Please click on an article or scroll downwards to read this month’s Fiction column:
By Bina Khiani
“Each day after the age of sixty is a grace period given by God. We must be grateful for every precious moment and enjoy it to the fullest”. Daddy’s favorite words echoed in Rasha’s ears as she watched him being wheeled towards the dining table in the wheelchair. Tears welled up in her eyes but she quickly turned her head away. Brushing aside the drops which were threatening to roll down her cheeks, she put up a huge smile on her face and bravely turned back to face her father.
“I am so happy you are here, Rasha. Let’s go for dinner to a nice place! Shall we go for Chinese or Indian ?”
Rasha’s eyes almost popped out, her smile widened as she hugged her dad warmly. This man was simply amazing! He was full of zest and life in spite of his confinement to the wheelchair. How happy he looks, how courageously he has accepted the terrible misfortune fate has bestowed on him. The wheelchair was not going to hinder him from enjoying life to the fullest!
Unfortunately this year, Daddy’s health had taken a toll for the worse, his health was rapidly deteriorating. It was terribly painful for Rasha to see her father in the wheelchair, when just three months ago, he could still walk with a little assistance. He appeared weak and frail but the smile on his face was happy as ever. His voice was cheerful, no signs of sadness or despair visible there, Rasha thought to herself. Meanwhile Daddy too was studying Rasha’s face with intense concentration. Her silence, her worried expression spoke volumes and he realized she was sad to see him in this condition. “Rasha, have you made up your mind or shall I decide on the place?”, Daddy reiterated jovially.
During the dinner Rasha joked and laughed with her parents; time simply flew by. It was getting dark outside, the dark clouds had relieved their heavy burden - a light drizzle had commenced, the patio was wet and slippery due to the gentle raindrops. Rasha carefully wheeled the chair towards the waiting car where Daddy was lifted by the chauffeur and put in the front seat. As they were driving home, Rasha was thoughtful, her mind terribly preoccupied. She was beginning to worry. How can their parents live alone in a big city when Daddy’s health was rapidly deteriorating? It was difficult for mummy to manage single handedly. What could be the solution? How can we ensure their safety and well being?
“Rasha, you look tense. Is anything bothering you?”, mummy asked, once they were alone. “The entire evening, although you had a huge smile on your face, your eyes reflected your troubled thoughts. Perhaps I can help you. Everything alright with Ashok and the children?”
Unable to stem the tears any longer Rasha let herself go. Tears poured down her cheeks incessantly. For several minutes, all Asha could do was hug her daughter tight and patiently comfort her. “Ma, how can you both live alone? We worry all the time. Now that Daddy is unable to walk, you have no one to turn to in case of problems. Two old people living alone! What if anything happens? What is there is an emergency? How will you manage?”, Rasha said in a low voice after she had regained a bit of composure.
“So the precious tears were flowing for this silly reason? For us? Thank God everything is alright between Ashok and you! Teenagers are difficult to handle, I was under the impression Kunal and Bindiya were perhaps being difficult…”
“No Ma, Kunal is a handful at times but he is maturing beautifully now that his teen years are coming to an end. And Bindiya - she is sensible.. I am only concerned for you both”
Having both children living abroad is not easy for ageing parents. It can be awfully lonely, the house suddenly turns so quiet, the silence seems to haunt you…When they were younger Asha and Satish had visited their son in Washington several times. On their way back they had inevitably stopped over at Dubai, to see Rasha and the grandchildren.
The happy years had gone by in a jiffy. Suddenly at the age of sixty, Satish was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease. At first Rasha was devastated to hear of her Dad’s awful illness. Satish pretended as if nothing was amiss, he continued his hectic pace of life while Asha managed the home front and was always at his side, as supportive as ever. The positive attitude and brave front put up by both parents had imparted in Rasha, immense courage. “This is nothing… people are suffering much more.. Be grateful to God… accept your destiny!”, Daddy’s words of wisdom gave them immense strength and courage. Here, positions were reversed. They should be comforting Daddy but instead here he was, smiling, cheerfully showing them the way..
Being a prominent advocate, Satish’s formidable voice was his biggest asset but little did he know how the disease was going to change his life forever. Within few months, the dreadful disease progressed rapidly and caused havoc in his body. Medicines only contain and retard the progress for there is no cure for Parkinson’s disease. Unfortunately Satish’s voice was the first to go. Within months of the diagnosis, his robust voice was reduced to a feeble whisper. Judges struggled to hear Satish as he cross examined witnesses in Court. The genius counsel lawyer who took pride in his court skills, could no longer use his intelligence and talent to benefit his clients…The frustration and heartbreak Satish was going through was unimaginable. Law, courts, clients and legal matters had been his passion, his lifeline but now it was all over. His dreams to work until the end had being cruelly shattered. However Satish was not one to give up so easily. Accepting it as his fate, he handed over all court matters to his junior assistants and instead took to consultation legal practice. “Grace period, be happy…”, he reminded himself several times, as if seeking courage from his own words.
As the months went by, Satish grew more and more frail. Loss of appetite reduced him to half his original size, his gait had become unsteady, and he could no longer walk unaided. His spirit was still strong but physically he was falling prey to the symptoms of the disease. With sheer will power and determination, he tried to combat the illness and to a certain extent did succeed but then the inevitable happened.He could no longer drive, he needed help to dress, stand up and even walk. The mental trauma he was suffering each day, was visible only to his wife. She patiently supported him, putting up a cheerful front although inwardly she too was shattered by the drastic changes in their life.
At the age of sixty, after a gap of twenty five years, once again Asha took driving lessons. All of a sudden, a meek and submissive housewife had been thrown into the driver’s seat….and she emerged with flying colors ! Soon she was driving the little red car all over the town, chauffeuring her obstinate husband who refused to change his lifestyle and slow down. Slowly but surely, under Satish’s guidance, Asha learned to manage their assets and properties as well. It was as if Satish could foresee the future and had visualized his future limitations. Not wanting to become a burden on the children, he groomed and trained his wife to make investments, manage their properties and assets.
The tremors were getting worse, several times in his quest for retaining his independence, Satish stumbled and had nasty falls. Bruises and cuts became part and parcel of his daily life but he refused to be totally dependent. When no one was around, Satish quietly attempted to stand up unaided, take a few steps as well.
Rasha had seen the determination, the will power of her parents as they struggled to cope with the circumstances. She silently witnessed the hardships they endured. Each day was a struggle, a new problem, a new unpredictable symptom cropping up. But no complaints, no grumbling, no sadness… they took it all in their stride....not once did they feel sorry for themselves, not once did they seek help, not once did they ask Vishal to return to India. Depression and dejection? No way! Vishal and Rasha could only admire her parents, the way they managed was incredible!
For hours together, every spare moment he could find, Satish had a pen in his hand and he wrote and wrote… Pages and pages were being scribbled down quickly, he seemed to be in a terrible hurry, and it was as if time was running out for him.
“Daddy, what are you so busy writing? Are you writing an autobiography?”, Vishal innocently asked his father during his visit. “Can we read what you have written?”
“Vishal, Rasha, I don’t want you to read it now. I am simply pouring out my thoughts. Nothing worth reading, no reason for you to be so curious.”
“Mom, for once I am going to go against Daddy’s wishes. I am curious to read what he has been writing”, Rasha impishly blurted out, one day. “The pile of notebooks has gone on becoming higher.. It must be his life story or perhaps his experiences as a lawyer. Do you think I should? If I seek his permission, he is going to refuse once again. Can I go against his wishes?”
“Rasha, I did try reading Book One”
“Really Ma. And?”
“He has written about a young lawyer, his struggles in the legal profession. I think you should read it. It is beautifully written. Satish has been amazingly prolific with words, the story seems gripping. Ask Dad, now he may permit you to read the manuscript.”
That evening, Rasha braced herself to seek father’s permission. To her utter surprise, Satish did not protest much, he seemed extremely exultant and without any hesitation, handed over five handwritten notebooks to his daughter. Rasha was surprised to see the first chapter had been written in June 1971! He had plans to write, had begun, early in his life but perhaps the demands of the legal profession had restricted him….
Next morning, Rasha could not contain her excitement. She was ecstatic. The book was incredible, at least the first few chapters and what she had read of it.
“Daddy, you are going to be famous! The book is fascinating! We have to get a reputed publisher! All these years you have kept it a secret. Why? Why did you not share it with us earlier?”
The twinkle in Asha’s eyes, the joy in Rasha’s, lit a spark in Satish and he burst out into thunderous laughter. “Its never too late, my dear! I was waiting for the right moment….. Life teaches us so many experiences, I wanted to share mine, first with my precious children. Remember my favorite words… If your child asks for ten things, give him five and deny him the other five…A successful man is a self-made man… At the very mention of these words- ‘My dialogues, as you called it’, you and Vishal always left the room. You hated our words of advice.. Well, now the time is right. Now you understand. Now that you are parents, you realize why I was firm and strict. Remember that night when you were upset with me? I cannot forget the incident - when you turned eighteen, you wanted to take the car to college. You could not understand why I did not allow it since there were three cars parked downstairs. You had to go by bus and you hated me for it.”, Satish’s voice had turned to a soft mumble. All the talking had exhausted him, he paused to get his breath back.
“We wanted you both to value money, earn money the hard way- the way Daddy and I have! Easy money slips away easily!”, quipped Asha.
“Similarly the time was not right for you both to read the book. You will appreciate it now. I have written it for you both, my children”
“But we can’t be so selfish! It has to be published! We can’t deprive others! Let’s get the manuscript typed. Let’s send it to reputed publishers. Let’s see what they have to say!”
“Dad Mom, we are extremely proud of you. We have learnt so much from you both. You have endured pain and hardships, you are suffering from this awful disease and yet you manage to smile and face the situation. How Daddy, How? Teach us to be heroic and fearless like you. My only desire is to be half as good parents, as you have been!
Bina Khiani, is originally from Mumbai India but has been living in Dubai for the past 23 years. She is a lawyer by profession, and also helps her husband in business. She has been a freelance writer for many prominent Indian magazines.
This time around..
(This poem first published on Sulekha.com)
Oh, I have had many lovers
The eager one who hung on to my every word
The handsome one who made me laugh
The adorable one who hugged me all the time
The attentive one who took care of my every need;
But this heart is like a void
no one can even begin to fill it
I searched and searched through the crowd
for that single one
who will fill my heart and make me whole;
I just want to drug myself
and die slowly a painful death;
Oh I went and did so many things
to feel good about myself
I tried to pull myself up by the adoration
of the people I helped and saved
the children clung to my arms
and looked at me like I am their princess;
But everything is short lived
nothing can even begin to fill the void
I give up, it’s no use to look for it elsewhere
I know now what to do;
I just want to drug myself
and die slowly a painful death
I’ll come back and be born again as your daughter
this time, father please love me
this time around, please don’t leave me;
Adore me, love me and shower me with kisses
tell me I am your little princess
make me feel like I am your treasure
sing me lullabies to make me sleep;
I know I’ll bloom like a beautiful flower
with your love around me like a soft rain shower
I’ll live my life fulfilled
I’ll love everyone with my whole heart
This time around, Father
please don’t me leave me
this time around, Father
take me in your arms
and tell me, you love me..
Jeeva Krishnasamy is an IT Professional, coming from what she refers to as a small town middleclass family. She worked in UK for a short while before moving to USA, where she has lived since the past 5 years. Jeeva is married and loves music, creative and artistic activities and is a voracious reader.
Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in these columns are solely those of the writers and do not necessarily represent those of the editor/publish
E-mail this article