The Dreams

There are dreams now

where you were once there.

In one, it’s my birthday

And you surprise me

By buying me pillows

And dressing them up in

Blues, greens, jewelled purple

Sheer curtains in sea hues billowing at my window

And I think how well you still remember

Even when I had forgotten

How I wanted

to do up my dream room

As a child.

In the dream, I am shy, tongue-tied as I breathe in your scent

Wholly familiar still

That hint of coconut and verbena.

I laugh and say, “How did you?”

You reply pleased,”IKEA.”

Something tugs at my heart

When I meet your eyes.

Google sends an alert the next day.

As children we had set up a meeting, thinking ten years is far away

But believing we would, of course be the same, as children often think.

I see it at 11.11 am.

I had forgotten about this meeting.

So grimly I message you a screenshot.

‘So, who won this bet?’

I lose no sleep waiting for your response

Life claims me.

Everything is forgotten.

But in the night

I dream of you again

The earlier anticipation

of getting five days together

with you – bound friends,

Children going around town,

To eat solely Indian food,

To shop for books and clothes

And how you would never approve of the clothes.

“See these lines, uhm uhm.”

But this time, I am only half there

I am being drawn by work

So you pout say, ‘You have changed.’

And you grow cold again.

But this time I merely nod.

I have too much work to do.

At least there are dreams now

Where we once were.

But where we are now

Is altogether a sweeter time.

If only I had no dreams.


			
Posted in Idle Thoughts | Leave a comment

Dhrishti

(To all the people who envy.)

My life is perfect

just the way you see it.

I am a blessed child.

The wind blows to soothe me

The fire lights up my world

The water keeps my life afloat

The earth never sways when I walk.

My parents love me.

They live for me.

My father even valiantly and wilfully

died for me so I would have an easy life.

I have friends

who generously give:

gifts, money, time, themselves.

And they put up

with my moods, my illnesses,

my self-involvement.

I work little and lazily

But it’s always annoyingly good.

I have lovers

who are very good in bed

And outside of it,

give me incredible space.

They don’t bother me

with their moods or problems.

I don’t know if they have parents,

divorced wives, children, job stresses.

So we have sex but no intimacy.

It works for all of us.

I have children

like Gandhari did

A hundred scores

and ten thousand.

They are kind and protective

of this mother

who never birthed them.

They even listen

to everything I say.

But they are never mine.

They will always return

To their own mothers.

Obviously.

I wear all sorts of clothes

No matter my age or body

because my diseases

(four score too many. I don’t even have

a decent health insurance anymore.)

has taught me why

John Mayer is right.

My body is a wonderland.

Still.

Because I can move it still.

It’s utterly precious and beautiful, scars, pigmentation, discolouration, obesity, inflammation, not withstanding.

So you are absolutely right

To look on me with envy.

But before you cast that evil eye,

Before you let

your bitterness seep in,

I entreat you,

please look at your life.

Is it as miserable?

As deficient as you think it is?

Your life is richer.

Your kids will look after you when you are sick.

Even if only to appease your relatives.

In society you are all respectable.

You have double incomes.

Most of all, our journeys are different.

At this time and age, why do you compare?

Don’t look at my little pleasures with hate and negativity.

Block me instead.

Please.

My life is perfect

but I am so terribly flawed.

I have so much to learn still.

Especially in managing relationships and people and money.

I don’t know how to make a profit.

I don’t know how to save.

I don’t even know how to be healthy and look after myself.

Every task drains me.

Crises line up in queues

for me to solve post haste.

I don’t have long to live.

I wouldn’t want that even if I could.

I have no legacy to leave behind.

I can’t even write the books that burn within me.

When I am gone, nothing will remain of my lineage.

My parents’ genealogy is lost from this world.

I never earn enough to give to others.

Except maybe twenty rupees at traffic signals to the begging transgendered women and only because they can’t work in India.

I often drive myself alone to hospitals.

Alcohol can never make me high

Because my body is so propped up with pills and medication.

At a conservative social gathering, I am an outcast.

All the wives watch me balefully with an eagle eye if their husbands talk to me or look at me.

They size up my breasts

together as a couple,

even when they are disinterested in threesomes.

All the husbands seek me and check me out with dark thoughts.

I bear it all (If I can’t avoid it) with a smile and sharp talon words ready to draw blood.

When you feel you must envy,

turn that instead to empathy.

Open your heart and world.

Tell me your story and hear mine.

You will know then

Why I wear black tourmaline

And cry myself to sleep

or weep alone in my car

Listening to BTS.

Life truly fucks us all.

We all burn equally in this life

Even as we do on the pyre

Just as the chillies I cast

in the fire do

To rid myself of all your negativity.

The chillies don’t smoke heat ever.

That’s why I wrote this.

Chillies are expensive.

Envy is the cheapest attitude.

Words are free.

So please stop.

Jebal. Bitte. Please.

Posted in Idle Thoughts | Leave a comment

42

42. If popular Literature were to be believed, 42 has all the answers to life, the universe, and everything.

The only thing that’s become increasingly clear to me in all this time is that I am still a child who knows nothing and that my parents are my whole world still.

I would not have had the headspace to examine my parents or even life this closely or with this intensity if I had married and/or had kids of my own. Obviously. But it’s increasingly apparent that that way lies only disaster and destruction. For me. I do not recommend marriage or progeny to anyone no matter how fond I am of sex and most babies, but I absolutely forbid it for myself. And I couldn’t be happier.

Even so, I find it hard to believe that I am still so intensely broken up about losing Papa. I don’t want him back. But I don’t want him to have gone in the first place, to have gotten dementia, to have gotten the tumour – all those things that brought our family to this point. I don’t want it. I childishly cry in the car and at home, the same litany I sang as a little girl, “Papa beku. I want my papa.”

I didn’t have Papa, really, for many years now. There have been many birthdays in the past few years where he wilfully refused to wish me, claiming he had already wished me. I found him cruel then. I taught myself not to care, just as I taught myself not to care, when significant lovers and friends wilfully ignored the day I was born. To hurt. To wound. Because they knew that the day was important to me.

Given my history with birthdays in the past couple of decades, it’s a wonder I still build it up.

I get that too from my parents who never quit trying for happiness in the little that they could, and who never bore grudges.

My father was a foolish man. A do-gooder. He let people take advantage of him over and over again. None of the people he helped, gave his all to, showed up when he was suffering with the tumour or the dementia or even after he died.

When I looked for men, I looked for intelligence, shrewdness, sharpness. I reduced my father to kindness, and saw kindness as a weakness. I didn’t want a man like my father. At all.

Now at 42, kindness has become the quality I value most in the world. The same men I loved sliced me open with their sharpness, knew the wounds to salt with their shrewdness, and disappear noiselessly with their intelligence, till I learnt this lesson that being kind is all that matters.

But I was only convinced recently. This year.

When my mother and I were floundering, absolute strangers became friends and family and held us together. Friends gave their chauffer driven cars, house keys, money, Horlicks bottles, and food all through our difficult times that we never felt like helpless women. When he died, everything from the death to the funeral rites to the trip we took to Mangalore felt charmed, protected, propitious.

I ended up being around more people like my father. Engulfed by them. Generous and kind. Extremely present, even when I didn’t ask them to be. People who stayed over and massaged my feet and put me to bed patting me to sleep like one would a baby. Sending me flowers, gifts, food, BTS memorabilia like I had done something extraordinary for them.

I haven’t. I am trying to be present and kind only now. At least now. I am too self-involved to actually succeed.

My mother taught me how to endure. She is shrinking visibly every day, her face is suddenly more lined than I have ever seen it. But she teaches me what it is to let things go, endure, and carry on with your own work and own life. To find solace in the routine.

Gosh. I am so rubbish at it. But she’s there and everyday I tell myself I am getting better.

My father taught me to enjoy and cherish the good times. He was a happy person. Amma and I worry. I have been so busy living my life from one crisis to another (many self-inflicted) I am always primed to deliver in a worst case scenario.

Now I am slowly coming to terms with not being stressed out. It’s obviously not easy. It stresses me out – this ease of a life without worrying about another person’s health, safety, sanity, life. The easiest thing to do then is psych myself out about Amma. I carefully sidestep that indulgence that will keep me on high alert again.

He is everywhere.

But of course, he isn’t.

I am throwing a party for myself because I must laugh and celebrate and thank Papa for this gift of a beautiful life, house, education, independence. He loved it when the house filled with people and stories and laughter. So we are going to do that. He loved seeing me laugh. So I am going to do that.

And I had hugged him a lot, kissed him a lot, in the past couple of years, but it wasn’t enough.

So I need to do more of that with people. After being scarred about boundaries and physical intimacies by my last serious relationship, I have become less demonstrative. But I need to go back to the easy way of my childhood and youth.

My parents taught me love.

The grand way of loving someone over years, countless fights, endless difficulties, and with your dying breath saying not I love you which is less but saying, “thank you” instead. Saying I hold you in my heart and soul in gratitude for everything.

The grace with which my mother accepted that declaration; the way it was the perfect closure. Bittersweet and poignant and full of love.

No one can love me the way my parents do. And that love gave me strength and power. The strength to step into the responsibilities of love so that even delirious, dying, my father knew that he was not alone, he was deeply loved and held, and respected, and thanked, and forgiven.

Now I turn all that love and strength and power to myself and all those I hold dear.

I am 42.

I don’t trust miracles to happen more than twice.

I got mine when I was born to this set of parents who were way ahead of their times as people, as thinkers, as parents, as lovers.

But if miracles did repeat, the answer to the universe would be growing each year with more love and a little less pain. At 42, it’s my fervent hope that we are never disillusioned by BTS. And that the world is full of more good, kind, generous, loving people. That I grow up to be one of them.

At 42, I want to say that if I love you, my love can create and sustain a fucking universe, with all its answers and questions and everything because I have learnt that from some of the best, kindest, wisest, most generous people in the world.

At 42, that’s the only sort of loving that makes sense to me now. Nobody should settle for less. Especially in their forties.

I am 42.

I am terribly fragile but fucking powerful.

Posted in Idle Thoughts | 1 Comment

Legacy

The universe has been very kind.

The last week we got with Papa was meaningful and traumatic. Amma and I got to tell him how much we love him. We asked only once for forgiveness. We had no need for apologies in my family. Amma and I were filled with gratitude and relief that we hadn’t put him back in a care centre, that we had had him with us at home for all this time.

We heard him tell us how much he loved us, the house that he built, our neighbour and his daughter Saritha and her husband Rajkumar and their kids Deepak and Riya. He even wrote all their names for us.

I got to give him an oil massage. We got to kiss each other. I got to repeatedly hold him, feed him, hug him. We were crying, he was ill and possibly uncomfortable but not in pain. He responded to us until the last day. He squeezed my hand like he always used to when I was a child. He got to tell the staff at Kites that his wife was the best ever cook. His absolute last words were a “thank you” to my mother.

The last three days, he was fading in and out of delirium, but the last days were also the time, I felt like he didn’t have any dementia. He was so loving and responsive. I felt his warm lips on my cheek. I felt his love for me when he always recognized me, the way my presence brightened his face always, even when delirious. I was his world. I will never ever feel that I am not loved. I experienced entire universes in those last moments we had together. Is there greater power than feeling that kind of love?

I got to relive my childhood. I kissed him playing the childhood game we had. I felt his response. Most importantly, I got to thank him for everything ranging from my birth and childhood to the trees he planted outside our house.

My brother, K, who has been my steady rock since childhood was able to visit Papa and he was also recognised.

Finally, on March 3, at 7.18 pm, Papa peacefully, so peacefully that it was tender and beautiful, passed away. My mom was cradling him, holding his right hand, and I held on to his left hand, caressing it. Our friends nay, family, Anu and Megha, stood by the bed. Other friends and students were gathered at the reception downstairs. I was on the phone with his doctor giving minute by minute update.

I got to see that end-of-life process in all its grace and beauty. Google is accurate.

And Papa’s was poetic. The end fit Papa’s life. He had lived like a king even when we had little money. He amassed people who loved and admired him wherever he went. He died that way too. Happily. In love. Without pain or fear. Surrounded by people who loved him.

I kept telling him to go, though.

This haunts me now, even when I know I did the right thing and that I would do it again.

But it’s immensely hard.

I kept telling him to go to the light in kindness, love, and joy.

I am convinced that our end is ecstatic.

Nearly two months ago, I had had a dream. An animalistic figurehead, similar to the pig in Kantara but not that, not like any animal I have ever seen, kept coming closer in space and became white light. Smaller globes of white light revolved around and eventually became part of the larger white light. Other smaller white light globes drifted away. A man’s voice said, “See, this is it. This is choice. This is free will. This feeling is what you all chase.”

I could feel a tingling in my spine and an indescribable ecstasy.

“It’s like sex, an orgasm, but so much more, infinite times more intense. Power.” I said.

“Yes, over there, it’s only a glimmer you get. And for that you do everything. You always have a choice. It’s always in you.”

I woke up from the dream disturbed, soaked in sweat from the hot flash I had surely had. The base of my spine still tingled. I remembered everything about the dream in vivid detail. It was almost like a vision. I had not changed my meds. Nor had I taken any substance. I had seen/heard Kantara/music months ago. I had been deeply affected by it because I could connect with my Mangalorean roots and because it had made Papa so immensely happy to watch it. But that was it.

At Kites, knowing Papa had little time left, I realized the import of what I had dreamt. And suddenly I was convinced. So I promised him that his going would be nothing but great happiness and peace. Is that why his face was luminous and peaceful in the end? Everyone at the funeral said so. He looked so handsome. His skin had cleared up and he was fair like I remembered him from my childhood.

I did all the last rites myself tearfully, muttering my own prayers, my own wishes, and I sent him swathed in fragrant flowers – tuberose and jasmine, clutching my sister Manasee’s gold square in his teeth, in love, kindness, and light. I lifted his bier with the other men. I thanked him one last time and told him how much I loved him and how much I would miss him. I told him to go to light, in kindness and love. I told him to go in peace. I lit the square piece of camphor, the symbolic pyre, and placed it on his chest. They pushed the bier into the electrical furnace and shut the door. Then in seconds, they opened the door for a second. I saw him explode in the electrical furnace and exactly as I was about to collapse from the horror and trauma of that, the Kantara music played as a ringtone. And just like that, I felt reassured and immeasurably calm and strong.

My Papa found his ecstasy.

We didn’t hire a priest. The women and our friends guided us. Megha chanted the Gayatri mantra softly. We all bid him farewell. It was beautiful.

We refused to inform our relatives from my mother’s side. They didn’t deserve to know. Their inconsiderate, asinine, bragging and fake talk would have polluted the piety and positivity I wanted for Papa. Besides, they were all at my nephew’s wedding reception. They might not even have come and it would have broken my mother’s heart irrevocably.

Papa’s funeral instead was swift, beautiful, and extremely intimate. Just as I wanted it to be. It was full of people who loved us. After, there was so much peace, beauty, even laughter. My friends brought us breakfast and other food. My students (whom I have adopted) stayed and helped with tasks. My ARMY girls never left my side. It was all sorrowful but happy.

Then I sent out the obituary I had already created earlier in the day with the help of my designer friend.

A few calls came. My mother wouldn’t speak to anyone.

I did.

I was scrupulously polite but firm.

An uncle commiserated for a second and went on to whine about his leg issue that had become bad the past two weeks, and his son who was also ill with an infection. I cut him off, said, “Thank you for calling but looks like you have too many issues in your life, so you please take care. Good luck. Bye.” And I hung up.

After all, compared to the pain in his life, mine was nothing. I had just set fire to my father earlier in the day.

My father was always fond of this man even when he knew what a useless, wicked, selfish relative he was. He had mercilessly beaten his younger siblings including my mother regularly when they were all in their teens. But my mother treated him with respect, even affection always. My father too. That’s my parents, no, my father for you – forgiving and loving till the end.

His daughter messaged. “It’s shocking. You could have informed.”

No commiseration. No comfort. No courtesy. No concern. Definitely no love.

So that message received no response.

A cousin called. My father was the reason her father had found a job, a livelihood. But Papa never lorded that over anyone. He loved my uncle and so these girls. But the family didn’t really care for Papa or Amma. My uncle had. When my uncle passed away suddenly, Papa insisted we attend every ritual, even though he didn’t like eating food at Brahmin funerals. So that’s what we did. He was deeply affected by my uncle’s death in spite of his dementia. “He shouldn’t have gone.” He kept saying that. He was in shock and sorrow for weeks.

“O is that why you didn’t attend the wedding? Have you finished the funeral already? You should have told us. We could have seen him one last time.” My cousin said.

“Why?”

“…”

“You never visited him when he was alive. Why do you need to see him when he’s gone? We simply don’t have a relationship; let’s not pretend. You have called. I appreciate that. So thank you. If you want to visit Amma and me, we are home. Thank you again for calling.”

I hung up.

After this, the others who called were careful only to commiserate. I gracefully accepted their condolences and hung up.

Not a single relative showed up. Ever.

I disrespect nearly all my relatives. They have never done anything to earn my respect. It wasn’t always so. I did love them because they were all I knew. But as I grew up, I saw their narcissistic personalities more clearly. And importantly, there was no love, no regard for our family. So I couldn’t give them any either. My mother slowly became convinced that her siblings were incapable of caring or loving her. She started to distance herself. But Papa ignored all this. To him, they were just people with foibles, and family at that. He enjoyed being around them.

But as a family, we had once discussed this. Our funerals would be private and intimate. No relatives. Unless something drastically changed in the way they were with us. The 11th day, we’d do charity or something meaningful. No relatives again But they could come for the 13th day. If they wished.

On the 11th day, I organised a lunch at Kites, and I could feel Papa’s blessings. The food, all Papa’s favourite dishes, was delicious. The staff remembered Papa fondly and shared stories with me. The doctors and nurses who looked after Papa hugged me. Our eyes were moist. It was meaningful and healing.

For the 13th day memorial meal I invited all the relatives with a sentimental reminder that to my father they were family. He always treated them as such.

No one showed up.

I have irrevocably destroyed ties with my mother’s family now.

And I only feel relief.

For the 13th day, we decorated our entire house with flowers because he loved flowers. I knew how I wanted it done, but my hands shook once I had placed his photo, and all his favourite things on the table. I couldn’t do anything after. I broke down. So Balu, my best friend, and Anu, my sister, did all the decoration themselves, thoughtfully and considerately checking with me before they did anything because they knew how important this last ritual was for me.

So after Papa passed, amma and I were pampered to the hilt by friends and found families.

Neighbours didn’t let us cook for weeks on end. My students and friends didn’t let me sleep alone for nearly three weeks taking turns to put me to sleep, massaging me, feeding me, smoking with me, patting me to sleep, even taking me out on long drives, and cheering me up with sensitive, well thought out stories and questions. Often, just comforting me by their presence.

We had a full house for the memorial.

My Papa’s colleagues and friends showed up, in spite of getting the invite only at the last minute. They sang praises of Papa, burst into tears, held my mother, and blessed me with sincere love. They gave me an opportunity to remember Papa like he was, before the tumour, before the dementia. And he was a hero worth worshipping. It was heartening to remember that.

The food, all his favourite items, was exquisite again. We were able to feed many people just as he would have liked.

And it felt like an entire world came together to make this happen.

I have witnessed such generosity and kindness in the past three and a half weeks that the trauma of losing Papa is genuinely mitigated.

Shock, grief, and gratitude is all I feel.

But the loss is very deep.

All the clich├ęs about grief is true.

It comes in waves. It’s debilitating.

Losing a father, even one who was entirely dependant on you for years, makes you indescribably lonely and fearful. It’s illogical.

Your past gets rewritten. So every memory flashes and reveals a new truth, new insight, coloured by loss and love. Your entire life is experienced again.

I am supremely vulnerable now and easily rattled. Everyone says that I am being very strong but I have severe anxiety and can barely sleep. So I think of Papa often and channel his strength, his fortitude.

Papa is almost on a pedastal now., though I am trying not to do that because it doesn’t feel fair to me. He was just a man. But I feel proud that I can say, “I am my father’s daughter.”

I am grateful that he made me strong, independent, and capable.

He took all his secrets with him. There are so many things about his early life I know nothing about. I still don’t know where or how he lost money. I still don’t know anyone from my father’s family.

I won’t find out about any of that.

I do know that he was an early feminist. He was generous to a fault. Innocent like a child.

He brought me up to be a warrior and treated me like a queen.

Till his last breath, he was devoted to and in love with my mother.

Love. Laugh. Enjoy.

Make art. Create.

Work. Clean.

Be fair. Be fierce.

Fight for your rights.

Treat everyone with politeness and courtesy.

Give.

Be strong.

Be honest.

Be independent.

Be extremely private, especially when it comes to pain, weakness, sorrow.

These words sum up my Papa’s entire value system.

It’s only the last one I can’t keep because I am a writer, a teacher, and a builder of communities. I share because reading about loss and pain, trauma and strife makes all of us less lonely. I write honestly, brutal honesty always, because it’s important to talk about bad behaviours in ourselves and others so we can grow. It’s important we grow because life is about learning and moving on.

So this, then, is my legacy.

Posted in Blue Funk, Idle Thoughts, Social Message | 1 Comment

Vigil

Vicks Vaporub. It’s one of my earliest childhood memories. The smell to date can comfort me and fool me into feeling safe, warm, loved. Like my father’s beautiful hands were when he tenderly applied it on my nose, forehead, chest, and back. I caught colds very often as a child. I grew up with a terribly blocked nose most of the time. So Papa always stocked Vicks Vaporub at home.

Years later, sick to my heart in Melbourne one cold night, lying in bed alone, and fretting, I reached out for the Vicks bottle I always carry with me. The comfort was instantaneous.

Last night, I evoked the warmth and tenderness of my father’s fingers as I tried to keep him warm and comfortable.

He healed well from his hip replacement surgery. But I didn’t find it in me to put him back at the care centre. I found excuses. He needs an elevated toilet seat, he shouldn’t climb stairs yet, what if he has a fall again?

We used a respite care centre instead and dropped him off for a week or ten days so mom and I could get a breather from caregiving.

At home, he was easy. He immersed himself in colouring books, watched old Hindi song videos or travel documentaries on TV. Occasionally we took him out to Indiranagar for a drive and an outing. It was the perfect distance to not tire him and yet feel far enough like we had gone out. Mom and I prayed this would continue.

Others with ailing parents found alternative caregiving solutions. Money, even among the comfortable, was a huge consideration. Hearing them talk that way was sobering. I have zero savings; I live a comfortable but hand-to-mouth existence depending on income from classes, any stray corporate gigs to run our household. For emergencies, I have always had to depend on my kind brother or erstwhile friends to tide me over. How on earth was I thinking of spending 20-25 thousand a month just so mom and I had this burdensome sense of free time and extra guilt?

So mom and I changed our behaviour to accommodate Papa’s changing health. And he was easy. He really was this time.

Then for over three weeks now, he drastically altered how much he ate till last week it was more than a few handfuls. We were all down with a flu so we put it down to it.

Four days ago, in his sleep, he lost control of his bowels. It must have scared and shocked him because in his fashion he cleaned up after himself. But we still found stains and soiled sheets. We assured him it was OK but he got more subdued. The next night too the same thing happened and after that he refused to eat more than two tablespoons of food in any meal.

“I will leave, if you can’t look after me. I don’t have to put up with you two. I can earn my living,” he raged when I asked him to shave and shower. Hygiene was becoming an issue again. Some days he would groom himself on his own without prompting. But increasingly that had become more rare.

It was a jolt. My mom and I were physically incapable of this sort of care-taking. I began to pack his bags for the centre. He looked miserable. I knew he didn’t want to go for all his anger and bravado.

The fever began that night.

We sponge bathed and diapered him up and he let us do it without protest. No matter how much we coaxed him, he wouldn’t eat.

He refused to or couldn’t tell us if he was in any sort of pain.

In the morning, he was shivering and feverish so I took him to our family GP who gave him an injection and medicines to stop the fever. He could tell and we knew he had a congestion because I had just recovered from the flu myself. My mom had just begun showing flu symptoms. We got her the medicines as well.

Papa refused all food. He got weaker and frailer by 7 pm. He shivered uncontrollably. I wrapped him up in two blankets a sweater but he continued to shiver. Suddenly it struck me.

I got these sort of shivers. Being perimenopausal now, UTIs were just something I had to deal with.

I called the GP who immediately decided to start him on antibiotics.

But by 10 pm, after only drinking juice and tea, Papa looked ghoulish. It didn’t feel right. The GP said he was worried too but that we must not rush to a strange hospital at that time. He told me to sit tight and help Papa through the night.

I looked at mom. She could barely stand. In spite of wearing the diaper, my dad insisted on using the restroom. We could barely hold him up between the two of us. I had begun to feel feverish by then. As always, the stress and worry gave me a kickass inflammation. My RA flare-up, the ever faithful, kicked in.

I called our male help to spend the night. He did all the heavy-lifting. Papa couldn’t or wouldn’t sleep. I kept feeding him sugar and salt solution because there were no electrolytes in the house. How asinine was that! Papa kept insisting on peeing in the bathroom. He ended up dirtying the entire house. Our help and I cleaned him, the house, only to have it happen again within an hour. We got no sleep.

Papa’s face was shrunken and ashen. Finally the tremors ceased. I assured him as he used to that he would be fit and fine by morning. I told him I would never leave him at a dementia centre. Amma and I would always love him and take care of him. I imagined him feeling comforted.

But soon the tremors ceased. The antibiotics had worked. It was an UTI.

Amma slept through this ordeal, fevered and sick herself.

I could barely move by then. My fingers were thick German sausages. My ankle and feet swollen to twice its size. The house slippers tightened like a vise around it. My fever was also climbing. I read about on the last stages of dementia, which could still last weeks, months, even a year. My dad seemed to be exhibiting text book symptoms. It didn’t look good.

I began praying, chanting, The Wasteland.

“Burning burning burning… O lord thou pluckest me out.”

If he is to go, make it swift and merciful, universe. Don’t let him suffer. Don’t let him shiver. Don’t let him hurt. But I am an asshole because really it’s me who doesn’t what to suffer or deal with the conundrum of caring for him at home or at a centre.

I tried to feed him a biscuit. He chewed and chewed but couldn’t swallow. I fed him water from a spoon.

Then spoke the thunder.

“Da. Da. Da.

Datta. Dayadhvam. Damyata.”

I am unable to give my Papa anything. I am neither kind nor sympathetic and I am slowly losing all control and getting hysterical.

I called the respite centre and admitted him in the morning. I rushed home in shock, brimming with guilt and fever, messaged my situation to close friends and family, watched a BTS video, and took a class on writing.

I begged my masseuse friend to come by and give me a massage because by then I could not sit nor lie nor sleep. As she untangled the knots, and kneaded the stiffness, the tears started in.

Papa has a high grade fever and is not doing well at all. His not eating, and inability to swallow, are not good signs. Neither is the incontinence. He can’t dress or clean up after himself. He has become quiet and subdued. None of these are good signs. I am struck by how suddenly, in three days, the deterioration happened.

He could recover in a few days or not.

I want him to go soon and in peace and not suffer.

So this is what the end of a life feels like.

It’s full of regrets.

So smug we are when we are healthy, alive, away from death. Though, I have tried not to be that way. My illnesses have taught me not to take my body or life for granted.

There is nothing to the body.

The body is everything.

Frail, shivering, losing control of senses, voiding and soiling ourselves, for this we act so vain and important.

Yet, the body is beautiful in all that it lets happen like movement, like love.

Did Papa feel my love and comfort when I massaged him, cleaned him, fed him last night?

I wish I had shown him that lake near Bidadi, taken him to Malleshwaram again, Mangalore again, at least on one international holiday. I wish he could know how my mom and I feel, that we all got to talk our feelings in this house, that he could breathe his last in his own room surrounded by us, that I had recorded our voices, made videos, taken more pictures. I wish we had hugged and kissed more.

Suddenly, even if he recovers from this infection, it’s not good. We clearly can’t keep him at home. The thought of him anywhere else without us tears me up inside. Money is the last consideration. But I am, we are, physically incapable of caregiving.

So prayers then. So vigil then. So coming face-to-face with the capriciousness of life and death then, which is really the same thing.

Death, like life, doesn’t care for our comfort or desires or hopes, and most certainly not our prayers.

It simply is.

Yet keeping a vigil and lamenting is all we have. Maybe I will smear Vicks Vaporub all over myself.

Posted in Blue Funk, Idle Thoughts, In Sickness and In Health | 1 Comment