Mission Delhi – Saurabh, Sohna Road
[Text and photos by Mayank Austen Soofi]
There was no window in his single-bed ward at the Covid-designated ICU. But there was a large one in the adjacent ward, connected to his by an open door, and he could see it. Outside that window—a neem tree, birds and butterflies, and the reassurance that another world existed.
“And yet I would turn away,” says Saurabh, 40. An engineer running a software company in Gurgaon in the Greater Delhi Region, he is speaking on WhatsApp from his apartment on Sohna Road. This is Saurabh’s first day at home after a 12-day stint in a private hospital as a Covid patient. He spent most of those days in the ICU. He was also on ventilator, and “there was nothing in the world but my face and the mask and a growing beard that was hurting me.”
Saurabh was keen on admiring the view outside the hospital window because “I wanted the motivation to live for my children, for my parents and for myself too.” But that room had an elderly patient hooked up in tubes and machines, and that would make him think too much of his own reality. “Looking at him reminded me of my own self… I no longer felt like a person, but more like a body being supported and manipulated to survive through machines.”
You get a sense of Saurabh’s sufferings by simply hearing his breathlessness on the phone. In fact, he takes a break in between to recover.
A single parent of two young boys, Saurabh was allowed by the hospital to have an attendant. But “my parents are nearing 70, so I didn’t want them in the hospital for fear that they might get the infection, same thing for my kids, and how could I ask friends to stay with me in a place full of patients with extreme complications of coronavirus?”
With his body covered in tubes and wires, and propped up in machines, Saurabh would instinctively turn towards one of the three ward personnels—Jyoti, Geeta, or Mohit—when they would come to his room. They called him Bhaiya. “They were my saviours, they would help me disconnect from the sight of other patients.” In times of great emotional distress, he would quietly hold their hand, sometimes for as long as half an hour, and “I would again feel human and alive in an environment where I was starting to feel like a test tube.”
A colleague came over on Saturday to help him get discharged from the hospital. Saurabh reached home at 6 in the evening. He first took a shower and only then met his boys. Later in the night, his mother made him his favourite dish, rajma chawal, for dinner.
This afternoon Saurabh is looking out of his bedroom window. “The sky is not as blue as it was a month ago.” But he isn’t complaining.
[This is the 365th portrait of Mission Delhi project]