Tuesday, 21 October 2014

Guest post : By your side, always

By Jagdesh Singh

It was dusk. He sat there, staring at the wall in front of him, her framed portrait looking wistfully towards infinity. It was a hand drawn portrait. The prayers emanated softly from his smartphone, by a faceless man with the calmness of a still wintery night accompanied by the sitar and the tabla. He nods ever so slightly as he understands and recognizes the verses being recited in a song like manner. He then picks up his half filled glass of bourbon whiskey with his left hand, originally on the rocks but the ice now melted, and sips it.

The air-condition unit hummed.
The traffic outside was still a notch higher than just being audible in the completely closed room.
The ceiling fan was at its lowest speed, a tiny creak from it like the sound of a mouse you typically hear in the attic repeats itself.

She was breathing hard, lying on the bed, angled such that she could straddle the pillow under her left thigh, avoiding her back to rest on the firm yet comfortable mattress. Her left arm outstretched a little as he continued to stroke her arm softly. Her contorted face displayed discomfort. Her voice was very soft as she complained to him about her stomach being bloated, causing more distress to her back as her muscles stretched slightly more.

He continues to stroke her arm as softly as he has been. He didn't answer her.
Perhaps, he hoped the medicine she had just taken would slowly take into effect and she would slowly ease into slumber.

Seeing my father touch my mother in such an intimate manner was very rare in all my 40 years of existence. In fact, displays of affection was something rather scoffed at by him, even with his offspring. A firm handshake with me for any good news would suffice, from doing well at studies to the birth of my 3 daughters. It wasn't phobia of the human touch. Rather, his hardened life as a child and teenager conditioned him and his siblings to be such, affectionate displays were luxurious in nature.

My sister was Papa's girl and he dotted over her well late into her teens. Overbearing at times but always justified in his mind. Still, a hug for her was reserved on her wedding day. Anything additional would've been in more private circumstances.

Pain management or palliative management for her was tantamount to us. It was tantamount to him more. He is now almost a shell of his former self. From being a man so proud, almost arrogantly, of his emotional strength that never affects his judgment and character, to a man constantly on the brink of breaking down. That hard and rough surface of his, of emotions, have been stripped down to this shell that exposes a man tortured with horror and sadness. Horror and sadness from helplessly seeing her transform from a zestful woman of life and vigor, of one that smiled to the world at every single good or bad moment throughout her life, to an anxious depressed shadow, wilting like a plucked flower within so little time.

They've been at each other's side for half a century now. She was the shy girl merely old enough to graduate from proper secondary school. He was the brash and straightforward young engineer working for the Public Works Department in the government. Both were enthralled with possibilities and promises of a decade old country, proud with their newly achieved independence from the British Empire. Elvis Priestly was king. The Beatles were the new British Empire. All these years and they've become darlings to everyone that have come to love their warmth and hospitality. Every one of their friends knew them to be 'them', a couple, one was always associated with the other, never alone in any scenario that life offered them.

And now, he stares at a near future of him no more with her by his side. To joke and laugh about others' idiosyncrasies. To travel and marvel. To spoil the grandchildren.

And so, this poignant moment that I happen to witness of him touching her and caressing her, was a slight jolt to my senses. The weight of what I was witnessing slowly bore down on my shoulders manifesting in me hunching forward. This is her deathbed, I thought to myself. That's what they, whoever they are, mean by being at the deathbed.


About the author:
Jagdesh Singh blogs at Incoherent Ramblings and his words can be seen at The Tomkins Times, Anfieldindex, LFC Day Trippers and We are Liverpool.  


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2 comments:

  1. I was going to save this to read later. Then two, three words caught me. A sentence. I was drawn in by the beauty of the language, the simple picture of a life event that demanded my immediate attention. It was a wonderful, poignant read. Thank you.

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