MY MOM: INVINCIBLE EVEN IN DEATH
The Pilot finally announced that we would be landing in a couple of minutes. Even as the Boeing 777’s routine announcement was in process one could feel the captain mechanically reading out the figures. The captain was sure that nobody would contest these figures, It was a regular mandatory announcement and did not at the least generate any academic interest. Such announcements were made at the concluding part of the flight and the tired passengers could breathe a sigh of relief that the destination was at landing distance.
As I reflect the train of thoughts come and go relentlessly. I introspect and wonder from where do these thoughts originate and where do they finally go...... Do they really have an end. In my frame of mind all this seem so relevant. Actually I am forced to think about the emotions which are a function of this abstract energy called thoughts ….. as I reflect back on the current situation……I am left with feeling of emptiness. A kind of emptiness which fills your throat with a lump.
I use all my will power to control the ebb of emotions. My eyes are on the verge of betraying me as they slowly get filled with tears but being in a public domain I did not have the liberty to expose my emotions . I control the flow and limit them to just brimming and take care to wipe them off before they could flow mechanically obeying the law of gravity.
I start reflecting on the call I received from my dear friend Dr Shailesh Palekar. This unscheduled visit to Mumbai was a result of his call, as I think further I start retrospectively playing with my thoughts which were apprehensively inclined. I get drawn into these retrospective thoughts “I hear my friend Dr Shailesh’s voice loud and clear on the long distance call. His words were sharp but the language was blunt devoid of the softness in his gentle voice, mannerism ........his lips which were always in a readiness to part into a smile.
I am convinced that he is a star in his own way and could give any holly-wood star a run for his money. According to me he is one person who has not lost the purpose of education because he has a humane touch to whatever he does professionally or in his personal capacity. These qualities have certainly won a million hearts including mine. Even at the age 49 he looks athletic and fighting fit. His immaculate sense of dressing adds up to the virtues already possessed by him.
I certainly remember his voice tone when he spoke to me on that particular day there was a genuine concern in his voice and even before he started speaking I knew that some thing was not right ….He started with "Jaggu" (my pet name) where are you…. I told him that I was in Shanghai and in the process of some important project with clients who had come from India.
My mother's pathological reports and all other medical parameters had been perused by Dr Shailesh. His experienced eyes had quickly scanned through the reports which were indicating that my mother’ haemoglobin blood count was too low for comfort. The problem was further compounded by the fact that my mother had an infected leg injury which led her body into a septic shock. This left the doctors with no other option but to go for the surgery despite the risk. Dr Shailesh told me ‘she may not make it ….come as soon as possible… I disconnected his call only to be connected to my fathers waiting call.
The doctor had asked him to sign a form stating that he had agreed to go ahead with the surgery fully knowing the risks involved. My confidence in Dr Shailesh Palekar and his senior colleagues Dr Arvind Kulkarni and Dr Shailesh Gandhi who are also known to me quite well but I would not call them my friends because of the seniority factor however I told my father that its ok… because I fully trusted that they do their best in the interest of my mother. The doctors took it upon themselves to revive my mother. It was an uphill task trying to revive her back.
While the doctors were fighting with the inevitable.. I was fighting with the situation in my own way.......
As the plane stopped taxing after a lot of deliberation....I waited with an opaque conscious for the gangway to clear and I started my slow walk. The situation demanded that in contrast I should have run as if it was the last day of my life but I was numb ….numb to react to the thoughts that crossed my mind I could not understand .......if I was hallucinating I realised with a sense of loss and an apprehensive approach….that my mom was fighting it out all alone against the inevitable Even though I was eager to get back home but the telephonic call from the doctor and numerous calls from my sisters and my dad had brought me face to face with reality.
This was the first time I had not noticed the quality of the take off and landing even though I am in awe of the power of the human mind, I am forced to reflect that in life though we may spend millions of dollars building up infra structure I realise that where the factor of sublime love comes in picture every thing pales in comparison I wanted to reach home double quick time but In my heart there was a deep rooted worry that probably the end was round the corner "I remember telling my very close friend that I would be very happy if my mom’s struggle ended? It is ironical that we all make so many statements that are very impacting but the when and it comes to accepting them it becomes very difficult. In contradiction I was just praying to all the powers that matter that my mom should live despite the pain she was going through!
I knew I had a lot of explanations to give to people who mattered because I had reached Mumbai a day too late in-spite of the fact that Dr Shailesh had explained to me the gravity of the situation and my sisters had left no stone unturned in letting me know that my mom had been calling out my name even through her pain. Thrown into the whirl pool of thoughts i was again reflecting on the turn of events which led to the delay in reaching my mom.
I had reached the emigration counter at Hongkong....without realizing that there was a crackdown on illegal immigrants. My new passport coupled with the visa stamped in my old passport created a confusion. This was evident with so many of the brown population detained on account of suspicion for being illegal immigrants who had overstayed or were allegedly involved in carrying out illegal businesses in HK. I was also under the scanner even as I desperately tried to explain the situation and justify that I had never really stayed in HK. The authorities ignored the endorsement on my passports which reflected that I was a resident of China and held me back on the pretext that they were doing their job.
Left without any choice I proceeded to the detention room. I was led to a room where the occupants of the cell looked mostly from the third world Asian countries. I ignored the attitude of the authorities, I was more worried about getting to airport on time which was a good one hour drive from the place called Lo-Wu where I was now detained.
I went out of turn to the stern looking officer trying to explain my situation to her but she was least interested and pointed to the people who were yet to be interrogated and were detained even before I started for Lo Wu.
My heart sank as I looked at the wall clock which seemed to be hysterically yelling at me that there was only one hour thirty minutes left for takeoff to Mumbai. I broke into a cold sweat and my eyes were filled with contrastingly hot tears.I again pleaded with the poker faced officer who was on her feet now. She looked menacing as I kept eye contact with her as she walked steadily towards me with a aggressive poise.
She was sensitive enough to notice my narrow eyes which were red, burning and brimming with tears. I momentarily took my eyes off her in an attempt to hold back the tears which were threatening to roll down my face obeying the law of gravity. The cup was full and the tears did their job..... With a gesture and a sway of the hand that reflected that she was disgusted.....she reacted by swaying her hands asked me to be quiet and sit. She came up to me with her guard off and with tone that was more humane and kind asked me in fragmented Chinglish "what's the matter" Even though I did not understand half the things she said in a modulated tone. It was obvious that there was a very kind human being behind the uniform. I understood that she wanted to know why there were tears in my eyes I gestured to her which she readily translated to mandarin. She could interpolate that I was going back to my country to see my ailing mother who was critically ill and was in ICU. In this hour of despair she also realised that I needed to be by my mothers side. She took me aside and verified the records and gave me a clean chit which ultimately gave me freedom after another precious thirty minutes.
As soon as I stepped out.... I ran as if I had tasted freedom for the very first time. But as I stepped out I stopped I could feel my jaw drop down as low as possible. I was witnessing a huge human migration similar to a herd of wild herbivorous animals ......all possessed by a phenomenon called “ the Chinese New Year”and I thought that only people in my country were crazy.
Even in this maddening hour I realised that my school of thought that "people are people wherever we go" was true till the last alphabet. All the people were on the move ..... It was as if the whole country had decided to relocate. Attempting to take a bus or metro to the airport was beyond my reach or impossible. I was so possessed with the thought of seeing my mother that ......?I knew I had to try something new and unique but before I could think I saw a taxi stop by me and asked me if I wanted to go to the airport. I was nervous and stammered but he knew I had no other option and quoted me a price which was three times the usual rate.
I did not react but he knew I accepted his offer. Just by my act of jumping into his taxi but he was expecting some conditions which he could not refuse, I told him the flight timings and the reason for my hurry. I also reminded him that I had unconditionally accepted the price and I would not pay him if I missed the flight.
He just gave me a wry smile indicating that there would no time for all the arguments which I was foreseeing. His smile indicated all he meant was just to help me out of the situation....His driving reminded me of the movie 'MadMax"
As the driver took it upon himself to see that I reached the airport on time though the commencement of the journey itself was delayed. The damage had already been done because I was late for the flight even before I commenced my journey from Lo Wu to the international airport The race against time was futile and I was mentally prepared to accept that I could not board the flight,
However this did not stop the taxi driver from trying to justify the fare he had demanded. I remember the journey that usually took one one hour had taken almost 35 minutes.. By the time I reached the terminal 2 at Hong Kong airport I had only 20 minutes left for take off.... I paid him the fare he had asked without any demure or argument because I knew his efforts had been sincere.
He looked at me with eyes which were not sympathetic but could definitely establish a bond because in a flash of a second he retrieved the $100.00 Which was half in excess of the fare he had demanded...he winked at me and gave me a smile which was in stark contrast to the dark February sky and illuminated every thing around including his middle aged handsome face.
He just blurted out in fragmented English that he wished that my mom would get well soon. This kind gesture from an unknown quarter definitely brought a kind of solace to my apprehensive heart. I just thanked him and waited for a long moment as his taxi vanished in the darkness leaving an blurred image in my wet eyes.
It took me a while to regain my composure before I could feel the sense of urgency sink into me. I ran to where the JETAIR Counter would have been. The disgusted Jet-air representatives wore a sarcastic smile and were amused at my optimistic question regarding the possibility of boarding the flight. This was impossible as the counters had closed but courtesy took over from sarcasm as they realised my plight and the reason for my delay.
The staff were busy looking for passengers who had strayed even after collecting the boarding passes and gone to duty free shops. Its ironical when people who had been issued boarding passes did not have the virtue of realising its importance.
I was denied one even after requesting with tears in my eyes......instead I was issued a boarding pass for the following day.
My heart sank every time my mobile phone rang especially when there was a phone call from my home.... The first question my apprehensive heart would ask is every thing ok ?? And the reply at the other end would be another question which only managed to increase the anxiety and my mobile bill ........ However what mattered to my nearest kith and kin was only one thing i.e when would I reach home?
I was scared at the prospect of having to live with the burden of having missed my mother during her last moments and so were my sisters. However they were unaware of my plight and were by now quite sure that may be I was shirking responsibility.
I waited through the night sometimes drinking coffee or striking a conversation with some interesting people to divert my mind from the harsh reality. I had to kill time till evening and wait for flight 9W 076 which finally took off at 1955 Hongkong Mumbai on the night of February 22 and landed on 23rd morning.
Here I was on the way in a taxi to my final destination the Paramount Hospital where my mother was under the medical treatment of Dr Shailesh Palekar. All through the journey I had butterflies in my stomach I was thinking whether I was late in coming or was my mother already late.
My mind was thinking retrospectively ....... I could see my mom running around my house during my schooling days preparing hot breakfast and ironing my uniform on time every time. I could still mentally hear her stern voice whenever she knew I had committed a mistake..... I could hear her flat voice calling out my full name JAGDISH....whenever she needed to advise me in business.. I could smell the hot crisp chapatti which I ate sitting on the sink on the kitchen cooking platform. I remembered how I silently felt proud at having such a beautiful slim mother all clad in the most expensive silk sarees with the choicest perfumes her favourite was the not so expensive 24 Carat.
She was an epitome of dignity and class as she held her head high in any situation. Not the one to shirk away from responsibility. I did not know of any weakness she had in her armour.
As I kept moving from frame to frame in my mind seeing her mental pictures. I did not realise that I had reached my destination the Paramount Hospital..... It was 4.30 AM... As I went up the stairs to the lobby to my waiting sisters.
I asked them mom.....? They said she is still there but was brain dead and on ventilator. I went to where she was but was overcome with emotion on seeing her in this condition. I went to my sisters looking for a shoulder to cry on but there was none.....they were too upset with me for being so late..... I realised I had taken too many things for granted.
I waited outside the ICU for a long time through tears in my eyes. I did not realise that the sun had risen and the tea boy was already serving hot tea. The sincere hard working Junior staff and doctors had already reported on time..... Nothing seemed to have stopped. The clock was still ticking, my heart was also beating. Finally I made up my mind to speak to my mom who was still gasping for breath. I went to her bed in the ICU and saw her closely..... She still looked beautiful....so alive..... I planted a kiss on her forehead ...... I could clearly feel her react to my touch ..... A kind of vibration I felt whenever I hugged her frail frame before going out of country....... I told her "mom I am here......I. have come only for you". I could feel her vibrations this time tears rolled from her semi closed eyes. I could not believe what I saw I turned around to tell Dr Gandhi who had just arrived. A man of very few words looked at me and asked when I had come and went on to explain my mom's condition.
We both walked to my mom’s bed where I was surprised to see my moms mouth wide open and the gasping was gone……as I looked at the heart monitoring screen there was a lifeless flat line. Dr Gandhi patted me on my back and clinically uttered the words which I dreaded.... “Sorry she is no more”. The moment seemed to freeze every thing around me.
I started thinking to whom would I express my insecurities,…….who would assure me every thing would be alright. As I was dealing with my conflicting thoughts my attention was drawn to my mothers face who now looked more peaceful than ever.
I realised one thing after my sisters pointed out that she was only waiting for me and left on her own terms after she met me....she was invincible even in death. The only weakness my mom had was her undying love for me. It amazed me that she had put even death on hold just to see me before she finally called it a day.
As I looked at my watch it had not stopped TICKING and everything was in harmony .....even though my mom was no more she was not a loser but she was definitely INVINCIBLE EVEN IN DEATH.
BY BLOGGER JAGS