Bathing Amma

Her skin is brown,
Scars and marks,
The surgeon’s stitches,
Leaving a gentle trace,
Memories of a Caesarean delivery,
That allow me to type,
And share this today.

The water is hot, scalding hot.
I start by pouring a bit,
On her feet, she says – “It’s hot”.
I mix tap-water and then ask her,
To touch and feel the water,
She says it is just right!
We start slowly.

She sits patiently on the stool,
Like a priest in a temple,
Who bathes the stone idol,
Of the merciful and all powerful Goddess,
I pour the water slowly,
The fragrance of Hamam soap,
Permeates each pore.

Memories of a childhood,
Of happier times,
Of a life, when worries,
Had not begun to erode,
This body and mind,
Of oil that would be applied to the head,
And we would be given the customary Saturday bath.

How time changes everything?
I see her crumbling,
Bit by bit in body and soul.
But we have to remain strong.
She has fought enough battles all her life,
This is a battle that the two of us,
Are fighting together.

I am sure she shall come out victorious.

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What Will Give You Happiness?

 

This question was posed by a friend to me a couple of days ago. Without batting an eyelid I said – “If Amma, gets seven hours of uninterrupted sleep every night, that will suffice.” He replied, – “But Mahesh, that is not in your hands right?”

I replied – “But that’s my biggest worry and concern at the moment.” He replied – “Mahesh, we are all in our wormhole of problems, wherein the health issues that our loved ones face impact our own focus. Even my Amma has a severe problem of the swelling of her feet and nerves, I can’t do anything about it other than advising her to follow the course of medicine prescribed by the doctor.”

His reply set me thinking, what would then really give me happiness:

1 – Getting the home loan paid in totality. (A long road ahead of about 14 years beckons)
2 – A song that amplifies my thoughts –

3 – One more: –

What will I be remembered for? What will you be remembered for? What is it that will give you happiness? How does the health of our loved ones impact our own choices and lives?

I type out this post as I see my mother lying with her eyes deeply shut trying to zone out the pain that afflicts her head and ears. We visited the ENT specialist, she says the eardrums have holes in both ears and there’s nothing more to be done. No moisture to go in, no cold to afflict and no buds. It’s been less than a fortnight at a new organization, but the patterns return, again an unplanned leave, again a vortex of hospitals, doctors, medicines and cutting a sorry-figure before those whom I report to – an endless stream of thoughts that boil down to the query – “What will give you happiness?”

I can at this point counter with a thought – Why is it important to derive happiness, why can’t just one remain – and why is sadness and pain such a big deterrent? Pain drives one in strange ways, it teaches you to believe that things can’t turn any bitter.

But it is this pain that when it afflicts a loved one that causes added misery. If only I could take all her pain and struggles and absorb them within my own realm. If only I could, if only….

I resign myself to the master: –

When I See You Fall

You are the reason,

For my genesis,

From your womb,

To this punishing world,

You have been the strongest,

The pillar that held me together.

We have crossed so many chasms,

Overcome so many battles.

Today, when I see you fall,

It kills a bit of my soul,

The realization that the clock,

Is ticking faster, the disintegration,

In front of my eyes, physical and mental,

The anguish that this is causing me,

The truth that none of the Gods or Goddesses,

Are going to come down to help.

Rage that is building within me,

As I am powerless to make you heal.

I stand defeated and broken.

Everytime, I have managed to turn the tide.

But this seems to be a brutal phase.

All I can do is pray and hope,

That things change,

Every time I see you fall,

A piece of my soul dies.

Hoping tomorrow brings light!

Sleep well, I shall stay awake,

I will be there by your side,

Sleep well…sleep well mother.

Scribblings from time spent at the Hospital

Last Monday at this time, I rushed my mother into the Emergency Coronary Care Unit Ward of a leading hospital in the city. The doctors said that I had been not a minute too late and asked me to step outside and wait. I sat along with lots of other people who had brought in their near and dear ones for treatment.

After sometime I was called and handed over my mother’s clothes in a plastic bag. Then the duty doctor apprised me of the situation and said that fluid had filled up in her chest and coupled with high BP and sugar she was in a bit of a critical stage and they would have to run tests to check if there was any history of cardiac illness. I was then asked to go to the billing section and make an initial deposit.

In tandem, the doctors and nurses were doing their tasks. I was seated outside for over four hours and I looked at the other occupants of the waiting hall. A family of four – two elderly ladies, one man in his forties and another lady his wife in her thirties;  two men in their thirties, businessmen, constantly getting phone-calls and going outside the main door to talk about prices of metal, an old man, dignified and stoic in his silence. By a twist of the dice of the creator, we were all assembled there waiting for the doctors to heal our loved ones.

By about 9 PM the doctor called me in he said, “Don’t worry for now, we have pumped out the fluid that had filled up in the chest, we need to stabilize her, run more tests and keep her under observation.” I got a glimpse of my mother connected to a number of tubes and wires and the proverbial oxygen mask pumping in the precious elixir of life.

Called up relatives, informed a few friends and am thankful to all the friends who sent prayers, asked me to stay strong, thank you. Need to really thank Ganesh who despite his busy schedule kept checking on the status of my mother and offered his inputs. Sai who offered inputs as well and Viji – someone whom I befriended recently, a mere thanks is not sufficient for the amount of support you offered, I will remain indebted to you for your words of motivation. Veena Amma, Avis Sir, BP, Sindhu, Shilpa, Salesh, Shashi  sir, Sundari, Aravind Anna and Vinod who kept in touch, family across the country who kept asking for updates, colleagues at work who asked me not to worry; thanks everyone!

cropped-samarpanam2.jpg

Did not sleep at all that night, I kept walking through the hall, the attendant asked me to get medicines at about 11:30 PM and some disposables as well. Night progressed, the sounds of the city’s traffic went silent, the few attendants of the patients who remained were lost deep in fatigued sleep. The security guards smiled at me as I paced about the hall, the massive wooden idol of Maha Ganapathi seemed to offer strength. As the sky turned from pitch black, to a shade of orange-pink and then white and blue, the hospital buzzed back to life like a gigantic machine! Staff came in and set about their tasks and a fresh set of patients also started coming into the hospital.

I finally received an update that my mother is stable and would be moved to the general ward by evening! This update came late into the afternoon of Tuesday, I smiled inwardly, thanked all the Gods, the doctors, the driver who drove us down and sat down on the chair and closed my eyes and went into a deep sleep. This was a powerful nap – an hour of deep sleep! I woke up with a start from a nightmare wherein I was aboard a burning ship that was being swallowed in a whirlpool, I woke up with a fit, saw that I had perspired profusely. Got up went to the bathroom and washed, returned to the CCU and checked with the attendant, she said, “By 7:00 PM we will shift sir!”

When the shifting happened, we were given a double room, wherein one room would be shared by two patients and their respective attendants. Our co-occupant was a lady who had just had her bypass-surgery. She was being looked after by her daughter. The lady aged 65, same as my mother called me and asked me to sit by her side. She asked slowly about who I was, why my mother was admitted, why I wasn’t married, the long list of questions. Then she said, – “I have four children – three boys and one girl, this little girl is the one who nurses me. My sons are married, their wives have forced their ideas on my sons, I and this poor girl stay alone!” The poor girl was extremely embarrassed as this narration happened. The lady then told me – “Thambi, Amma va kai vitudadhinga, nalla paathukonga!”

The room had a TV set. The 8 PM Sun TV serial was played and I had the joy of narrating the proceedings to my Amma as well as the other lady in the room. Her attendant had gone to eat dinner, it was a strange friendship, I did not ask the girl’s name, nor did she ask mine, as usual, I got called Anna and I called her sister. She finished dinner and came and then sat patiently as I went up to finish my dinner.

The next day we had more visits by the doctor, dietician, nutritionist, nurses, everyone came and spoke to my mother. My mother had taken a liking to a particular nurse and at the rate words were being exchanged for one moment, I thought my mother would ask the nurse for her nakshatram, gothram and rashi!!! Jokes apart early evening on Wednesday Amma was discharged. Strict medication and diet and we need to return after 30 days for a detailed review and check-up!

The journey continues… rather than calling it a struggle, this is a test, a moment in time as orchestrated by the director above in the heavens who pulls all the strings…

Some Points:

  • Keep the medical records of your family members easily accessible.
  • However many cards you carry, the importance of ready cash in hand is paramount!
  • Befriend cab-drivers in your locality, it helps, trust me; you never know when an emergency may arrive.
  • Learn to pack, super-quick, learn to cook, when you have to nurse others and have no support, it is critical that you know how to cook.
  • Stay strong, be calm, though lots of people may spread negativity and not care two hoots about our troubles, there would be a small group of friends who really care for your good will. Remove the negative elements in your life and stick with the people who spread light and joy in your life.

Till we meet again, signing off, goodbye, good night and may God bless us all!

Anger Management

 

My mother does not realize,

That pleasing 1001 gods,

Is not going to help,

Her BP or sugar,

Every single time there is a festive occasion,

Fat-laden foods in the name of prasadam,

I am not a big fan of all this,

On top of that fasting,

Rituals, decorations, and what not??

Which God demanded all this?

So many years of doing these rituals,

To what effect? To what joy??

Falling ill, making me worry to no end.

Not heeding to my warnings,

And all to what end,

Like one idiot I have to rush,

Hunting for medicines, looking for a specialist.

I am tired, I am sick and tired,

Of this repeated loop,

That I am stuck in.

How easy it would be,

To run away from all this.

A cross and a burden,

That is testing my patience,

Where is this God?

Who plays joke after joke after joke on me!

Where is He/She/Power/Energy/Light??

What blasted adjective should I use,

To describe this all powerful,

Omni-potent, all-knowing energy,

That seems to forever laugh at my antics,

As I falter again and again,

In trying to create some semblance,

Of sanity in this great gift called ‘Life’!

How long does one keep travelling,

In this tunnel, hoping to get,

One glimpse of light,

That seems to be at the next bend?

How long should I continue??

To be weighed down,

Morally, physically and mentally,

Because of decisions taken by others,

Which have ruined my dreams beyond repair!

 Depression, anger, blindness,

What word does one use,

What phrase does one create,

To represent this massive lie,

That I am being forced to lead??

I shall never find redemption.

This is the truth,

Till the end arrives,

Like a welcome release,

Continue to mock me,

Continue to blackmail me,

Continue to destroy my life.

Thank you dear family, relatives and well-wishers.

Thank you!!!

 

Come September

It is about five minutes past four in the afternoon or early evening, as I sit down to type this. A lot has happened in the last two months. Equations have changed, daggers drawn, daggers sheathed back, trust broken, trust regained, friends lost, friends gained, friends lost forever. It has been a strange two months, in more ways than one. I have shifted jobs after nearly six years of service in one organisation. At the new place of work, there is a lot to learn and implement, gain the trust and respect of colleagues, plan things, get work done, a lot of trust has been placed upon me and every single time from day one, the biggest fear has been that I will let down the ones who trust me the most. For all that I remember, the fear of failure and ridicule has driven me a lot in everything that I have done for the longest time that I can remember. I have been pushed to the corner literally and figuratively many a time and I have overcome challenges to focus on life.

This year so far has drained me out tremendously, I started the year with hope that I would set things right on the personal front, but everything that I do has returned to torment me like an evil nightmare that never stops. I thought I made peace with my past, but by some weird coincidence a bit of my past comes back and again I have to run, speak to people, calm things down. Friends have always appreciated my phenomenal memory power, but I seem to be forgetting a lot. The day I saw “Thanmatra” I was sure that I would go down Rameshan Nair’s way and like a weird premonition the memory lapses are recurring, a favourite book, a movie or a song, or an answer to a question or an important phone number, things are fading. The mirror does not lie, I try to run a bit the knees hurt, gradual exercise, patient breathing, controlled diet, nothing works, the waist expands like India’s economic debt.

For over 20 years, I have believed that I will write a novel of consequence, something that will be a treasured piece, but all I have managed to do is create a pseudo-aura of a pontificating puritan who just finds errors in what others write. When others come to me for advice, I wonder – “What do you see in me; that ensures you that you have come to the right person?” – I keep these thoughts to myself and help others.

No point in harping about Amma as she keeps vacillating between ill, very ill and forever bossing me around to get things done at home! One fine day, I am just going to stop, point at the sky, say “God told me to stop listening to you”, look at her and say, “I have a life as well”. As you know very well, all this is imagination and will never turn to reality.

Externally everything seems fine, but internally there is a deep-rooted melancholy at the inevitable tragedy that the visions foretell.

Come September,

Come embrace me,

In your comfort,

Far away in a world,

Where light and cheer spreads,

Flowers bloom and brooks babble,

Away from the madness,

Of the mundane chores,

Of an existential crisis,

And a battle for survival,

I hope to find peace.

Here’s wishing you a positive, fun-filled, productive and awesome September!

Patterns of the Night

It usually starts,
At about 2 AM,
A moan issues,
I dread it,
For I know,
She is not well,
I get up,
Switch on the light,
She is in a drowsy state,
In a weird state,
Between sedated sleep,
And a feverish pitch,
That asks her to get up.

I have to hold her steady,
As she gets up,
Usually she will complain,
Utter some lines –
“Why am I still alive?”
Then she will cough,
The phlegm flows,
At times, the fever,
Will cause her to vomit.
I wipe the mess clean,
Put a new maxie on her.

Then offer her a hot decoction,
Of herbs that come in handy,
It will have a bit of medicine,
That puts her to sleep,
A deep sleep,
And I will stay awake,
Sitting staring into the abyss,
Wondering on the unbearable,
Lightness of the futility,
Of this existence,
This facade called life.

At some point beyond 6 AM,
She will awaken,
The pain would have gone,
But the fever would remain,
Over the course of the day,
She will continue to be monitored,
The day will turn to noon,
The noon to evening,
And the noon to night,
And then in the night,
The pattern will repeat again!
The cycle of pain,
Suffering, discomfort and medication,
Will continue all over again.

No light, no darkness,
No sunshine or moonrise,
No joy, no sorrow,
No blessing, no curse,
Like one pointless,
Bagpiper blowing his bagpipe,
In the darkness of the mist-filled night,
I go on, till how long??
The patterns of the night….
The patterns of the night,
They are never ever right,
When will I ever end this fight?
The patterns of the night!

— Mahesh