My mother has not spoken to my father for the last eight years, and for that he is truly grateful.
My mother had always been a lively and bubbly person. She had the ability to talk throughout the day and not tire one bit. She even used to talk in her sleep. We had a running joke about it in the family, that she doesn’t let my father talk, even while sleeping.
The year was 2008. I still remember it as if it was yesterday. I had just passed my Class 11 examinations and was enjoying what would probably be my last few days of rest for the next year or so as I would be preparing for my engineering entrance examinations. My mother was cooking when I suddenly heard a crash. On entering the kitchen, I saw my mother lying face down with a trickle of blood coming out from the side of her head. I immediately took her to the nearby hospital.
‘There is nothing to worry about’, the doctor told us after examining mother for an hour or so. By this time, my father had also arrived at the hospital from the office. We were advised to let her rest, ‘maybe it is the stress that caused her to faint’, the doctor said.
We took her home and did all the housework ourselves. We took turns to cook for her. Slowly, she started feeling better and gained back her strength.
All was well for a few months and mom and dad decided to take their annual holiday in Nainital, a hill station in northern India. A few days after they had left, I got a call on my cellphone from my father in the afternoon. I remember thinking it strange that he was calling me at this time of the day since he knew that I had my regular lectures. It turned out that my mother had a blackout and had fainted in the hotel room. Since the hospitals in Nainital were not equipped to handle that kind of emergency, she was immediately airlifted to Delhi after initial treatment. My father asked me to come to Delhi as soon as I could. He did not tell it to me then, but I knew that this time my mother had more pressing problems than just “stress”.
My father came to pick me up at the Delhi airport the next day. We both were silent on the journey to the hospital. As soon as we reached the hospital gates, my father took my hand and told me that my mother had undergone a major operation last night and was kept under observation for 48 hours. Even my father had not seen her since she was wheeled out of the ICU.
In the hospital, we tried to keep ourselves occupied by reading the magazines or playing games on the mobile, but our thoughts would inadvertently turn towards our mother and what the problem with her was that was making her sick. Tears welled in my eyes and I made an excuse to go buy something to eat so as not to let my father see me in that state. God knew he had enough troubles already.
Three days later, we were allowed to visit our mother in her room. The doctor told us not to be with her for long as she was weak after the long operation. We were told that there was a severe blood clot in her brain probably due to some fall that she had sustained. He asked us if she had fallen on her head in the recent past and we replied in the affirmative. The doctor then said that the clot was probably due to that fall and had she not been operated on sooner, she might have lost her life. The clot was putting a lot of pressure against her brain, he said.
I went inside the room where my mother was resting while the doctor took my father aside to speak with him. She was weak, that was my first thought on seeing her. I was not used to seeing my “talkative” mother keep silent for so long. I placed my hands on her face and ran my fingers through her hair. I stayed that way for some time; just willing her to say something, even mumble a few words. After an hour or so, I kissed her on the brow and left the room. She had not woken up yet.
I found my father sitting on the bench outside her room looking distraught. I sat down near him and held his hand. He just held me tight. We sat there that way the whole night, arm-in-arm, no one saying a word, drawing comfort in each other.
The doctor had taken my father aside and told him that although they had succeeded in removing the tumor from her brain, there was still a part of it that was inaccessible to them. And so they were going to try another operation in a week’s time. The operation was going to be tricky, the doctor told him. The remaining part of the tumor had lodged itself in that part of the brain that controlled speech. Any wrong move and the consequences could be fatal.
My mother woke up later that day, and was I happy to see her. I hugged and kissed her. She was her own self then, talkative and bubbly, although she was having trouble speaking long sentences. I remember telling this to my father and he said that it was a consequence of the operation and not a thing to worry about.
Over the next few days, my mother regained her strength. The date of the operation was drawing near. Over another routine examination, the doctor told my father that the operation needed to be performed as soon as possible because the tumor was starting to put a lot of pressure on her brain. One day before the scheduled operation date, my mother blacked out. Immediately she was wheeled into the ICU and her operation commenced.
The doctor came out of the ICU a couple of hours later to tell my father that her condition was serious. The tumor had put a lot of pressure on the brain and when they tried to remove it, it had burst and there had been lot of internal bleeding. There was very little chance that she would survive, he said. In any case, if she did, she would lose her voice. And then he went inside the room, leaving us to contemplate the meaning of it all.
The operation lasted close to a full day. At the end of it, the doctor emerged from the room, thoroughly fatigued. Then he saw us sitting nearby and smiled. A nurse wheeled my mother out from the operation theatre and my father and I ran to hug her.
My mother has not spoken to my father for the past eight years, and for that, he is truly grateful.