24 July, 2021

You Are Herewith Sentenced To Life

Let Aruna die? No, with her alive, there’s more power, media attention. Hence, the politics of mercy in medicine.

PTI Photo
You Are Herewith Sentenced To Life

Lucknow airport. Late ’90s. Khushwant Singh and I are waiting for our flights, we talk about Prime Minister A.B. Vajpayee mentioning my book Once Was Bombay in a speech on collapsing cities. He suddenly asks, “You wrote that book on the woman who neither lives nor dies, you still see her?”

I say I’m banned by the hospital. Nothing new for me, though. Each time egos change—deans, doctors, matrons—I’ve redone the process with these authorities to stay in touch with Aruna Shanbaug. It’s a pattern since 1982.

This time I should have been grateful for infrequent consent to visit her locked room. Instead, I had questioned their mandate. I had reported to newspaper editor Bachi Karkaria that the doctors had violated Aruna’s right to live with dignity. They had withdrawn permission for her complete medical check-up. Granted, as it were, after my physical and telephonic running around for several agonising days.

The full medical in a private hospital, at no cost to...

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