Ode to the setting Sun- a short story!

Fifteen years back, when Sanjay was taking a bow in his last flight in a Jaguar, he landed elegantly at the base. He jumped out of the fighter plane, and nobody could believe that he was retiring on that day, such was his zest for life. Sanjay’s personality was towering, booming but with great empathy for everybody. In the first meeting itself, he would win your heart and soul. He had seen life & of course death from very close quarter. How his dear friend Abhishek Sing, from NDA days, died in the air crash near Udhampur at the age of 30!! But Sanjay had overcome ups and downs bravely and with grace, dignity. He was a lifetime friend of Abhi’s family. Abhi’s son Nishant was also a fighter pilot in the Air Force and was Sanjay proud of him!! He was always there for everybody and more so for his own family. Sanjay’s beloved wife Sangita had always accepted the torrent of love & affection, from others towards Sanjay. Even at the age of 70 Sanjay never looked more than 55!!

Their daughter Deepa lived in Australia with the children, Deepa and her husband Deepak were both in IT and were always busy. Sanjay loved to be in Australia, his favourite spot being Gold Coast. Their son Anshu was a neurosurgeon staying in Delhi with his wife Asha, a well-known anchor on a TV news channel, and their children. Sanjay and Sangita had spent many a summer with them in Delhi, after Sanjay’s retirement. Sanjay really loved Punjabi food.

One day they were on their way from home to Bangalore airport. They were travelling to Pune where Nishant had invited them to join in celebrating his promotion. During the conversation, Sanjay asked Sangita “Have you taken Asha’s favourite mithai?” Sangita said, “Sanjay, we are travelling to Pune & not Delhi.” “Oh!” Said Sanjay. Later when the family had decided to celebrate Sanjay’s 70th Birthday in Delhi; Deepa and Deepak had also travelled along with the kids. On the way to the Bangalore airport, Sanjay told the driver, “Please stop the car! Turn it around.” Sangita was surprised and said, “Sanjay, what happened?” “We forgot our passports!!” said Sanjay. Sangita was again surprised and said, “Sanjay we don’t need passports, we are going to Delhi.” “Are we not going to Brisbane? Oh, ok we are going to Delhi” Sanjay said.

Though Sanjay forgot this incident, Sangita was a bit surprised and made a note to discuss this with Anshu in Delhi. Birthday celebrations were boisterous and were a hallmark Sanjay get together, with a large group of Sanjay’s friends and family. The party continued till wee hours, and Sanjay kept everybody captured with his anecdotes. How was everyone attracted to Sanjay & his personality? What is personality? It is a combination of ones’ body, heart and soul. All humans have a physical body and heart. But “the heart” is like the soul and not the physical one. What happens if a part of ones’ personality withers? Does one remain the same person? Do relationships stay the same?
Sangita discussed these two episodes with Anshu; Anshu was thoughtful and asked a few more questions to his mother. The main issue was since when was this happening? It was almost a year when such small episodes had started. MMSE (Mini-mental state examination) was ordered, and the results were worse than expected, the value was around 20! Sanjay asked Sangita, “Why all the tests?” he seemed to have forgotten the incidents.

The much-awaited diagnosis was finally confirmed that Sanjay had Alzheimer disease. The day diagnosis was confirmed Sanjay was doing pretty good. In his typical flamboyant way Sanjay, “I would prefer body tremor or some such thing anytime instead of Alzheimer”. When he said this Anshu asked him, “Dad why are you saying this?” Sanjay said, “Son, with tremor I may spill my drink, but with Alzheimer, I will forget that I have to take a drink”. With this, he laughed in his usual booming way!! Anshu, the professional, was overcome by his emotions and left the room with moist eyes. Later on, for many days, there were discussions in the family, initially in the absence of Sanjay. The family took a decision in the end, to inform Sanjay about the seriousness of the situation. Sanjay had googled about Alzheimer a couple of times, but then he just forgot what he was searching and why he was searching.
Slowly the effects of Alzheimer were visible, and it took about two years for the dreaded disease to take control of Sanjay’s body and mind. Suddenly Sanjay’s moods would oscillate, his fluent Kannada and Hindi became a little difficult for him to comprehend. Sanjay would have trouble sometimes, swallowing. He would suddenly become agitated and lose his balance.

Those who knew Sanjay as the prince were shocked when they met him. Once in while joviality would be back but life had become a big roller coaster. Sangita was of course with him as a solid rock and gave him full support. Anshu would visit Bangalore every month and stay with them as much as practical. Deepa would make visits every six months and try to be with her dad for a couple of weeks.
Slowly monthly visits became bi-monthly, and half-yearly visits became yearly. These were life’s practicalities. Children’s visits to MTR Tiffin with Dad had gradually stopped. Visits were replaced by Skype calls initially, then phone calls and finally to Whatsapp. Children convinced Sangita to use smartphone.

What happens to an individual when a part of him gets transformed? Sanjay the Prince had become Sanjay the pauper as far as his relations with people were concerned. His friends slowly started avoiding to visit Sanjay’s home. Life’s realities began coming into play, and Sangita hired help, for support at home. In all this dilemma, Nishant was rock solid. What was it that kept him so close to Sanjay uncle? Nishant got himself transferred to Bangalore a desk job, a significant shift from a fighter pilot.
What are the relationships? Is it a bond between two humans, only during fair weather? What changes people? In Sanjay’s case, he changed because of his disease but what about others? Or others also had some kind of disease? Does one relationship change when a smart human being changes to one needing physical and mental support? When a baby is born the mother, father and others very close to the baby give the baby all the support required to grow, both physically and mentally. During this phase, they teach the baby to handle various aspects of life. Is it because most knew that Sanjay will never become “normal” hence they felt that they need not support him? Does it mean that if a good-looking person damages the face in an accident, we just stop meeting them?

Sangita, the wife, had taken over the role of Sangita, the mother. But how do we define Nishant’s role? Had he taken over the role as Sanjay’s father, to support the “baby”? Was he repaying the loan he had incurred due to Sanjay’s support to their family throughout the life? Or was, it just love?
What changes people? It is a difficult question to answer. Is the fear of not being able to handle change in the person? Are the relationship threads solid?

At the age of 77, Sanjay died peacefully. When his “Will” was opened, it was a simple, small Will. “Everything worldly to Sangita after me. No Poojas, no prayer meetings, nothing. I know Marathi pretty well, and I remember the appropriate poem by Tambeji, sung by Lata Mangeshkar. Mavalatya Dinkara!!”

जो जो वंदन करी उगवात्या जो जो पाठ फिरवी मावळत्या
रीत जगाची ही रे सवित्या स्वार्थ परा.यन परा

Everyone greets the rising Sun while turning back to the setting one
That is the way this world is, where selfishness is the primary objective!

My Mummy is Always Right!

“We are like that only” is the title of a book written Rama Bijapurkar to explain the Indian, his persona, his psyche about Indian consumer. This is a typical statement made by Indians about Indians! It is a complete desi package that we have created for public consumption world over. What is it that defines the behaviour, the approach of society to ordinary life situations? Is it poverty, shortages, religion, five-thousand-year-old culture? What is it that makes Indians so different from most of the world? In the parlance of the poverty line, why are Indians below poverty line (BPL) socially?

One can immediately think of the British Raj that we had for 200 years. In the last fifty years of the Raj, there was a non-cooperation movement all over India led by Gandhiji against the British Government. This movement gathered momentum and in 1947 British left India. In 2014, we were in the 67th year of independence and in our collective minds we continue to think about Govt as an entity against whom we should keep our non-cooperation movement. Only thing is we create our own campaign and not a collective one. (Some moves are becoming collective ones but not by design) To go against the authority starts with basic things like traffic. We cut lanes, jump signals with impunity. We enter one-way street in the wrong direction, we park where we want. I read from history books that we were not so bad in following the social norms during the times before the British arrived.

Has it got to do with lack of knowledge or I don’t care attitude? Is it because we become anonymous in large cities and we just get away doing anything? Where is the respect for other people gone? In north India, there is word बुजुर्ग used for the elderly in society. There is a tradition of touching feet of elderly, every time you meet them. But what happens on the road, I am not necessarily talking of road rage. In a minor altercation on the way an elderly person will be called बुद्ढे, (a derogatory term,) “Are you blind”? Why this happens? Why we always think that “I am always right, it is someone else who is wrong”.

Governments in many states have made a rule that any person who wants to hold a government position in village panchayat, must have a proper toilet at home. In Punjab, more than 90% of people have followed this rule but only 10% use the toilets, others defecate in fields. Reason? “Oh, it feels nice to defecate outside.” Can anyone explain this argument? If you are standing in a queue for some enquiry, say, railway enquiry, there will always be someone who is in a hurry and will just jump the line and try to get information. The reason, oh it’s just one minute work that I have. They forget that everybody has only one minutes job at that window and they have come before you.

There is a trend to clean or wash homes and throwing muck in the common area. My house is clean! But what about the common area? I have seen on expressways just five minutes after the rest stops, people will stop their car (first significant mistake) and then urinate. Why can’t they do it at the rest stops?

What is it that it makes us Indians different? It cannot be religion, people of all faiths behave in the same way in India. Do you remember the loudspeakers from Mosques and Mandirs blaring out loud devotional music? Is it poverty? I have seen people of all economic strata behaving in the same atrocious ways.

In the colony where I stay, we have townhouses, with gardens. Some people have pet dogs. They take their pets for a walk (in the dark naturally) and in the morning when there is light, one would find dog poop all over. When a notice was circulated advising them to pick up their own dog poop, each individuals’ dog is “well behaved”, he would never do such a thing! Is it education? Of course, going to school and college does not mean that a person is “educated”. Again I have seen educated and “uneducated” behaving very similarly.

Is it the fear of the law that makes people behave decently in other countries? Is it the training that is imparted during childhood that plays the role? Don’t we give training to our children when they are growing up? But is it because though we impart training to the kids, we break the rules or norms very easily. Our children see this, and their mind starts understanding the double standards that we apply.

These days a nasty trend is observed. Male species have always led the incorrect behaviour in society. But today we see mothers taking their kids to school on scooters. The number of ladies breaking the rules is increasing at an alarming rate. There is saying about education. If a man is educated, he goes further in life than he would otherwise go, but if a woman takes training, she will make the whole family on the path to prosperity. In the same vein, “If a man is breaking the rules, he adds one person to list of persons defined above, but if a woman breaks traffic rules with her two kids on a scooter, she will take the whole family to the path of breaking the rules lifelong for her whole family”. Why is it so because “My Mummy is always right”!!