Friday, September 10, 2010

A Chapter

It was the May of 1985. Dad bought the first car of his life , old rugged 1962 model ambassador. He used to work in central India then. And he bought the car from a doc in Kerala. He had this adventurous idea of driving it all the way up to Bhilai where our native town, Thrissur, covering more than 2000kms. So we got ourselves a mechanic and started off.

Summer in the Deccan is not one of the most pleasant regions to travel in a non Ac car. But there we were, driving through little villages with a trail of amused children and dust. We tasted all kinds of cuisines on the way from wayside little hotels and somewhat better restaurants. It was fun.

Well, we reached Hyderabad around 2 AM. And the town was asleep. We were new to the city and we did not how to get to the main road to the better hotels. We tried one or two, but they were kind of unwilling to take in late visitors and said"No rooms available". so we finally ended up in an old house converted into a hotel. It had one big squarish inner courtyard, around which the rooms were set. That night was horrible. The room was full of gigantic mosquitoes who made sure that we did not sleep a wink.

The next day we started off in search of a better hotel and found one. And we saw the Golconda fort and the Salar-e- jung museum. Drive to Bhilai from there took another two days. By the time we reached Bhilai, the driver had Chicken pox and I had fever.

The fever I had was peculiar. I ran high temperatures every alternate day and only at night. After about three cycles , I was hallucinating, seeing peacocks from my window, Amitabh Bachchan dancing by the bedside and so on... Soon, I ended up in the hospital in a double room where the other bed was occupied by a woman. I drifted off to sleep with IVs injecting medicines into me. I regained complete consciouness only by late afternoon. I had opened my eyes earlier and seen my mother talking with the woman on the bed. Now, she told me that her name was Kamala and that she had kidney failure.
" How are you feeling now?", Kamala asked
" Better", I managed.
" Oh! It's nothing. Look at me, I have dialysis twice a month but Iam OK".

I smiled. Mom took over the conversation part.
Suddenly, there was a commotion in the adjoining room. A girl my age was being given Oxygen. I saw her some moments ago as she peeked into my room from the small corridor that joined the rooms. She was a bubbly, beautiful Punjabi girl. And when mom said that she being given oxygen, I did not believe it. She had a serious cardiac problem.

Next day, Kamala had a visitor. Her husband, a trucking businessman, had come over. They spoke in hushed tones. He was crying and she was trying to comfort him. And when he left, she told us that he would return the next day with the kids. She showed some photos of the kids - a three year daughter and a five year old son.

"Cute children, are'nt they?", asked Kamala.
" And who is this?", mom asked
"That's me. I looked beautiful then. It is at a wedding."
Tears welled up in her eyes. She was lost in thought.

Later she told mom that her treatment costs were getting out of hand and that her husband was the youngest brother and he could no more take money from the family business to treat her. But she held nothing against her in -laws. She believed in God and fate.

Next day, Kamala was up early, all dressed to see the kids. Soon, we heard chattering voices in the passage. The kids were here. They came and leapt at Kamala in joy.

"Come home", they said.

I was a witness to the poignant moment. Her husband and her eyes were happy and sad at the same time. The husband had brought some food. She fed the children with her hands. The elder was telling her about school, the younger one about her cousins. It was the first time I realised, the value of life.

That evening, she was mum, unlike her chattering self. By night, she said that she asked her husband not to show her body to the kids. She wants them to remember her as an active mother.

I got discharged the next day. Later we came to know, she was soon paralysed and her systems shut down one after other and she died. She was cremated nearby and not taken home as per her wishes.

I will always remember this chapter of my life.

P.S This post was originally published in


  1. Oh! That was tragic... :(
    A very unique gesture of Kamala, hope the kids remember her the way she wanted them to!

  2. sad sad , I hope the children remember her as she wanted and god rest her in peace.

    Its really sad i often wonder how would one feel when they know the end is coming, they know they will soon say good byes, Also Will I get a chance will I know I am leaving... Etc

  3. Tragic -Kamala's story is an insight of what a mother goes through when she knows that soon her body is going to give up on her.Her love for her kids shines through every word of this heartbreaking story...thanks for sharing Holy Lama.

  4. Oh!! Very tragic. She was so concerned about her kids. I hope they remember their sweet mom

  5. Oh yeah? What was that peculiar fever of yours? You didnt name it.

  6. Oh that's a sad ending!! I wish Kamala was alive :(
    But I liked your narration.

  7. When I began reading this post , it was gaiety- the drive through the Indian heartlands, father and daughter, reminded the reading , and the fist pages of "Zen and the article of Motorcycle maintenance".
    Suddenly the plot was different, it was pain.
    Perhaps shouldn't we think that courage is not only living without fear but facing death without fear .

  8. Certain incidents and actions in life can not be forgotten.

  9. it's all fate right? a small thing like money is so big in front of a life..very very tragic indeed!

  10. Its a sad story. Its amazing how people and incidents touch our lives in such a way that we remember them forever. Three things very clear from this story, never eat from roadside restaurants, stay away from huge mosquitos and get medical insurance. Never know when you might need it to nurse us back to health.

    I guess this is why people say, live every moment as if it were your last, you never know when it will prove to be right!

  11. The post left my eyes moist.Life is cruel to some.

  12. There are no gambits in life sometimes (or is it all the times?), are they? Only vague experiences.
    A poignant chapter indeed.

  13. Shilpa Garg
    I too hope so.

    That was the first time I saw the helplessness and difficulty of love. It surely throws up many questions.

    I did not know her but I felt the pain.

    I hope they remember her as the beautiful, loving mother. And my ailment was Malaria. I was the sole case in the town, must have got it from Hyderabad

    Welcome here. Usually Lama has lighter posts. Yes, one wishes for miracles in such cases.
    See you around.

    Anil Kurup
    The courage to expect death when they write you off is really difficult. It is easier to be fearless of death that may happen some day(though it may be next minute)

    Tarun Goel

    Bk Chowla

    The money part could not have altered the case. Her condition then was beyond expertise available.

    Total agreement.

    K Parthasarathi
    Each time you see or hear about such stories, you tend to believe in rebirths and sins of past birth

    But some experience leave indelible marks and views of life and the world.

  14. you never know whats gono happen next in life, its always good to take it as in comes, sometimes we are so obsessed with the future that we forget about our today, and the stories like this one tell us the value of everything in life..nice post kk, really thought provoking!

  15. What a great attitude Kamala had towards life! Thank God her husband could fulfill at least one of her wishes. Thank you for sharing such a poignant chapter in you life.

  16. very sad..but life is like that..sometimes so good and other times leaving us to think...

  17. A New Beginning
    Our life is just a fraction of time. We amuse ourselves thinking about future, longing for past and fretting for present.

    Welcome here. You just read a serious post. The space here is usually lighter.

  18. Ah! So that's what you were drawing on your comp when the big B was standing right behind?!

    Driving up all the way must have been some experience. Wouldn't be surprised that you were down and hallucinating after the strenuous ride!

    Kamala's story was very touching - a selfless gesture.

  19. A very poignant chapter indeed...
    I like your drawing...but I think it's not recycled ;) RGB's comment tells me so...:p

  20. That's life, sometimes strange, sometimes beautiful but totally unexpected and a sad end!!!

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  22. OMG this is so touching, i feel terrible for her litle kids and her. How painful it was for her and how lonely and painful for her kids afterwards. Life is so cruel at times..

    And cant help but feel that she didnt need to die..maybe..if the dialysis was done more often like nowaday people have it 3ice a week also.

    So many 'if's' after a person is gone.

  23. This post of yours took such a turn. By the end of it, i was really overwhelmed. Loved it thoroughly.

  24. Oh that is so tragic! I felt so sad for Kamala. Very poignant post!

  25. Samvedna
    Yes, we understand only we experience.

    BIg B will soon comment:P

    Destiny's child
    Try to remember. You read it earlier:)

    Shesha Chaturvedi
    The book has several chapters

    Welcome here, O great Buddha. The Lama is overjoyed.

    Life has blind turns

    It was heart rending to see the young family where the adults knew what may happen.

  26. Oh man you are so funny err I mean oh great Lama, the pleasure is all mine.

  27. I recall it very well, that's why I said, the 'pic doesn't seem to be recycled.' Great post! :)

  28. scarifice of a mother...may kamla RIP

  29. Budh.aaah

    Destiny's Child

    Patience, my dear. Iam too busy.

    Welcome, walkie talkie.

  30. I was reminded of a similar trip we made in an Ambassador car in 1985,to Velankanni..We had planned the trip for three days,but it took us nearly a week.Every evening,luckily when we reach some small town,the car would fail,and we would stay in some lodges.

    We feel sad thinking about illnesses and death.And the bond people make when they are sick,is something special.The single truth after we are born,is death.He is the most cruel thief,stealing wives off their husbands and ripping children off their parents.

  31. Dr. Antony
    True. Death is the single reality.