22 October, 2008

Fear of Death

The bus was fully loaded. I got into the bus and started moving inside. As the conductor was keen on accomodating more passengers, he was keeping on shouting to move. I almost went near the driver’s seat. This was a private bus running in the suburbs of Chennai. The conductors were paid commission according to the sales.

I looked around. It was very crowded. There were huge baskets near the gear box and the driver yelled at those villagers who had kept them. They moved it a bit and in the newly found space another villager went and sat. Loud music was being played. It was another latest hit (those days) by Ilaiyaraja. It was hot and humid morning. You cannot expect the people around to have used the world class perfumes. Since it was morning the sweat smell of people around was bearable. It was interesting to hear the driver and conductor’s comment at each and every stop. There were funny characters doing their own comics. After all villagers are very innocent. There was a level crossing and the gates at level crossing went down. The bus stopped at the gates.

I kept observing the people around and it all happened suddenly. The villager before me suddenly started showing some signs of pain on his body. He closed is eyes and started making gestures. He could not speak. He started beating his chest. I noticed this, and started enquiring the man calmly. Slowly everyone started noticing and were offering their own treatments. I looked for symptoms of heart attack. I asked him, one by one and the man constantly said that he felt a kind of blockage in his chest. Suddenly a lady offered her water bottle and other passengers asked him to have it slowly. He started showing little improvement. Again he started beating his chest and I requested him not to do it.

The railway gates opened and I requested the driver to stop in the nearby town so that he could be attended. The patient started getting scared. He thought he is going to die and started crying. He was not ready to listen to me. He wanted to rush to see his family before he could breathe last. I listened to all his symptoms and was not sure whether it was heart attack. Since the bus was full of villagers, they all thought he is very serious and carried him to a Doctor in the next stop. I could see him improving within those 10 minutes. He said he was better before getting off the bus and thanked me for all the comfort. I wished him to recover soon. I could remember the fear on his face for those few minutes. Since I had very important job to be done, and there were sufficient people to take care of him, I continued my journey. After a week or so, I travelled by the same bus and the same gentleman was there smiling. He came and held both of my hands and thanked me for all the help offered. He said that he went to Doctor immediately, and it was nothing but some kind of Gastric problem. After this I used to see him very frequently in the same area and he became alright. But I could not forget those fearful moments he had. Fear of death!

When I was in my early teens, I was attending a function in a local temple. It was dark and we were doing some service to the devotees. Suddenly I felt something biting my legs and shook my legs so hard and there was a Scorpion. My friends found it in dark and screamed. They immediately killed it and each started screaming something. Sekar, my childhood friend, who was exposed to all these creatures due to his farming background, immediately said that if it had bitten me I may be in danger. On hearing those words I started feeling bad and felt that I was losing my senses. I could hear all the friends screaming. I requested to be taken home and wanted to see my mother. Since each one were telling something, I thought I will die soon. I was given first aid and some elderly gentleman who was in the temple, saw the bitten place on my foot and said that the Scorpion had just started to climb my foot and I had kicked my leg immediately. He was my saviour since he said that I need not worry and will be alright soon. Still I wanted to rush home and see my family. Those fearful moments ! I experienced the fear of death.

Years have rolled by. Now I have experienced quite a lot in life. This has given so much of maturity. Still being in the mid-life this fear is trying to conquer the mind now and then. Fear of death! Will I die soon? What should I do quickly if I know some symptoms? I am not afraid. But cannot be brave to face it.

I started analysing death and why we are afraid of death?

It is purely insecurity of mind and thoughts. Everyone who is born has to die one day. But we think that we should be allowed to fulfill certain responsibilities in life and live in full and see every other happening . Life is never full. So why should we be afraid? Death can come to anyone.

This morning when the flight was taking off ( For the past few weeks I have been travelling by flights instead of Train. Believe me or not! The flight tickets are cheaper than the train sometimes and so I have booked them in advance!) I felt some heart burning sensation. I remembered the villager and his sufferings whom I have seen atleast 25 years before. Laughed to myself! Stroked my chest and realised that I did not have proper sleep last night. Still it was gloomy and closed my eyes and kep listening to all the announcements. Looked through the windows and saw the milky clouds. Wondered how funny it would be if I could see some people walking in the clouds clad in heavenly dresses as seen in old devotional Indian films.

The pilot announced that there may be severe turbulence and informed us about the usual stuff. Suddenly the plane started jerking. Everyone became aware about the jerks. I felt that I was travelling by a local corporation lorry in Chennai. It was so noisy and everyone were laughing. I wished that the laughter remains as laughter and does not turn into screamings. Suddenly the Air-hostess rushed to one lady, and helped her in changing the seat. I held the seat before me tightly. I felt like I was swinging. In such situations, nobody has any control except the pilot. I realised what a responsible job it is! After few more minutes of cradle journey, it calmed down.
Once the plane touched the ground everyone were relieved.

I laughed to myself and walked away and looked back.

The plane was remaining there and was getting ready for the next journey.

05 October, 2008

Care for the aged

It was a usual routine and hectic day at work. Just at the end of the day when we had finished I turned around and had a casual chat with my colleague. I asked him whether he was going out on the evening, or just go home. He replied that he had to go and visit his father who was affected with Alzheimier and lives in an old age care home. He said that he was feeling guilty of not having visited him since few months. This colleague is of middle age and very considerate. Whatever he said further really made me to think very seriously. He said that his father cannot recognise him and it is so pathetic to see his father just giving a look if introduced. What an irony! He narrated that as he visits the home with a cake, pie and fruits, one of the staff will take him to his father and introduce him. His father would just look at him and does not speak anything. He does not have any memory and keeps looking somewhere. Oh.. My god after ‘R’ told me about this, I went home and this was in my mind for the next few days.

Being a weekend I called some relatives back in India and few enquiries about their welfare, and the ageing elders. I was surprised to know that one of my relative is 100 this year and is quite healthy and able to carry on her daily duties. They live in a village. I also heard about few other elders who had a fall, who had a fracture and their regular narrations.

My mom who is in her high 70’s, lives with me. I have to keep telling my kids how active she was in her younger days, and they need to adjust living with her pace. They do understand.

We keep talking about the facilities we have in western world for the elders and the infrastructure in developing countries. Every time I talk about this, I could only think of very old people, who had come to me for help when I lived in Chennai suburbs. There was an old lady who was my neighbour and whenever she could not find an Auto, she used to come and stand in front of our gate and ask me a lift. She was so old and heavy, I used to struggle to give her a lift on my Enfield bullet, since the seats were raised and I was more worried about her safety. She used to hold my shoulders so tight it used to be a hindrance for me to ride my bike. I have experienced the plight of old people if they do not have anybody to take care.

Once I was walking in Mount road, Chennai and saw a very old man trying to get into a crowded bus. The conductor did not even bother and gave the whistle. The old man fell down which I was watching from distance. I rushed to him and held him on my lap and comforted him. Thank god he did not have any injury. I cautioned him to be safe, and travel by a less crowded bus.

There are millions and millions of elders living in such a state in under developed countries. Their kith and kin abandon them, and some keep them just for their pensions or little money. In that way the Governments of developed country need to be praised. There is utmost care and attention for elders. Every place should have a ramp for wheel chair access. We have disabled parking space in super markets. There are care homes which take care of old people. These care homes are sponsored by Government. Some of them are run privately.

Every train and bus has facilities to carry wheel chair people. One day I took my mom in her wheel chair, just to see the care shown in local buses. As soon as the bus driver notices the elder in wheel chair, he get down from his seat and unfolds the stairs which helps in taking them safely inside. Then the same way, before we get down he gets down from his seat and helps in taking them out. The Doctor’s clinics, shopping centres and every other public place have preferences for disabled people. Mobility scooters are familiar ones, in which the elders can sit and keep driving it. It is operated by battery and the pavements facilitate the elders to go freely. I live in a place which consists of lots of elders and it is nice to see them going around in their mobility scooters independently. They can shop as well while driving the mobility scooters into the shops. The supermarkets are built spaciously to help them shop on their own. Nobody think of their disability as a negative thought, and keep moving on their life. The local councils have transport facility. Every day if elders preferred going to the shops they can give a call to this facility, who will send van to such elders house to pick them up and take them around for shopping. It is absolutely free and the elders can make use of it.

Living with an elderly person is not a very easy thing. There are plenty of advantages and disadvantages. They become almost kids on getting old. They keep telling the same innumerable times. They have their own habits and want to live the same way. They are reluctant to accept the changes. My mom realises the benefits and care given in this country. If the politicians of the under developed world and developing world consider a little for elders and develop schemes to benefit them it will make wonders for such deserving people.

After all everyone has to become old. It is a different life then. I hope the under developed world keeps this in mind and follows the developed world in this matter.