One day Ganesh was batting on Mahadya’s bowling and Madhurani was standing in the shade of the mango grove. Ganesh’s complete attention was on Madhurani. He never knew when Mahadya bowled and when the ball went past scraping his head. He was fortunate that the ball merely scraped his head otherwise his crown would have broken. Shaken up, Ganesh fell down. All gathered around him. Madhurani also came running. She sat down and brushed Ganesh’s head with her palm. Her palm got a blot of red blood.
“Hey! Go and get the doctor… let him drop everything in hand and come over here,” Madhurani took the matter into her hand.
Ganesh was lying down silently holding head in both his hands.
“Ganeshrao…Ganeshrao…” she shook him to make sure that Ganesh was still conscious.
Holding his head Ganesh threw an ardent look at Madhurani.
“Oye Ganapya...get some water from Lamanya”
“Ganeshrao… how are you feeling?” a boy asked.
“You beast, move aside… how would he feel when he has hurt his head?” Madhurani shouted at him in annoyance.
“No.. is he feeling like vomiting…” the boy asked further.
By then Ganapya came running with a jar filled with water.
“Ganeshrao.. take a sip or two.. you will feel better..” Madhurani said.
“Sprinkle some water on his face” someone advised.
“Has he fallen unconscious for us to sprinkle water… he is in his full senses…” said another. All wanted to do something for Ganesh but no one could decide exactly what. Some started rubbing his soles, some started patting him, while others moved their fingers in his hair. Just then Babanya came carrying the Doctor’s bag. He was followed by a breathless Doctor trying to catch up with him. Babnya came and, squatting on the floor, opened the Doctor’s bag.
“Do you think you can give him an injection…let the Doctor arrive…” one of them could not resist the temptation to tease him even at that serious hour.
The Doctor arrived.
“Where is he hurt?” the Doctor said trying to gain his breath.
“The ball hit his head” someone from the crowd answered.
“Good that it merely brushed his skull otherwise his crown would have broken”.
Madhurani looked at him in anger.
The one who had said it understood her sentiment and fell silent.
“Ganeshrao, is there a nausea?” the Doctor asked.
Ganesh shook his head and said “No.”
Next, the Doctor took out his stethoscope and inserted into his ears and began to check Ganesh’s chest and stomach.
“He has hurt his head and this cartoon is checking his chest and stomach” some said in a hushed tone.
“Have you got hurt anywhere else?” the Doctor asked continuing to check him.
Ganesh again shook his head and said ‘No’.
The Doctor began to take Ganesh’s pulse. Madhurani gave him a questioning look.
“Nothing to worry about… he is hurt a little… that’s all..”the Doctor said folding and keeping the stethoscope in his bag., “I’ll give some tablets… give him twice a day…. he’ll be alright.”
The Doctor took out two bottles from his bag. He took out three tablets from each bottle and broke each of them into half. Taking two halves from each set of two tablets he tied them into six packets.
“Ask him to take these packets every morning and evening” the Doctor said keeping the packets in Madhurani’s hands.
Night had fallen. Ganesh was running high fever. Right from the start there was a string of visitors. Sarpanch, Patil, Village Master all had visited. The neighbour Sarjabai had brought out a jowar soup and she fed Ganesh in spoonfuls. She sat near him for a long time and had now gone home. It must be midnight. Madhurani still sat near his bed. She brushed her hand sometimes on his forehead and at other times on his face. Even in that condition Ganesh felt her touch welcome. He was tempted to pull her into his embrace. But he had become very weak. Less because of fever and more because of the excitement of Madhurani’s touch.
“You can go now, Madhurani… go and catch some sleep..” Ganesh said hiding the turmoil that was going on in his mind.
He still had fever. No strength seemed to have remained in his legs and hands. The Doctor had tied a bandage on his head where he had got hurt.
“Leaving you in this condition?’ Madhurani said checking his neck for fever.
He too wanted her to stay with him. He held her hand and held it tight on his chest.
She gently removed her hand from his and said, “You must lie down calmly … you’ll feel better only if you take complete rest.”
Getting up she picked up the bed sheet from near his feet and asked, “Shall I spread this on you… outside it is biting cold..”
Ganesh did not know what to say.
It was true that it was cold…
But how would it lessen with a mere bed sheet…
This was such a nice opportunity… but the body, like an old man’s, was not cooperating
She sat near his feet and began to press his legs. Her soft touch gave rise to a tingling sensation in Ganesh’s body.
(to be contd.)
Original Novel by Sunil Doiphode
English Version by Anil Ekbote