Wednesday, August 12, 2015

The last I saw of her- Part 1

I’ll be honest Chacha, she is living on borrowed time. You can go in for another endoxan therapy, but in my professional opinion, it will but prolong her misery.
When a friend, a Doctor, says that to your father while you’re cowering at the edge of the room, half praying, half hoping for some good news, all you feel is anger. Since the Doctor is your dad’s friend for the past 25 years, someone who respects him and calls him Chacha, I couldn’t even lash back at him.
Deep in your heart, I wanted her misery to end. Every son would. To see his mum suffer, cough blood, go through epileptic fits, to have seen her undergo dialysis and 60 days of hospitalization in the ICU, every son would.
To see his father crumble, both mentally and financially, to never be the same man again, isn’t something I would wish on anyone. But that is what happened, and perhaps, that is what made me the person I am. That is what gave me the resolve to face that dreaded night, and that is what gave me the strength to see my mother die in my arms.
Please come to the hospital immediately, was what the kind Nurse whose name escapes me now, said over the phone. I remember spending 20 days at the ICU waiting room, and other many days at other hospitals, but I cannot remember why, on that day, we were all home.
I remember Dad asking me to go, as all of us knew what was to transpire, and perhaps he couldn’t muster the courage to face it. I wouldn’t blame or hold it against him. Heck, I don’t think I was ready, no child ever can be. I didn’t have it in me; I was forced by circumstance to bring it out of me.
I’ve never been particularly scared of the dark. As a kid, yes, but as a 17 year old, I had loved the embrace of the dark. Dark was fun. This fateful night, however, at about 2 am, in the dead of the night, a sudden fear encompassed me. I couldn’t find public transport of any sort at this ungodly hour, and the half jog, half brisk walking trek to the hospital was mired in howling dogs.
Mis-assuming their nocturnal shenanigans for that night, I had armed myself with stones and a grim resolve to counter just that. I was taken aback by their howling, at how they maintained an almost deferential distance from me.
Not barking dogs. Not snarling dogs. Not overtly aggressive dogs. Howling dogs; the creatures of the night, the rulers of darkness, who come into their own as the sun falls, snarling, running after and barking, almost chiding those who dare to cross their path at that time, were eerily inept at their routine.
They were howling, and were exhibiting behaviour completely opposite of their usual intrepid self for that hour. It was as if they sensed para-normality. It was as if I was carrying with me, the harbinger of death, the Grim Reaper, or Yama itself. I can well remember the chill down my spine, and how I sprinted towards the hospital, for the fear of what was to happen to mother was little as compared to the unknown fear of the dark I felt at that moment.  
As I darted towards the street light ridden roads that befell my journey, I recalled how Mum had half-jokingly mentioned how she couldn’t sleep when we fell ill. Those days, I didn’t know what an Espresso or a Red Bull was, and despite any stimulants, sleep had evaded me, evaded us all, for the better part of the past two days. Neither had I slept a wink that night, nor was I to sleep again, for about 36 hours more.
Uncle didn’t come? These were the first words out of the worried nurse’s mouth. She genuinely cared for mum; Mum had that uncanny knack of genuinely caring for people regardless of her own state, and that drew people to her, which drew similar feelings for Mum. She was always everyone’s favourite. Favourite cousin, daughter, daughter in law, Chachi, Mami, what have you. She was the kinda lady that prepared bhindi in 3 different ways for the three of us at home, and took pride and contentment in it.
She knew of everyone’s preferences, everyone’s affairs, and everyone’s sob stories. Every guests comfort was paramount, every secret safe. I’d be lying if I said I’ve found another homemaker who was better at it, than her. It was her choice, to be the home bird, as she gleefully used to declare. Dad had encouraged her to pick up some vocation if she so pleased, her interest lied not in entrepreneurship, nor in someone’s employ.
She wanted to do her best to support, encourage and raise us three, my dad, my brother and I. Being the only gal around, she was pampered and loved, but she gave about tenfold of that love and pampering back, and then some.
I’ve served her well in these months, I told myself, and by God if this is the last time I get the opportunity to do so, I’ll do my best. How many people, after all, get the genuine opportunity to serve their parents? Learning to inject her with insulin and intra muscular injections, braid her hair, give her a sponge bath, take her for a walk within the house as some days, that is all she could muster, feed her, coax her into having the bland ass food, entertain her, quieten her down post her fits, drop everything, academia, friends, and ignore inquiries about why I had done so from seemingly concerned from a distance relatives, all that seemed to be inconsequential to the barrage of “duties”, and to the sacrifice that only a mother is capable of.
I had, surprisingly, no trepidation while entering her room, although I remember the wrench in my heart when I observed her struggling for air. She hadn’t given up, for the sake of her kids, and her husband. She knew how dependant they all were on her, and how, without her, our life would shatter.
She had the will to survive. Sadly, her body didn’t have the will to do so. As soon as I saw her, I knew it was a matter of time. I can still remember that feeling of helplessness, and I’ve woken up vomiting, crying, shrieking, or breaking into a cold sweat just thinking about that, even years after that day has elapsed, faded somewhere within my subconscious I lie to myself, yet so ruthlessly clear when it comes to the fore.
Did we make the right medical decisions? Why was she so negligent? Why wasn’t dad more careful? Why was I so self-absorbed in my life that I couldn’t take charge as I was doing now, when charge was thrust upon me? Was the current Doctor right? Was there a way? There had to be a way.
Can you give me some water, beta? That broke my chain of thoughts. And those innocuous words slapped home the stark reality. It is what it is. There isn’t any use dwelling in the past. Do what needs to be done now. What followed was what seemed like eternity, a discipline that covered lowering and elevating her bed to ease her breathing or help her sleep, give her some water, let her relieve herself, on and on again. After a while she didn’t even have the strength to tell me what she wanted. She didn’t have to, because like clockwork, I knew what she needed, when she needed it. I guess that is how she must have realised what I wanted as an infant. By giving me her undivided attention, and love.
But there too, I faltered. Not by actions, mind you, but my mind sauntered off, at the crack of dawn, to the discussions, lectures of note that I had participated in with her, sometimes half-heartedly, sometimes just to humour her, sometimes just because I wanted it to end so that I got my pocket money.
I remembered how she had once told me that my child, you may never be a rich man, people may or may not find you handsome, although I will always feel so. You may never be a very popular person, or a successful person, a lot of this depends of how hard you apply yourself at the right time, and well, dumb, blind luck. But regardless of whatever you’re facing, and in whichever stage of life you’re in, you can always, always be a good person. A person nice person. Not in the eyes of others, but in yours. Always do what you feel is the right thing to do, given the circumstance and situation. That, my child is always, and will always be in your hand. Let’s discuss this.
I remember being mesmerised by this concept, and arguing about the demerits of this premise with her for a long, long time, and eventually, all was crystal clear. She had taken the pain of explaining it at length to me, she hadn’t disregarded any of my at times imbecilic inquiries and arguments, and she had never ever imposed her opinion or will on me. Heck, she never even attempted to convince me! All she did was give her understanding and opinion, along with her experience, and allowed me to form my own opinion based on my perceptions, experiences and things I could relate it to. I recollect that to be as her finest moment as a mother, conception, nurturing me from infancy and tending to me when sick, these apart.


Unknown said...

Superbly written!

prakashchandra gopaldutt khulbe said...

Emotions nicely captured in words.. I remember you narrating me years back.. still everything is fresh in my memory too..

Joules said...

Agree with both the above comments, sorry for your loss, I hope the narration brought you healing..It brought tears to my eyes. God Bless.

Anonymous said...

Tears rolling down my cheeks.. Everytime you spoke of her, I felt the same amount of pain.. wish you strength..Plz tk cr..

Anant said...

Dear bhai, the pillar that supports this family, the one who's been through so much, having to see a parent die in his arms, that too at such a young age... I sincerely have no clue what you're made of, dada. Reading your thoughts are not only insightful and philosophical, but they're so beautiful to read as well. You're a true sculptor of words, bhai. An artist. Needless to say, mother is proud. And so are we.