Tasting crystals of sugar fed by sister Sugandha Rokade in her mouth, nurse Aruna Shanbaug, 62, cried out, “Aaah!” when she was told about the Supreme Court judgment.
Celebrating their “victory”, the nurses of KEM Hospital gathered in the compound around 11am and shouted, “Aruna zindabad!”
Vehement in their love for Aruna, the nurses made it clear that she is not a “burden” on them. “I was 100% confident about what the verdict would be. We are happy,” said matron Archana Jadhav, who took care of her for five years as the nurse in-charge of ward 4.
She added that the nurses would have gone on strike if the verdict was not in their favour.
Rattling off Aruna’s likes and dislikes like mothers, the nurses lamented that Aruna has not been able to eat through her mouth since she contracted malaria in August last year. She now has to be fed through a nasal pipe.
Aruna likes non-vegetarian food, particularly Bombay duck curry. “If she is given varan bhaath [dal rice] or vegetarian food, she eats it begrudgingly,” said Jadhav. Aruna’s teeth were removed a few years ago and she was being fed mashed food.
The dean of KEM Hospital Dr Sanjay Oak said that he had met Aruna the day he was appointed dean. “I meet her every week, as I feel attached to her. I met her last Friday. When I tapped on her head, she looked at me and cried out. I feel that she blesses me,” he said.
For the past 35 years, the nurses have fed her, bathed her, kept her clean by checking on her every two hours, applied Vaseline on her body to keep her skin soft, and played old Hindi film and devotional songs for her every morning. “She cries when she is hungry and when she is wet after urinating,” said sister Agnes Thomas.
Former dean of KEM Hospital Dr Pradnya Pai, who has taken special interest in Aruna, said, “I feel that she has done some good work in her previous life to get so much love from nurses and others. I do not believe that we should interfere with the natural course of events in life, including death. However, I do pray every day that God relieves her.”