Creative Writing – 137
Precis concised to one third word count
During a busy A-shift—the shift from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m.” at the Sadar Hospital, when I was simultaneously in charge of four departments: the outpatient, the emergency, the male ward, and the malnutrition treatment centre, I was called by the hospital superintendent to his room. I looked out at the crowd before me—an unruly mob which was refusing to heed our requests that they maintain order and was, instead, nearly stampeding. I tried to convince the ones at the head of the straggly queues that I would return soon and went out of the OPD.
Outside, the lobby was crowded as usual. Our Sadar Hospital is the only important government-run healthcare facility for miles in this godforsaken district in the SanthalPargana. Other than me, there is one lady doctor for the female OPD, the female ward, and the labour room; and a dentist who runs the dental OPD. There were men, women and children milling about, and a lot of sahiyas. The sahiyas were shouting loudly in their Malda-Murshidabad-accented Bengali and broken Hindi, fighting with the office staff for the money that was due to them for the antenatal checkups of pregnant women, and to their beneficiaries: the women who delivered babies at the Sadar Hospital. The sahiyas knew no rest. Each one would bring a pregnant woman from her village to the Sadar Hospital in a Mamata Vahan. She would then return for another. More beneficiaries meant more money—both from the government, as an honorarium; and from the beneficiaries’ families, as baksheesh. They are terribly shrewd, terribly sharp-tongued, terribly hardworking women, these sahiyas, all of whom run entire households on the money they make off others’ pregnancies. [No of words 281. The Precis should have 94 words, one third of 281.]
The Sadar Hospital in Santhal Praganas was swamped by restless patients vying with each other to receive treatment early. I was one of the four harried doctors who had to deal with them. When summoned by the hospital superintendent, I had to virtually elbow my way through the crowd of restless patients who stood in a serpentine queue. Adding to the commotion were the Sahiyas, the hard-working, private health workers who get some honorariums for spotting and bringing pregnant women to the hospital for necessary antenatal care. The women Sahiyas cried hoarse to get their pending dues. [97 words]