My son Nitai was born in the sacred town of Vrindavan, India, in 1996. When we returned to Vrindavan last month, one of the key items on our to-do list was to take Nitai on a sentimental journey to the hospital where he was born.
At the time of his birth, it was called the Aroghya Deep Hospital (aroghya means good health, and deep means light). It’s in the area called Davanala Kund, where Krishna performed his amazing childhood pastimes over five millenia ago by swallowing a forest fire.
We set off in a rickshaw mid-morning on the second day of our three-day stay in Vrindavan, past all the familiar sights – the hard working residents of Vrindavan, the wandering sadhus, and the cows.
The rickshaw driver got tired, so Nitai took over. No seriously, he got lost, and being a man, would not ask for directions (sound familiar, ladies?)
After driving round and around, I convinced him to ask directions. While the rickshaw-driver was asking the seventh person, Nitai posed for this photograph.
We discovered that the Arogya Deep was now known as Engineer Hospital, after the head doctor, surnamed Engineer. In fact it was Doctor Engineer who tended to Nitai’s mother in her later stages of pregnancy, and who performed the Caesarian Section one chilly night in December 1996.
We had actually driven past it, and since the name of the hospital was written in Hindi, and perhaps since the rickshaw driver couldn’t read, we had missed it three times.
We alighted on our journey of re-discovery. Nitai was a little nervous, so we sat down, took a deep breath, and prepared ourselves.
I showed Nitai the post-natal room where we stayed for a couple of nights before heading back to the maternity rooms for a month of recovery. Now it was time to enter the hospital proper.
Nitai’s uncle Iksvaku and his cousin Gopal were with us. We posed for one last shot before we took the plunge. I explained to an orderly why we were there and he allowed us in. He was eager to tell the Doctor of our return.
I remembered it all so well. That icy cold night in mid winter, the concrete hallways, the plastic chairs outside the birthing room…
And there at the end of the hallway was the door. We slowly walked towards the light.
Nitai stood for a while outside the unmarked door to the theatre, taking it all in. We chose not to enter, but rather stood and contemplated many things.
The orderly returned and, breaking our reverie, informed us that the doctor was eager to see us. Doctor Engineer invited us into her office and cordially sat us down. She looked the same as I remembered her, she remembered me and Nitai’s mother well, spoke for some time and kindly asked for a photograph to be taken.
We chatted with the staff, I signed the guest book and left my contact details, and then we were off.
Nitai was awash with a mix of emotions, but mainly satisfied that his ‘lifelong’ wish had been fulfilled.
Our mission accomplished, we return by another bumpy rickshaw to our home base, Krishna Balarama Temple.