soft murmurs


As Nutan's story unfolds, India comes to light, with its hard realities and softer truths. Nutan is 30 and is suffering from a severe heart malfunction.

Years of ignorance laced with neglect, years of living the life of a woman in a society where women are lesser beings, of bearing four children with little or no help, of malnutrition and hard work have taken their toll on a frail body, where a heart was made to work twice as much because of a probable congenital defect.

When the body could not carry on, when the lungs hungry for oxygen started giving up Nutan was taken to the district headquarters of Purnea, in Bihar. There a doctor who braved the odds and dangers of life in this dificult state to bring a healing touch to those in need, diagnosed Nutan's ailment and gave her the best possible advise: take a train to Delhi, to the AIIMS for immediate heart surgery.

The year was 2003.

Nutan then fell prey to the half baked knowledge of probale well wishers who scared her so much that she refused the treatment needed and pushed her all ready tired body to the very last.

Then two years later, when even living became difficult, she finally took the train. The verdict was simple: immediate surgery; the cost was staggering for a family who had already sold or mortgaged everything it possessed.

Ayan, a doctor friend from John Hopkins saw Nutan and confirmed what we all knew. I asked her what would have happened if Nutan had been born to a rich family. The answer was staggering: the pediatrician would have detected the heart murmur at birth and the corrective surgery would have taken place by the time she was 3. And anyway, had Nutan had proper medical check up during her pergnancy, the murmur would have been heard. And then the inevitable question, what if nothing was done, the answer was a quiet: 2 years at the most.

What conclusion to draw in this tale of missed murmurs?

The one missed at birth, the one missed four times and then the unexpected one from a kind doctor in a state everyone has given up on..