Friday, February 27, 2009

Make way for life

It used to be a rare sight. May be twice or thrice during my entire primary and middle school years. And when we did see a shrieking ambulance we had stopped on the pavement, turned towards the road and stood soberly while it passed. It was as though we were saluting a procession. Ambulance had high significance. In my mind there was a person bleeding profusely inside the van. And it had caused fear as well as sorrow. Fear for the unknown... I’m such a shameless narcissist! What I want to do right now is to go back in time, hug that child and kiss on her forehead and tell her to move on and play hopscotch and not worry about life and death!!
Nowadays not a single day passes without me having come across a wailing ambulance. Sometimes more than 4 of them. Their sirens are different. It varies from high-pitched howling to intermittent pleadings. They sound like a factory siren announcing the end of break or start or end of the day at work. Or like a mournful plea or like a car alarm or at times like military command. But they are all saying the same thing to other merciless vehicles. Make way for life. Of course, on Bangalore roads most of them do (1). The sound of Ambulance make people turn their heads to have a look. It's not the same with Fire Engine. People don't care about fire engines. But ambulances make them curious or make them take note of life possibly slipping by.
I don’t lose an opportunity to take a sneak peek in to the ambulance or a passing glimpse at the people inside the van. They look perhaps more dead than the dying. I wonder about their state of mind. The brooding lost look, the ears unreceptive to monstrous noise from the outside world and the mind perhaps jumping from past to present to future. May be they are also beginning to understand how insignificant a human being is. How he is not the master of his existence. And more importantly, futility and at the same time, greatness of life.
I was wondering what has caused this increase in the number of ambulances on the roads be it day or noon or evening or night. Does it show that people have become more disease-prone, especially to conditions causing sudden death? Or that medical infrastructure to reduce mortality has increased leaps and bounds in Bangalore? Or as the cynic in me is asking whether it is the result of multiplicity of private hospitals managed by MBAs showcasing availability of ambulance and 24 hour service in order to survive the competition? Tell me, what constitutes an emergency situation requiring ambulance? Massive heart attack, multiple fracture, head injury? I don’t know.

(1) Call it coincidence or whatever. Whenever I happen to see a vehicle blocking ambulance, I have noted that the vehicle has GJ or DL or PN number plate. As a case stremgthening my prejudice against North Indians.

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