“How’s he now?” – I heard Sudha asking Ambareesh
“Same like yesterday, Didi. Doctor came and checked sometime back. But he never says anything to me!” – Ambareesh did not try to hide his discontent.
Ambareesh joined 3 months back as my aide when I found it difficult to move around without assistance. It was excruciating to accept that I had to depend on someone to move around, even in my own house! From that point onwards, my health has been deteriorating and I have been fighting this battle with myself. Nobody understands my pain when I have to call for Ambareesh or Mani, my long-time driver cum guide, even to reach the toilet on time! Till a few months back, I was racing against time to manage the hospital, the library and the society we had formed many years back. It was not easy, but I enjoyed every moment of it. I enjoyed the upper hand at all those things I was involved in. I enjoyed reaching first at all functions of the family without fail. I enjoyed arranging the events of the family or the firms I was involved with. I never trusted anyone and preferred to look over things all by myself. After all, these kept me going happy and busy after my retirement!
I knew that many members of the family and our institutions were not happy the way I behaved with them – strict, sometimes even rude. Now when I look back, I could have been a little milder with a few. I don’t regret being rude or straightforward with most of the people I dealt with. But with some, it was more out of habit than the need to be! Probably that’s why many people, even those close to the family, have never bothered to visit me.
I know I have a terminal illness. But that never made me feel weak or vulnerable. Mentally, I was strong. But physically, I needed help! That’s exactly what I could not fathom. I guess being completely independent for 80 years of your life makes you get used to that freedom. I knew I couldn’t help much, but I didn’t want to give up too. Not yet, that is!
I could sense Sudha leave the room. Now it was just me, Ambareesh and Mani who came with lunch. I couldn’t have it. I was totally on tubes! I couldn’t smell or taste anything these days. I hated to see the sympathy in the people’s eyes that came to visit me. I made sure I slept through the day so that I could avoid seeing them. I knew, except for a few, most of the people who visited me only for a formality. They hated me for whatever I am! I always knew that and never bothered about it. Mani also knew this.
He has been with me for over 30 years now. He is hardly 2 years younger to me, a local with whom I have played games and grown up. Though people found it surprising or difficult to accept, coming from me, I took him as my staff when I found him struggling to make a living. That was not me as many people knew!
“Did the doctor visit? What did he say? Can we take him home?” – That was Sharath enquiring on my condition. Sharath is my nephew and he lived next door with my sister, that’s his mother. He loved his bike and friends and I have often miffed with him for coming home late. But I was wrong to think that he was irresponsible. He has been visiting me every day without fail every time I was hospitalized. He came near me and touched my forehead. I could feel his cold hand. But I didn’t bother to open my eyes and respond.
Ambareesh told him that the doctor had come in an hour before.
“He would be checking the patients now. I will talk to him and come back.” – I heard Sharath telling him.
I wondered why I was kept in the hospital. I knew that my condition got worse last Monday or so. I can’t remember the day exactly! I am an old man you see! Well, I wouldn’t have agreed that another day. I couldn’t even drink water since then. I still didn’t want to give up. I am branded a fighter, whether I liked it or not! My family didn’t want to give up on me too. They had graver issues to handle and didn’t want people to be talking about giving up on me. Even that could be the reason.
The last few years have not been easy with our family. One after the other was falling prey to that deadly killer. I have been running around managing things despite all these happening. I have heard people talk behind me that I never bothered. They hardly knew I was more bothered than anyone else in the house and wanted to keep myself busy and distracted. That’s the only way I could survive emotionally.
Men don’t cry you see! That’s what we have been told since childhood. That makes us tough it seems! I am not sure whether not crying made me tough or my willingness to face the world head on made me tougher. Mani knew me better than the rest. He often told me it was ok to relax and let go. He would take me for a stroll at the beach nearby where I could walk alone for a while till I felt better. Ambareesh was not bad either. It’s been 3 months since he joined the family and has seen most of the relatives who came to visit me. He was as familiar with most of them as my children or grandchildren would be.
I knew I was not doing it right when I shouted at my wife or children out of frustration. But that was the normal me! I did not want them to see a softer and vulnerable me. I would break down in front of them, shatter into pieces, the moment they see that part of me.
Now I waited! I waited for the doctor to declare the final verdict. I have seen it all and done it all. It pains me physically and mentally to remain alive. Physically, because of my illness and Mentally, to see the false sympathy! I hate it, especially coming from some of them. Sharath came back. He didn’t have much to say. I heard him breakdown into tears.
Finally, the doctor has given it away. I don’t have to wait for long. I felt happy. Happy to be bidding goodbye to all of them – once for all! I knew I had not handed over or planned my succession. I didn’t do it, purposefully. I couldn’t find one person who can manage these as well as I could! I knew they had already decided, without informing me. I knew them a tad too well for that. That’s why I couldn’t wait to bid goodbye. In fact, I just wanted to leave, without a formal goodbye. Without the ruckus it would create. Without having to feel it!
I fell into a deep sleep. I could sense a smile on my face; I could sense myself getting lighter. Did I finally make it? I must have, or else my burdens would never make me feel this light and happy. I could sense a bright light. I opened my eyes and saw nothing but that bright light. I turned back and saw Sharath and Mani cry uncontrollably. Ambareesh was sad too! He was worried, probably about finding his next employer!
I did not want to wait for others to come. I wanted to set myself free – of the final wait, of all the burdens that weighed my mind, and of all the hatred that I bore in my heart. I walked towards the source of the light. I couldn’t wait anymore to reach the source; to break away all my ties with this inhumane world.
PS: Its a work of fiction!