As you step onto the slick marble floors of the Shaukat Khanum Memorial Cancer Hospital and Research Center, you’re faced with a bank of elevators.To the left veers the Radiology Department, and to the right sprawls the Nuclear Medicine Ward. It was there that I turned.
The brightly lit corridor is infused with sunlight, pouring in from the huge glass windows installed. If you look to the courtyard beyond, you can spot several peacocks, strutting along, blue, green, dazzling. The many patients in the hospital stop and stare, children point, drool and lose interest. The peacocks got me thinking.
Shut off from the human world, those peacocks wander the courtyard, occasionally peeking in, but shying away from the cool glass of the window. Can they ever know the despair, misery and anguish that resides in the hearts of the people watching them? They keep their distance, preening their feathers, providing a source of amusement and distraction to human beings; keeping their minds off their impending biopsies, bone scans and transplants. If those birds could speak, what tales would they tell? Of moist childish hands pressed against the glass, while parents loom in the background carrying a barrage of reports, syringes and pills? Or how the elderly, slumped in their wheel chairs, stare at the peacocks’ plumes, willing themselves to forget the disease that’s consuming them from the inside?
The peacocks look in from a world of careless abandon to a world of bright white lab coats, drooping brows, and tears and cries.
As I familarised myself with the workings of the wheel chair my grandmother was in, she demanded to see the peacocks. I turned the chair around, thinking about how I had the control now, and how my grandmother had become the child. i heard childish screams today, tearing out, rubbing tiny throats raw as miniature arms were prodded and poked with needles. A disease that tricks your body into believing it’s harmless. Then it eradicates you.
And the peacocks then. What do we know of their conflicts, their isolation and their sadness? They could be just as troubled as we are. Our world or theirs? But the windows make sure we stay apart.
I thought about a lot of roles reversing themselves today.
Lord, I pray for them, the children, peacocks, all.