Yellow Oleanders

By Dr. Ratan Bhattacharjee 

A telephone call is sometimes the most precious thing of life. A strange feeling suddenly overtook me .I cannot exactly explain why that  I started feeling God will call me .Not that I had a streak of Lord Ramkrishna in me  who used to talk to Goddess Kalimata. Not that I was falling prey to hallucination. It was a kind of helplessness that made me pray to God to call me at least once . I knew this was impossible. But many impossible things happen in our life. So this might have  happened that night  too. I waited for God to call me. Usually in our daily life, we expect the telephone to ring and sometimes it does that. Someone among our relative friends calls us even beyond our expectations. I am now detached from many and I do not get calls on phone . Daughter calls me from the USA to tell about son in law and granddaughter. But recently my mobile screen is broken and it is given to repair. So  for a few days I am disconnected to them in mobile which is gone for repair. While I went to the repairing centre , I might have been infected by corona.I took proper protection, wore the mask and gloves and even I wore the head covering helmet type cap. Still since my return from the Mobile reparing shop I had been violently  sneezing , I had fever temperature. I measured my oxygen rate with Oxymeter. But it was shockingly low. It goes below 90 and I needed to go to hospital. I called the Covid Emergency centre. I was alone at my home and I felt helpless. Usually when I am in tension of any kind I start counting. The Covid Emergency centre sounded  busy and it did not respond to my call. I waited  . In this helpless condition I thought some call would come unexpectedly either from my daughter or from any relative or any friend. I was not in a position to stand properly and could not call the neighbor at that midnight hours. So I in a strange mental set of mind waited for God to call me which I knew was impossible . Whole life I did not practice any religious rituals . I was never a religious person nor I was an atheist . I might have been an agnostic . I was not sure if really God is there or not. So it was a kind of test if God was really there . He will respond to my heart’s call. I waited long hours.  No call came. I started counting one to hundred. Then I restarted again more slowly to reach hundred. I knew the telephone might ring. I prayed to God silently and measured my pulse and oxygen level in my blood with oxymeter. Oxygen level came down 56 and I was vehemently waiting for the return call. I called the emergency number of Covid hospital again  but it was found busy. 

I prayed to God,’ Please listen to me . Either you call me or kindly  make the telephone ring . I am counting third time from one to hundred more slowly. It was hard for me to breathe. I knew I was infected by Corona. No one now at my home. I am alone here in this dark room lying on my bed waiting for the telephone call. I was terrified , I was fervently trying to connect someone. I was counting without stopping five ten fifteen ,twenty, twenty-five, forty , forty-five , fifty…. This is the last time I looked at the clock. It was 2am in the post midnight. Outside the window there was darkness and I saw white Hashnahena and yellow Olenanders blooming profusely and the distant stars were gazing at them with loving look. I recalled how many poems I wrote on Oleander alone . More than five hundred. My dearest Olea promised to translate them for me . But she did not keep her promise. I wanted conquer death and make our love  immortal. She wanted to be my Oleander . But suddenly one day she betrayed me and kicked me out from our life for loving some other person. All promises were belied. 

I will wait for you all my life , I told her . 

She smiled and said , one whom a poet loves never dies. So I am immortal . You need not wait my dear Neel. I am in your inside. Search for me over there . You will find me .  

Today she is not with me , nor she is inside me . She is gone for ever. 

One day I told her , I will die much earlier than  you. 

She said , ‘ No one can tell it for certain. I have now heart pains and my pulses are slow. I have developed pressure problems and hypertensions. So I too may die. But I will live in your poems’

My three poems books were published and all about my love for her. But she is lost for ever . She is married to some other person and she is not mine any more. Nor does she live in my poems. Today  I am sure she too is far away from me. No call will come from her. She might be busy with her own work own writing .

Since long time I maintained  no relation with my relatives . I loved solitude and wanted to be alone for my writing .It makes me happy . I create my own world, I think , I dream, I live happily in this wonderland of creativity. So people whom I disconnected  don’t like me as much as I do dislike them. Many of them  are selfish calculative and purposive.Most of our relatives are like that. I sometimes feel I am getting very much negative in my attitude. May be it is the result of my depression. All creative people are by nature victims of depression. Hemingway,Sylvia Plath, Virginia Woolf , Mayakovsky and many others were poor victims of depression in spite of all success. I am not going to commit suicide like them. But I feel I am a damn failure in all my life. My career is not successful. My books are  not sold. My writings are not all  published in reputed magazines. My articles are rejected daily in many of the newspapers. I feel at times I am a big cipher. This feeling recurs in recent times in a greater frequency. I wanted to die poetically like Keats in the land flowers where white  Hashnahana and   Oleanders bloom. Wilson in Somerset Maugham’s story died looking at the two hills of Faraglioni in Italy when all his resources were exhausted and he became a beggar having no money to buy food even.  I am not poor but still I feel exhausted and I feel that my life is meaningless. May be because of that , God makes me a Corona patient unexpectedly all on a sudden. I am not very sad. Rather I am happy that my oxygen level has come down. I thanked  the oxymeter to show my pulses going down to 49 and oxygen rate to still more lower . And no telephone ring either to beacon me to life .Death is nearing me . I know  it is almost certain, that this darkness will gradually envelop me and I have severe breathing problem now. 

And suddenly the telephone rang. But I was unable to move now from my bed. I tried to crawl even to reach the telephone. But I  was not able to reach out. I know the telephone will not ring again as I did not lift it . I was shivering , sweating. My vision was  getting darker. I lost my sense and lay on my bed like an inert stone. I will not madly call the Covid helpline number to awaken one from deep slumber. A dead man is the happiest because he is freed from all liabilities, all duties, all responsibilities all fears and hopes. 

Suddenly I started praying to God for good to all. Those who still survive the corona onslaught, let them be happy. Indian scientists have done a miracle by finding out the antibody to Corona virus. I am happy and proud as an Indian. Many are trying to invent vaccine for Covid but few succeeded . Many are giving gimmicks. Many are groping in the dark. The world is scared. One little virus one tiny insect is pushing all to extinction. All our efforts , knowledge , our pride of learning , our advancement are meaningless now in our failure to control a tiny virus.  It is more dreadful than plague, small pox , cholera or swine flu. It is sealing the human fate . 

Can I count now and can I still survive the onslaught? Can I breathe really ? Can I sit on my bed ? Can I go near the telephone to call the Covid emergency cell ? I knew nothing after this…..

 When my consciousness was recovered I saw myself in the Covid hospital bed.  I was surrounded by the doctors and nurses and a  host of journalists and correspondents.  I saw the TV screen serving breaking news on me. I was the first such Covid patients  in the city who was mysteriously rescued from the closed door room of a house. They got my telephone call but as I did not respond they tried to reach me by searching the location of the telephone number. Even Fire Brigade was involved to break open the door and rescue me in   a senseless condition with pulse rate too low and oxygen rate dropping to ten. If still lower I could not be restore to life from my nearly dead condition. The journalists were asking me questions how all these happened. I could not contact my daughter in the USA. My mobile was given to repair and could not contact them. Might be they too called in the landline. I was totally detached from all that night. Seeing me on TV many tried to contact me when I went back home. Many relatives whom I thought selfish came to cheer me up and my daughter planned to come to India but I told her not to come as my grand daughter was too much a baby. It will be a great risk if they come to India. America is reeling under the corona devastation. Doctors described all as a miracle . Yes, miracles too happen sometimes in our life. When I came back home I got my mobile back . The first message that came was from my daughter and the second one from Olea who came to know  my condition from TV news. She told she completed the translation of my poem book Oleander Blooms and some of my stories on Corona days from the book that is going to be published from the USA.So much happiness in just one minute. I again thanked God . I am really blessed by the gracious Lord. The nightmare was over , but the hashnahena of that night still bloomed and whitened the lawn of my house. The white hashnahana mingled with some yellow Oleanders . I did not die probably to feast my eyes on this wonderful divine sight where flowers sang the songs of life and hope. I know God will call me over the telephone on  one such Hashnahana night when yellow oleanders will bloom  more and more in my  lawn  and in my heart. Dear kind God please call me once please call me over the telephone.

Dr. Ratan Bhattacharjee Affiliate Faculty of English Virginia Commonwealth University basically a poet well known as Oleander Poet of India for his best seller Oleander Blooms published his short story book Six Feet Distance : Looking Back to Lockdown from AuthorHouse Bloomington, USA. This story is the first story of the book .Email

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *