I knocked on the door of the room. Mrs. Bhatia looked up from her book and smiled. ‘Do I know you?’, she asked.
‘I am Dr. Shashi. Remember we sit and talk two days a week’, I said.
‘Do we’, she asked
‘Yes’, I replied.
Mrs. Bhatia has Alzheimer’s and she is put up in this medical facility not because her family does not love her but because her condition is fast deteriorating and she needs to be monitored every single moment.
‘So did you have breakfast’, I asked.
She thought for a minute and said, ‘I think so, stomach feels full’.
I switched on the radio. An old song came on.
She smiled and was lost in her thoughts.
‘What happened Mrs. Bhatia’, I asked.
‘We watched this movie in the club’, she said and then shyly added, ‘Raj Kapoor was looking so handsome that Mr. Bhatia felt jealous.’ she giggled. ‘For one full year he did not allow me to watch any movies of Raj Kapoor’.
‘You liked Nargis too?’, I asked.
She had a faraway look, ‘I loved her in Mother India. I used to threaten my children that I could be as strict as Mother India and would punish them if they didn’t study well’.
‘What are the names of your children, Mrs. Bhatia’, I asked.
‘I used to call my son Riku and daughter Cheeni’, she said.
‘Those are nicknames, what are their actual names’, I asked
She tried to remember but couldn’t.
Then she said. ‘Cheeni is a fun-loving child. Always laughing and making everyone laugh’
My heart turned a little, does it mean she is improving.
‘She loves to dance. I switch on the radio and she dances to whatever song is playing. Such a darling she is, I love dressing her up.’
I smiled. It was good that she was going through the memory lane even if for a brief time.
‘She wants to be a Doctor and Riku an engine driver. Riku is forever running around in his make believe world of engines. And Cheeni is always checking my BP and temperature. We have fun days’, she said.
‘Where are they now?’, I asked.
‘Who?’, she asked
‘Riku and Cheeni?’, I said.
‘I don’t know….. Don’t they come to meet me?’, She said.
Just then an intern came to call me, I was needed somewhere else.
‘Okay, Mrs. Bhatia’, I will leave now’, I said and left.
Outside I stood with the support of the walls. Ma never recognized me. Even if I introduced myself as her daughter she refused to believe me. For her, her daughter Cheeni was still about 10 years old.
Life moves through myriad lanes, some get lost in the mazes of life.