Early in the next morning, both Jayaprakash and Saroja went to the nearby temple with children and prayed for overall prosperity and good health, and made few usual offerings. Taking sandalwood paste, Saroja applied on everyone’s forehead and got back home, in a hurry.
By the time Jayaprakash got into uniform and had breakfast, it was later than his usual time of leaving the house. He was very particular to reach the office on time, mostly five minutes before. That was the good habit and discipline inculcated by the strict way of Air Force life. Wading through the heavy traffic, Jayaprakash succeeded in reaching his office on time. Before entering the office, he sent a glace to the adjacent office of his boss, Khanna, and saw the seat vacant. Heaving a long sigh, he entered the office and pressed the call bell to summon Chacko to find out the charter of work for the day.
Chacko entered the office with raised brows. “Sir, didn’t you go to the hospital?”
He was amused inferring his question to be about his son who was running a slight temperature. Wondering how the matter went out of the home he smiled. “He is running a slight temperature. No need of taking him to the hospital. If we keep visiting the hospital for trivial ailments, we can’t find time for the service job. Even I will not permit them to miss their classes for minor ailments.” He chuckled.
Chacko stood flabbergasted wondering what his boss was talking about and said with concern. “Sir, I am talking about our Khanna sir.”
Jayaprakash raised his brows. “What happened to him?”
“Sir, he is admitted to the hospital.”
With inquisitiveness, he beamed his gaze on him showing anxiety. “What? What the hell are you talking about?”
“Sir, he had a massive heart attack and is taken to the hospital early in the morning. I believe, our Station Commander and Senior Admin Officer have gone there.”
Without further wasting time, he walked fast towards the office of Adjutant. Entering that office in haste, he inquired, “what happened to our Khanna sir?”
“He had suffered a massive heart attack.” Showing surprise, he asked, “You didn’t know?”
“No. I came to know only after coming to the office.” Jayaprakash sat on the chair and said. “I will go to Military Hospital.”
“How are you going to?”
“On my bike.”
The adjutant looked at him and said with concern. “You are mentally shattered. I can make that out from your countenance.” He telephoned to the Mechanical Transport Section and asked to send a jeep for the Accounts Officer.
From the hospital inquiry counter, Jayaprakash could learn that Khanna was in the ICU. He found Mrs. Khanna sitting on a chair outside the ICU accompanied by two other ladies of the air force station. Seeing him approaching, one lady got up and made a place for him to sit next to Mrs. Khanna.
Mrs. Khanna observed Jayaprakash with a lugubrious face and turned towards him with a forced smile, which failed. “After you both left last-night, he came to me and was weeping like a child.” She looked around to ensure the other two ladies were engaged in conversation and not paying attention to them. “He wanted to confide in you that the amount you were asked to adjust was not for the house construction. The house construction is going on as per the plans.” She paused to thinking. “While on leave, he had a heart ailment. He was admitted to a private hospital and an angiogram was done and found him to have two blocks. They suggested two alternatives as cure – angioplasty or surgery. Khanna was suggested by me and relatives to get admitted to the Military Hospital to get the proper treatment which would give a permanent cure. As he was expecting to be promoted, he decided to keep this ailment as confidential with fear of downgrading his medical category which might upset promotion prospects. He continued with that and decided to get angioplasty done at that private hospital itself, to ensure his medical category not affected and promotion prospects were not hampered. The amount required was high and as his provident fund was used up for the house construction, he found no other way than to raise by some method. The house loan installment was getting late. To avoid further delay till the next house loan installment, this adjustment was thought of. I was aware of that. But, never expected to get flared up out of proportion to this level to cause harm to your career and reputation.”
Jayaprakash went morose hearing her. “It’s ok. That is over. Now let’s pray for his health.” Suddenly a thought flashed into his brain. “If the stent was put, then why this attack now?”
“That is what the doctors here also could not understand. One doctor, with whom I spoke about that, says that the hospital might have not done anything. He says, they would have created us. Or the implanting wouldn’t have been properly carried out. See, the private doctors are not that sincere as in our military hospitals. They are only after money.”
“Last night, after you left, Khanna spoke to Station Commander on phone about your innocence. Biswas also was helpful considering the treatment requirement and he had agreed to help him out by applying for leave advance. But, in the inquiry, both made you the scapegoats.” She wiped her face.
Jayaprakash heard her silently without any change in countenance and chuckled with a head shake. He was obnoxious and wondered why people should shield their ailments. Why they give importance to promotion than their health? Without a word he got up and paced on the corridor with contempt on his sincerity in accepting whatever was told by superiors. He undermined himself as a coward and unfit to live where the society was keen to look after themselves without giving an iota of compassion on discomforts and harm caused, by their stupid decisions, on others.
When he saw the doctor coming out of the ICU he hurried to find out the latest. When the doctor apprised for his recovery, he expressed his desire to visit the patient and received consent.
“He should not be made to talk. For him, what is needed is complete rest without emotional upset.”
With a nod, he entered the ICU and stood by the side of the bed. Khanna saw him. He could see his eyes were full triggered by some immeasurable undercurrent of uneasiness, which Jayaprakash could read. He tried to be cheerful forcing out the lugubriousness from his face.
“I am sorry,” Khanna uttered feebly.
With a chuckle, Jayaprakash said, “for what? It was my duty to help you when you were in need.” He paused. “Please don’t think of anything. Do not strain your mind. That will adversely affect the speed of recovery.”
Khanna smiled. “I should be a lesson for others. For fear of affecting career, one should not hide sickness and should seek immediate medical help from service hospitals itself.”
Jayaprakash did not stay further,realizing his presence would cause harm to Khanna forcing him to slip into various thoughts. Wishing speedy recovery, he turned to go out.
“Station Commander had come here. I have made him understand of your innocence. He had promised to inform the Command Headquarters accordingly, to take a lenient view. Please don’t curse me translating my imbecility as wiliness.”
“Never sir. Never.” He slowly walked out.
Mrs. Khanna got up and walked towards him to know the latest, especially about his emotional condition after meeting him. She was made to be contented with his pacifying words.