Friday, May 25, 2007

I Can't Forget

My cousin and I would get it nicely (as in Bombay, they say) from our elders for playing around with Dadoo. Young children as we were, shy of even ten years of age, we would both take tremendous joy in standing on morahs and apply lipstick, kajal and rouge on Dadoo. He would bear it without a whimper and laugh his toothless laugh with us, not knowing we were laughing at him. His hair was white and carefully combed and he always sat in the verandah wearing thick glasses. As soon as anyone passed by him, he would say - Ke? Ke gelo re?" Who? Who is it who just passed by? He would do this several times, as many times as you passed by. Therefore, my cousin and I would also whisk past several times, to and fro, and everytime, Dadoo would say - "Ke? Ke gelo re?" We always laughed and giggled about it. But we loved him too. Both of us would hang around his weak neck and ask – " Dadoobhai, bolo aami ke?" And when he mixed us up, we would laugh again – " Na! Aami Tultul; O, Julu" we would say to confuse him further. Dadoobhai, would laugh with us innocently. Poor Dadoobhai, how was he to know one from the other? Or for that matter, how was he to know that he was in Tullygunj and not in Dulali, his native home in Bangladesh? He could not recognize his wife from his mother, his nephew from the family physician, he did not know when sitting among a room full of people, he would pass urine, he did not know that the lady who was constantly by his side, changing his lungi several times a day, bathing him, clothing him, was none other than his wife. When without telling anyone, he would suddenly hail a rickshaw and ask them to take him to Dulali, which was in fact in Bangladesh, the poor rickshaw-puller would finally realize that "Dadoo" was not really well and carefully bring him back to where he had taken his so called hired service. He would then go from door to door inquiring where this old gentleman was from. My grandaunt, Didimoni, would rise from her tears and rush to fetch him in, drying her tears with the edge of her sari. Was she never tired? What must have gone through her heart and mind, we never knew. She never complained. In fact, she was ever joyous at his little ziddi talks when as she bowed down to complete her morning puja he would pester her " Ma, prasad dao na. Dao na, Ma."

Dadoobhai was my mothers’ mama, her mother’s brother. My grandmother had only one sibling in him because, while they were very young, her parents died. The two children were adopted by their Mashi. My grandmother was married early. I am not sure when her brother was. But, way after my grandmother’s passing away, I was born and I stayed at my mother’s family house in Shillong and came to Calcutta once in a while. On these Calcutta holidays, my cousin sister and I would visit Dadoo at his home in Tullygunj, where he lived with his nephew. My Dadoo and Didimoni did not have any children between them. But for my Didimoni, I guess the need for a child was fulfilled by her husband itself – he had turned to such a baby. I am not sure when Dadoobhai passed away, but I know that Didimoni never left the bed after his passing away and it was not many months before she breathed her last.

The story was tucked away in my mind for many years. Until I received this invitation. It all came back but this time, I was flooded not with laughter but with tears – for my Dadoobhai and more so for my Didimoni. Such patience, such dedication, such magnanimity, such joy. I can only remember her in her white sari with a red border, smiling and showering us with love and care. I ask myself, did she ever cry like I am just thinking about her? My mind says, maybe. But who was there to see it? And even if my Dadoobhai saw it, would he have ever understood her pain and in any case, she would have pulled the edge of her sari and quickly wiped those drops of tears away.

How many mothers allow their children to see their pain and their tears?

~ The End ~

In response to the Invitation to Attend The Opening Ceremony of Dignity Dementia Care Centre at D 160,Gate 4, Freedom Fighters Enclave, Neb Sarai, IGNOU Road, New Delhi 110 068 on May 30, 2007, by Dignity Foundation, lead by the very dynamic Founder President, Dr Sheila Sreenivasan (

Caring for people whose brain disorders disturb and damage cognitive functions, affecting memory, one’s very personality, judgement, mood and social functioning.

What is dementia?

Dementia is a progressive brain dysfunction (in Latin 'dementia' means irrationality), which results in a restriction of daily activities and in most cases leads in the long term to the need for care. Many diseases can result in dementia, the most common one being Alzheimer's disease.

To know more about Dementia and Alzheimer’s Disease:

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