By D.N. Singh
That day she did not take food. Even refused liquid diet. We brought the doctor, not a family doctor though, who examined and handed me a prescription and also advised to take her to the hospital for saline administration which he said was very necessary as she was refusing food.
Which forced us to take her to a private hospital few kms away. Soon she was taken to the emergency, doctors came in and many tests were conducted and saline was given.
One of the doctors handed me the report while telling ‘it was all about old-age atrophies” and quietly advised me to take her home. My throat went dry after listening to the advice .
After some days she had it other way and took food of her choice. It went on for a week or so before she had it enough. I was so happy and jubilant.
She looked up at me in askance about her condition. A question she had hardly ever asked in last three months of being on bed. I told her with affected cheerfulness ‘ it is a very ordinary infection of stomach leading to vomiting and don’t worry you will be up and on your feet going to the toilet as you used to ‘ .
Her eyes exuded the a gorgeous blend of pain in the eyes and a thin smile on the face when she told me the usual thing ‘ have you taken food ‘. I was moved as I never had been so before.
I recollect the days of my togetherness with her for last three decades in Bhubaneswar. Only me and she. And wondered how she had shouldered all my responsibilities during my days of illness when I had a knee operation and then the entire period of convalesce. The years of care and unspoken love she had showered on me despite her health related problems but never let me have the inkling about her pain and emotions. Today she is almost inert and full with premonitions, perhaps, I thought.
Her nights of sleeplessness due to the nagging catheter and me too staying awake so that she did not pull the pipe out was a perpetual routine for nights.
The winter nights, she always insisted that my little daughter share her bed and how she covers the girl with her blanket leaving herself half covered battling the chill but never let the child slip off the blanket.
But that day she told , ‘ keep the child away, she might get infected
Suddenly I felt alone and something within me made a piercing effect on my entire mental resolve.
Her room was converted into a kind of sick ward. I wanted the room to be without furniture so that I myself can keep the room swept every morning and rearrange the rack with the new medicines pouring in every other day and her set of handkerchiefs that she always asked for.
Next day my sister came home and did not like the way the room was.She was angry at the maid for the disorder and depressed over my mother’s health. All that were in the room were rearranged.
Two cane chairs and a tea-poy in the name of furniture and odds and end were rearranged, small other things were dumped in another room. I unfolded another camp cot for the night to be in between me and my mother where my little daughter could sleep.
All the medicines, counting above nine and the diapers were neatly placed on a steel self with a white cloth spread on it. The vising doctor was tremendously pleased by my sense of order to convert the room into a decent sick ward.
Yet my eyes sometimes got moist by the feeling that, the God of my life and my creator was only a patient more than a mother who always spoke and played with my daughter Arya who normally loved to be at her bed side pleading for stories on animals. But slowly she spoke less,only caressing Arya with a fondness and smile that were divine.
Even in worst of her times she would tell me two words, “ tune khana khaya ‘ . Indelible moments of a love that transcends any description of a mother now get tormenting by a throw-back of memory.
Struggling with her own premonitions and convolutions she kept reciting one word day and night, even in states of sub consciousness, was “ dheemayi” a take from the sacred Gayatri mantra.
My next battle started when she was given a catheter for urination and a diaper. But at night she was always seen with a feeling of awkwardness and kept insisting me to remove the pipe. In the dimly lighted room I kept vigil on her but her obsession against the catheter was worrying me. “ Khol do ise “ was what she uttered time and again. I sometimes admonished her to which her responses could make even a stone cry. “ Kyun gussa karta hai, mein chale janese maa kahan se laoge ( why you get angry, where from you get a mother if I am no more ).
Those lines went within me like a hot nail driven into flesh. I cried in silence, even not letting Arya know nothing about it. At times she could make it out and demonstrated model behaviour, hugging me and sometimes going to her ‘jeje mama’ (grandmother) stoking her unkempt lock of hair.
My mother’s eyes always lit up when the child came close to her. I do not remember any visitors or relatives coming home except my sister and nephew.
My elder daughter Chinky who stays in Mumbai had virtually severed all links few days back then. Before that once there was a call from her informing me about her son’s thread ceremony with the schedule. Which I could not make to reach, even bless her only son Aarav, whom I have had in my laps since he was an infant.
On the day of the ceremony, my mother’s condition was oscillating between hope and despair. I knew the tormenting moments she was battling with to remain steady and I could notice the fierce fight between my mother and her condition. This continued for a few days and I did not like to share such excruciating pain I was in and the risk of abandoning her and go out to bless Aarav.
Unaware of the nerve battering situation me and my mother were in, Arya whispered into mother’s ears that ‘Chinky didi was in town’. Mother called me and told, why don’t you go to her, Arya can be here with me ‘. I kept silent knowing well who was standing at the threshold mocking at all of us !
Her next visit to the hospital was full of ominous signs. Blood pressure and pulse were on the sink. The medicines administered resulted in nothing more than consolation. The prognosis sounded by the doctor made me feel a lump in my throat. The struggle between her sinking health and my resolve to keep her alive grew to an apocalyptic proportion.
The attending doctor simply patted on my shoulder and by that time my throat had gone dry. “ We have done all that we could sir” told the doctor and advised me to take her home. I stood stock still and looked at my daughter-in-law standing by her bed as the creak of the doctor was walking away from us.
She looked into the blankness and staring at my daughter-in-law she half uttered my nick name and was quiet for a while.
Brought home she had stopped opening her eyes. I was reduced to a statue only and a kind of stony silence closed in on the house .She had in fact opened her to the command of the soul and flew into freedom, leaving her Sanu lonely and devastated.
Laid on a stretcher made of four bamboos and few twigs there lied a lady who had many times swam across ponds piggy backing me on and sprayed the mirth of love, was so inert and immobile, never to get up again. Today also I feel so close to her at my bed side chanting the word ‘ dheemayi’.