Rahul Da Cunha: Happily ever after
He was fit and sort of fine, not fully in the pink of health but there was nothing specifically wrong with him it wasn't like he had cancer, or a coronary ailment, or even needed constant care
His long-term memory was fine. Playing seven tiles in his Byculla home as a teenager back in the'40s, every minute detail of Hitler's invasion of Europe on the radio, all that was crystal clear — as if it had happened yesterday. But what had actually happened yesterday, he was blank. Couldn't fully remember what he'd had for lunch.
He was fit and sort of fine, not fully in the pink of health but there was nothing specifically wrong with him — it wasn't like he had cancer, or a coronary ailment, or even needed constant care. But there was this uncomfortable feeling in the back of his head, the pit of his stomach, a bit like an old car, well past its sell by date — you never knew what would give, every day there was something small going wrong — the knees did bother him in December, for example. And the creaks were getting louder... nothing hospital worthy, but there it was.
He'd been an athlete in his salad days, his 400 metres Bombay University record had held till quite recently. He'd exercised 30 minutes every day for all of his 80 years. Sure, his run had slowed down to a jog, which later morphed into a jaunt and finally into a firm saunter. His friends, in comparison, were dropping like flies. Dinshaw Aibara, his old St Mary's SSC buddy, fellow 4x100 relay teammate had died peacefully in his sleep.
Suraj from his laughter club, had popped off mid-laugh at the park. These oldies were blessed. Best way to die. No long suffering, no dependency on family, the idea that his grandkids would have to sleep nights in the hospital because,'Our Nana is sick, man, we love him but to sleep nights there… seriously depressing'. He definitely didn't want to be a burden on anyone.
And, the thought of some male nurse, helping him to the toilet — okay, so his Sheela had passed away many years ago, but he'd got used to his life, alone as it was and lonely at times, but a body hovering around him 24x7, treating him like a cretin, that was a strict no-no. And then, horror of horrors, he'd been advised adult diapers, just because once he'd lost control, tried to tell them that his zipper had got stuck — did they not care about a complete loss of dignity?
See, he realised that this was no Benjamin Button situation. There was no going back — people dyeing their hair just made them look younger. Nonsense! It was just the opposite. There was no illness, no imminent danger, no ICU situation. There was no cure for this in any medical book, no doctor who'd taken the Hippocratic Oath could advise you on how to handle this phase of degeneration.
He suffered from something for which there was no cure. The exact opposite of that thing called youth. The first cousin of that phase called middle age. It was called old age.
Rahul da Cunha is an adman, theatre director/playwright, photographer and traveller. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org
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