My father’s mind is a minefield.

It trips us all up when we argue for veracity.

He remembers specific things in a defined sequence and with great accuracy.

Our trip to Kashmir when I was a year old, the way we rode a horse together there, my cheeks turning red in the sun, and how everyone said that I looked like the apples in the orchard.

He remembers how amused he was when I yelled at him as a three year old for not buying me a doll.

‘What sort of a father are you? You can’t even buy me a doll!’ I am reported to have said. He was with his friend then. They had both laughed so hard on the streets of Malleshwaram.

He first came to Bangalore from Mangalore when he was only twenty one years old. It was for the job he held for over thirty years. He remembers his first breakfast – chitranna. He thought it would be something new and exciting. Instead, it was just lemon rice.

Every time he narrates these stories, not a word changes. But he conveys the same excitement, the same discovery each time. He believes them. He relives them in the telling and the retelling. Since there are other witnesses to these stories, they are corroborated, verified, and they become facts about our family.

Now his reality tells him stories that he believes are true. There are no witnesses to these new stories. Here again, the sequence doesn’t change. We can only argue that it’s illogical or unrealistic or impossible.

He believes he once walked on hot, burning coals at a temple festival in Mangalore in his thirties. This is how he makes sense of his vericose veins, the hyperpigmentation on his legs. They are not signs of a health condition but the aftermath of fulfilling a dare.

He loathes the help we have currently. In his mind, she’s a thief who has variously stolen from him – chicken curry he made, eggs he had boiled, and groceries. He stopped even occasionally cooking around four years ago; we’ve had our help for three years now. It’s a distrust that’s deep-seated. Nothing will dissuade him.

He talks about how he cooked chicken for my cousins (they loved it) and how they all drank whiskey together when mom and I were in hospital for our respective surgeries. My cousins are vegetarians.

There are shops that have shut down in our locality including the ubequituous corner super market, 24 hour open petrol bunk, the medical shop, the bakery, the salon. If you probe, he will deliver a fantastic story about strangers that thrums with possibility.

At home, things get misplaced because he still tries to do housework. He cuts vegetables the wrong size. There is a story always about why my mother insisted he do it just that way. He hangs out, indescriminately, fresh or unwashed clothes to dry. He folds and secrets sweaty clothes inside cupboards and drawers. He misplaces house keys, the TV remote, mobile chargers, and headphones. There’s always someone else to blame, often our help.

He dislikes all my male friends. They have variously insulted him or mooched off me or made passes at my mother and me.

When cornered, he uses anger to justify the frustration, maybe even mask the fear. He remembers slights and arguments that never took place in perfect detail. He cries that he will leave us and go die somewhere else, and that we won’t ever find him.

He knows to strike at the fear in the core of our hearts.

My mother thinks it’s a sign of awareness, mean-spiritedness even, not illness. I wonder too at times.

Then he withdraws into a quiet shell till the episode is forgotten. It takes him about two hours to forget a fight.

My mother is tormented by the lies, stressed out with constantly keeping watch, and exhausted from the lack of support a husband is expected to provide.

Even as I am numbed by the experience of constantly being the parent, the decision-maker, even disciplinarian, I am amazed at the human mind.

Dementia has made my father dull, slower, quieter, and completely devoid of empathy and understanding. Dementia has blessed him this fertile imagination, a quick-witted slyness.

I tell my mother she has a husband who is a great storyteller. I have learnt to workshop his memories as if they were stories we were all reading together. This helps us listen to him, on the rare occasions he speaks to us or shares things, and appreciate the way his mind works.

There’s no insight to be had but there’s peace, often even entertainment, in the letting go of logic.

When you tell stories, only being authentic matters. And that he is.

Stories are not about truths and arguments, though they can show both. Stories are ambiguous, messy, and personal; more imagined than truthful, intrepid, sly and devious even.

So who is to say that they are not really true?

About Bhumika's Boudoir

I love to laugh, and end up being a part of high drama and stormy emotion even when I don't pursue it. Being creative, and communicating with people get me going. I enjoy all the good things in life especially those that are slightly risque, and apologise little, if ever, for all that I do. Literature is a passion and so is music.
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5 Responses to Mind

  1. quokkasugarvarda64737 says:

    I think this particular piece strikes me as one of your best. It speaks of a basic premise, a Truth if you will- this : “Stories are not about truths and arguments, though they can show both. Stories are ambiguous, messy, and personal; more imagined than truthful, intrepid, sly and devious even.

    So who is to say that they are not really true?” hit me in the gut as an essential idea that is each person’s to accept, mould, reject or tweak to suit our ethos (at diverse stages of our life). It is a powerful piece of writing that I might wish to repeatedly read, and because it is out there, it is no longer your story alone. I have no doubt that there is a pa and a ‘me’ who sees and unseen as folk like pa succumb to whatever it is they succumb to, to tell troubling stories.
    do keep writing!


  2. quokkasugarvarda64737 says:

    I don’t know who quokkasugarvarda64737 is- but my comments are reaching you with this username, and it is baffling.


  3. Manjula Nair says:

    Brilliant piece of writing Bhumika! Heartfelt and poignant. This must have been so hard to write.


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