The new settlement was prosperous in comparison with surrounding villages. The factory, a few kilometers away, employed substantial work force. However, as with other villages, here also the infrastructure was poor, and communication far from desired. Prashanto had recently come to start his medical practice here. He was a sort of failure in the city; there his MBBS degree was frowned with contempt for want of additional letters like MD or MS. To pacify the hurt interior, Dr. Prashanto had forced philosophical attitude on himself: 'material progress is not everything; aren't charity and philanthropy superior virtues?'
Raghu was a worker in the factory. Staying at a few blocks away from the doctor's house, he had developed respectful attitude towards the educated and cultured newcomer. Moreover, since the doctor's arrival, Raghu was relaxed and carefree about medical problems in his family. Relying on the wisdom and kindness of the doctor, he could go to the factory even in the event of illness in the family. If not in cash, Raghu would be happy to show his gratitude, as occasions permitted, by sending vegetables and fruits to the doctor's house whenever such luxuries arrived from his native village.
"Namaste, Raghu. How's everything? Come this Saturday to my son's birthday. Won't you?" the doctor said when they crossed each other one morning. It was Monday. "Sure, sir. I will be there to help you," was Raghu's reply.
The next day, Raghu was at his work in the factory when his wife unexpectedly came and said, "Listen, Kisan has fever. He is not well. Can you not come early today?" Kisan was their only son. Raghu was not particularly pleased to be disturbed during duty hours. He instructed his wife to take their son to the doctor, saying: "He would do the necessary."
In the evening Raghu returned home from the factory and inquired about Kisan's health. His wife appeared worried as she said: "I took him to the doctor; he has supplied some medicines. But it does not look all that well."
When Raghu went to the doctor, he told that he still did not know the exact cause of Kisan's fever, but it appeared to be malaria. "We shall see. I have given the medicine. Bring him tomorrow for recheck." Raghu was relieved and returned home.
Two days passed, three and four; but the fever did not subside. Delirium set in. Frantic now, Raghu rushed to the doctor and requested him to make a home visit. The condition of the boy was fast deteriorating. His mother was reluctant to take him to city hospital for his condition did
not permit it, and conveyance was difficult to arrange. Raghu pleadedwith the doctor to stay for sometime and do his best to save the child. The doctor agreed. A chair was arranged for the doctor to sit near the patient's bed. Boiled water, napkins, and cold sponges were kept ready.
The mother was standing in a corner, anxious about the outcome. Evening passed into night.
Raghu was nowhere to be seen. He had silently skipped to the doctor's house. He knew it was the birthday of doctor's son. A few guests had assembled in the hall. The colorful balloons and ribbons decorated the walls. The boy looked smart and happy in his new clothes. Her mother
accompanied him all throughout. She was a lady with compassionate heart, and could realize the professional compulsions of her husband. She did not complain.
Overcoming his mixed feelings, Raghu decided to sing for doctor's son. Taking out his old-fashioned string instrument, he started singing a melodious folk song that captured the attention of one and all. In the joyous company of Raghu, the boy forgot the absence of his father. Raghu sang one song after the other. The party was a grand success. The guests offered their gifts to the child, partook of the food, and left one by one.
The morning was fresh as the sun rays alighted softly on the floor of the hall. Raghu's eyes were filled with tears. The boy was sleeping contentedly in his lap. On the nearby sofa the lady of the house also was tiredly asleep. Raghu heard the approaching footsteps. He knew the doctor was coming. His heart missed a beat, but only momentarily. What news would the doctor bring?
Prashanto entered the hall, assessed the situation, and jubilantly declared: "Raghu, I wondered where you had disappeared! I've a good news: Kisan is better."
"So is this lad in my lap, doctor," said the overjoyed Raghu, and faithfully added, "I knew, nothing could go wrong when a doctor was sitting by the side of a patient."
Tears trickled down the four eyes. Keeping the boy gently aside, Raghu got up and fell at the feet of the doctor; exhaustion and gratitude had made him too weak to stand. The doctor took him in his arms, and gently said: "It was a nice exchange of the sons for a night."