Calcutta, Feb. 10: Birju wed Soni. And new-born babies — and their mothers and nurses and doctors — bawled out in pain and frustration. But the combined noise — and it was several degrees above the 65-decibel limit for hospitals — failed to make any impression on the authorities’ ears.
It happened at the state-run Nil Ratan Sircar Medical College and Hospital as Sunday was giving over to Monday. Birju arrived (in an Esteem) to wed Soni, a daughter of a group-D staff of the hospital, at the staff quarters on the campus around 11 pm on Sunday.
And, till 2 am on Monday, the hospital paid — through its shattered ears — as drunk members of the baraat accompanied a 30-member band-party that first wound its way through a part of the campus and then stopped (the music didn’t, though) in the heart of the hospital to “celebrate” a joyous occasion.
Many protested but what followed muted the other would-be protesters. A doctor, rushing from his quarters to the ward to mend the saline-drip being administered to a patient, was pushed out of the way when he tried to reason with the baraat. A nurse, fed up with the “revelry” that continued even as Sunday ended, tried to say something from her quarters overlooking the wedding shamiana. Her words were drowned in louder music and the choicest of invectives.
“Everyone was too afraid to speak out after that,” one of her colleagues said on Monday. “We, after all, have to live with them,” she explained. But the worst sufferers, those who came to NRS to have their babies delivered or for some surgery or the other, suffered in complete silence.
The procession — replete with multi-coloured electric lights and an idol of Shiva (the “ideal” husband, to many Hindus) — entered the campus through the main gate around 11 pm. It passed the office of the hospital superintendent and the administrative block before stopping for some time to let the music “pick up tempo” (that was how a group-D staff, who identified himself as Shankar, put it).
It could not have chosen a better – or worse – place to stop. The gynaecology building– with three floors devoted to the gynaecology department (including the labour room and the ante-natal ward where mothers wait in pain for their turn to enter the former), and the other floors having the paediatric medicine (indoor) ward and medicine (cold) wards for adults – waited in silent rage for the procession to pass.
It did, but not before a good quarter of an hour. It stopped again, this time in front of the Nurses’ Hostel and the Baker Ward (having the ENT and urology departments), before winding its way to the group-D staff quarters via a road sandwiched between the Nurses’ hostel and the Lady Elliott Hostel for female students and house-staff.
On Monday, however, everyone had made peace. The few who were talking literally pleaded that their names not be disclosed. “The nosie was excruciating,” said one such mother-to-be inside a gynae ward at NRS on Monday. “But we have to depend on them,” she added.
“Even the daktar-babus and nurses seem so afraid of them,” another joined in. “Who are we to protest when even they are frightened to speak out,” she added.
Hospital superintendent Shyamal Rudra, however, insisted no one had complained to him. “Policemen are there to prevent any violation of the law,” he said. “What can I do when they stand in silence'” he asked, adding that marriages “had to take place somewhere or the other”.
His colleagues explained that, inside NRS, even the super was a “nobody” to group-D staff. “They hold the hospital to ransom,” a medical officer, who was on duty through the night, said. “Why should he (the super) make war when peace – even though it’s louder – is a safer option'” he asked, defending the authorities’ inaction.