Ours is not to ask why; ours is to just do and die

E.R. RAMACHANDRAN writes: My colleague D.P. Das Gupta (all names changed) called and confirmed he would be coming to Madras by the next day’s evening flight. DP was coming with Mr. Roy, the director of a third-party manufacturing company, for discussions on the next year’s budget.

December is usually crowded in Madras. DP had an unusual request. Could we book two adjacent rooms in the hotel next to Apollo Hospitals as Roy was a heart patient and generally never ventured out of Calcutta?

DP and Roy talked to me after checking in to the hotel. Since the rooms were full, they had been requested to share a double room for the night with the promise they would be shifted to single rooms next day. They had cheerfully accepted the inconvenience. They wanted to retire early. I told them I would pick them up at 9 the next morning.

At about 1:30 in the night, I got a call. “This is Roy here. DP has had a heart attack. Please rush to Apollo.”

Roy, being a heart patient, had taken some tablets to steady himself. When he had got up to go to the toilet at night he observed DP gasping for breath. He immediately alerted the hotel and hospital staff before phoning me.While I called some of my colleagues, we learnt from Roy that DP’s family had left for Nepal for a week and he did not have their contact number or know their whereabouts. Now, of course, DP was in no position to communicate. Since DP’s programme was for a week, his wife and son along with her friends had left Calcutta for Kathmandu earlier in the day.

From the next day, our colleagues took turns to stay outside the ICU. Once DP’s condition stabilised after 72 hours, he was shifted to a recovery ward. Ladies from the office took turns to bring home-cooked food for their colleague. Meanwhile, Roy who went back to Calcutta succeeded in contacting DP’s family and they arrived a day before he was discharged from the hospital.

DP resumed his duty after a month of rest and rehabilitation. He continued the strict diet and regular exercise prescribed for him. During his meetings on work, Roy gave him some tips on life after a heart attack. Roy was himself a sportsman and played shuttlecock badminton regularly at the Saturday Club in Calcutta.DP fully recovered from the heart attack and had started traveling too. Once he came to Madras and visited Apollo hospitals to thank the doctors. We had lunch at the hotel where he had stayed the last time.

It was some sort of divine intervention that they had to share a double room when two single rooms were booked originally and that’s what perhaps saved DP’s life. Another coincidence was that the hotel was conveniently next to a hospital. It was chosen as Roy was a heart patient but it was DP who had the attack!

***

We had a year-end review meeting in Calcutta at Roy’s office. It was Christmas eve and the work for the year was almost done. We had dinner together and left.

DP was going on a short vacation to Varanasi. He told me: “There is a belief among Bengalis that if you die in Benares, there is no rebirth and you reach heaven. May be that is the reason why my forefathers built a house long back. But so far, very few of our family have died in Benares. I don’t believe in all that! I have to do some minor repairs, give a coat of fresh paint. I will be back in Calcutta before the new year. As planned, I will be in Madras in first week of January. Happy New Year in advance!”

***

I got a call from Benares from DP’s son saying his father passed away as they were about to leave for Calcutta. DP had suffered a heart attack at his renovated home and died before he could get medical help.

Two days after his death, I received the last letter posted by DP that his work was done in Benares and he was leaving for Calcutta.