It was the summer break of May and June when we used to eagerly look forward to spending the vacation at Nani’s house. Although it might be devoid of the so-called luxuries like air conditioner, high display television set and furnished upholstery which have now become necessities yet I can say it was the best place for leisure. From morning to night, Nanu Papa used to be on his toes to fulfill our needs and the demands of Nani Ma who always had a list of grocery items ready for her kitchen. While she kept busy setting the menu according to our wishes, Nanu Papa roamed in the market to bring the items needed, be it the grocery or the famous delicacies of the place so that we never ran out of good food. His duty started from early morning by getting the jalebis prepared at a famous stall for us in the homemade ghee and ended at night with the ‘Satnam’ (a recognized shop) kulfi. Serving us the best exotic fruits also counted as the responsibility of Nanu Papa which he used to fulfill in the afternoons. Nani Ma just made sure our dishes were full of home-made parathas, bread rolls and all the dishes which she used to prepare with her loving arduous efforts. There were certainly no guilt traps irrespective how much white butter or sweets we consumed as we knew this would last only till the days we stayed there or maybe because we were kids!
The spring sofas which held origin from Nani’s wedding were used for jumping and hopping by me and my siblings. The nights were spent by half of us sleeping on the meshed charpoy with the rest using the floor mattresses for there were certainly no separate rooms on the ground floor. There were rooms on the first floor but all of us wanted to sleep together with Nana and Nani. Maa, Masi, and Nani engaged in colony gossips while we siblings spent the night playing games and scaring each other with horror stories until Nani came with her tales. It was like life was not lived but enjoyed for those days when each one became busy in their own best company of siblings and elders while delicacies continued to be served endlessly by Nani. It was like each one of us were king and queen at the same castle with so much of love and goodies on our platter. However, no one had an idea that time would change all of a sudden.
It was six years back when Nani had the symptoms of trembling hands and legs. We didn’t take it seriously until she fell on the ground losing control, that too not once but a couple of times. Soon it was diagnosed that she has Parkinson disease. After a lot of research and consultation, we realized that it has no cure and though it would not shorten the patient’s life but will degrade the lifestyle. Before this discovery, we were all blaming her for no recovery in symptoms as she lost hope and became negative with her sufferings. However, we realized later that it has all not been in her control. It was the brain cells that were weakening and becoming less responsive.
As she has always been an active worker, she managed a couple of years with some falls and making the most of it by sitting at a place however problems started when she became extremely slow in her actions and which depressed her. Being an active housewife throughout her life, she couldn’t take herself being stationed on the wheelchair and being dependent. While all of us make her feel comfortable, she still feels like she is becoming a burden. The worst part is she wants to speak, but we cannot decipher, because of her voice becoming soft and slow pronunciation of words. I know her brain is completely active and she has a lot to say, but it all comes out like a murmur to the point when I don’t understand her at times and she gives up speaking while ending up in tears.
It’s like now though we meet less because of me pursuing post-graduation in a little far off place but grief overtakes me on seeing her condition. I know what she is going through is unbearable. I might get moved for some hours when I see her or maybe a few minutes when I think of her but it is she who is actually suffering. Inwardly it has shocked her for she has always been on toes but now even little movement is difficult. She has expressed her sadness so many times for being dependent though we tell her it is a phase that everyone has to go through with age and so she doesn’t need to feel so as we all are with her. It becomes completely inconsolable for we ourselves cannot take it at times that a lady so active at one time has to go through this for the rest of her old age.
Whenever I see her, we talk through eyes while she constantly makes efforts to inquire about my life and work. I fail at times to understand her when mom interrupts and is able to exactly gauge her thought and feelings through telepathy as she is the closest to her.
I always had the feeling that I would make her proud someday not realizing that not all days are the same and so everything needs to be expressed and done at the moment. It is very necessary to convey what we feel and try to fulfill our desires in regard to our loved ones, as soon as possible as the wheel of Time cannot be trusted. It is like all the planning done by maa, masi and mama for giving my maternal grandparents a happy old age in regard to gifting them touring packages, making lavish arrangements for their stay and giving them luxuries have turned futile as my Nani now isn’t in a state to be taken somewhere or to utilize any of the gifts. I could see how they all have been working hard to give the best to my grandparents but it is all not needed now for its too late. What is now desired by them is, our quality time as in we going and spending time with them and making efforts to understand Nani while giving her courage and strength.
Nanu Papa has been really admirable while he takes up the vow of being her right hand for the rest of the life. I always see him helping Nani with washing her or with movements. It is really a tough job for I see Nanaji gets tired at times but the best part is he never gives up. What has been most disheartening is when in the initial stages he got so blinded by Nani’s disease that even though being a scientific person, he was ready to pay any cost to the devil fake priests who promised him of the cure.
All that was once alive at Nani’s home seem dull now. Mami does prepare the same dishes but they do not taste the same. There are more talks of consolation than the chirpy gossips. Nanaji is always around Nani to serve her and make her feel wanted. I just keep adoring how Nanu makes her feel so loved. Nani Ma wants to speak but is silenced by her own inability to speak. The house that was so full of life with her moving in and out of the kitchen while Nanu tracked her needs, whole day has now lost the cheerfulness.
Moreover, there has been quite a change in the house as well; there are air conditioners, wide screen television and all luxuries but it never has the same charm. There are maids to cook the food and better upholstery for our rest but it is like we never need that. It was the best place with Nani and Nanu fighting, Nani cooking food throughout the day, Nanu collecting all delicacies from outside while we siblings loudly sang ‘Nanu Papa aaye, humare liye kya laaye’ (Grandfather has come, what has he brought for us?) when he entered from the door. But now, no more the house rings of the same laughter, funny gossips, late night tales or the fattening food made out of Nani’s love.
All the joy is now replaced with tears. The moment we enter the house, I see Nani stationed at her wheelchair, expressing sunken emotions through her eyes while my maa and masi gets busy cooking to feed her with her favourite dishes. I never imagined time will change in this manner! There are no more Nani-made pickles, jams, jellies or knitted sweaters to take back home. All we have is her wishes and blessings which she whispers when we get close to her.
I still remember how Nani used to scold me laughingly when I tried to pretend walking with a stick that how Nani would do in her old age, some years back. She still laughs when I remind her of my acts. Being the first grandchild, I have been lucky to receive a lot of pampering from my grandparents and so my heart sinks while writing all this. When I see wrinkles on Nanaji’s face that don’t symbolize graceful aging but lines of stress, I feel so helpless. I cannot even give him strength for he is stronger than me and very spiritually inclined. He has a heart of gold and spirit of a chivalrous man who never shows his sufferings but has the courage to tackle everything on his own perfectly without an a fuss on his face. Even today he is into saving money for all his grandchildren while we tell him not to do so. His love for us is immeasurable and beyond what one can fathom!
Going through this phase, I just realize that irrespective of the fact we have bucks in our pocket or not or we are able to fulfill the dreams of our loved ones or not in future, all we have is present to make them feel loved and wanted. The moments that we spend with them need to be so full of real joy that we create such memories which leave a sweet taste in the mouths of our loved ones. Since no one can trust the wheel of Time and so it is like efforts should be made to create happiness rather than working and planning the future needs as one cannot even rely on life. Working on ambitions is never wrong but we should not let them overpower us to the extent that we forget or ignore our loved ones and don’t spend time with them for they are the one who have mattered to us and will continue doing so. Our loved ones need to be told and reminded every now and then that how much they are needed and wanted in our lives. This phase is giving me so many lessons while I also see the wonderful growing bond between my maa, masi and mama for giving my Nani the best possible means of sustenance for healing. I feel it has evolved everyone in my maternal family while teaching us how unpredictable life can get such that none of us can boast about the perfectness of future planning. Thus, all I can say again and again is that all hidden sentiments need to be expressed at the moment without waiting for the perfect time as it actually never exists! Also, there is nothing such as perfect family but we can make it a happy family with moments of togetherness symbolizing united efforts of strength and love.