Literature & Fiction | 14 Chapters
Author: Ram Joshi
“Not everyone is meant to walk together, but true love always leads to the path of freedom and timeless bliss.”Olivia, a traveler blog writer, left shaken when she returned back from her Europe trip.Olivia’s mother, Meera claimed she lied all these years about the death of Olivia’s father, Rahil.Dazed with all the new information Meera revealed, Olivia failed to distinguish if it was true or just an illusion of Meera’s ill mind - as doc....
‘Ma’am, please tell me your name.’
‘My name…’ the old lady snapped but then clogged. She kept rubbing her shirt button as she was lost in the glossy hair knocking at the edge of an eyebrow, shining with a decent makeup on the caretaker’s face.
The caretaker, with a wooden face, glanced at the wrinkle lines on the side by the lips of an old lady, and said, ‘Ma’am, your name.’
‘Yes, my name’ the old lady smiled, pretending to be in the present. She said ‘My name is Meera.’
The caretaker looked straight at the doctor, who was standing behind a glass window.
Olivia, Meera’s daughter, who stood beside the doctor, watched everything without a clue.
The doctor nodded in response to the caretaker’s glimpse, as the caregiver continued with her questions. ‘Can you please tell me today’s date?’ she asked.
‘21st March, 2048’ Meera replied.
‘Do you know where we are?’ the caretaker threw another question without further holdup.
Meera didn’t pay any attention to her question. She felt itchy, seated on the flat chair with the cold room temperature. At quick intervals, she kept looking at the air conditioner.
The caretaker sensed her discomfort. She turned off the air conditioner and asked again. ‘Ma’am, please tell me which part of the city we are in right now?’
‘I don’t know…’ Meera became nervous. She was again lost for a moment and looked at the air conditioner. She said, ‘Well, I do know but I am not going to tell you.’
‘It’s ok. Let’s move to the next question.’ The caretaker asked, ‘May I know your age please?’
This time she refused to answer with an unspoken aggression.
At a concerned look from the caretaker, the doctor went out of the room. Olivia followed him. ‘Doctor, what happened to her?’ she asked.
‘Please have a seat,’ the doctor offered a chair, as both of them entered his office. ‘Tell me everything in detail’ he said.
‘Yesterday morning when I came back from my Europe trip, she was crying.’ Olivia said as she sat down.
‘When I asked, she said everything was all right. But I felt a strange grief, fear and confusion in her actions throughout the day.
Later she told me that the coffeemaker was not working. But when I checked, it was working fine.
Today morning she brought the same vegetables, but the refrigerator was already full.
When we came here, she forgot the route, even though she passed by here many times.’
The doctor came forward and said, ‘What you mentioned are familiar symptoms, but we need to run a complete diagnosis before concluding anything.’
‘Known symptoms? For what?’ she asked.
‘It is complicated.’ the doctor said worriedly in a melted pitch. ‘But my thirty years of experience says, she is suffering from Alzheimer’s disease.’
‘I think I have heard of it, but don’t know much.’
‘It is a disease allied to the way our memories work,’ the doctor explained further. ‘The memories stored in our brain are key to shaping our experiences, relationships, and a sense of self.
First time of actions, experiences and feelings get stored at several segments of our brain. And in the future, our brain unconsciously responds to carry out repetitive actions based on the past experience stored in it.
For example, on your daily route from home to work, the instruction to turn left or right comes unconsciously based on the stored piece of past experience.
But what if that mechanism to give an unconscious response stops? What if the brain fails to store experiences? And even worse, what if the brain starts losing the pieces already stored in it one by one?
‘One day it will be a blank slate, like a brain of a new-born baby.’
‘Exactly, but that slate would never be filled up again. Day-by-day, she would forget everything about her past and won’t be able to remember any new experiences.
Back there, she failed to recall the exact location and her age. The questions were not as personal to get refused by anyone. But she did, likely because she was unable to answer.’
Olivia leaned forward with concern, she said ‘I am also worried about how awfully thin she became. Is it related to this disease too?’
‘It is common with Alzheimer’s disease. She must not be able to take care of herself, for food, finance, etc. Also as you stay out of town most of the time, no one is with her to take care of her.’
‘Let me show you something.’ The doctor turned on the computer screen to show the photos of patients suffering from Alzheimer’s disease.
‘I have seen several cases where patients forget how to cook, perform routine chores, even have difficulty brushing their teeth, combing hair or making their beds. In some cases patients become significantly forgetful and may also believe that a dead person is still alive.’
‘Ok, if this is what it is, how can we cure it?’
The doctor was silent for a moment, looked at her and said, ‘Sorry Olivia, but medical science has no proven cure for it.’
The doctor’s answer left Olivia with her head down as frozen fingers jumbled her hair.
Olivia was a writer. Her blog posts were trendy, particularly in the region. She often stayed out of the city and travelled to different regions. She hardly spent a few days in a month or two with her mother.
She was a practical and an adventurous girl. She was strong, but always turned emotional when it came to her mother, who was the only person close to her heart.
Her father died in a car accident before she was born. From day one, Meera took care of Olivia’s every little thing. With all those beautiful and touching memories, Olivia’s heart refused to accept that her mother grew weaker and perhaps she was suffering from a disease with no cure.
With her head still down, Olivia asked, ‘When you will be able to confirm?’
‘From tomorrow morning we can start the diagnoses, it would take three days.’
‘Can I take her home today?’ she gazed at the doctor with a hope to receive a positive response.
‘Of course, you can.’ The doctor smiled. He further said, ‘But remember, it would be good for her health to do everything as she wants and avoid disagreeing with her.’
‘I will take care of it.’ Olivia stood up, smiled tight-lipped, ‘Thank you.’ she said.
On the way back home, Meera fixed her eyes on the narrow streets of Jaén, a beautiful city in Spain.
Unaware of the fleeting lively scenery outside Meera was lost in deep thoughts.
Olivia tried a few times to have jocular conversations with Meera but she did not respond. Her face wore a big mysterious sorrow.
Olivia neither succeeded to make her laugh, nor was she able to feel any glee in the moment.
Disturbed with Meera’s illness, Olivia looked at the Ganesha, an elephant God in the form of a small idol, in the middle of the car dashboard. He was the only one smiling in that car.
Olivia had great faith in lord Ganesha. It was one of those rare things inherited from her Indian culture.
After moving to Spain many years ago, Meera took up the culture of the country. But her heart still pursued Indian traditions and culture, which she always tried to pass on to her daughter.
Olivia looked at Ganesha and prayed:
Please help me. They say it is not possible to cure. I don’t know what to do. I need your help. Please, please show me the right path.
‘Turn left!’ Meera shouted all of a sudden.
Olivia glanced at her with surprise, ‘Home is on the right, mom.’ she said.
‘I don’t want to go home.’ said Meera, ‘Take me to our olive farm.’
Olivia felt a bit relieved. Even though Meera surprised her with a sudden shout, at least she broke the silence, plus remembered the road.
Traffic got disturbed at the crossroad as Olivia turned left at the last moment.
The driver of a car which was right behind them went for a sudden brake. He came out and shouted. It was a tiny heart attack for him.
Meera turned back, looked at him and laughed.
Olivia thoughtfully smiled, she didn’t say a word, and continued to drive. It reminded Olivia of her school days. She, with her friends, spent many crazy afternoons teasing random individuals.
But it was not Meera’s usual behaviour. Meera lived as a solemn persona. She always taught Olivia the lessons of superior manners and to respect everyone.
Golden rays made its way through olive leaves, reflected radiant colours on the well-polished wooden bench.
It was one of the oldest trees in that region, more than a thousand years old. At least that’s what senior citizens of the region claimed. Regardless of that fact, Meera had a unique attachment with that olive tree.
She never sold a single olive of that tree, even though a few local factories were ready to pay double for the olives of that tree.
Meera had nothing to worry about when it came to money, she owned two olive farms, earning much more than what she needed.
She always went there, sat under the old olive tree, and spent a good amount of time in silence.
That day, Meera had two diaries with her, one with a black cover and another with green. She opened the one with the green cover, wrote something with profound pleasure and again was lost in deep thoughts.
Olivia turned inquisitive as she saw the two diaries. But she ended up asking nothing.
Seated besides Meera, she looked at the luminous pattern formed by the rays and shadows of the trees in a row.
Olivia was talkative, but there she passed more than thirty minutes without uttering a single word. She didn’t understand what they were doing there, but she tried to be with her mom.
Three workers far away were busy with the olive harvest. Olivia looked at them and looked at the trees again. Olivia knew her mother was in deep thought. She just waited to create a comfortable space for Meera to express herself.
It was a long wait. Typical human nature is to get everything immediately. And it is the point where half of us lose the game – we fail to wait.