By Nishi Pulugurtha

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Being a caregiver for a loved one who has Alzheimer’s Disease for many years now is a very difficult task but then it has taught me a couple of things – it has taught me patience (loads of it) and it has taught me to take things as they come. There is no one way to deal with someone who has Alzheimer’s Disease and dementia, there is no sure shot way of being prepared for things, each day brings with it new difficulties, each day throws up challenges that one has to learn to deal with, to take in their stride. One needs to read a lot on the condition to understand it, find out as much as possible about ways to deal with it, ways to care for a loved one, but one is never ever really prepared for what the next morning, or afternoon, or evening might throw up. This is a dear one, who is now changing so much, so the pain and trauma of seeing her go through all of it is always there, that is something one never comes to terms with.

As I am trying now to deal with being house bound, I cannot but live in the moment, an idea I think everyone should ponder over. This is time to take things into account, to deal with things in the best way one can. As news of the shutdown spreads, I see people trying to find ways and means to deal with it. An academic and translator puts up a Facebook post where he says that he is planning to have online readings done using an online platform. He shares the link and asks whoever might be interested to join in, from any part of the world. Time differences no longer matter, as all or most are housebound. The group meets online every alternate day, I have not been part of it as yet due to my poor internet bandwidth. Maybe, I will, one of these days.

A Republic Day Special

Nishi Pulugurtha reminisces about a past where India had emerged after the independence struggle as a republic with a strong belief in inclusiveness.

A group of young men were recruited to work at the newly set up laboratory in Bhubaneshwar. The laboratory was set up in 1961 by the Scottish geneticist John Burdon Sanderson Haldane. They had made India their home. The institution brought together myriads of people from various parts of India who made it their workplace and home.

Hari Pulugurtha, my father, joined this laboratory as secretary to Haldane. He had been recommended by his childhood buddy Ramshastri Mangipudi who by then was already working at the laboratory. The job entailed a move to Bhubaneswar from Vizag, Visakhapatnam that is. Till then, Appagaru (that is how we addressed my father) had been doing all kinds of odd jobs. Appagaru always believed in the idea of inclusivity, the idea that however different we might be, there is something that binds all human beings together. He would tell us stories of how they were such a myriad group of people at the laboratory and the fun and camaraderie that they had celebrating life in its various aspects and of all the great work that went on there.

By Nishi Pulugurtha

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It was a Sunday or maybe a holiday, I think, as all of us were at home that morning. I think I was in grade two. I still remember that day so very vividly. It involved my maternal grandmother, ammamma, as we called her. The four of us, my parents, my sister and me, were all in the living room talking. The grill gate in our home had a big lock and to knock we used to bang the gate with the lock. As soon as I heard the sound of the lock banging on the gate, I ran out to the verandah to check out our visitor.  I saw ammamma, standing at our gate!

My joy and surprise knew no bounds. I rushed in to tell amma (mother) and appagaru (father) that ammamma was at our gate. They were stunned to hear the news, rushed out to open the gate and welcome her. Relatives from distant Kakinada coming over to our place in Calcutta did not happen often and as children we were always excited and overjoyed whenever they came over.

After a cup of piping hot coffee, ammamma freshened up before sitting down with all of us to talk. As amma had been unwell, my father had written to her folks in Kakinada. On receiving the letter, ammamma had decided to come to Calcutta to be with her eldest. Upon purchasing the train ticket, my eldest mama (maternal uncle) had been asked to send a telegram to my father letting him know of ammamma’s travel plans. She took the Madras Mail (as it was then called) from Samalkot Junction which is about 15 kms from Kakinada town.

The train reached Howrah station early morning. Ammamma alighted from the train and looked around. Hari garu, that was how she addressed my father, would surely be there to receive her. But he was nowhere to be seen. She then took out an inland letter that my mother had written to her some time ago, that letter had the sender’s address on it. She walked out of Howrah station after waiting for quite some time. Just outside the station she met a traffic sergeant. She showed him the address. He looked at it and started speaking to her.

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Literature perhaps does not seem profitable to most. But what recent findings have shown is that reading good literature helps build attitudes that can lead to a better chance at success. Would you or would you not want to take on the challenge of a good book?

Carl Sagan, a legend in our times with his Pulitzer Prize winning Cosmos ( book and TV series), an iconic, successful figure who demystified science for mankind, relived the wonder of books and reading: “What an astonishing thing a book is. It’s a flat object made from a tree with flexible parts on which are imprinted lots of funny dark squiggles. But one glance at it and you’re inside the mind of another person, maybe somebody dead for thousands of years. Across the millennia, an author is speaking clearly and silently inside your head, directly to you…Books break the shackles of time. A book is proof that humans are capable of working magic.”