The distinguished-looking gentleman by my brother's bed was a big judge. My mother had already told me about the other patients and their families at the Indian Spinal Injuries Center in New Delhi, India, the ones she'd run into while my brother himself underwent rehabilitation for his paraplegia. The judge was a tall brown man with a trimmed black moustache and some grey in his Brylcremed hair. Today he was wearing dark brown corduroy pants and a mehndi-coloured sports jacket. My mother and I sat on the other bed in the private room my brother was occupying. We kept our distance as the the judge quietly talked to my brother. It was strange to see a tall important man like him talk softly, his hunched back suddenly aging him. His 30-something chartered accountant son was a patient at the ISIC. He'd had an accident and broken his back, becoming paraplegic, like my brother. But the judge's son had also suffered a brain injury and lay there with a blank look in his eyes. The judge often liked to come to my brother's room to talk to him about his son, asking my brother for his opinion as a surgeon, relating to him as he wished he could with his own son. His son was married with a young wife and children.
I approached the judge with a plate full of biscuits. I gave him a weak smile, "Uncle, yeh maine banaye hain (I made these)." Anything stronger than a weak smile felt like lying.
The judge quickly shook his hand at me, a troubled look in his preoccupied eyes, and went back to talking to my brother. He didn't want the biscuits. I took the plate back to my mother on the next bed and silently joined her watching the two men talk.
The judge suddenly turned towards me. "Beta, I'll try one of your biscuits." He gave me a weak smile.