19 October 2017

Thanks for not spilling the secret!!!

That was quite a surprise sprung on everybody. In fact, most had not noticed me even when I walked in straight to the inside room where my dad was. The two assistants were on the bed holding him up and my mom was feeding him. She had her back towards me – she had no idea I was there. And the two assistants had no clue who I was either. I stood there for a couple of minutes or so when my mom looked back and got the shock of her life!!!

My dad’s condition is pretty much what you would expect from somebody who has had a brain stroke. He was able to recognize me but telling my name was quite an effort. For the next hour or so, I realized that he had lost his ability to lay down or get up by himself (his right side is paralyzed) and quite some of his faculties around memory and speech are gone.

But most painful is his realization that he has lost complete independence. His deep sense of helplessness – even simple things like he inability to express himself – is visibly driving him to tremendous frustration and anger.

I finally remembered something that I had learnt while visiting my friend – Samaresh’s dad. He was totally quiet till I had shown him a picture of his granddaughter in Atlanta in my phone.

As an aside, every December, I make one of those large twelve month Apple calendars – with pictures of Natasha, Nikita, Sharmila, Jay Jay (the dog) and myself (especially of our vacations) from that year and send them to my parents. And my dad, dutifully, puts them on the wall and often asks me about those pictures.

This morning, I brought down all those calendars and then started showing him one picture after another and asked them to recognize the people. Each picture was an effort. Many times he gave up (his choices were restricted to only five names). He missed me most of the time!! Recognized Sharmila, Natasha in all and then after an initial struggle with Nikita’s pictures, started consistently recognizing them.

Took us almost an hour to go thru one calendar!!!

And that was how the first couple of hours with him went…

18 October 2017

Amazing change in the last 10 years!!

If you wanted to get a first hand idea of how the middle class has prospered in India in the last decade or so, all you have to do is go to the domestic airports.

It is 3:30 AM now in Delhi!! And I am not even in the bigger international (and domestic) airport. I am in the old airport now that is dedicated to cheaper domestic airlines. The boarding gates are teeming with people. Not a single chair is empty. People are standing and even sitting on the staircase. Very orderly though. And I could take a picture of only half the side from the top of the escalator.

Infrastructure development at the airports have been very impressive too. Most are of international standards now with fairly efficient service and by my experience, very pleasant and helpful staff.

17 October 2017

The best laid plans of mice and men…

First of all, please help me in keeping this a secret. Do not let my immediate family in India know of this for another 36 hours.

Second, let me share with you something that I had not made public for a few weeks. You probably recollect my trip to India to see my parents from mid August. Well, my plan to see them next was Dec end. In fact, the daughters wanted to come too. Excitedly, I started the process of getting all passports renewed and new Indian visas stamped around the end of Sep. (still waiting the daughters’ visas).

In the middle of all this, my dad decided to have a brain stroke. His right side is paralyzed and he cannot speak!! To cut thru the last four weeks quickly, after a long stay in the hospital in Kolkata, my brother has successfully moved him back to home in Kalyani. He and the entire family supporting him are going thru a very tough adjustment process.

Thru all this, my brother, who is quarterbacking all the ground level realities there has been actively dissuading me from coming to India right now. He is worried that this might disrupt our December plans (and he would rather we all go to see my dad in December). He also thinks that at this juncture, I might add more work for my mom than actually be helpful. (She is undoubtedly going to worry about what I am going to eat). Finally he thinks, I should preserve money during an “off year”.

All good points. Except, a week back, Sharmila and I discussed and I decided to override my brother. So, here I am – at the familiar Atlanta airport international terminal again – headed to India to be with my dad hoping he can recognize me and say a couple of words.

Regarding my brother, while I am sure he is going to be very happy seeing me, I have also prepared my excuse codes…

(*) I will be landing at my parents place on Diwali day – the biggest festival day in all of India. I have not been with my family for Diwali since 1985.

(*) Saturday is “bhaiphonta” for us. I am not sure if there is something equivalent in the Western world – but this is where sisters celebrate their brothers with all sorts of ceremonies. (For college goers, this is like an anti-Valentine Day. If the girl tags you as her brother, you have pretty much reached the End Of File on that budding relationship 🙂 ). Anyways, my younger brother always goes to my sister’s house for this celebration every year and sends me pictures. Guess who is showing up this year?

(*) My brother and I have not had a drink together for way too long 🙂 I have to say thanks to him for the inhuman effort he has put in for the last four weeks.

I have my doubts if I can achieve much more than be with my dad and more importantly my family who are having a tough adjustment period getting used to a semi-invalid patient. But, if I can, highest on my list is visiting a couple of teachers from my early school days and say Thanks to them before I lose my chance. Most of them, I have not seen for 40 years or more.

Soooooo…. we have a deal, right? No breathing of this trip to my family in India. In fact, I am blocking them temporarily on Facebook so they cannot read this either…

9 October 2017

Completely fearless bird

I assume this is a crow (I am not good with bird names). On Friday, I had come down for breakfast before the girls joined me. While enjoying my mimosa, I was joined by this bird. And by that I mean, it sat about a foot away from me on my table close the bread basket. I took a piece of bread and laid it on the table. Throughout my hand movements, it betrayed no signs of fear. Once I put the bread in front of it, it promptly took it and hopped over to the grass to eat it…

8 October 2017

Quiet moment

While taking pictures of the setting sun, I moved around quite a bit on the beach to adjust for oncoming boats, people moving around and all that. A sight caught my eye and left a deep impression. There was a dad and his daughter who were mesmerized by the setting sun. They were in the water, standing next to each other. Not a word was spoken. Just dad… And daughter… Taking in the full beauty of nature… both staying in the Now together. Powerful moment.

I quickly retrained the lens to get a silhouette.