A Tumultuous Week

Some weeks ago, I had commented on a couple of blogs that I was looking forward to a trip to India and that I had envied the trips others had planned. Little did I know that within hours, I would be in India to spend a fast paced and torrid week….It was an international call the wee hours of a morning that started it all.

Soon I was sitting on the SAL flight to Taiwan from LAX. The Singapore girls looked as fascinating as they did while in college, when I had collected many a hundred SAL adverts from Time & Newsweek. The flight was uneventful; I was quickly done with the Erich Segal Book ‘Prizes’ between bouts of fitful sleep. The plane was full, there were a few India families and the food was great. I managed to get authentic Indian (AVML) food from this airline, one voted many times as the world’s best. It was then that I found out that there were so many other varieties that could be ordered like Oriental Veg, strict Veg, non strict Veg, vegan, vegan western, Ovo Lacto, Hindu, Muslim, Kosher, Seafood, fruits only, low fat, low cal, diabetic and low salt meals!! Strangely, no ANVML listed!!

A stop over in Taipei reveled that it was another recent Desi destination; I could even see an IT youngster lounging at the airport bus stop…From the air, the capital looked like any other Indian city, but on the ground, the airport was spotlessly clean and virtually empty in the wee hours of that morning. Soon it was off to Singapore’s Changi airport and with that stop; I had finally circumnavigated the world. In all these years of travel, I had never completed the circle, but well, on the 1st of June 2008, I did it, crossing the Pacific. As before, Changi never ceases to amaze me, such a lovely airport, one with character compared to the standard fare you see at most places. The people waiting for the Kochi leg at Changi included a group of television crew who were taking part in some global treasure hunt. Their next stop was apparently a Neelakulangara Devi temple somewhere in Cochin.

The final leg after many hours of flying took me to the Kochi airport. From the airport, it was a blur. With my brother waiting for me, we sped to the hospital where my mother lay fighting for her life, as I had known it would be after I had heard the prognosis from my brother before I flew out. The rains poured as they do in Kerala, sounding like machine gun fir eon the car roof. When I burst into the hospital room and saw her face, I knew that she did not have much time, so waxen and tired did she look, eyes dull and unfocused, skin sallow & pale and the demeanor, listless. She did respond to voice, trying hard to focus her eyes, but it was proving difficult. Each movement was painful; the cancer was ripping away the remaining hours of her life. I stood with brimming eyes, and thought back of the life she gave us, of the good old and happy days…My brother and sister were there, so also my aunt. Now and then mom tried to pull away the oxygen tube snaking into her nostrils, probably they itched. Nurses came and went, efficiently helping her settle into morphine induced slumber. Doctors walked in and out with great authority, but slunk away without definite answers. Some time the next day, the chief and her team walked in. So impressive was this lady, a Punjabi doc who could speak fluent Malayalam, that I hoped others would learn from her on how to handle a patient. She explained to us that there was little to be done, and that the end was near.

Two days later, mom breathed her last, conscious till the very end. Sitting in the ambulance, next to her lifeless body, as the driver sped through the NH47, bound for home, I reminisced on various moments of our life together, eyes tearing now and then…

Through these two hours, I was briefly taking in the new developments in my mater-land while gazing through the windows of the ambulance…the roads were being widened and many buildings on either side were fully or partially demolished to make way for the new requirements of a fast moving populace. There were many new eating places on the roadsides, so many new cars and trucks, but then, as we reached Pallavur, our destination, it was like being back into the 60’s, where time has stopped. The roads were the same, no new buildings, but the old LP school was being destroyed, don’t know why…

The body was laid to rest for viewing – A freezer box with glass windows was arranged for that purpose, but the power supply failed within minutes as some electric post was being replaced. KSEB was true to form. A generator was brought in, and was soon chugging away. People started to arrive; offering condolences and kind words…By afternoon it was time for the cremation – her soul would soon begin its journey to the distant world of ancestors. Visitors continued to pour in the next few days.

The days were not without some mirth - An uncle had a flat tire that we had to help change…India is still the same; it takes a driver or a workshop (or an NRI as in this case) to replace a flat tire. Rarely would the owner know what to do! A bucket was lost in the well and it took collective efforts from the engineers of the house and many hours of work to trace it and to pull it out.

Sunday - It was time to return and the flight back was monotonous – this time via Tokyo. Narita did not impress, unfortunately I had assumed that it would.

Back to the chaos of Los Angeles and the Inland Empire, the demands of work and the life of the living.


Indrani said…
This was very touching Maddy! May She rest in peace!
maxdavinci said…
By the time I was done reading, my eyes were moist.

harimohan said…
losing a loved one is dificult ,the art of writing and reminiscing by words brings a certain solace ,may her soul rest in peace .
Maddy, so sad.
Sarah said…
asato ma sadgamaya
tamaso ma jyotirgamaya
mrtyorma amrtam gamaya

may her soul rest in peace.
narendra shenoy said…
My condolences. Your down-to-earth style of writing brought out your love for your mother far more effectively than any verbose eulogy.

All human beings are irreplaceable, of course, but mothers are the most irreplaceable of them all.
Maddy, I'm so sorry. It is difficult to express one's feelings in such situations. Please accept my condolences.

May the good lady's soul rest in peace.
Pradeep said…
Though I saw on my blogroll "A tumultuous week", I went on to read the mail you sent to me. Then, when I came to your blog, I knew what the week was all about. Yet, the way you recounted and narrated with poignancy was arresting.

I have taken a printout your post, and given to my father to read. My father and mother join me in extending our heartfelt condolences to you.
Happy Kitten said…
Was late in reading your post...

My hearfelt condolences to you Maddy. May the Almighty comfort you and your loved ones on a loss which is irreplaceable.

.. a Mother is too precious in this world of ours.. and you have expressed that love so well in your post..
Dear Maddy,

I am deeply saddened to learn about the sad demise of your beloved mother. There are times in everyone's life when the human helplessness is felt . Your poignant writing brought tears as it brought to focus the inevitable end of a lofty soul and the helpless wanderings of a living soul.

with deepest condolences,

Murali RamaVarma
ER Ramachandran said…

I think with this one visit,part of you travelled a long distance with your mother.This is what it counts for you and your mother.Condolences.
Praveen G K said…
Maddy sir,

My heartfelt condolences!!! I just do not know how to express my condolences, for a loss, so truly irreplaceable.
My heartfelt condolences.
May her soul rest in peace.

(Feeling sorry to have emailed you in these times.)
Jennifer said…
I join in with the rest in sending my heartfelt condolences.

What strikes me about your narration is the calm and uneventful plane ride is juxtaposed with the events once you landed in India.
I'm so sorry. This is so sad. I too express my condolences.
Snow Leopard said…

I am so sorry to hear about this. Perfectly understands your feeling, for I had a similar expericence when my mom died in Medical College KTM a decade back.

You well hid your feelings in this post, I should say.

Gardenia said…
Maddy, I hope you find comfort and strength to recover from your great loss. May the departed soul rest in peace.
Gardenia said…
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Maddy said…
Thanks to all of you for your kind words and condolences...