One of the struggles I have always had – and have written about this – is how to make my mom feel special. My dad loves it that I come every three months. He loves sitting with us in the balcony and chatting with us. But when it comes to my mom – she never says anything. Nor asks for anything. If I tell my dad that I am going to miss a trip one quarter, he will get upset about it (till I tell him that I can make a lot of money if I stay back – he will totally agree with me then – go figure!! ) but my mom will just say nothing.
I have that picture of her walking a step behind dad with that chair lest he fall down as he walked around with his walker seared in my mind. I had talked about how we think about the patient but not much about the care giver.
The challenge is if I ask my mom “What would you like?”, the answer would inevitably be “Nothing”. It is like asking a high school student “What happened in school today?”
The only clue I have about what gives her delight is she had once told me how she always liked to go out to different places before marriage and had kids. I know after that, she has barely stepped out of home – she has been so engrossed in her responsibilities of the family. Even today, she refuses to leave dad’s side. The only time I had gotten her out to come out and stay in a resort with us was when I had convinced my dad to do so (about a year or so back).
My best bet this time was to take her out for a day trip – and let the helper take care of dad. Without giving her much of a choice, I packed her into a car and took her to her favorite sister (she has four sisters and a brother) who lives in a village a couple of hours drive away. She had not seen her for some time (actually the last time was also the time I took her there; like I said – this is her favorite sister).
As expected, she did not complain much!!
And there we were!! My mom, her sister, her brother in law and the little grandson they have.
At the end of the day, I know my mom wanted to spend more time with her sister. But I had to draw the line (yeah! yeah! yeah! Rajib was the time nazi!! So, what else is new? 🙂 ) before it became too late for dad’s help at home to leave.
I was glad to catch up with my cousins and nephew too! The best part? A norwester ensued and it started raining hard when we were there. And I was able to take my nephew out in the rains to get drenched with me. I was too much of a guest for anybody to complain (although their heart beats were skyrocketing).
The nephew and me? Pardon the pun in the metaphor – we threw caution to the winds!!
If you have followed the last post, you know the context by now. In short, dad came and joined me and my brother in the balcony this morning. He came by himself in his walker and sat down – completely unassisted. It was slow but he did it. Of course, we were delighted that he is being able to win small wins in his long journey to be back to what he used to be.
Speaking of what he used to be – somehow the topic came to money. Wait a minute, I know exactly how. He was the one who lost no time in starting to complain…
He: “Boddo paisa khorcha hochche” (Too much money is being spent)
I: “Keno?” (Why?)
He: “Kaajer meye. Physiotherapy. Eto kichchu dorkar nei”
As I had predicted, he wants to get rid of the help at home and the physiotherapy because apparently we are spending too much money on them.
I: “Taaka ki tomar sesh hoye jachche?” (Are you running out of money?)
He: “Chinta hoy” (It worries me)
I: “Joto taaka-i hok tomar chinta jaabey na”
I assured him that he is never going to stop worrying regardless of how much money he had.
After some more time…
He: “Tumi maanchho na. Kintu taaka na holey konodin sukhi hotey paarbey na” (You many not agree but you cannot be happy without money)
Okay. Now he is getting into a territory that is totally my passion zone. I was not going to give in easily.
Me: “Mote-i na. Beshi taaka kaukey sukhi kore ni. Aar korbey-o na. Je sukhi se olpete-i sukhi. Aar je sukhi noy, se joto taaka-i dao kokhono sukhi hobey na”.
Basically, I was trying my usual line of more money cannot make you more happy. These are independent (for the most part) attributes. One can be happy with little. One who wants to be unhappy will be unhappy regardless of the amount of money.
He continued with his protestations that you need money to be happy.
I even conceded that money is important. But I challenged him to come up with a number that will make him happy. In fact, I asked him to think what that number would have been if I had asked this question when he was 30, 40, 50… and if he ever got to that amount of money.
Realizing that I was not going to get a convert, I went for the dramatics. Quickly, I laid out a plot and led him thru that…
Me: “Ami ekjon ke jani jaar $$$$ poisa aachhe. Se tate-o sukhi noy”.
I told him about somebody I know who is still not happy after having $$$$ money. Well, except $$$$, the exact number I gave him is pretty much all the money he (my dad) himself has.
I was stunned he did not realize what I was setting up. Worse, my brother did not catch on to it!
He: “Tai hoy naaki?” He was incredulous! He would not believe me!!
Oh! This was going to be interesting.
Me: “Yes. Aami oder bhalo korey chini ” I assured him that I know the person very well.
After some thought, he said “Taholey oder poribaar-e kono problem aachey”. He surmised that then the person has issues at home.
“Like what?”, I asked.
“Swami-stree te hoyto kono complication aachhey”. He figured my person was not happy because of some spousal issues.
“Dujona-kei aami bhalo korey chini. Holof korey bolchhi, kono jhamela nei”. I assured him again that I knew both the husband and wife (ha ha) and there were no problems between them.
“Taholey chhele meyeder saathey monomalinyo aachhe”. At this point of time he was clutching on to any straw. He suggested that my friend had problems with his kids.
“Ekdom na”, I reassured him again.
I had noticed that my brother had started smiling.
“Bujhechis?”, I asked softly
He nodded quickly indicating that he had realized what I was doing.
“Do me a favor”, I said very softly. “Let me get my phone camera on him and then you break the secret to him. Let’s see if I can capture his reaction”.
Once I had my iPhone set on my dad, my brother started..
“Kaar katha bolchhey dada?” (Who is he talking about? – he asked dad)
“Ki kore jaanbo? Dadar bondhu”. Dad pleaded complete ignorance since it was my friend.
“Kaar $$$$ taaka aachhey?” My brother asked him if he knew somebody who had that aforementioned amount of money.
My dad was still confused.
My brother slowly reminded him of our discussion – “What has he been saying? Somebody he knows very well. $$$$ money. Is never happy with money. Who do you think?”
Precisely at that moment he realized that I was talking about him all along.
What followed was a loud guffaw and myriad of facial expressions as I kept snapping his picture on the phone.
Finally I selected two of the pictures for this post that I think tells a great story… The first one was exactly at the moment when he realized what the joke was. And the second one was when he had re-processed the joke and realized that it was on him all along. That “You-got-me-good-on-that-one…I-fell-for-it” – look!
After the run and the shower, my brother and I sat down in our balcony enjoying the strong winds on the fifth floor waiting for breakfast. My dad, who had observed us (from his bed) settling down in the balcony immediately declared… “Amio aasbo”. (I will join too!!).
If you remember from my previous trip, he would shuffle with the walker and mom and the helper would hold him or carry a chair behind him in case he collapsed. In a remarkable example of how he is fighting back to achieve a better “new normal”, he declared “Ami nijei aasbo” (I will come by myself).
Slowly but surely, one tentative step at a time, he did make it to the balcony, turned around and dropped himself on the chair.
“Ebar ektu cha dao”. (He asked mom for some tea).
That is a sure sign of he getting as close to his past self as he can. You know the other sign? – he immediately started complaining about expenses that we are incurring on his behalf. The next post will be about that. There was a well laid trap he fell into in that!!
The problem every morning in Kalyani is that I do not finish off my run first thing in the morning when nobody else is awake and the temperatures are far more bearable and certainly there is no direct sunlight. Before I can get myself there, usually, my brother wakes up. That can only mean the first cup of tea will be soon to follow… And then sitting idly in the balcony, we just start having yet another cup of tea every half an hour or so. Finally, the sun would be up, it would get warm and I start regretting not having finished my run.
Today was no different. Since it had gotten hot, I decided to put in an endurance run. The heat and humidity had already conspired to make the temperatures feel like 107 deg F on the skin.
Then the negotiations began! Any which way I go for a run, I will have to get past my dad who will immediately engage me in a discussion that roughly follows the same pattern…
“Where are you going?”
“For a run”
“Because it will get warmer later” (did you see how I dodged the obvious question of why I did not do it earlier? ha ha)
“How much will you run?”
It really does not matter what X is. I have tried various variations – 10, 8, 6, 5, 2…. His inevitable question is
“Why X? X/2 is more than enough”. He immediately will halve it.
Even if I were to tell him – “Okay, I will do X/2”, he will wait for a few minutes and go “Today is a very sunny day. X/4 should be adequate for today”…
At some point I will leave the house and just go run.
First question today after I came back – as with every day – was
“How much did you run?”
His response was again classic. I could have said any value and he would have said the exact same thing – “That is enough for this month. You do not need to run any more this month!!
That said, it was a 5 mile (8 km) run in rather oppressive heat and humidity at a sub-10 pace. Towards the end, I had to take a 30 second break to get my heart rate to come down from 170s. That was the penalty I paid for not carrying water with me.
For a person like me who has been researching about gin production and collecting gins from different countries and experimenting with cocktails with them, very few things can beat the prospect of finding a Gin-only-bar called “Tonic” in the hotel I was staying in!
Except, of course having a gin and tonic there with a classmate of mine that I have always admired (albeit from far) – Joydeep Sengupta! When I had called him up last time to wish him a happy birthday, I had also made a promise to see him if I ever were to land in Singapore. Unfortunately, when I told him that I would be in Singapore, I realized that he would be out of the country. Joy heads up Asia for the largest and most revered Firm in management consulting in the whole world. That is a game played at a very different league. I completely understood that travel had to be crazy at that level.
What I did not expect is a message from him on my last day in Singapore that he will be coming back to Hanoi in time enough to meet me for an hour before I headed out for the airport. I am so glad that he took the effort.
I saw Joy for the first time after 1991. There were so many things we caught up on. One hour was far too less for that. One of the topics we talked a lot about is the complexity of building “trusting” organizations. We were comparing notes of how very successful organizations like McKinsey runs with virtually very little financial goal setting and my experience at a Ritz where I learnt that every employee is given a thousand dollars to spend on guests in case they see a situation unfold that might lead to customer dissatisfaction… and we realized that “trust” is something that is very difficult to democratize and certainly very difficult to build culture around in an organization unless it is done from the very top and from the very beginning.
I had great interest in his second child who has special needs and I spent a lot of time understanding how, as parents, Joy and his wife had to learn a lot of new things in life. One of the most memorable moments was when he said – and I paraphrase him – “your expectations are lesser and therefore you enjoy the smaller things more”!! We talked endlessly about what we – the able-bodied ones – have done for the ones who need special help and how much is still left to do.
I promised to see his second son next time I was anywhere nearby.
I kept the promise I made to him on his birthday. I hope I can keep this one too!
Saw my MBA school friend after nearly a decade and a half. Jyotsna, T Srini, myself and our dear-departed Srimathi were very close during our MBA days.
Saw Srimathi last a few hours before we lost her to cancer almost two decades back.
Saw T after a long time just a month back.
And this meeting in Singapore completes the group!!!
First, this completed my run in the 20th country (Singapore)!!
Second, I got to run with a long lost friend of mine. Prasenjit and I went to our MBA school together. We last saw each other in 1991. We knew each other then but were not very close. But we became close later thru social media as we kept egging each other on for our runs and races.
Both of us started running very late in our life (mine was when I was a year shy of turning 40) and I am sure we both needed the encouragement from each other. Over the years, he has grown his stamina much more than me and does many more long runs. I need to get to his stamina some day.
I always had wanted to put in a run with him! Saw him after 27 years and more importantly got to put in a run with him!! That was very satisfying!!!
As an added bonus, met his wife Sonia after the run over a delicious breakfast too!!