Wounded Knee: An (Indian) Indian Tale

Friday July 29th 2011

13:30 hrs

Two workshops done.

Absolutely joyous kids, full of energy.

Got my adrenaline going.

I was on my post-workshop high!

I was packing up to leave for the day.

Just as I was about to turn the lights off, I noticed a large-ish delegation of very small people making its way through the two slightly darkened ante-rooms leading up to the GeoVidyaa Geography Centre of Excellence in the back room.

They seemed hesitant. I hailed them and said, “Come in, come in …” (I didn’t add, “Don’t feel shy!”)

Delegation came in, came in. One member of the delegation was in the middle, and the rest surrounding him in a sort of Security Cordon Formation. The Central Person (CP) was, like the rest of them, about 3 feet tall. Petit. The female delegates were, of course, petite.

CP had a small piece of random note paper stuck to his left knee.

He walked with a limp, aided by certain Elite Core of the Delegation.

Everyone looked somber.

CP looked very sad and in pain.

In fact, he had a look of incredible Gravitas.

Using my innate and formidable powers of deduction, I deduced that CP had fallen down during the customary pre-boarding-the-school-bus running around, where pretty much any kid who is under four feet tall runs around like mad, laughing riotously, and generally having such a good time, that you would have no choice but to smile, laugh with them, and generally say, “Awwwwww…”

The Spokespersons of the Delegation spoke – well, that’s what they do, you see? This was in stereo, hi-fi.

“Sir! He has wound.”

“Yes. Sir, he needs first aid.”

“Sir, blood is coming!”

“Sir, can you put medicine?”

Through all this, CP stood silently; bearing his injury and pain with dignity and fortitude.

“Oh, I SEE!” I replied to the Spokespersons, as gravely as I could. This required considerable effort for I was just about ready to completely lose it and burst out laughing. But that would have been entirely inappropriate to the air that the Delegation carried.

Now, I addressed CP directly, “Did you fall down?”

CP nodded gravely, indicating such injustices still occur in this day and age and Kaliyuga is ripening, sir!

Spokespersons, chimed in, “Yes!”

I asked CP, “Is it hurting a lot?”

Spokespersons kept silent.

CP answered for himself, with a brief no-nonsense nod. I thought may be he was hurting.

I can divine these things. It’s a Gift. Not everyone has it. I do. But I don’t brag about it or flaunt it. For that would be very gauche.

I looked for the First-Aid box that is customarily kept there. No luck. It had decided now, of all times, to be frivolous, in the middle of this ER situation, to play a game of hide-‘n’-seek! Impertinent box!

However, though I am not a Medically Certified Emergency Room Person, I am enough of a quack to know what to do in such emergencies.

I brought a chair to CP, who was now the serious and cooperative patient, his dignity and fortitude multiplied a hundred-fold.

“Just sit here for a moment, I’ll go get some tissue paper, okay?”

Slight nod.

The Delegation surrounding us to witness the modern medical miracle unfold, in person.

I gently removed the random paper stuck to the wound. It was a superficial bruise; a slight amount of blood that was already on its way to clotting.

To CP, of course, this was a Himalaya-sized catastrophe. One, however, that he clenched his teeth and bore. Nothing less is expected of him.

I went and got some toilet paper, a roll of which I keep on my desk for such, and other, emergencies.

I asked a Member of The Delegation to kindly go to the far end of the very long room, and fetch me the bottle of clean drinking water sitting on that there table. You have not seen a child, er, little person, haring off that fast! Hanuman, dispatched to fetch the sanjīvini (or is it sanjīvani?) could take three-sessions-a-week tuitions from this Member of The Delegation.

The bottle was delivered to me in a fashion that would have made any scene of E.R. come to life.

In the meantime, while CP sat on the chair awaiting the surgeon’s healing touch, my keen capacities of observation, to which I have alluded in the passing above, without making too much of a deal of it, were systematically at work. I had divined that CP’s actual name was Aditya D____, student in 3rd standard.

He wore a name tag.

So, there he sat, the little cute doll. The other Delegational dolls milling about.

I wetted a little of the toilet paper, and said to him, “Aditya, I am going to use this wet tissue paper to take away a little dust that may be around your wound. This may hurt a LEEEETTLE bit, okay?”

Small nod.

Spectators tense.

I lightly dabbed and ‘took out some dust.’ Dust I could not see.

“Are you okay, Aditya?”

Small nod. (He is a cute little small-nodder!)

Gently, I took his foot and placed it on my lap.

“Now, Aditya, I am going to put some hand sanitiser on this fresh tissue and dab it a little. It will sting and burn. But only for a minute or so. Then, you will be fine. I am going to do that now, okay?”

You guessed it! Small nod.

I continued, enjoying myself immensely, “When it stings and burns, if you want to shout or scream or cry, it’s quite okay to do that. All right?”

Small nod.

A split second before I undertook the procedure, I glanced at the spectators around. Two girls and a boy had plugged their ears with their fingers!

You have no idea how desperately I was shaking with laughter. However, inspired by Aditya, I maintained my Professional Air.

I dabbed.

It stung.

Like billy-o!

Our brave little Aditya, merely bit his lower lip, closed his eyes, frowned, and winced ever-so-slightly!

The procedure was completed. Operation was a success! The patient was okay. The ear-pluggers unplugged their ears with visible relief.

“Which of you is going with Aditya in the same bus?”

Everyone.

“All right. Will you make sure that no one touches his wound, even with the edge of their uniform? If they do, it will burn and make him feel a little uncomfortable. Will you do that?”

A chorus of dignified voices, realizing the onus that now rested on their young shoulders, shrieked, “Yeyyssss!”

As we turned bus-ward, I asked, “Aditya, do you want me to carry you?”

He drew himself up to his fullest height, such as it was, and said, “No.”

The Security Cordon Formation was re-formed in short order (I use the word ‘short’ advisedly), but this time, I was part of the Centre, with Aditya. He did hold my left index finger for a while as we started our Long March to the bus at the entrance of our series of long rooms.

He had to climb the steps. The wound smarted when he tried to ascend the first step.

In an instant, two pairs of The Delegation’s little hands were on his butt and hoisted him up the three steps to the bus. Once inside, one of his compadres sat next to him and protected the wounded knee from clueless passers-by who embarked, disembarked, re-embarked, and generally were milling about. The protector put his arm across in front of Aditya and poked people passing by to be careful not to touch his wound.

I stood on the step to the building, a mere three feet away from the steps to the bus, watching all this. At this point, I allowed myself to laugh and chuckle. Aditya looked at me through the mesh at the back of the Army vehicle that serves as their school bus and gave me the sweetest of smiles.

His protector, likewise.

The bus started to move forward.

Aditya waved at me.

So did the protector.

Both beaming.

I waved back.

They kept waving until they couldn’t see me from their bus.

I am still smiling!

About Chandra Shekhar Balachandran 0 Articles
Dr Balachandran is Founder and Director of The Institute of Geographical Studies, Bangalore - http://tigs.in.

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