How are you my lallu? It wont be long, my arrival in town. You don’t have to wait anymore, I promise. Meet me at our usual, at the school gates on 22nd of this month at 5pm I’ve got a surprise also for you! I miss you already lallu!
There was something odd about the letter and was unnaturally short. She was perplexed. It arrived only yesterday. And 22nd happens to be today, said her calendar. Did she have trouble remembering or did it really seem like ages since he left? Madhav. Her lovely madhav. He left for his apprenticeship a month ago todelhi. Subsequently all communications were cut which broke her heart too. It’s been three long months since they were engaged but it seemed like forever to her.
The last time they met was before his departure. It was one of their shortest meet ever. And it lasted for 3 hours. Not to her it didn’t. Under the wide umbrella tree they stood, sucking the kulfi ice with retrospect. Atleast she did. Their eyes did most of the talking and he promised to write to her every week atleast. He had given her a bunch of her favourite jasmine flowers and smeared a strand of kumkum on her forehead. Sigh. She almost had tears in her eyes. He had promised to bring her something else too…..
Since their first chance meeting was in the school, they chose it as their meeting place. It was his idea and she thought it to be a cheesy one and never once missed the opportunity to tease him about it whenever the topic arose. Despite the constant clamor of kids yelling and running around, standing amidst them, she still felt nice. It gave her a strange sense of satisfaction and surprisingly, till date, they succeeded in not getting caught by both their families. They were a regular to the kulfi cart that stood at the gates, rain or shine. She sometimes brought some for the kids who stared at them. Each time she gave one to a kid, her heart fluttered. The man got so used to them that he always kept a pair ready for them both prior to their meeting. She felt stranger not having frequented the place for the past month. Was something wrong?
She liked the summer days best when he brought her ripe juicy mangoes everyday. Sometimes cut and ready to eat, sometimes hot off stealing them off his neighbour’s tree. At times, they’d take a walk along the temples and vast lanes hand in hand, not caring about being spotted. The best part for her was when he buys jasmine flowers and pins it to her long plaited hair. She’d been missing it sure as hell for the past month….though she’d never minded waiting for him when he turned up late.
She was shaken out of her reverie as the clock struck 4pm, she made her way to the school with a strip of paper in her hand. Not having left her house after the meet with him, she looked around the street as if in a daze. She couldn’t make head or tail about the scene that lay before her. The usual chatter of kids playing goli was absent. Weird. The quietness was ironically lost too. Suddenly, there were a lot of vehicles and the road was congested making it a Herculean task for her to even walk on the road. She couldn’t believe it, just a month spent inside the house and a helluva change already?!
He wasn’t there when she arrived at the place which to her astonishment had changed to a great deal too. Her heart sank on seeing the stump where the tree used to stand. Tears sprang to her eyes as she tried to run towards it……but she seemed to have trouble breathing so she slowly walked towards it, clutching the paper tight in her hand. Looking around for the kulfi man, she found a potti kadai instead , selling just about everything else. She blinked and looked up- the school itself wore a new look. It was nothing like she knew it to be….what could be happening?
Someone seemed to be yelling out to her, was it Madhav? I hope he’s got the mangoes, she prayed. She turned back to look and her heart missed a beat as someone from her house had seemed to’ve followed and finally found her…..so much for having prided that she was never caught all these days. Sigh.
As her father neared her, she cried, saying “please appa, don’t be mad I came here to meet Madhav…”
Her father stopped short and he seemed to look pained……..“amma? Come lets go home”
“But my…my… madhav will be here any minute- wait, why’re you calling me amma, pa?”
He looked ready to cry “I’m your son Ravi ma….appa passed away 5 years back lets go home ma come”
She struggled to form the words “What? Bu but my mangoes? Malli poo? Why did he go? He told me he’ll be back today appa!”
“No ma you come on now” he walked her away from the place as she felt something in her hand and as she brought them close to her eyes, she noticed something about her hands…they were wrinkled…and the letter….the letter was parched and looked old.
No wonder she felt odd about it. The date happened to be today’s but the year, magically seemed to be a number she couldn’t recognize…
Alzheimer’s had caught up to her real bad.
There are currently about 18 million people worldwide with Alzheimer’s (WHO) and it happens to be a disease that cannot be prevented, cured or even slowed.