This morning an old and dear family friend called. It was his mother’s birthday, maybe 89th or 90th, I did not ask. It was pointless as he could not even wish her. She has advanced senile dementia and has been in a home for the last couple of years. This is a feisty Punjabi lady, who I have known for the last 2 1/2 decades, who was the focus and fulcrum of the family for many decades and had labored hard with a small home sewing business to see them through tough financial times. Many were the evenings that we spent in their spacious 1920s house just off Hazratganj, in the heart of Lucknow – celebrating birthdays (theirs and even ours) and anniversaries or just spending a relaxed evening of good food and lots of talk – politics, local gossip etc… Food was big thing in their house, and you were always assured of a great home cooked meal. And through many of those evenings, I heard of the stories of partition and of her own journey from Lahore to Delhi, those of others around them.
They made the move to Mumbai a little over a decade ago and since then I have spent a night with them on each of my infrequent trips to that city. She had made the transition from Lucknow to a cramped flat in Mumbai not out of choice I’m sure, but since her husband had passed away many years ago and her only son was moving to Mumbai. On my earlier visits we would reminisce over the Lucknow days, of the food and drink and common friends. But, on later visits she had started to become frail, absent minded and I could see that she was gradually losing grasp on things. In fact, the last time I saw her, I doubt if she really registered who I was. It was with great reluctance that the family took the decision to move her to a home. Of course, they were lucky that they could find one – since these facilities are not easy to come by in out cities.
Her general health had also been declining over the last few months and she was in and out of the hospital. And for the last few weeks she was being fed through a nasal tube as she was refusing food. So, this morning’s call was to discuss the issue of withdrawl of the nasal tube!! As an older friend, they wanted some counsel and my views are not unknown. This is not an unusual situation, the person is not in a state to take the decision and life support (in this case the feeding tube, but more often the respirator) can keep up the false sense of living for as long as needed? But is it needed. I only cautioned them, that when they did decide to withdraw the tube, all three siblings should be together on the the final decision, and then no one else should matter. I am certain that they will take the right decision and I wish my friend a peaceful end, whenever it maybe!! I only wish more people would address such issues directly.