You are half-way through a good book when the phone rings. Your sister has suddenly been taken to the National Institute of Cardiovascular Diseases after her blood pressure has soared to an all-time high.

Your memories of the N.I.C.V.D. are pleasant. You remember the time sixteen years back, when your maternal grandmother lost her desperate battle to reach her seventy-fifth birthday although specialists tried hard for more than a month. You recall that the staircase was polished to perfection, and you could see your image in the marble tiles on all the floors. Good, you say to yourself, she's in the best hospital in the country. But you're in for a shock.

You try to find out where she is. They look at you as if you've just emerged from the garbage heap. After some money changes hands, they relent and tell you. But the lift will work only when the lift-operator returns from wherever he's gone. They don't know where, they haven't seen him for a week. You are stopped as you try to ascend the stairs, but the man becomes human after you slip him a tanner. For the next three days he'll always salute you and deprive you of more. In the filthy room where your sister will stay the next three days, there are three other women, although it's a semi-private room where only two patients are allowed. The so-called doctors (two R.M.O.'s) look like they graduated last month, they can't be more than 22. Their boss is an unpleasant, ill-tempered, bearded character. You can't help thinking he should have been the imam of a mosque, not a doctor in a modern hospital.

The place is so filthy you're surprized there are no rats around. Then you see a very fat cat emerge from under a bed, and you know why the rats aren't there. In the room opposite a man has just died and they're wheeling his body away. A man in the next room is in excruciating pain and to prove it, he utters a blood-curdling scream every minute. Occasionally one of the two R.M.O.'s goes and looks at him, but that's about all. The bearded one is asleep. Even a layman like me can see that this is a case for a specialist, but none is around (He will come in the morning). There's no question of closing the doors of the rooms, there are so many patients (and visitors)
that the resulting carbon monoxide will cause all of them to wish they'd never been born.

A male attendant appears with a syringe which has obviously been used. He's incensed when you demand a sealed and packed syringe, and asks you to go out and buy one yourself. At 3 A.M. there's no chance you'll find it anywhere in the country, so you 'persuade' one of the R.M.O.'s to fish out a sealed syringe from a dirty cupboard in the corner. They draw a blood sample and tell you to take it to Agha Khan Hospital for tests. Before the night is over, you'll have to go there thrice, each time with a fresh blood sample. Apparently the N.I.C.V.D. doesn't have the required equipment for sophisticated blood-testing. You wonder what they did fifteen years back, when the A.K.U.H wasn't in existence.

At 4:40 in the morning, the screaming suddenly stops. The poor man will never scream again. A terrible wailing begins, as the wife of the dead man realizes what has happened. This has been one hell of a night. Not a single patient on this floor has been able to sleep. Please God, you say to yourself, if ever I have a heart problem, let me have the guts to kill myself before they take me to this hospital.