Saturday, April 16, 2011

Prisoner of Life- Aruna Shanbaug

Tucked away from the fast life of Mumbai, away from all the deadlines, away from time lives Aruna.

The smell of ether, moving wheelchairs, uniformed staff and patients are a regular sight at this part of the world. Beyond the huge French windows, stretched out Mumbai city- the city of dreams; the fast city life of a concrete metropolis whizzed past as the tall skyscrapers outlined the crimson horizon. Three decades--where each day brought about a new change; the city changed, its name changed, the people changed and their faces. 37 years or was it more. Aruna does not remember.

It was way back in 1970s, Aruna, a young and vibrant girl from a small village in Karnataka in her mid 20s had joined King Edward Memorial Hospital in Bombay as a junior nurse. One of the most rewarding professions, Aruna treated her patients with all the responsibility and care and brought back a smile in their lives.

It was a spring in 1970s. Aruna met the new handsome junior doctor in the hospital. It started with professional conversations and soon turned out to be something more than that. They were in love. Aruna wanted to settle down with him in life.

It was a pleasant autmn month in 1973. Her marriage was fixed with her fiance in November and both the families geared up with the preparations. Aruna colored her dreams red.

Sohanlal was a ward boy in the same hospital. Aruna was often irked by his negligence and one day she complained to the senior authorities against him. Sohanlal was badly reprimanded by the seniors and he felt humiliated. Sohanlal did not turn up for days.

It was an evening on 27th November, 1973. Aruna was supposed to meet her fiance at the bus terminus. She told him she would wear her favorite red saree for the evening. Aruna's dreams were crimson.

Aruna was a little late that evening. She hurried down the stairs and reached the empty basement washroom to change her clothes. But suddenly the lights went off. Was it a power cut? As Aruna took out the saree, she could hear some footsteps.

It was none other than Sohanlal. He was drunk. She screamed out desperately for help. Angry Sohanlal wanted to stop that voice forever. He strangulated her with a heavy chain. Aruna could only quiver like a half dead prey and was soon lost in some darkness.

Drunk Sohanlal repeatedly assaulted her. Aruna lay there on the floor. Bleeding and unconscious. Alone. It was darkness all around. The thick strain of blood stained the hospital floor.

Her fiance was left waiting at the bus terminus. It was raining heavily. The last bus left but Aruna did not turn up. Aruna could never turn up.

Clinical Report: "Lack of oxygen supply to the brain due to asphyxiation resulting in brain stem contusion injury and cervical cord injury apart from leaving her cortically blind"

FIR report: Case 1013: "Case of robbery and attempted murder"

Aruna's family did not accuse Sohanlal of rape charges. They wanted to avoid the social stigma and save her impending marriage. Sohanlal was convicted. But then he had to serve two concurrent seven-year sentences for assault and robbery. Sohanlal was free after 14 years. It was Aruna, who became the prisoner of life. Forever.

Its been three decades. Bombay changed to Mumbai. India celebrated its 50 years of independence. But life has come to a standstill for Aruna Shaunbag. Frail and wrinkled Aruna is in a vegetative stage for the last 37 years.

Its raining heavily in Bombay today. The moist winds kissed the glass windows in Aruna's room. Aruna's life has come to a standstill. Its the same hospital where she once walked through the corridors in her uniformed dress.Its the same hospital where she had once weaved her dreams and aspirations. Its the same hospital where she had fallen in love; where she received awards for her exemplary performance. Its the same Kings Edward Memorial hospital. Only the years have passed by and Aruna is a patient. A patient who will never be released.

Aruna still dreams. She dreams of red; of her wedding trousseau; she dreams of green; the green fields in her village in Haldipur; she often dreams of black;

Is it too late; is he still waiting at the bus stop for her? Is anyone out there waiting for Aruna. Cold and lonely, Aruna blankly stares at the walls for her answers. She can't speak, neither can she hear nor feel.

Aruna wets her bed and waits for the next nurse to clean her up. Its an endless wait as the country, its legal orders and Aruna's nurses want her to live.

Aruna Shanbaug lives. And we all hope her journey reaches a destination.

["Aruna Shanbaug (or Shanbhag) is a nurse from Haldipur, Uttar Kannada, Karnataka in India. In 1973, while working at King Edward Memorial Hospital, Parel, Mumbai, she was sexually assaulted and has been in a vegetative state since the assault. On 24th January 2011, after she had been in this status for 37 years, the Supreme Court of India responded to the plea for euthanasia filed by Aruna's friend journalist Pinki Virani, by setting up a medical panel to examine her. The court turned down the mercy killing petition on 7 March, 2011. However in its landmark judgment, it allowed passive euthanasia in India.[1]"-(From Wikipedia:

(*the post is just a fictitious perspective of Aruna Shaunbag case.)]


anindya said...

asadhron...r kichu bolr nei ei article ta niye..feeling xtremely emotional..

Dankest Cartoon said...

I completely admire ur writing :)U should write more often.. This was a very moving piece of writing.

Lighting up the way said...

Horror, Pain and Helplessness - all of Aruna's emotions have been brought alive in this writing. am touched, ashamed and thankful...... touched by this moving literary piece, ashamed that I did not make an effort to remember her name and Thankful to you for making us try to empathise with her.......

Anonymous said...


Anonymous said...

like the magic of words which make me feel about her feelings

Aziz said...

its tragic. God give her peace. appreciate your thoughtful writing.