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She had not always been like that October 17, 2015

Posted by globejam in Uncategorized.
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Indian-pond-heron-fishingHe stood poised, like a pond heron waiting for a fish, with a catheter (attached to a phlegm suction apparatus) for a beak, ready to pounce on the mucus that gurgled up her throat every so often and threatened to drown her.

That was his role on Sundays – Chief phlegm sucker and feeder.

Mix two scoops of the complete meal replacement powder with 60 ml of water, add the necessary medicine and administer it every hour on the hour. In between, stand ready to suction out the mucus that came up to the edge of her throat but no further and went into her lungs if not cleared.

On her part, she bore it all with complete stoicism, her glassy, unfocussed, new born baby eyes staring at some point above his right shoulder. He would talk to her, sing some song or kiss her forehead, but mostly he would just sit next to her and read a book. She would continue to stare, unblinkingly.

Did she know what was happening, he wondered. Most days she did not respond much, probably tired of being bed-ridden, tired from the constant near-drowning, tired of life. But just when he had convinced himself that she had left the building and he was only tending to her useless body, a snatch of a song sung in his raucous voice or a jig he would do to relieve the boredom would light a bulb somewhere deep behind her eyes and a joyful aaaah would escape her. Not for long. Just for 15 – 20 seconds, enough to know she was still around and aware at some level of what was happening. Enough to wrench his heart out.

Obviously, she had not always been like that. Her disease had slowly crept upon her, like a leopard stalking its prey, and pounced on her with such viciousness that she progressed from the first symptom to her current state in just about 6 months. First there were dizzy spells, then her balance went, then mobility and very quickly speech and even eye movement. Within a short span, the disease had robbed her of all motor skills including coughing and swallowing, leaving all muscles atrophied. Except for the diaphragm muscles, which chugged away in top condition, ensuring uninterrupted supply of oxygen and her continued existence. Probably someone’s idea for a cruel joke.

She had not always been like that. Before the illness, She had been a kind and gentle mother, with a ready laugh and mischief in her eyes. She had also been a feisty woman, full of an unquenchable thirst for life and deep rooted angst for all the lost opportunities because of being born a woman in the ’30s in rural India. A heady combination that made her search for new experiences, push the boundaries, rebel against discrimination at home and outside, both real and perceived, and fight every inch of the way. Which is probably what kept her holding on to life.

She had not always been like that. But five years was a long time and the other memories, involving the real her, were fading. Thinking of her, more and more, only brought up images of her shrivelled bum (having been examinated closely for potential bed sores, every time the diaper was changed), her reddened nostril (from the constant presence of the nasal feeding tube) and phlegm, always the phlegm, bubbling up and choking her.

She had not always been like that, he muttered under his breath. Like a mantra that had the power to keep the joyful memories alive.