Ramnathan’s close relatives and a few young men, his select students were around the bed in the special room of the hospital. A few were waiting outside the room inside the hospital. All were worried that probably those were the last few minutes of his life. But Ramnathan was fully conscious and was trying to tell something to the students who were standing very close to him. That was Satish who took his ear close to Ramnathan’s mouth. Satish took care that tears did not wet Ramnathan’s cheeks.
“Please, do not forget what I have told you. I want to donate my body to a hospital.”
Ramnathan took a pause. After a deep breath, he continued,
“My relatives may oppose this idea. They cremated my wife when I was away in the USA. They did not listen to my telling them and did not care for her pledging her body to a hospital. When I die, do not let them do their way. They all love me. ”
After another deep breath, he said, “But they just don’t agree with me on this matter.
You take responsibility for my body donation. Do not listen to them. I want the last drop of my blood to be used for society. Let me experience how strong characters I have shaped. I remember once Ajay had said that I had chiseled out better shapes out of rough pieces of rocks. This is your test.”
Ramnathan took yet another deep breath. He took his brother’s hand in his trembling hand. “Babu, I know, you all loved me. I am going without the slightest grudge on any one of you. All of you had always sprinkled affection on me.”
Ramnathan took yet another deep breath. “My only last desire is donating my body to the hospital. You must go against your ideas and respect my final wish.”
“No Dada, you tell me anything else and I will follow it completely. But please do not tell me to do this barbaric act. We all love you so much that we can not stand the idea of your body being dissected part by part. No. We can not bear this torture to your body. Barring this, we will do everything else as per your wish. You have given away everything for others. We never disagreed. Though we wanted to get preference for any of your acts of donations, you considered the deserving person above all the relations. Your own family never got any favors from you if a more deserving person came across you. And there is no dearth of persons in the society needing some help. Dada, you had cut off the word “self” from your dictionary. But we want your consent on the final rites on your body. Dada, excuse all of us. But please.” Ramnathan’s younger brother Babuji said in a choked voice and with teary eyes.
“No Babu. This is my last wish. I have pledged my body. You overruled my wife’s desire of donating her body when I was away at the time of her death. But not this time. You have been critical of following rituals blindly. But then why do you want to do this? I know you don’t believe in unfulfilled last desire and all that. I am not saying my soul will be unhappy and will not rest in peace. But please. Let my students do what I have told them.”
Babuji did not say anything. He could not control his sob. He turned his face and let his tears flow uncontrolled.
Ramnathan looked at Satish. “Satish, do not disappoint me.” Saying this Ramnathan left this world on the eternal journey.
And the persons around the bed wept uncontrollably. The news of Ramnathan’s demise made the small crowd waiting outside the room wept silently.
After the first burst of emotions, Satish came out of the room. Babuji followed Satish. He held Satish’s hand and said, “That is the end of a great devoted life. He loved you all students so much, we used to feel jealous of you all. And you were not two or three but over fifty. Sharing his love to all of you.” He shook his head emotionally. All the present had their eyes filled with tears.
“Okay Babuji, I will inform the body donation workers and they will come as early as possible,” Satish said.
Babuji controlled his grief and said, “Satish, do not be silly. We all are against body donation. None of us can bear the idea that our beloved brother’s body will be dissected hundreds of times, in medical college. The colleges get innumerable unclaimed bodies for their studies. We don’t want to put our brother in that category.
Soon, we will call an ambulance and we will take the body to the crematorium.”
“No. Our Sir has taken a promise from us that we will see that his body is given to the hospital. And we want to keep his promise. Otherwise, his soul will not rest in peace.”
“Satish, Are you telling me about soul resting in peace? What have you learned from that great person? He was against all these myths. Yes, He wanted to donate his body to the hospital but that is a wrong idea. Last-minute I told him, he could tell me anything he wanted us to do but for this body donation. He knew that we would not do this in any circumstances.”
“But Sir, Ramnathan sir had told us repeatedly to guard against this idea of yours. We will not allow cremation.” Ajay, another student said with a firm voice.
“See children, I know you were very close to your sir. But do not forget that I am his younger brother. I know him more than all of you collectively know him. He was against these ideas of soul resting in peace and all the rituals to be done for the soul to get the rest. However strongly you feel against the body cremation, we as his nearest relative would carry out cremation in electric furnace in the nearest crematorium.”
“No Sir, please remember we nearly 50 students will stage a protest in front of the hospital.” Akshar showed his anger.
Babuji caught up with the relatives getting ready with the cremation of Ramnathan.
In a short while, the team of the Body Pledging group arrived at the hospital. They had a few documents to be signed by close relatives. Satish presented the ID card which Ramnathan Sir had received when he had signed his willingness to donate the body. They forwarded the papers to be signed by the relatives to Satish. Satish took the documents with a pen to Babuji for his signature.
Babuji returned the papers to the volunteers of the organization without signing the paper.
The volunteer was shocked. He said, “Sir, Mr.Ramnathan had agreed to the donation of his body.”
“Yes. The ID card says so. But we do not agree with this. We will not give our consent to this.” Babuji said.
“But we need to do some processing within four hours. Otherwise, it would be too late.”
“ We are waiting for one of our relatives to arrive and then we will take the body for cremation,” Babuji said.
“No. But our Sir had told us repeatedly to send the body to the General Hospital attached to a Medical College for students to learn physiology. He was insistent on this. He had even told us that his brother may oppose this. But he told us to fulfill his last desire.” Satish put forth his idea.
Babuji said,” Please do not pay attention to these children. You may please go back.”
“No. We have Mr.Ramnathan’s statement expressing his desire to donate his body. Unless we get a substantial reason for denying this, we will not go,” the volunteer said.
“And Sir, we, all his students, number nearing fifty will stage a protest if the desire of our sir is not fulfilled.”
“We don’t care for the protest. We have called for the ambulance, as soon as it arrives, we will take the body to the crematorium.” Babuji said.
‘Come on friends. Let us block the gate of the hospital for the ambulance exit,” Laxman said.
In no time the students quietly gathered outside the exit gate of the hospital.
Babuji realized the seriousness of the protest.
He called Satish and said, ”Satish, we can not yield to your demand immediately. We will need some more time to reconsider the matter.”
“But we do not have much time.” Satish.
“Yes. Now, how do we handle the situation?” Babuji started thinking in this direction.
Suddenly, he got some idea. He said,” I think, today we will keep the body in a morgue. Tomorrow, we will make the decision. “
“Ok. If you need more time to change your decision, it is ok. But we want Sir’s final wish to be satisfied.” In a choked voice Satish said.
They discussed with the hospital staff and made arrangements with the morgue of the same hospital.
With a heavy heart, all the relatives and the students left the place.
While leaving the hospital, the students were thinking over the decision of keeping the body in the morgue.
“Let us consider whether it involved any trick to fool us,” Satish said.
“Yes. There can be some trap. But I don’t understand why Babuji is so adamant over the cremation of the body.”
“It is a matter of emotions.’ Vikas said.
“But I think Babuji is a seasoned person. He may fool us and will execute his idea.” Abhijeet expressed his doubt.
“I have a scheme. “ Sagar said. Everyone was all ears.
“We should take out the body before they come to the hospital. And take it straight to General Hospital. With sir’s ID card for pledging his body, we can complete the formalities. Then we can call Babuji and tell him.” Sagar explained.
“Yes. That is perfect. How can we get charge of the body?” Shivam asked.
“I know the Morgue attendant. I will talk to him. Quite feasible” Yesh supported the idea.
“Let us not talk in the air,” Ashish said.
“What do you say Satish? Are you ok with it?” Santosh checked up.
“We should take Babuji in confidence before our final act,” Satish said.
“ But do we have any proof about Sir’s telling us about body donation? Just having an Id card is not solid proof. ” Antim said.
“I knew this is an important matter. I have recorded the entire conversation on my mobile.” Sanket said.
“That is wonderful,” said Rohit.
“Ok. Yesh. Let us contact the morgue attendant. Let us go.” Abhijeet said.
Satish instructed, “You do the preliminaries and give us a call. Sushant and I will reach that place in ten minutes. Then we will think over the matter and decide our course of action.”
Abhijeet and Yesh moved quickly and met the morgue attendant. He agreed to show them the place where the body was kept.
Sushant and Satish joined Yesh and Abhijeet at the morgue. The attendant opened the place and let all four of them in. It was pitch dark and shivering cold. The attendant put on one light. All of them started moving between the rows of the racks in which bodies were kept after processing, carrying out embalming. The attendant pulled out one rack. And all of them had a look at the dead body. They had goosebumps. They saw the body having the eyes shut and the mouth stuffed with cotton. The close look of a dead body, without any emotions on the face, was horrifying to look at. “No. This is not our sir.” The attendant moved forward. All four of them followed him. He pulled another rack. And another dead body. The boys were scared. After 3-4 such unsuccessful attempts, the next rack showed up Sir’s body. All four of them broke down. The attendant closed the rack quickly. He put a small red cloth hanging out of the rack as the sign of identification. They noted the physical position of the rack and quickly came out of the morgue.
Emotionally disturbed, they decided over their plan in coordination with the attendant. The scheme was chalked out.
‘Next day when Babuji and Satish would meet the morgue attendant, they would be involved in the necessary formalities. Meanwhile, before the attendant takes Babuji to identify the body, the helpers of the morgue would take out the body from the rack already earmarked by the red cloth and take it straight to the ambulance waiting to go to the General Hospital. After the body is placed in the ambulance, Satish would take Babuji to the ambulance and show Sir’s body to Babuji and would tell him they would take it to the General Hospital.’
The young men reached their respective houses.
The next day early in the morning Babuji called Satish to meet at the morgue at 9a.m.
Immediately, Satish informed all other members of the executing group. Made arrangements with an ambulance for taking the body to the General Hospital. Also, distribute the word among other students to be present at the exit of the morgue at 9 a.m.
Babuji reached the morgue at quarter to nine. Satish was waiting for him. Babuji came close to Satish and said, “Satish, We were thinking over the matter all over the night. And finally decided to honor Dada’s final wish. We will take the body to General Hospital and complete the formalities.” With teary eyes, he further added, “Let us get going.” Satish was relieved. Confrontation was avoided.
Babuji was surprised to see the ambulance waiting. Satish told him that was arranged by the students. They went to the morgue. The attendant brought the body out quickly. Babuji was surprised that he did not have to identify the body.
The body was put on the stretcher which was then taken into the ambulance. When the ambulance reached the gate, the crowd of students shouted in unison,
“LONG LIVE RAMNATHAN SIR.”
Soon the ambulance entered the General Hospital. Babuji completed all the formalities of body donation. Satish and Babuji embraced each other making each other’s shoulders moist with tears. Babuji said in a muffled voice, “Satish, you students’ determination has changed our ideas and opened our eyes. We all from the family also have decided to pledge our bodies.”