Posted by: cochinblogger | December 8, 2010

True Tales of Indian Life: One Cancer Ward, Two Mothers

Tata Memorial Hospital, Mumbai. 1991. I’d entered the new ward to which my mother, a cancer patient, had just been shifted. There was another bed in the room, and an old woman was lying on it. Suddenly, I stood rooted to the spot in horror. One side of the jaw of the old woman had been eaten away by cancer. Good God, I thought in dismay, must my mother and I live in the same room with her?

Suddenly the door opened, and a man stepped in, carrying a bag. He walked over to the old woman and smiled at her. The old woman smiled back. The man then unpacked a lunch pack from the bag and tenderly arranged the contents on a plate on the side table while the old woman looked on with a beatific expression on her face.

As I turned to attend to my own mother’s needs, I found that my feeling of horror had vanished.



  1. My wife is a caregiver to old people, and they benefit from her experience in nursing.

    Until a year or so ago, she had a patient of 102. His mind was going, he was aggressive (except with my wife), and he was incurably deaf.

    During his last year, his face was stricken with cancer. It became clear that it would be a race between death, and the cancer reaching his left eye.

    The family rushed from doctor to doctor, in panic. Eventually, the family doctor said “Stop ! Let him go in peace.”

    And this was the way it happened. The family kept watch over him at night, and my wife during the day. The old man seemed to know what was going on, and lay quiescently, waiting for the end. When it came, the family were reciting psalms, and he departed in peace.

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