Whispers of Antiseptic and Secrets

Denzil Jayasinghe
3 min readFeb 29, 2024

In the shadowed corridors of the General Hospital in Colombo, where the air hung heavy with the scent of antiseptics and human suffering, Father lay ensnared by pain. His once robust frame now yielded to the cruel grip of a hernia nestled deep within his lower abdomen. The hospital walls whispered secrets of countless ailments, their faded paint bearing witness to the ebb and flow of life.

Each dawn, my mother embarked on her pilgrimage to his bedside. Her devotion manifested in a steaming cauldron of mutton soup — a balm for his aching soul. Mutton, she believed, possessed healing properties beyond mere sustenance. And so, with the sun’s first blush, she set forth, clutching a king coconut — a golden orb of vitality — to fortify her weary steps.

Public buses carried her across the city, their metal frames rattling in sync with her anxious heart. My sister and I trailed behind her, our small hands gripping the frayed edges of reality. My brother left in our grandmother’s care, remained oblivious to the hospital’s sterile embrace.

Father lay prone on starched sheets, his face etched with lines of silent endurance. The operation had left him tethered to the bed, a prisoner of pain. The General Hospital in Colombo sprawled across the island like a labyrinthine beast, its corridors winding through time-worn buildings. Ward 66 awaited us — a sanctuary on the third floor, guarded by grilles instead of doors. The lift, operated by a faceless attendant, carried us upward — an ascent into unfamiliar territory.

My eyes drank in the scene: nurses gliding past in their immaculate whites, medicine’s pungent perfume clinging to their every step. Patients lay cocooned in their suffering; their stories etched into the creases of their bedsheets. Visitors flitted like ghosts, their footsteps echoing down the corridors. And the doctors — those emissaries of hope — moved with purpose, their white overalls a canvas for life’s delicate brushstrokes.

Beside my father, my mother cradled the soup bowl; her love poured into each spoonful. Sister and I stood sentinel, gazes flitting between our father’s pallid face and the bustling ward. His eyes, once fierce, softened as he inquired about our little brother. We reassured him, our voices fragile threads weaving a fragile tapestry of comfort.

Yet, as the hospital hummed around us, my attention wandered. The attendants, like silent guardians, tended to the needs of the infirm. Their hands — weathered yet gentle — smoothed pillows, adjusted IV lines, and whispered solace. In that hallowed space, where life and suffering converged, I glimpsed the fragility of existence — the delicate balance between flesh and fate.

And so, within those sterile walls, I learned that hospitals held more than pain; they cradled resilience, compassion, and the quiet resilience of the human spirit. Father’s suffering became a prism through which I saw the world anew — a place where mutton soup and king coconuts mingled with whispered prayers and unwavering love.

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Denzil Jayasinghe

Lifelong learner, tech enthusiast, photographer, occasional artist, servant leader, avid reader, storyteller and more recently a budding writer