Buddy Diaries: Ekta Hattangady

Week 1

I reached the Vora household and was welcomed in with warm words. I saw <em>him</em> sitting on a sofa looking at me with disinterested curiosity. He took off his spectacles to look a little more closely, and then said, “How are you? You met me in the street, no…a few days ago. You were there with your dad.” Before I could respond, his wife said, “How could you have met her? We have just moved into this house. You have not seen her for 9 years now.” He looked confused. And then indignantly said, “No, no, I was walking below the building. And she was there with her father. He wasn’t allowing her to speak to me.” Again, she said, “It was not her. You didn’t meet anyone” He kept quiet for a few minutes. He looked sad. He turned to me and said, “But don’t you remember meeting me? Can you please tell her it was me? She doesn’t believe me.” I smiled. I said, “Yes. He did.” She got really upset, she didn’t address me. She looked at him and said, “It wasn’t her, it wasn’t anyone. You just think you met her. But you didn’t” Her was voice was low, but it shook with something. Deep. He got a little agitated, “You think I am lying? I had a dream?” She suddenly had an idea, “Yes, it might have been a dream.” He looked at me and smiled and said, “I had a dream. You were with your dad. He wouldn’t let me speak to you.” I said, “See, you were missing me, so I have come to see you.”

I went into the other room to speak to his son. I wanted to know more about the situation. Yes, this was Dementia. Yes, they had tried the stage 1 medication, but it hadn’t really really helped. So now he was not on medication. He cannot remember anything that has happened in the last few years. He lives in the past – at least 20 years ago and beyond. But his progression is not as fast as other Early Onset Dementia patients. It is getting worse, of course, but he still has his hygiene and food sense about him. But does that mean that the ordeal is longer and more painful? No one knows! As I was discussing my role and what I’d like to do with them each week, <em>he</em> came in. “But I am sure I met you a few days ago. You were with your dad, and he wouldn’t let me speak to you.” I smiled. His son smiled. <em>He</em> smiled and left.

Finally, I went out and sat next to him. I said, “So do you still write poetry?” He looks straight at me and said, “It was you, wasn’t it? A few days ago, we met below the building. You were with your dad, and he wouldn’t let me speak to you.” I said, “Yes. It was me. But tell me, do you still write poetry.” His eyes flashed with indignance. He folded his arms across his chest, thumbs sticking out, shrugging his shoulders, he said, “Tch…! I have stopped everything. Since this one came into my life…everything stopped.” I saw pain flash through her eyes, she said with a wry smile, “I made it stop?” And then a little softer, “I made it stop?” He looked at her, probably realising he had hurt her, said, “Na, na. Times changed. So it stopped.” I said, “Come, recite something for me.” He said, “Good, now that you have told the truth…” I smiled. He began, “This poem was written for this girl I saw in the garden in Dhangadra*. We used to go there every summer.” Hummed softly for a few seconds, “I saw her one year, the next year I went back to the same garden in hopes of seeing her again. But she wasn’t there.” Hums again. “I saw her only once. But her fragrance, her beautiful face, that memory remained etched on my mind.”

He recites the poem quite lyrically. I try to note it down frantically in Gujarati. He laughs, he pauses every now and then to see if I have written. He sings the poem. And then he says, “Let me find my poem book.” He looks at her and says, “Where is it, my poem book.” I intervene, “Look for it before the next time I come.” He seemed okay with that plan. I knew he wouldn’t remember. The disease is a blessing in this way, he won’t feel bad that he can’t find the book, for he won’t even remember he wanted to look for it.

I brought the poem home with me. Tried real hard to translate it from Gujarati. But I think it will lose its essence. If someone can do more than a cliched translation, please do and send it back to me. I am compiling his poetry.

મીના, હ્રુદય આજે, ભરેલ આનંદ ઉર્મીઓએ

સકળ સૃષ્ટિ માહી, પ્રતીબીમ્બીત થાય નયન મુખ તુજ

ધીમે વાતો વાયુ, કંપિત પેલી વૃક્ષ ડાળી લેહેરો બનીને આવે,

સ્પર્શી ભયી મુગ્ધ મુજને વિના બંધાનોએ, જકડી લીધો મુગ્ધ મન ને

કહો કોની આશા, ગામ નિગમ છે અહિયાં

(and I have missed the last line, I think)

This poem is about the young girl he saw just once. He is smitten so that he sees her face in every atom of the universe. The cool breeze of love fans his unrealistic expectation of their life together. He is held captive, though he is free of bonds and there is just one desire, one hope…of their life together.

The irony hit me in the face as I observed her through his recitation. The poem is about unrequited love. About another woman. She looks calm, almost relaxed. She seems just happy to have a bit of his real self emerge, albeit briefly.

I bid him good bye. I heard him as the door closed behind me, “Who was this girl?” He is my mother’s brother.

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  1. October 21, 2010 at 9:44 AM

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