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DYSPNOEA (short story)

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English Poetry


“He’s choking” I cried

looking at that sixty plus old man in a dhothi and a tattered wet shirt.

“Dyspnoea!” commented my friend Rajan

staring at him.

“What’s dyspnoea?” I yelled.


The rain-lashed black-top road

was looking like a crawling snake..

That desolate bus-shelter beside

that village road was damp and leaking.

The old man settled on the cement bench

was panting, coughing and staring into the skies as if he’s waiting to see the angels from heaven or agents of the Hades.

His wife was pressing his back and telling…”Wait…the rain will abate soon…it won’t take much time.”


I cried at her, “Give him his inhaler!”

“What’s inhaler?” she asked.

“I mean inhaler; O’ God!” I cried.

“How do they know about inhaler?” Rajan said coolly.

Ignoring my friend, I cried again,

“Don’t you have any medicine ready…

Something like deriphyllin or salbutamol?”

I didn’t wait for her reply…rushed into the rain and reached the street corner and asked a passer-by, “Where’s the medical shop here?”, “No medical shop here…in fact up to a distance of 20 kms” he replied. “No medical shop?!!”  stunned I shouted aloud.

He added, “That old couple live in a small hut. Even a small rain is enough to make them run. They come to this bus-shelter and remain till the rain abates…it’s usual for them…don’t worry…once the rain abates they go back to their hut”

Returned to the bus-shelter and cried at her

“Take him to the town by next bus…his condition is serious. We’re riding on a motor bike. It’s too risky to drive him town”


We returned to town, but remained my heart guilty.

“I could have done better than leaving that old man like that”

I thought.

Next morn, Rajan called over phone, “Read today’s news…that old man died”


(In India there are hundreds of villages where no medical shop is available. This poem is based on a true incident. Rajan is a real name of my friend who is a newspaper correspondent.)











  1. kusumgokarn says:

    Very sad plight of our villagers remote from instant medical aid.
    Tv shows ads of Maruti car service centres in remote deserts.
    Why not open more medical shops, hospitals and ambulance services in villages?
    Line – “Returned to the bus shelter and cried at her”
    to be corrected to ‘cried for her’.

    • anuradha says:

      @kusumgokarn, Dear Kusumgokarn, thanks for your comments and appreciation. ‘Cry’ also means to ‘call’, to ‘utter loudly’. Unfortunately in Indian schools the teachers tell the students: cry means to weep. Our present generation is growing on junk literature of Rowlings and so many such others. Unless one reads the classics of yesteryears, one cannot understand and master the right usage of English. It is not our fault. All our Indian languages were derived from Sanskrit. English was derived from greek and latin. The etymology is different and as such the application of language and usage are also different. We often think in our mother tongue and try to write in English…that is where we falter. I advice all the youngsters who come to me to read Oscar Wilde, Bernard Shaw, Elliot and James Joyce…very few listen to me. They go to Higginbothams and pick up some junk.

  2. Vishvnand says:

    Very impacting hard hitting unfortunate ghastly reality of our country
    Progress of which ruling leaders boast about exposing quality of their credibility
    No medical aid to the poor although country famous for medical tourism
    And countries own top leaders & rich go abroad for their own medical treatments
    A shameful paradox being digested year after year by its honest citizens.

    Kudos for the posting which as a poem carries with empathy, emphatically its point
    Though to be an “outstanding poem” the poem does still need a bit working upon


    • anuradha says:

      @Vishvnand, Dear Visvnandji,
      Thanks for the comments. This is a short story. Not a poem. I believe that; be it a story or a poem, unless it runs fast, the readers cannot relate themselves with the central theme and get the ultimate satisfaction of reading a good piece of work. That is my way of doing things.

      • Vishvnand says:

        @anuradha ,
        What you say is right.
        I evaluated it not as a story but as a “story poem” hence the observation.
        What is posted here on main page is what author considers written by him/her as a poem of any sort, which members read and accordingly comment on what they feel about the posting as a poem.

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