Aruna Shanbaug's room in ward no 4 will never be the same for us again'
Recalling the time they spent with Shanbaug, nurses said she loved Marathi and Konkani music and chicken curry; they said every member of the nursing staff had served her at some point
“Aruna was about to get married when the traumatic incident took place in 1973. In fact, her husband-to-be, a doctor from KEM itself, waited for 2 years for her to come out of the coma. But then he moved on,” said Usha Kulkarni (name changed), a retired nurse from KEM, who was Aruna Shanbaug’s junior in the hospital when the latter was sexually assaulted.
Some of the nurses at KEM
She and other staffers from the hospital gathered in the hospital yesterday to pay their last respects to Shanbaug, who was the world’s oldest comatose patient.Shanbaug’s body was taken from the MICU and kept in the hospital foyer. Relatives, neighbours, KEM staffers and Shanbaug’s former colleagues gathered there in large numbers to pay their respects. Slogans like ‘Aruna Shanbaug amar rahe…’ rented the air.
Aruna Shanbaug death: Fellow nurses, relatives bid tearful adieu
The locked room in ward no 4, the female general ward, where Aruna used to stay
“I can’t help but think how beautiful she looks even in death. She was fair, had large, round eyes and thick, curly hair. She used to look like a pucca Mangalorean,” Kulkarni told mid-day. She added that Shanbaug was extremely sincere. So much so that she was handling one department all by herself before she was assaulted.
After the incident, Shanbaug became averse to strangers and would scream if a stranger touched her. “But she recognised our touch and our presence. Every staff member at KEM has served her at some point,” said one of the nurses. They were all reluctant to share their names since they had been asked not to talk to the press.
Another nurse told mid-day that Shanbaug’s routine during her comatose state was marked by her love for music. “She would listen to old Marathi and Konkani songs. She could hear properly and even moved her eyelids and fingers.
I remember that when I joined KEM 30 years ago, she would even eat omelettes, bread and other such food. It was only later, about eight years ago, that the feeding tube began getting used,” she said. “Before that, she loved chicken and hated vegetarian food. Whenever we fed her any vegetarian item, she used to spit it out immediately.
So we used to mix chicken curry in the food and give it to her so that she agrees to eat. We took care of her like our own family member. Due to the diet that we followed, her skin remained healthy till the very end,” said a nurse on condition of anonymity.
Even in the vegetative state, Shanbaug would be aware of her surroundings and her visitors. Although she would remain in her locked room in ward no 4 the female general ward for most of the day, help would be only seconds away. “For us, the room in ward no 4 will never be the same again,” said a nurse.