Saturday, July 16, 2011

The Blood Hunters

Amuk’s Tamuk has been unwell. I can take a writer’s liberty right now and turn this into another horror story of the health care system in India. This time private and expensive. But I will be kind….


Amuk’s Tamuk has been unwell. He is being given blood. Quite a lot. At least more than any amount of blood being given, I have heard so far about. Ke garne! (What to do - in Nepali). So Amuk has been mobilising people, sometimes with enticements like beer-after-blood, sometimes plain emotional blackmail. Whiskey, fruit juice and KFC treats also feature in the list. The whole process of blood collection has taken the proportion and logistics of an organised underground gang. Such efficient planning and innovations have been executed that Amuk and another friend were actually comtemplating starting a blood bank, as a business enterprise, after collection from one batch of donors.


‘How much will it cost to start a blood bank?’

‘Can we get a bank loan? Will it run?’

'Of course, you have to wait in line to give blood everywhere.’

Now that sounds pretty businesslike huh? Collection, batch, donors?


So the first day, actually night, they said they needed blood, Amuk was alone and found it a bit difficult. First it was at night, so every one of his friends will be drunk. Second, he was planning on getting drunk and stoned, so he needed to reorganise his plans. Thirdly, a lot of transport needed to be organised and he was the only one who would drive. With all his underground connections, Amuk managed to get two Naga friends. And it makes me always squirm in shame each time I see our Naga friends give. They are always giving something or the others to others. And they did not even need a bribe. But that is another political story….

When the blood was being given given to Tamuk, one cousin comes close to Amuk, concerned. He whispers,

“What if Tamuk starts saying - moi bhi gahori khabo (I will also eat pork - in Nagamese)?”


Few more bottles of blood have been collected in the meantime. Amuk is running out of blood group. One friend volunteers. Everyone is relieved and ready to supply the blood to Tamuk immediately. The friend lies down on the donor chair. The doctor ties the tightening strip across his arm and waits for the vein to appear. In vain. Doctor taps, he pinches, he presses, he pumps – nothing appears. Doctor mumbles, 'I have never seen anything like that' and rubs his forehead. Meanwhile Amuk and friend exchange a look and laugh. The doc shifts to the other arm and repeats procedure. Nothing. After 30 minutes doc gives up. Suggestions pour in from all sides including the failed donor –

‘why don’t you cut his wrist?’

‘What about his feet? See, u can see the veins clearly on his feet’

‘can’t you just rip it open a bit, I am sure blood will poor out?’

The doc shakes his head. We give up. Later we get to know that the friend is an ex-pusher. His veins have vanished from the surface.


We call another friend and go fetch him across Guwahti’s traffic nightmare points. When we finally reach the friends quipps – ‘thank god you guys called earlier. Any later and I would have started drinking.’

We arrive and the waiting doctor puts him straight into the collection chair. All kind of scientific enquiry and responses start –

‘he has not tested my blood yet, what if it cannot be given?’ Response: 'No problem. They will give it back if it is bad. You can take it home and make Jadoh' (a Khasi dish of rice and pork blood).

Query to doc: ‘what are the tests you will do? How much blood will you take? Can I take this chair home, watching TV will be nice with it?’

Response from doc: ‘HIV, Hepatitis, HCV and all other. 350 ml, 50 is anti-coagulant. No, the chair is new'.

Response from the side: ‘As much as a bottle of Pepsi. You can drink it back if they don’t take it.’


Query to Amuk: ‘What will you give him to eat?’ Response: ‘Whiskey’.

Response from donor: ‘Isn’t beer better?’

Afterwards, the donor invites to his place for dinner and beer. We replenish and get back to duties. But the blood hunt continues…


Amuk gathers more donor parties. Queries flow in –

‘will they take it even if I am drunk?’

‘What do they do with the blood tests?’

‘Will they tell me?’

‘Can they send me a photocopy?’

‘I hear giving blood is good for you?’

‘Can we sell it for alcohol? How much will we get in beer-case?’ …


Seven more people gather in another batch. Meanwhile rules have slipped from being strictly blood group specific to exchangeable at blood banks. Scientific discussion do not stop–

‘O + can give anyone and AB+ can take anyone’s right?’

No be, its ulta’ (it’s the opposite – in Hinglish).

‘No, no it is not like that any longer. A with A, B with B and like that with everyone.’

‘I am A’, ‘I think I am A too’.

‘No you are B’, ‘no I am B’….


‘Anyone can give blood now’ – Amuk opens up doors of possibilitie to everyone in true mafia style – ‘Also two people need go and give it in the other bank. I already took two from them. We need to give it back.’

The collection continues:

‘one in this bed, other two on those two’.

Protests: ‘can we all go in one bed?’

From the side: ‘I don’t like the doctor. Can you punch him?’


‘Please sign here’ – Doctor.

Question: ‘Can you please tell me what am I signing on?’

Response: ‘you are signing that you have no problem that we are going to test your blood.’

‘Very good. What will you with the report?’ Response: ‘We will not use the blood if it comes positive in any of the tests.’

‘Will you inform me?’ Response: ‘We will inform if you want us to. We have taken your number.’

‘Yes, yes. That will be very good. Can you please write it down on your form? Also can you write down my address? Please send it home.’


Many doctors in blood banks in Guwahati have rubbed foreheads, chins, nose, entire face in the past few days out of irritation, frustration and to block the bombardment of scientific queris. But Amuk have been efficiently and methodically managing the whole operation. The news of his organisational skill has reached people far and wide. He even recievd a call from another corner of Assam the other night – ‘I hear you have become a khoon mafia? (blood mafia - In Hindi)

To which Amuk says – ‘Rah, arobmbho hoise he’. (Wait, it just started - in Assemse).


A side note on a serious note: We still need blood. If you are inspired and want to donate please email me at banamallika@gmail.com. We have not started charging yet