This last week has been spent in a tizzy. I left for Bombay last Tuesday to be by aunt’s side, while my uncle went through a quadruple bypass surgery. Even as I type out the reality, it feels dreamlike. Perhaps it’s my consciousness trying to soften the harshness and the suddenness of events.
My uncle, being a long-standing diabetic and a recent sufferer of Parkinson’s, has always been particular about his health and my aunt’s one-point program has always been to look after him to the best of her abilities. She’s been devoted in that aspect and together they’ve managed to stave off major complications. Perhaps that’s why we were all so shocked when she called us late morning on the 5th of Jan to tell us, they had taken him to hospital with breathlessness. I remember the moment with that peculiar clarity that seems to accompany such moments. Moments when you know that Life as you knew it is about to change and nothing is ever going to be quite the same again. Moments, that cause you to hold your breath and shut your eyes. Moments in which you find yourself praying (if you’re a believer and sometimes even if you’re not), and hoping that what you’re going to hear is not bad news, while your sixth sense is telling you that it is. The proverbial ‘sweaty palm moment’ before you decide on ‘Fight or Flight’. I’ve had my fair share of these and perhaps that’s why I recognized this one instantly and knew what I had to do.
I’m thankful that once I knew what I had to do, circumstances conspired so that I could indeed do it, not always a possibility. I’m referring to Ishaan of course and the fact that I would have to leave him with my Mom and Pushpa, while I travelled to my aunt’s side. My boy is a gem though and he sailed through with flying colors, barely missing me if my Mom is to be believed, and certainly not missing me nearly as much as I missed him! He made up for it though with much hugging and kissing and smiling on my return 🙂 Good boy! But I digress.
The operation lasted approximately four hours, and I am happy to report that they were four relatively tension-free hours because we had such great company. This is when family needs to rise to the occasion and I’m glad & grateful to those that did, couldn’t have done it without them. I can now happily report that the operation was successful and that my uncle’s recovery has been without major hiccups. We’ve been lucky so far and all I wish for now is that our luck should hold and his recovery be completed without further complications. Minor hiccups are unavoidable though…aren’t they always? He’s been a little disoriented and drowsy because of low sodium levels, just like my Dad was after his hip surgery. It’s a very common post-operative imbalance in the elderly and one that you need to watch out for and keep in mind if you have older relatives. But the hospital has provided excellent care (unlike my Dad’s time) and things are getting better.
I spent most of days just being there for my aunt. We got to spend time together especially for the first two days when my uncle was in Intensive Care where no visits are allowed. We spoke like we always do about everything and nothing! And happily we found that we could still laugh together J I was even able to read two books. The Squire, His Knight and His Lady by Gerald Morris and The Art of Racing in the Rain by Garth Stein, both easy, enjoyable reads. I’ve had a lot of time to think too, while sitting around and waiting. So much of time spent in hospitals is about waiting. Waiting for doctors to arrive, for nurses to leave, for tubes to come out, for reports to come in, for tests and results, for evidence of recovery and signs of deterioration, waiting and watching and staying alert to every nuance, every change, imagined and unimagined in the patient’s condition.
I’ve been wondering about several things this past week. How are senior citizens in India expected to manage without any help or support in a medical emergency? It’s not like the Government has any infrastructure in place that will help, nor do I see such a service developing in the near future. India has so many burning issues right now, that the care and need of its older citizens, is hardly a priority. Sadly, I’m talking about this myself only because I am now surrounded by several aging family members, many of whom cannot expect help from family, whether by choice or through misfortune. I do hope though that someone, somewhere, who can do something, will take notice. I would love to be able to help somehow.
The visit also served as a prelude of our move to Bombay this summer, and it’s not a pretty picture. I didn’t expect it to be, but I am saddened by the speed with and the extent to which Bombay had deteriorated since we were last here seven years ago. The city is bursting at its seams and no one seems to care, not the people and certainly not the Government. Traffic is horrendous, hygiene non-existent and corruption rampant. These aren’t new problems, just old ones that seem to have strengthened their strangle-hold on this seamy Metropolis. It makes me sad, as I see Bombay being buried under her own debris. The spirit that all Mumbaikars are so proud of, apparently only surfaces in times of crises, and although I’m thankful for that, I wish it weren’t so.
Which brings me to another burning question…how do I adjust to living in a tiny two-bedroom apartment? More importantly, how does Ishaan, who’s lived his entire life in a sprawling bungalow with its own garden? Will he adjust to playing cricket in the narrow compound? Or will he get bored of the game, coz he’ll have to constantly check his shots to avoid breaking car windshields & apartment windows? How will he adjust to his new school, a large set-up as opposed to his present small family-like environment? That he’ll cry is a given, for how long is what worries me! Oh I know he’ll adjust eventually, we all will, it’s not like we have a choice. But it won’t be easy, and we don’t have to like it…which is what scares me. There is of course the bright side, thank goodness! All the advantages of living in a Metro will automatically be ours…better education, opportunities, healthcare…although sometimes I think that depends on every person’s personal definition of ‘better’. Our apartment although tiny is situated in a quiet lane (in itself a miracle in Bombay), and surrounded by the green tops of the surrounding coconut palms. It is not far from a couple of parks that will have to serve as Ishaan’s playgrounds. And Goa is just a 40 minute plane ride away 🙂 Never thought I would be saying this, but I think I’m going to miss it more than I care to admit 😛
So this has been an eye-opener of a trip. It’s brought me face to face with my own prejudices and fears, but also left me with the knowledge that every crisis can be overcome with the right attitude and approach. It’s not a new lesson, just an old one that has been reinforced and now sits deep & comfortably within my conscience. And I’m a better person for it.
4 thoughts on “Bombay, Bypasses and Burning Questions”
I am so relieved your Uncle is recuperating well, and it sounds like he has quite a support system.
Nothing like a good set of people to surround yourself with in times of distress, thats medicinal in itself. Your disappointment and frustration with the Mumbai of today must surely resonate with many fellow Mumbaikars. I’m sure there must be a way to join hands and get something started!
I was smiling to myself as I read about your questions regarding the shift to Mumbai. Remember when you’d first made the move to Goa from Singapore? I remember the frustrated posts, the fights with your mom and managing baby Ishaan on your own. You’re an old hand at this woman! A toughie! And truly a better person for the sum of those experiences 🙂 I’m your online confidante whenever you need one, hugs
Phat hugs to my online confidante 🙂 🙂 What would I ever do without you! A lot of my time is sent of the phone to Bombay these days and the rest of it in reading (when I can manage to sneak away from Ishaan that is!). Books as always are a true comfort. Thanks for reminding me of those days Aarti…I can’t believe that was just two years ago! I know I have it in me…it’s just the thought that exhausts 😛 Still…I remind myself…anything is better than a static life 🙂 And with friends like you, I don’t have to do any of it alone 🙂
Harsha, iv visited this blog via Munira’s bubble. First, your posts are riveting. Secondly, coming to this particular post–it brings such a vivid picture of Mumbai to my mind. For a Karachiitte, Mumbai is just simply strange. Its a hundred times larger, faster, more crowded and more happening than Karachi. Iv been to Mumbai a few times and I love the fact that one simply gets swept away with the energy and activity of the city. People come and go; life doesn’t stop– come what may.
I can imagine the concoction of paranoia and anticipation you are experiencing over your move. Change is hard to swallow–but like you aptly said: the right attitude and perspective can move mountains.
Hello Maryam and thank you so much for visiting and your kind words 🙂 Bombay is I guess like all great cities…a force to reckon with! It has a vibe that cannot be ignored. You can hate it or love it or hate it and love it at the same time (I do!), but you cannot be indifferent and you can’t ever forget. It’s inexplicable charm for me lies in it’s people who are hardened by the stress of living in an unforgiving city and yet retain their humanity against tremendous odds. My only issue now is that I’m going to have to move, just when Goa (my hometown that I loved to hate for so long :P) is becoming such a fun place for me! C’est la vie! Take care, Harsha.