2016, the year after amma’s recurrent aortic dissection, saw a metamorphosis in me that went beyond just phone calls.
By now, I had completely taken over responsibility for her health – from taking her to frequent hospital visits to carefully arranging all her medical records to putting in an effective system in place so she took her medicines correctly and on time – in short, I had become her health gatekeeper. Given my poor temperament in doing routine work, I had to really force myself to change. I just about managed.
Mainly in order to please her, I started following a number of traditional practices. While some of these were religious, some were simply being respectful – such as touching my parents’ feet everyday before leaving for office.
Interestingly, this last habit has really caught on with me, and old folks meeting me today have to be prepared for a sudden genuflection happening in front of him or her. 89 While working on a consulting assignment for GlaxoSmithkline I visited their Horlicks making factory in Nabha, Punjab in north India and right next to it, saw a beautiful Gurudwara. 90 There was an old, wise-looking Sikh sitting outside its gate. Out of habit, I bent down and touched his feet, quite surprising him. Even more surprised were my two colleagues – and feeling obligated, they too bent down and touched his feet, making the old man say that South Indians were the most respectful people on earth. If only he knew!
Fig 25: Falling at one’s feet. This habit has certainly earned me praises from many old people across the country!
I started coming home earlier than usual, or at least tried my best to. This was quite important because she wanted me to personally hand over her medicines to her. Of course, she could have easily done this herself as everything was well organized, but she was not exactly giving me a choice.
I cut down my business trips to the bare minimum possible, and tried to ensure that none of the trips within India was for more than three days at a stretch.
Even the international trips I made were restricted to the maximum of a week. The entire duration of a trip I made to Dusseldorf to attend a 3-day international exhibition was just five and a half days! 91 Given that it was my first ever visit to such a powerful and fascinating country, I would have stayed at least a week longer in normal times.
Every time I left home for anywhere, even after saying goodbye inside the house, I deliberately turned at the end of the lane and did something I had rarely bothered to do until then – waved a hand at her. She would, without fail, be standing at the door waiting for my wave.
Every time while travelling out of the city, when I waved my hand, it was with a hope that it won’t be the last.
For those who are extroverts and social animals, and even for many normal humans, none of the above might seem noteworthy – you probably do more to your loved ones everyday. But for folks like me for whom others exist only in the abstract, these activities – and a few more that I started doing – are quite out of character.
89. Touching an elder’s feet, known as Padasparshan in Sanskrit, has been a sign of respect in Hindu tradition for ages.
90. Gurudwara Tibbi Sahib, Nabha
91. K-16 Plastics & Rubber Fair
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