The Helping Hand

The Helping Hand

Manju Goswami

During our lifetime, there are innumerable occasions where we receive help from others including friends, relatives, acquaintances and even strangers. As we recall these incidents, our hearts are filled with gratitude towards these persons. On the other hand, there are countless instances where we have got the opportunity to offer a helping hand to those in distress-be they our near and dear ones or even those totally unknown to us. Needless to say, when we look back upon the past, the memory of these occasions gives immense satisfaction.

I myself am indebted to many people for their support in my moments of trouble. One instance was when I was living in the Jorhat Engineering College campus in the seventies, after my marriage. An enormous insect, which must have remained concealed in the folds of my nightgown or among the bed linen, bit me on the forefinger just as I lay down to sleep. The pain was excruciating, but what alarmed us most, was that my lips and entire face began to swell. Saliva dripped from my mouth and I gradually found I had difficulty in breathing and speaking. Not knowing what to do my husband sent the cook to inform Prof. Shashi Mahanta who lived a few blocks away. His brother Ranen Mahanta being a doctor, he always had a good supply of medicines at hand. He came over immediately, though it was nearly midnight, armed with a load of pills and ointments, and started off  by giving me an Avil tablet together with some ointment for the affected finger. He sat up all night with my husband, watching over me till the pain eased, the swelling subsided, and I was able to breathe normally. I can never forget his help, as I am sure I would have surely died of respiratory distress had he not rushed to my bedside that night.

      When I was in Delhi, expecting my first child. my cook cum all round helper walked out in a huff, two weeks before my delivery was due. In a state of panic, my husband called up Biswajit Kakoti, while I rang the Late Bibha Goswami.They both told us to calm down as they would certainly do something. Within a few hours, Biswajit was at the door with Mitra Bahadur, a smiling, energetic young boy, an expert cook. who not only took over my kitchen and home, but looked after me and the baby till I left Delhi a year later. To think this angel from heaven was found murdered ten years later,distresses me even today.

       It was at the time of my mother-in-law’s death in 2003. She had been afflicted with cancer for several years, and her end was drawing near. My husband’s aunt, whom we call “Pushpa Khurima” came over from Jorhat for her own medical treatment. A small wisp of a woman in her late fifties, she came over to our house to look up my mother-in-law, from a relative’s place where she was staying. Seeing that Ma-in-law’s condition was fast deteriorating, she decided to spend the night with us, though she had no extra clothes, not even a toothbrush. She stayed on, wearing my clothes, taking turns with me to look after the sick lady who passed away three days later. Pushpa Khurima didn’t go back home. We bought her whatever personal things she needed, and she remained with us for two weeks till the end of the “shraddha” and “matsya sparsha”, supervising everything, doing as much as she could in spite of her ill-health. When all the rituals were over and all the guests had left, she helped me clean up the house and put everything in order. I remember her scraping the naamghar floor with a knife to remove the dried upjaggery which covered it because the “jalpan” bowls had been filled there. She then scrubbed it till it shone. She left a few days later, leaving me indebted for life.

    Receiving support from others leaves one feeling ever grateful towards these kind souls. It is no less satisfying to offer a kind shoulder, a helping hand to others in their time of distress.

      It was in New Delhi in the early eighties. My husband, working there at that time, met an old acquaintance who was in Delhi for medical treatment. A few days later, the gentleman underwent surgery to remove a lung tumour. My husband and I were  at the hospital throughout the lengthy operation, giving moral support to his wife,  and helping in whatever way we could. We visited them every day after the operation and I noticed that the patient’s wife was wearing the same blue sari day in and day out. Plucking up my courage, I asked her one day, why she hadn’t changed her sari for so many days. Tears welling up her eyes, she explained that blue was her lucky colour, so she would keep the blue sari on till her husband’s biopsy report came. Deeply touched, I took her a blue silk sari of my own, and she gratefully changed into it. My pleasure was great when the biopsy report said the tumour was benign. Our friendship continues till today.

While in Delhi we met an elderly couple who had gone there from Nagaon. The wife had a brain tumour which was to be removed at the All India Institute of Medical Sciences. Her black-outs were becoming frequent and she needed immediate surgery. She was admitted to hospital and told to get four units of blood before the operation could be performed. The lady’s husband and son gave one unit each, but they couldn’t possibly get two more units. So my husband and I volunteered to donate our blood. I was thin as a rake, and my husband was scared for me, but I was adamant and gave my blood. The operation was performed and the lady went back to Assam soon after, but I had to rest for several weeks as I felt very weak and listless. However I was very proud of the fact that I had helped to save a life. Some twenty years later, at a wedding in Golaghat, a pretty young woman came up to me and asked, “Aren’t you Manju Goswami? Well my mother had your blood in her veins”. It was quite some time before I could grasp the meaning of her words, but when I did, the satisfaction was tremendous.

      One morning, just when I was about to sip my cup of tea, the sound of weeping and screaming rent the air. I then heard my neighbor Mr.B’s daughters calling out to me. Rushing to their house I found Mr. B sitting as if in a trance, unable to speak or move. Thinking he must have had a stroke, I immediately called 108 and packed him off to the G.M.C. hospital . I followed a couple of hours later, to find him lying on a stretcher in the corridor, with his family around him I was told that doctors had checked him up and had declared that his present pacemaker was not working, and that he must have a new one immediately. The family was not in a position to buy a new pacemaker worth a lakh or so, as his daughter’s wedding was just two weeks away. Desperate they asked me for advice. They wanted to bring the man back home, but I knew he wouldn’t survive. So I declared that we  could only take him to the GNRC where I knew the head of Cardiology and also had a nephew working there. All agreed and we put him in an ambulance and transferred him to GNRC, where he was taken straight to Emergency. On being told that Dr Boro was at an operation, I went to the OT and requested to be allowed to meet any cardiologist. Dr Rehman came out and after I explained  the  problem , went in  and called  Dr Boro. I informed him that the patient, being a retired person with four daughters, couldn’t possibly afford a new pacemaker worth nearly a lakh, as his daughter was to be married two weeks later. The kind doctor rang up a distributor and immediately arranged for a new machine, free of cost, in exchange for the old one. The man was thus fitted with a new pacemaker and he performed “Kanyadan” at his daughter’s wedding a fortnight later. Whether that family remembers what I did for them, does not matter to me in the least. The thought of what  Dr Anup Boro did that day, fills me with gratitude and makes me revere him as a living God on earth.

     Thus, to sum it all up, we live in a society, and doing all we can to help those around us, brings more pleasure than all the riches in the world.

Manju Goswami is a post graduate in English Literature from Himachal Pradesh University. She has worked as a lecturer in English for three years each in L.G.B girls college & Arya Vidyapith College. She has completed her LLB from Guwahati University in 2017 and at present is enrolled as an advocate of the Guwahati High Court.