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Letters to Bapi : The day I lost you

Dear Bapi,

I miss you so much. That day I was sure I would die too but see its almost two months now and here I am, still walking around, breathing, eating, watching TV… Every time I feel a desire to eat something I feel surprised how is it that I still have any desire left.

Actually I know the answer. I still find it difficult to believe that you are not with us anymore. The house, the roads, the shops seem alive with your memories. Where ever I look, I see you… In the dentures by the basin, in that half empty cough syrup bottle, those insulin injections, the spectacles right by the window.

That night when you were trying to grasp someone with your hands, I wonder who were calling. I remember holding your hands. An unknown fear worrying me. That sound of your breath still rings in my ears. Ma called you and you turned to look at her before falling asleep. She was probably the last person you saw. When the doctor came some three hours later everything was lost forever. Believe me Bapi, I wanted to take you to the hospital. I didn’t like that doctor. So casual and so indifferent. He couldn’t even tell me why you would die suddenly. I mean, you were watching TV with me. Yes, you had a cough, you even kept saying that. I thought you were unable to cough out the mucus stuck in your throat so I gave you some mucolytic. Never in my wildest dreams did I imagine that I actually eased your passage.

That night after Pupa and Moshai had left and I held you while sleeping, you felt so alive, so much at peace. Earlier in the evening when I went to collect your blood reports, I had prayed at the Kali temple near Progressive Club. I had asked Ma Kali to give you some relief and look how she messed things up. She took you away from us and gave you permanent relief.

Next morning Mamma was walking around the house and when I woke up people had started arriving. I informed Thamma but I don’t think she understood much. The house was filled with so many people and they kept instructing us in so many ways. Remember Bapi, you had once told me when Dadu had passed away and you had reached home, someone had instructed you to remove your leather chappals. You said when you wanted to mourn your father’s demise, people were more worried about slippers. That morning I could really feel how you felt. I wanted to kick everyone out, shut the doors and lie next to you. They kept yammering, “Put on new clothes, keep a Bhagwad Gita, Keep some iron…” I begged to them give me a little time but they didn’t agree. There was a queue at the cremation ground it seems.

Thanks to Moonmoon Di I got your alta smeared footprints on a paper, a part of you that I could hold on to.

You looked so handsome in that white kurta pajama. It seemed you were getting ready to get married. Mamma was crying so much. She said you looked exactly how you had looked on your wedding day. I still can’t forget that peaceful smile on your face. It angers me sometimes to think that you could just leave us, that we weren’t enough to hold you back. But… I know you didn’t want to leave us. I remember you told Mamma that you wanted to live for at least two more years.

You always kept your promise but I know I failed. I failed to understand how and when you fell so sick that no one could revive you. I know I took a decision that we won’t go for any extreme measures that might increase your pain and suffering but today I doubt myself… I doubt my decision. It’s a question that will haunt me for the rest of my life. Did I really love you? I know that I love you but what shows my love? Did I love you enough to prolong your life in any possible way or did I love you enough to keep you comfortable and let you go?

Tell me Bapi, was I wrong? I knew that you wouldn’t have survived the prostate surgery. I knew the dialysis would have made you sicker and not cured you. I had tried to get an appointment for Saturday but the hospital didn’t accommodate us and you never gave me time to take you to the doctor on Tuesday. Believe me Bapi, I would have gone to the ends of world to save you.

The people who came to see you kept saying, “Ora bujhte pareni, je or pran ta beriye jachhilo” (They didn’t understand that it was his last breath). No, we didn’t understand, else we would have done something instead of standing and wringing our hands. We didn’t understand because even though the doctors had told us a few years back that there was nothing more to be done, that you were a ticking timebomb, we had hoped… no, believed that you will be there. You will be amongst us to celebrate your 40th marriage anniversary or your 70th birthday or may be to give me away on my wedding.

Do you know, you looked more alive that day at the cremation ground than any other day? I had waited by your side. I had hoped that you would turn and say, “Kutu… bhalo lagchhena. Let’s go home now.”

But you didn’t…

When they rolled you in, in a fraction of a second you were gone, consumed by that fire that seemed to burst out of you. It must have hurt, isn’t it? You were gone… gone from the world, from the house and from our lives. No … maybe not from our lives because its true that I cannot hear your voice, cannot see you or hold you anymore but I can still feel you.

When I smell that cocoa lotion or the Old Spice after shave lotion or the baby powder, I can still imagine you smiling at me happily showing me your cheek for a kiss.

I wish I had time… time to take you to your old school, meet your cousin, eat at Sangowali or may be to dress you once more or give you a hug. I wish I had some more time may be to tell you that I love you or for one more kiss.

Hugs and Kisses



Featured post

Sweet Moments : by food and people…


Since childhood I have an aversion to sweets but a trip to Pondicherry changed it all. A quaint little cafe in the French Colony serves some amazing sweet delights that makes me want to go back again and again…


Another sweet moment that keeps popping it’s pretty little head is a special moment with my father who even though struggled with Alzheimer’s managed to leave behind some extremely sweet memories for us…


Alzheimer’s and Dementia Are Not the Same

MARSPlus Blog

Do you get confused when people use these terms? Alzheimer’s and Dementia are interchangeably used so much these days that one can easy mistaken it to have the same meaning. Well, it’s not. While one may form a part of the other, but Alzheimer’s and Dementia are not the same. Here’s an analogy to help to understand and decipher the difference between the two medical terms.

A quick analogy for illustration

Say one day you cough and sneeze a lot but you are unsure why. Since it’s summer you don’t have a cold. So you go to the doctor for a checkup. The doctor checks your breathing and orders a series of tests to help decide the cause. After the test results come in, the doctor is sure what is causing the sneezes. The diagnosis is that you have developed an allergy. It’s the summer and the most common allergy…

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Bapi…do you remember me?

The world of the caregiver of any terminally ill or demented person is quite dark. When recently someone accused me of making fun of my father in my past blogs, I was not too surprised. Yes, I am guilty as charged. I didn’t wish to clarify it was satire. He wouldn’t have understood because one really can’t imagine our plight. Yes, “our” because today I speak as a caregiver which is one of my identities now.

The loss of personal freedom and the knowledge that the situation will get worse, usually crushes the joy out of a caregiver’s life. I mean the only light in the end of our dark tunnel is when the patient leaves for heavenly abode. It sounds rude and disrespectful yet it is the harsh reality. We care for a person for days, months and sometimes years knowing that no matter what we do, the person is going to slip out of our fingers like sand. The tighter we try to hold on the faster we lose them.

When we start our life as a child, as a spouse or as a parent we usually don’t sign up knowing that one day the boring normal life will be torn apart by a sickness. When we say for better or for worse, how worse can we think of? Unemployment? maybe, empty pockets? maybe, a broken car or a broken house? maybe. The idea of bathing, cleaning and nursing someone throughout the day usually doesn’t come to our mind, does it?

It might sound heroic when we say we will take care of our loved ones when they are sick. As the days pass by and the person slowly gets worse, the heroic thoughts slowly chip away. What do you think we do then? We try to find a way to vent out our pent-up emotions, desires and anger. We find time for something that makes us happy. A lady I know sings, the uncle next door organises small events, the girl in my library dances, my mother teaches and I travel and write.

I am the daughter of a demented man. No, I am not making fun of him or insulting him, I am stating his medical history. My father has memory deficits. One doctor said it is Alzheimer’s disease and another one said its vascular dementia. I am not sure which is the correct diagnosis, all I know is my father doesn’t remember what I do, fails to recognize his mother, keeps asking for his father who passed away three decades ago. It’s not pleasing to see him cry when he gets confused, it’s heart wrenching to see him disappear into his own world where everything is imaginary.

My mother has not left the house for months because we cannot leave him alone and I am too restless to give up my travel goals. That doesn’t mean I don’t care or I have given up, it’s my way to stay sane in this insanity.

My mother and I have been looking after him, changing his diapers, holding him while he pees, brushing his teeth, giving him a bath for the past two years and I have no shame in accepting that I am tired. Tired of seeing him suffer like this, tired of lifting him up, tired of his slow walks, tired of his dependence on us. Only thing we are not tired of is the man himself. We are not tired of him because we believe with all our heart that somewhere inside that confused and emaciated body there resides the man whom I have known all my life. Who brought me up, fed me, took care of me and protected me all my life. Because even though we have given up all hopes of a miracle and accepted our fate and his fate, we have not given up on the man who loved us unconditionally for better and for every worse that we made him go through.

No one chooses this life and while it’s true that the patient suffers, the caregivers suffer more. I remember when a girl who had recently lost her mother after a long fight with renal failure told me, “There is no bigger sorrow for a child than the sorrow of watching your parent die slowly everyday in front of your eyes.” I couldn’t agree more, the pain to watch a person slowly and painfully move towards the end is harrowing. It makes us sad and it makes us angry. It makes us feel guilty. Everytime I return from a trip an enormous amount of guilt engulfs me. My parents are stuck at home and yet I enjoyed a freedom which has been snatched away from them. Yes I am selfish, yes I am guilty of all that I have been accused of. But do you really blame me when I try to find some laughter in this sorrow? Do you really have the right to judge me about my choices or my thoughts? I guess not.

Why would you have an opinion about us? You are that rude man who stared at my father with disgust when I was wiping his nose. You are that heartless woman who told me to keep my father indoors when he can’t walk properly because he stumbled upon the rock. You are that inconsiderate man who kept honking when my father was slowly getting out of the car. You are that man who refused to look at my father when he tried to speak to you. You are the reason why we are afraid to include our loved ones in our “normal” lives. You are the reason why our loved ones feel inferior and withdraw from the society.

We caregivers are warriors, we fight for our people. Our people…sounds nice doesn’t it?  Physically our people yet mentally they are miles away from us. Which reminds me of Blake Morrison’s “And when did you last see your father?” He answers this question with a lovely end-note. “Was it in the coffin? When you picked him up to change the sheets or when he looked at you and recognized you?” I tried to remember when was the last time I saw my father? Was it when he dropped me off at the station two years back or was it when I left for the airport before that? When was the last time I turned to wave goodbye and saw the light of recognition in his eyes? I believe I had fought with him and had never really told him that I loved him. We usually believe there is time. Time to tell them that they mean the world to us, time to learn about their dreams and fears, time to sort things out.

Today when I hold the thin bony frame of my father in my arms and say I love him, he smiles and forgets. I don’t fret because I want to keep believing that if I keep telling him may be some day before the end he might remember. I hope that maybe my words will stick in some corner of his muddled brain.




Beauty and the Beast😍

I am a movie buff… yes I like to believe so. I am not well versed with the works of Mrinal Sen or Ritwik Ghatak, neither am I aware of the cult films of the west. Yet there is one section of films I am totally crazy about..the animated ones. I have seen 97% of the Disney and Pixar movies (according to Oh my Disney!!!) and I haven’t missed the remakes of the Disney princess movies..

Cinderella was the beginning and Beauty and the Beast was a cherry on top.
A few months back some random Facebook post decried the Fairy tale Princesses as the wrong role model for a child. It was surprising as I have seen a lot of strength and determination in these princesses. While Cinderella, Snow White and Aurora did introduce us to concept of Prince Charming and the proverbial white horse, things were a lot different for Belle. She didn’t find her handsome prince till the end of the story.
Belle inspires me to beseech the beauty hidden in a person. In today’s world it is a difficult thing to ask or expect. A world where acceptance is difficult, the beholding of beauty within is a faraway dream.
Beauty and the Beast touches on some extremely delicate issues with such subtlety that one may not realize how much of it is actually a tale. The way Gaston takes it for granted that Belle has to marry him is reflective of the patriarchal society we still live in. When Agathe is forced to beg and leave the village because she was a spinster shows the mindset of people who dismiss her as the old hag. But Agathe shows that marital status has nothing to with kindness and generosity.
The final ball has a tiny moment when Lefou finds himself “gay” with a partner and they dance away into the evening.
All apart there is one person who has a mixed bag of all good things and that of course is Belle. Unlike the other Fairy tale protagonists, she lives with her Papa, has no evil step mother, loves her books and is fearless. Fearlessness would be the one thing that can be learnt from her. How many can be selfless enough to give up their freedom for others (easier said than done)? How many can give up their one chance of running away to save a beast that almost snapped her head off?
Tiny and itsy bitsy things that form a beautiful foundation for a lovely friendship which paves the way to the happily ever after. Accepting the shortcomings of another person and gently helping him overcome them.
Imagine seeing the world through someone else’s eyes and suddenly everything familiar looks different. Oh my..isn’t it dreamy?
If Cinderella made me believe in magic, Belle showed the magic is within.
There are moments in life when we find ourselves bogged down by what others think about us. A lot of self doubt slowly creeps in and we haven’t the faintest idea what the future holds for us. I have had that moment when the safe bet was extremely tempting but in floated Beauty with the scary Beast tagging behind. What hope did she have that one day he will change back or that there might possibly a life filled with happiness for her? What signs did she see that one day she will get her adventure and something more than the provincial life? None!! Other than a belief that it will work out in the end. While some may say taking counselling sessions with a fairytale princess is sheer madness, I say why not? All the pieces of the puzzle do fall in place and if it’s not happy, it’s not the end.
Till then hear the strains of music and sway gently to the tune, for its true.
Tale as old as time…song as old as rhyme… Beauty and the Beast…

A Christmas routine…

Going to Esplanade before Christmas is a routine… every year religiously I go to New Market to get the annual body massage by the throng of crowd squeezing around to buy Xmas decorations and cake. So it happened last year that I reached late and saw Nahoums bang their shutter on my face… I had to slink away quietly and buy my share of cakes and goodies from Imperial. Mind you Imperial also has a fan following of its own but Nahoum’s is a different story altogether. It’s like comparing Rabindranath Tagore and Kazi Nazrul or Shakespeare and Dickens or Michelangelo and Bernini. Difficult I know. Anyway with the shuttering incident fresh in my mind I decided to pay my annual visit a little early this year. So 2 days before Christmas I finished my breakfast early and pushed off for Esplanade. Mission Nahoum’s was underway but unlike James Bond, I had to travel by bus number 54 from Ballykhal to Esplanade. May be you can assume the time taken, in case you can’t, it took me 1 hour 45 minutes. I usually walk as if I am being chased by a fat dachshund. So in 15 minutes I was in front of my target. A cold hand clutched my heart as I saw the painted red shutters firmly in place. After a little sniffing around I discovered the entrance where I was greeted by a queue. Yes a bloody queue to buy a cake. Being used to queueing up, thanks to you know who and you know what, I first stood behind the last man standing before finding out where was the queue heading. Hardly a minute or so and I was ordering around for tarts and a nice special fruit cake for the holiday season.
These people nestled in the old section of New Market hold on to their traditional cakes and recipes… and mode of payment!! If they didn’t have change they were efficiently removing the sold items from the clutches of hapless customers who immediately asked them for more tarts, pastries and cakes to increase the bill amount.
After I had finished the necessary exchange of goodies and currency I stole a glance at my timepiece and imagine my surprise when I saw the whole thing had taken hardly 15 minutes. It was now that I had the time to curiously look around… my body was still aching from the bus ride, what was missing…hmmm… hmmm..uh..something was definitely not right. Then like a flash of lightning it struck me… the crowd… where were the people who were supposed to knead me to pulp on New Market? The Christmas decorations looked lonely and the cake shops were swatting flies…
May be I was early or may be people were more guarded about the money they spent..
I was so preoccupied with these thoughts that a loud blast of horn sent me flying up a few inches.. as I descended I slowly looked up and immediately bowed my head in reverence for in front of me stood the majestic Nizam’s. This place had taken a place of honor and pilgrimage in our lives thanks to Ashim Mukherjee who introduced us to the amazing beef kebabs. Thanks to Mad cow disease and Hindu fanaticism the beef had disappeared from the menu long back. Yet the chicken and mutton Kathi kebab were something that couldn’t be ignored easily. So I trudged in, sat in my regular place (yes I have a regular seat in that place) and ordered for the paratha and the birdy variant of the kebab…
After my gastronomically satisfying episode I resumed my walk to the bus stop.. when something strange caught my eye. Just near the Municipal office, there are numerous ATMs of different banks and there was no queue. Just when I had assumed that there must be no cash I saw a person smilingly come out with crisp 500 bucks. I gingerly walked over and swiped my card.. lo behold as crisp New 500 rupee notes started falling in my hands. I took a quick look over my shoulder and there was no one waiting so I moved on to my other card. This continued for some time and words fail to express my happiness on becoming the proud owner of some new crispy 500 rupee notes. This glee though didn’t last long because as soon as I came out of Kolkata to the suburbs where I live , the boards of “No Cash” greeted me.. the queues were still there and the resigned look on the faces of people was quite disturbing.
A quick trip to forget this monstrosity of you know what just brought me face to face with the great divide between the cash distribution in the city and rural areas.
Well it’s time to be merry so forget about the cash crunch and drool over the chicken kebab..

Up in Love…

For most girls love is like a chocolate sundae. The first bite is the warm and fuzzy brownie which leaves us drooling for more. Then comes the chocolate ice cream, sweet and mushy. With every bite our taste buds hypnotize our brain to keep stuffing spoonfuls of this sinful desert till we are on the verge of throwing up.
Love follows the same principle. It begins with all cosy and lovey-dovey feelings and then the sweetness builds up threatening to drown our very existence.
I am officially not a male-basher but I have learnt that men are capable of bringing out the worst in most woman while serving guilt as a side dish. A very dear friend of mine is a living example of how the men we fall in love with can show us our greatest weakness. She is a lovely person, so lovely that I find her a bit stupid. Her weird and cringy love story showed how women can lower their self esteem, expectations and desires.
We hear feminist women screaming out for their rights but as soon as some random guy comes along and says two sweet things, the feminists get hooked like a fish to a live bait.
Spiritual leaders say women are emotionally stronger yet women are so scared to let go. So afraid to live life without men. This fear of being unwanted is so big that we forget our true selves.
The other day while watching “something borrowed” I realized that it’s so easy for a guy to sour the relationship of two childhood friends. Puppy sad eyes, a sob story and BAM he is conveniently riding two boats at the same time.
Who decides our personality? Who decides how many chances we should give a guy who is siphoning off our money or sucking out our emotions? At which point do we stop flogging the horse and shove a shoe deep in his ass?
Love can’t be a passive thing, neither can it be something where the involved parties have to kick the bucket. I see love everywhere. The way my parents have been sticking around each other for so many years even though they have totally different perspectives.
Love for me is when people share the small joys every day. Cleaning up after meal, fighting over which side of bed to sleep,hating each others nosy relatives and yet loving their interference.
With changing times love is not Shakespearean anymore, it is the daily adventures of Ed and Callie in Up. People who spend almost all their lives together and grow old together.
It’s not just sweet, it’s also tangy, spicy and tastes best with a pinch of salt.

Demonetisation & Blood Sucking Monsters…

A late afternoon post (was supposed to be a late night one but I dozed off with the phone on my face)…
My fb timeline seems to be overflowing with fights and facts of demonetisation. Life is suddenly very busy these days. Mornings are spent in queues outside banks and evenings are filled with visit to every ATM around the place. In a few days I might be on first name basis with the ATM security guards. Anyway this post is not about the horrors or slight inconvenience. Neither is this about the 80% who are dancing with joy and thrashing others with vengeance about demonetisation nor about the remaining 20% rolling their eyes and cursing the 80%.
When you are blessed with a lot of free time with insufficient number of available flies to swat, you tend to observe the most mundane things with extreme interest. Recently while clapping my hands and slapping my face outside an ATM I realised that there is one group that has only benefitted from this demonetisation, no slight or major inconvenience at all. This post is about that fortunate group.
I have always wondered what is the need of existence of these blood sucking tiny monsters? Aren’t there sufficient poor government decisions or natural calamities to kill people that we need these little germ carrying creatures to cause a variety of diseases.
If you have had the fortune of visiting different places you might have noticed that they vary from place to place.
The ones in Bangalore were quite tiny and slim but damn those things knew how to induce pain. My staff room used to be infested with them and they would sometimes enter the Sari and rest is all imaginable. A lot of dancing and flapping would follow. Finally the fast card brought the necessary relief.
In Delhi, while roaming around in the park,I had noticed a very interesting bobby printed variety. I really liked their fashion sense but hell no way was I going to let them suck out my blood!! Later I learned that the dengue mosquitoes are bobby printed, so I anxiously waited for 3 days and kept checking for any symptoms if at all. Luckily the only change I noticed was an excessive increase in weight due to the my aunt’s exceptional cooking.
After shifting back to Kolkata for reasons that are not important, I had extra time to goof around and do nothing. During this period, some person holding a place of honor in our country dropped the figurative nuclear bomb on us. The demonetisation saw the black money hoarders and owners heading off for vacations and shopping sprees abroad while the rest 80% and 20% queued up in places where they could exchange and deposit the old currency.
Coming back to the BSMs… they were having a field day.
Most Bengalis love their protein rich meat. The day seems incomplete without the daily ration of egg, chicken, mutton and of course fish. The demonetisation also failed to bring any change to their menu. Beg and borrow was the most common means. Now when these protein enriched and hot headed Bengalis were standing in queues, these mosquitoes were having surplus of dietary supply. The lesser access we had to currency, the more access these mosquitoes had to our protein rich blood. Very soon the mosquitoes like 90% of Bengalis became grade 1 & 2 obese. The BSMs were attacked relentlessly with mosquito coils, bug sprays and dhunuchi. While the attackers were sneezing coughing and gasping for breath, the BSMs continued to flourish.
These mosquitoes have special tricks to escape all the clapping and slapping. Some of them seem to have masters degree in acupuncture. They prick in quick succession over a large area leaving one with a burning sensation all over. The person can only shimmy a bit but can’t run off as he might lose his turn in the ATM queue.
Another type of BSM manages to stir up referred itching. It’s like it bites you in the calf but your butt starts itching. This gives rise to a peculiar situation and since the person can’t directly scratch his butt in public, he smartly starts rubbing his posterior up and down on a tree or wall.
As the days are passing by, these mosquitoes have slowly started resembling sparrows. Maybe they will grow so fat that they will pop open on their own and die.
Or may be we could start dancing garba.. we might manage to smack some in the process and the continued movement won’t let them sit on us steadily. Now that’s a wonderful idea isn’t it?

Photo Challenge: Endless H2O

The sea and Me, Rameshwaram
The sea and Me, Rameshwaram
It keeps coming back
Can you see the 3 different seas??
Can you see the 3 different seas??

H2O scares me & intrigues me unless served in a glass… I avoided the sea for years till I landed up in a sea beach.. the waves crashing along the shore and the never ending blue water mesmerised me. The first two pictures just show how the sea never keeps anything.. The further I stood the closer the waves rushed in…

I took the third picture in Kanyakumari… a point where 2 seas and an ocean meet. They keep overlapping each other before separating again..a unique phenomenon where neither loses its identity yet always merges together…

via Photo Challenge: H2O

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