Friday, August 24, 2012
There are a few things I’m scared of. Not cockroaches (really!); perhaps lizards (I think I’m disgusted by those than scared). Snakes! I’m petrified of those. It doesn’t help that I dream of them once in a while. But nothing scares me more than death. Not mine actually; but those close to me. Any accident, natural disaster or calamity, robbery gone bad, terrorist attack – I’m thinking, what if it was someone close to me there? It scares me to lose any one of my family members. But it’s an inevitable truth. An uncomfortable fact we sweep under the carpets and hope that it’s gone. It never is. It’s just hidden.
Perhaps I hadn’t given it much thought, until I witnessed my Achachan die. And it’s something that made a lasting impression on me; more than I thought. Achachan had Alzheimer’s disease and was slowly caving in. He could do most of the things on his own, but it was as if his childhood had revisited him. Those who know about this disease would know that they behave like kids – they are adamant, forgetful, angry, moody and at times playful too! It is quite something to see an able man lose his memory; and it’s with a sense of sadness we realized that he’s losing his sense of self. Memories come in snatches; they remember far back into their life than the recent past. And they could scream at you, annoy you, go wild – and you know you can’t take it personally; it’s just the disease catching up with them. His helplessness, coupled with your own on seeing him like this is something everybody in the tharavadu took time getting used to. We used to visit regularly and Ammamma would have her share of stories on his antics.
My uncle was around; he had come down from Dubai for a short leave, and was planning to return on that fateful day. It was early in the morning; I was wiping the car or so. I am not sure what exactly happened. The details are a blur – I could hear loud crying sounds from inside the house. And I remember rushing in. Achachan had tried to stand up and then his limbs started failing him, I suppose. My Amma was hugging him and crying ‘Appa…Appa…’ relentlessly. Everyone had gathered in the bedroom and had surrounded him. Achachan was slowly falling back into the bed, he had gone limp. His eyes rolled back, I think. It was certain the end was near. But it was a truth no one wanted to accept. And yet, there they were, pouring the last drops of water into his mouth. A physician was called in immediately. Of course, he only arrived to certify the one truth no one was ready to deal with, at that moment. He said the needful and quietly left. To this day – the scene haunts me; it’s been eight years since then... and yet. Seeing Amma crying out loud desperately; the anguish, the pain. I don’t know how I can describe what I felt. I was quite shocked, I think. I hadn’t been around when anyone was dying, till then. And it’s something no one is ever prepared for. To see the lights go out of someone’s eyes. I don’t think it has prepared me any better. It is something I don’t wish on anybody. But again, it’s a tough situation – everyone wants to be around at the last moment. You would hate it if you weren’t there; and yet, to see someone so close just slip by. A breathing, living personality becoming just a body – sometimes you think, is that the last thing I want to remember him by?