Monday, October 08, 2007

Family updates

It hasn’t been anywhere near smooth going on the family front in the last 4-5 months, but until a few days ago things had settled down in a manner of speaking. Nani was still going to the hospital for two days each week for chemotherapy and the house was still messy and chaotic, with attendants bustling all over the place - but at least the pain levels had reduced and she had even started using the walker for a few minutes each day. However, it looks like she’s definitely on her last legs now, and given her condition that's probably for the best: she had a terrible reaction to the last dose of chemo, has had to be readmitted in hospital, and the internal organs are all packing up, we're told. Members of the family have flown in from London and other places since the doctor has gently indicated that it might be final-farewell time. No doubt it’s going to be a bit anti-climactic, even disappointing, for some of them if she continues to linger for a few weeks – especially considering there’s a lot of tension between various branches of the family and the hospital room is now frequently populated by people who would much rather not see each other’s faces. But c’est la vie etc.

My main concern in these last few months has been my mother, who hasn’t had anything like a proper night’s sleep in weeks; some of her own medical problems have been exacerbated and she’s aged a decade over this period. Nani was never an easy patient to look after, even in much less difficult times: she’s loud, boisterous, very extroverted, derives a great deal of her energy from the constant presence of other people (to the extent of repeatedly calling out for someone who might be resting in the next room, even when there isn’t anything specific to be done) – and in the past this has often caused frustration for my mom who, like me, needs a lot of time to herself every day, a lot of personal space. Of course, in the present situation, with an 82-year-old woman in pain and discomfort, all this is academic – there’s no question of mum expecting to have her own time and space now. But it still is very difficult at times, especially when she has to simultaneously deal with relatives who specialise in the ancient arts of Giving Advice, Delegating Instructions and Passing Judgement from a Safe Distance before getting back to their own lives.

Meanwhile, a proper trip together continues to elude Abhilasha and me. Many cancellations and rethinks have already happened. Around a month ago, when things looked like they would be relatively stable for a while, we had almost confirmed a plan to go to Egypt for 8-9 days. We were supposed to leave on October 5 but postponed it thinking we’d wait till after Ramzan – and this turned out to be providential because, scarily, nani’s condition deteriorated on the night of the 4th, which means that if we’d stuck with the original plan we would have had to cancel at the last minute. In the present circumstances planning a foreign trip beforehand is much too big a risk financially, so we’ve decided to put it off for now and content ourselves with weekend getaways whenever possible.

P.S. There’s much more to be said here – about old, ailing grandparents (of which I have three); about watching the physical breakdown of a woman who led such a vibrant life (even driving herself to the local club for cards sessions every day, past the age of 80)
; about first-generation NRIs having to cope with the guilt and frustration of not being around for aged parents, and how this manifests itself in strained relationships with the people who stayed back in India – but at this point I don’t know how to say it without making it clichéd and maudlin, or repeating the things that have been written many times before in these situations. More updates will follow whenever.


  1. dear jai,
    please could you tell me how to post
    name of the titles in the archive pages. i've been banging my head over it. and you have done it so beautifully.

  2. Those aren't the Archive pages, those are just some categories I've manually added to the sidebar, where I update posts every couple of months. There should be something in your template called "This is a paragraph of text that can go in your sidebar". There's an HTML code that needs to be pasted just under that, but I think it varies for different blog templates. Check the Blogger Help section, the code should be there.

  3. Sympathies, Jai. Can't be an easy time. All best wishes.

  4. Hope your family tides over this crisis.
    I know its no solace, but i thank you for all the great reviews you write.

  5. precise and eloquent... hope things stabilise soon for you. all of us think about the things you mentioned in the last paragraph. hope you get time to write about them in detail sometime in future.

  6. Eek. I remember the dealing-with-extended-family and seeing parents run ragged when my grandfather was ill a few years ago. Much sympathy.

  7. Hi Jai,

    I've been a reader of your blog for two years, never commented before but after this post just felt like talking to you because somewhere in my life I've also faced similiar situations. Sometimes I just wander how easily we connect with people in this online world. people whom we exactly don't know and whom probably we'll never meet.

  8. hey jai thanks.

  9. I don't know whether I should say it ,but your comment on realatives giving lots of safe advice before carrying on with their lives is something which I have experienced in situations not much different from yours. I would not go into my personal details but would rather say that it is better to live your life and not care a Damn about what your relatives think or say. Morality and duty towards your dear one's is based on your emotional connectivity towards your kith and Kin.

    If in your heart you are doing the right thing ,like your mother sacrificing her own health but looking after her mother than you have done your duty and the 'safe' advice givers can all go to hell.

    I do not mean to be cryptic, since family dynamics are always different in various households , however due to my experiences something sparks in me whenever I read or hear about 'Safe People'.

  10. jai,
    like any other regular reader here i've my fav posts, my share of disappointments, laughs.. u rarely write abt personal stuff & when u do, theres no effort to plumb the emotional depths to show how great a patriot/son/friend u r.
    i love that.
    wishing u & every1 else loads of strength.

  11. This is as good a time as any to place on record that your posts attempt to make sense of an otherwise senseless world - something I look forward to. I'm sure there's a lot more depth in there than shows on the surface... Just praying that you'll tide over these tough times and emerge fit and fine (for that Egyptian holiday round the corner surely). God bless.

  12. hi, my sympathies .. as an nri who cant see myself returmimg to live in India there is always guilt abt. those left behind

  13. Times like these are never easy. Sympathies and best wishes.

  14. Good luck and best wishes from me :)

  15. my empathies...these situations are never easy to handle, as many of those who commented observed.
    Just curious - you must know a large part of your readership hasn't even met you. While I do think the occassional footnote on your personal life is nice, because it helps those who don't know you understand you that much better, don't you feel queasy revealing so much...

  16. My sympathies. I had a grandmother similar to yours and it was bloody painful and heart wrenching to see the life snuffed out of someone with soo much zest for life...

  17. don't you feel queasy revealing so much...

    Venkatesh: actually, I've only revealed as much here (and in other "personal" posts) as I'm comfortable doing - there's a huge amount I leave out too, when it comes to the personal stuff. But apropos "it helps those who don't know you understand you that much better", some of the most personal things I write on this blog are contained in the book/film reviews - in some ways, those reveal much more about me than the family posts do.

  18. i hope your nani doesn't have to suffer any more...i've experienced the pain of losing my dada, dadi and nana over a period of two years - i watched them suffer and endure unbearable amounts of pain before they passed away. sometimes i used to pray to god to take them away - to relieve them of this kind of harrowing death. and felt guilty about it too. i guess its a very complicated situation, one wants to do everything in his/her power to help them - but NOT at the cost of them losing all dignity in life.

    i've also had to experience NRI siblings/ "well meaning" relatives (if you can call them that) giving unsolicited advice, passing judgement, and generally making things more unpleasant in an already precarious situation. my only solace was shutting them out of my mind - old resentments and bitterness have no place in times like these.

  19. You read a lot, you watch a lot of movies and then you write extensively. Add to that your family crisis. I'm astonished by your time-management skills. Please, please let me know your daily time table. I'm serious, no kidding. I just wanna learn how you do all the things.

  20. First of all my empathies for you and your family.I hope every thing get well soon, i am fasting dese days and would pray for u as i do for all d human kind.Secondly I wud like to add that the way you have answered venkatesh is really inspiring for me and may be for other amateur bloggers who always find it hard to know how much to reveal.Keep doing gud wrk buddy and time wud see you through all the worries.


  21. Here is a little song I wrote
    You might want to sing it note for note
    Don't worry be happy
    In every life we have some trouble
    When you worry you make it double
    Don't worry, be happy......

    Hang in there dude. I don't like seeing one of my favorite bloggers unhappy, and you definitely didn't sound yourself there.

    As McFerrin says,
    Don't worry, it will soon past
    Whatever it is
    Don't worry, be happy

  22. ...theres no effort to plumb the emotional depths..

    Drift wood: thanks, glad someone feels that way. There's always a defence barrier up when I write a post of this sort, because it's so easy to get over-expository/self-indulgently sentimental otherwise. And then I end up wondering if I haven't gone to the other extreme and been TOO restrained.

    your posts attempt to make sense of an otherwise senseless world

    Purely incidental, I assure you! I revel in senselessness otherwise - no real reason why anything should make sense, right?

    Arhan: I keep getting asked the time-management question, but you know, if anything my reading and movie-watching has severely declined in the past few months. Rest assured, time-management is a very frustrating problem for me too. Also keep in mind that most of this (reading, watching films, writing about them) forms part of my work, so it's not like I'm doing all this and also dealing with a separate day-job.

    ArSENik: dude, I know you mean well and thanks for that etc, but this was ridiculously cheesy! Unless of course you meant it as a joke. Regardless of the impression my blogging normally conveys (w.r.t. the "you definitely didn't sound yourself there"), I've never been the Pollyanna-happy sorts even at the best of times - and I'm perfectly, um, happy being that way.

  23. Hahaha...I just felt you didn't even sound your unPollyanna-happy self there, but read your next post after posting this, and you seemed back again. So, its all good.

    PS: I am glad you saw through the cheesiness ;)

  24. so identifiable. Nothing much else one can say :|. We all go through this at some time unfortunately.

    and err.. please do suggest some nearby weekend getaways to me as well.. I so need to get out of my own situations. I tried Alwar once (15th aug day trip). Absolutely beautiful fort atop a hill. Very very peaceful.

  25. Hi, I have been reading your blog for quite some time, though I have never commented before.

    Your post reminded of a similar incident. That hitting the head with metal in pyre. It stirred something in me. Those rituals were conducted by my very young cousin, a kid. I guess these supercilious brahmins, assuming this to be their moment in sun, prod forgetting its a moment of grief. :(

    Wish you happiness all way along..
    Take care.