Friday, November 26, 2010

The Fading Light

The folds on her skin are like mild ripples in a pond, her face wizened yet radiating a soft glow. Her eyes devoid of any expression most of the time stare blankly to the ceiling, while awake. Eyes, that have seen 96 years of her life pass by; gives me a shudder at the mere thought of it. There is something about the human eye that nature lends more value. Unlike every other part of a human body that degenerates with time, eyes retain its vigour till death—I mean the look of it. And grandma’s eyes had that vigour--jet black and shining.

She either sleeps or stares the whole day lying on her wooden cot. There is no other activity her feeble body can withstand. Day after day she follows the same pattern. What does she stare at? What does she think about? Does she wonder for how many more days she has to keep lying like a log or does she reminisce her past?

Prod her to smile and she promptly reveals her gums that has lost most of her teeth with child-like alacrity. That smile looks ridiculous, more like demented. Demented for sure, as much of her intelligence and memory has parted ways with her. My eyes fall on the black and white framed picture of hers standing along with her husband; a picture of her prime years. The sprightly young woman in her cotton sari stood strutting her authoritative self , a majestic half smile playing in her lips that seems to be telling a story. A story of the days of her yore, when she ruled her household and held the purse strings of one of the wealthiest families in the village, Gangapur(in southern Orissa). Days that had commanded veneration from the lowly village folks; the land tillers, farmers, the vegetable and fish sellers who use to stop by at her verandah almost every day to bask under her patronage before setting for work. The newly wedded brides to her sons who tended to her respectfully dared not tumult the equilibrium of her household traditions without her consent. She held the seat of authority for years altogether for her family.

Today, this reduced and feeble frame lying on the cot in the corner room of my house, beaten with age isn’t remotely a pale reflection of her past. Her vacuous eyes devoid of life suddenly lit up at the prospect of my presence. Notwithstanding her long bouts of loneliness, how much she craves for a human presence near her, someone who would listen to her slurring incomprehensible speech, someone whom she could touch and caress with love.

She constantly reminds me of the transience of the youth and the realization that old age unlike a new born, draws sympathy more than love. The young ones tend to the old with a scared sense of moral duty, a lurking realization that they too will pass through this phase and they too will need to be taken care of. And if you believed in the cycle of Karma, you better took care of your senile parents.

Though the whole world talks about ageing gracefully, there is nothing graceful about being a helpless vegetable encroaching a considerable space in your children’s lives; an inconvenience they have to be put up with till you perish. How would you see eye to eye to your tending child the day you reach that stage of incontinence and wet your bed the first time. Your dignity that day would depend upon how your child looks back at you; with love or disgust? And let me tell you more often than not, it is disgust poorly masqueraded. And you die that very moment long before your body does.

Everything is eventual.


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