Saturday, September 9, 2017

The Waiting Room

Dinesh Mittal climbed up the five steps leading to his doctor's clinic and paused for breath. He opened the door and the receptionist smiled at him. "Please be seated Mr Mittal. Dr Batra will see you in a few minutes."

Mittal nodded and sat in the chair placed for waiting patients. He had retired four years ago. Now, every time he came to see the doctor and waited in this room, he felt it represented his life - a long wait before the final end.

The door opened and another old gentleman entered. The receptionist repeated her dialogue and the man nodded and took a chair a little farther away. Mittal studied the newcomer surreptitiously. Probably a decade younger than him, he decided, and still in service. That thought made him feel envious, but he comforted himself thinking, the stranger will have to retire soon. He went back to the book he was reading, but these days he was too distracted to be able to focus.

"Will it take time? Is the doctor in?" the other man asked. Mittal smiled to himself. He was in no hurry, himself. It was either the waiting room, or waiting for life to pass by in his own room at home. Sometimes the waiting room would be crowded, and observing the people would keep him diverted. His friends sometimes shuttled between India and one or two foreign countries, but while the wives became busy with the grandchildren and the kitchen, most men doing the same thing whether it was here or there - waiting.

"The doctor had a surgery to perform so he is delayed. He should be in shortly," the lady was informing the gentleman gently.

The man looked at his watch and said peremptorily, "My appointment could have been rescheduled..."

The lady just looked at him sympathetically without replying. "These doctors," the man said annoyed and caught Mittal's eye.

"I am a retired man," Mittal said with some smugness. "Waiting is the game now."

The man looked at him with something akin to distaste. 'You will get there soon, bugger,' Mittal thought to himself. "What do you do?" he asked aloud.

"I am also retired," he rasped. "But that doesn't mean I waiting is not how I like to spend it."

Mittal's one eyebrow shot up. "You have another appointment?"

The man appraised Mittal. "Yes, as a matter of fact. I am an actor and I have a rehearsal to attend."

Mittal frowned. "I watch all serials and movies. I have never seen you."

The man smiled, "No, I don't do the screens. Only theatre."

"Oh, what's your name?"

"It will mean nothing to you. Rohit Bhalla."

"So what roles do you do?"

"Whatever comes my way  - father, grandfather, uncle, teacher..."

"You have always been a theatre person?"

"I have been involved for long, but I was working in a company. I retired 10 years ago."

Mittal stared at him stunned. "I thought you were younger than me... I retired four years ago... I wish I could go back to work."

"And I was waiting to get out," Bhalla smiled. "Work was a must to make ends meet. But theatre gave me a fresh lease of life. I discovered it only in my 50s."

"Really! Isn't that too old to start something new? And instead of enjoying a life of peace and quiet now... see how you are rushed on your feet...!"

Bhalla laughed. "I hope you are enjoying your quiet time...?"

"Mittal, my name is Dinesh Mittal."

Bhalla patted him on the back. Just then the doctor entered the clinic. Bhalla and Mittal got up. "You can go first," Mittal told Bhalla. "I can wait, I am in no hurry," he added, his voice dropping a little in self-doubt.

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