Fiction Short Story
“I don’t know how I am going to solve this problem,” Anil said.
Yes, Anil indeed had a big problem on his hands. The problem was his old father. His father had dementia and it was getting worse day by day.
“At first it was okay. We could manage somehow. He used to forget, talk incoherently, have mood swings, get disoriented a bit, needed help doing things – we all tried our best to look after him, my wife, my two kids, all of us did all we could. But now it is becoming impossible,” Anil said.
“I know,” I said, “it must be very difficult for all of you, especially your wife.”
“All these years she really cared for him with love and devotion as if he were her own father. She tolerated his idiosyncrasies, looked after his every need, she has to bathe him, dress him, feed him, even take him to the toilet. Even when he got aggressive with her, she managed to calm him down. But after this morning’s incident she has given me the ultimatum.”
Let me tell you what had happened that morning.
I had gone to Pune Railway Station to receive my daughter who was arriving from Delhi by Duronto Express when I spotted Anil’s father wandering aimlessly on the platform from where the Deccan Queen to Mumbai was about to leave. Suddenly he started walking towards the AC Coach and was about to board the train when I stopped him, caught hold of his hand and pulled him aside. He did not recognize me. He tried to pull his hand free and when I tightened my grip he gestured towards the train and started muttering at me incoherently: “Mumbai … Duty … Mumbai … Duty …” and suddenly he got aggressive and tried to violently break free so I raised an alarm and with the help of some people we overpowered him and then he collapsed and started weeping like a child.
I called up Anil who rushed to the station and we had to literally carry him to the car. Suddenly his condition worsened and it looked like he was having a seizure so we rushed him to hospital where they admitted the old man into the ICU to keep him under observation.
We sat outside the ICU. I felt sad for Anil and his father. Anil and I were “Railway Children” who had grown up together in those typical Railway Townships which adorn big railway junctions all over
. Our fathers, both from the same batch of SCRA, were close friends and we luckily had many postings in the same station, so Anil and I became close friends too. After school we both went to IIT and now both of us lived and worked in Pune. I felt sad for Anil’s father. In the prime of his life he had such a regal commanding personality – and now dementia had reduced him to this misery in his old age. India
Soon our wives, a few colleagues and friends arrive and we stand in balcony outside the ICU of the hospital brainstorming to find a solution to the problem.
“I cannot handle him anymore,” Anil’s wife says, “ever since he got this dementia, the last few years have been hell for me. Anil goes out to work, the children go to school, but I have to live with him all the time. I have to do everything, suffer his tantrums, even clean his shit, and now he does this – just runs away from home and gets lost. I can’t take it anymore – I will go crazy.”
“She needs a break,” my wife says to Anil, “why don’t you send him to your sister’s place for a few days?”
“His sister?” Anil’s wife says mockingly, “as long as her father was fine she was the doting daughter ensuring that she got her share in his property. Now that he is sick, she is shirking her responsibility and has washed her hands off him. The last time she visited us I asked her to take her father to her house in Mumbai for a few days so that we could get some respite and do you know what her husband said? He said that he didn’t want an insane man in his house as it would affect his children. So I asked him: what about our children? And Anil’s sister just kept quiet. After that they haven’t shown up. I hate her. All she does is call up once in a while and then tell the whole world how concerned she is.”
“That’s really very sad but even today it is the sons who are expected to look after their parents, especially the eldest son” someone says, and asks Anil, “You have a brother?”
“He is abroad, in
“That’s the best thing to do. Escape abroad to a good life in
and forget about your parents.” America
“Longevity is increasing and these old people are becoming a big problem. In our colony almost everyone’s kids are in
and their hapless parents spend a lonely existence with all sorts of health problems.” America
“Don’t worry, Sir. At least your father is not as bad as my neighbour. The poor man’s brain cells are dying and he is lying like a vegetable for the last six months with tubes inserted to feed him and take his stuff out,” the recently joined software engineer tries to console Anil thinking that if she tells Anil of someone with a greater misfortune maybe he will feel some consolation but unfortunately it has the opposite effect and Anil asks her, “Did he have dementia? Will my father also become a vegetable?”
“No, nothing of that sort will happen. Your Dad will be okay,” I say putting my hand on Anil’s shoulder.
“But we can’t keep your father at home in this condition. I cannot bear it any longer. I will just collapse one day. And now he has started getting aggressive. I am scared. ” Anil’s wife says.
“Why can’t we keep in hospital?” my wife asks.
“We can’t keep him in this hospital forever,” I say.
“Not this hospital.”
“Then which hospital?”
“An institution. Where they can treat his mental problems.”
“A mental hospital? You want me to put my father into a lunatic asylum?” Anil says getting angry, “My father is not a lunatic, he has not gone mad. Poor fellow has just got dementia for which there is no cure.”
“Cool down Anil,” I say, “she didn’t mean to hurt you.”
My wife says sorry to Anil and we sit quietly till the Intensivist calls us and says, “He has stabilized now. All parameters are okay. We will move him to a special room later at night and keep him under observation. You can go home and relax now. We will look after him. You can take him home tomorrow morning.”
“You all go home,” Anil says, “I will stay with him in hospital and bring him home in the morning.”
“No,” Anil’s wife says, “I don’t want him to come home. You arrange something…”
The Intensivist looks at her quite perplexed, so I gesture to him that all is well and say to Anil, “Okay, you stay here and we will all go home and think of some solution.”
On our way home we pick up Anil’s kids and take all of them to our place. Anil’s wife sleeps in our bedroom with my wife, all the kids sleep in their room and I lie down on the sofa trying to think of a solution to Anil’s problem.
The ring of my mobile jolts me out my sleep. It is Anil. His voice sounds strange, shaky, and he cries incoherently, “The problem has been solved…the problem has been solved… my father is dead…while they were shifting him from the ICU to the ward, he got violent, the stretcher tumbled, he fell on head, broke his neck and died on the spot.”
“Oh My God,” I say, but I can still hear Anil sobbing, “Poor man. He must have heard us. So he solved the problem, his problem, our problem, everyone’s problem…” and then I can hear Anil breaking down into tears.
Copyright © Vikram Karve 2011
Vikram Karve has asserted his right under the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988 to be identified as the author of this work.
© vikram karve., all rights reserved.
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About Vikram Karve
A creative person with a zest for life, Vikram Karve is a retired Naval Officer turned full time writer. Educated at IIT Delhi, ITBHU Varanasi, The Lawrence School Lovedale and Bishops School Pune, Vikram has published two books: COCKTAIL a collection of fiction short stories about relationships (2011) and APPETITE FOR A STROLL a book of Foodie Adventures(2008) and is currently working on his novel. An avid blogger, he has written a number of fiction short stories and creative non-fiction articles in magazines and journals for many years before the advent of blogging. Vikram has taught at a University as a Professor for almost 14 years and now teaches as a visiting faculty and devotes most of his time to creative writing. Vikram lives in Pune
with his family and muse - his pet dog Sherry with whom he takes long walks thinking creative thoughts. India
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Fiction Short Stories Book
Foodie Book: Appetite for a Stroll