Murali’s treatment in the ICU continued until noon. Should I call Sai and tell him about the incident? She feared that her call would end up in an argument. She would leave for office once the doctor finished treating Murali and told her his condition, and then convince Sai Krishna in person.
“The treatment is taking longer than expected,” Prakash said, breaking into her thoughts. “I hope the doctor will come out with good news.”
Pratibha nodded. “I hope so too."
She controlled her urge to talk about Murali’s act of cowardice. Also, guilt prevented her from commenting as she felt responsible for whatever had happened. But she needed to talk with Prakash about something different to push unwanted thoughts out of her mind.
“How long have you known Murali?”
“Well, we studied engineering together. After we both passing the degree with distinction, we started applying for jobs together. He got selected by Infosys and I started working for Accenture.”
“How was Murali during your college days?" asked Pratibha. "Was he as sensitive as he is now?”
“He is more sensitive now. But he was jovial and jelled well with others. His behavior has changed since he lost Falguni.”
Pratibha had heard from Murali that he loved Falguni more than his family members. “I don’t understand why he hated his loved ones," she said. "Being an elder son, he should’ve behaved responsibly and stayed with his loved ones.
”I agree with you. But as you already might know, his mother has been dating a man which Murali has opposed. Perhaps, he was hurt for not showing respect for his father's departed soul. Also, he was looking for a peaceful place to stay and to improve his job performance.”
“You mean, his main objective was to do well at his work, right?”
Prakash nodded. "Yes, he was quite happy after moving to his new flat until last week when-” words failed Prakash.
Is Prakash trying to tell her about her Mysore trip?
“I’m sorry if I had hurt Murali or you," she said. "I hope you’ll forgive me if I’ve made a mistake.”
Prakash heaved a sigh. ”I don’t think you made a mistake. But you should’ve told Murali about Rahul sooner.”
She swallowed. Simran too told her the same. “I agree that I made a mistake. I'm sorry about that.”
The doctor, stethoscope hung around his neck, came out. He looked at Prakash.
Pratibha’s heart raced; she was eager to know Murali's condition.
“Is he all right, Doctor?” Prakash asked.
“Yes, he is out of danger." The doctor looked at Pratibha and then back at Prakash. "We wouldn't have saved him had you brought him a couple of hours later.”
Pratibha heaved a sigh of relief. “Can we see him, Doctor?”
“Yes, you can. But I suggest you don't disturb him as he needs to rest.”
“I just want to see him, Doctor,” Pratibha said. “For a few minutes.”
He nodded and walked away.
“Let’s go and see him.” Pratibha opened the door. Inside the ICU, she asked an attendant the bed number and then approached Murali.
He was covered with a green blanket and was staring at the ceiling. The intravenous stand stood beside him.
Pratibha took his hand. ”Murali.” She waited for him to see her.
“How are you, Murali?” Prakash sounded gentle.
He stared at Pratibha and then at Prakash. His eyes welled with tears.
Pratibha pressed his hand. “Don’t worry. You'll be all right. Prakash has spoken to your mother. Your family will be here soon.”
Prakash moved closer. “Murali, we’re with you. Get well. I'm sure you will.”
His face lit with a light smile. He tried to say something but remained silent.
Pratibha’s phone rang. It was Simran.
“Hello.” She answered.
“Where are you?” Simran sounded annoyed.
“I’m at Apollo Hospital.”
“Sai wants you to come to the office immediately,” Simran said. “How is Murali by the way?”
“He is conscious and out of danger,” Pratibha said. “Is there anything urgent?”
“Sai said you were supposed to attend a one-on-one with him this morning, right?”
Pratibha bit her lip. She should’ve called Sai Krishna and told him about Murali’s situation. He must be angry at her. It would be better if she went and met him soon.
“You may need to call Sai if you need time-off,” Simran said.
“I’m leaving now.” Pratibha ended the call.
She gently rubbed Murali's forehead. "You're going to be all right."
She told Prakash she needed to leave.
The employees in the office were busy with their eyes glued to their computer screen. Her heart racing, Pratibha hustled to her desk and sat on the chair. She would check her emails before she met her manager. An email from Sai Krishna, sent in the morning hours, caught her attention. She clicked on it and read the contents. He wanted to see her immediately. Not wanting to annoy him further and get herself in trouble, she went to his office.