THE BLOG

The Ides Of August –Ominous Signs I Disregarded

Let’s not be blind to the turning points…

18/08/2017 8:30 AM IST | Updated 18/08/2017 8:30 AM IST
Getty Images/iStockphoto

Familiarity has its own issues. We often tend to overlook minute changes in those around us, changes that may worsen right under our eyes into a serious medical problem. As a former teacher of English Language and Literature, I would have smiled if one of my former students had written some of the sentences I have needed to underscore, labelling them as too "affected" or "melodramatic", yet they are important reminders of "lived- situations".

On this day in August, I say to you—do heed marked changes in your loved ones and friends very seriously. They may not prove to be life-threatening, hopefully, but do seek an appointment with your doctor. There are specific turning points for the prevention of serious diseases. Force yourself to take that first step.

We often tend to overlook minute changes in those around us, changes that may worsen right under our eyes into a serious medical problem.

August is an unpredictable month for me. I have lived through countless life-changing situations. New beginnings. Transitions. Traversing continents. Sentient reflections of the past thirty years leading to the Summons. The Reaper. The end. New beginnings. Do the Ides of March, the month of my birth, affect me in August? Meteor showers often occur in August. This August there will be a total eclipse of the sun. The ancient Romans claimed many victories, including the conquest of Egypt, in the month of August, named after their first emperor of Rome, Caesar Augustus. World Wars began and ended in the month of August. India gained independence in August. Martin Luther King made his moving speech, "I have a dream", in August and the most endearing princess Diana died in a car accident in the month of August. I can still feel my heart skip a beat when I heard our driver in Madagascar say one August morning "Madam, H.E. and S are fine—we had a small accident'. The sight of the mangled car when it was finally towed back to the residence was terrifying. Physical scars remain.

I digress.

It was last year in August that I noticed a change in my husband. He seemed unusually tired. And sad. Well, we had retired over a year earlier and come home to a flat full of dusty boxes, little space to move around in and no green grass in the garden up front. It was the lack of a garden and flowers that depressed him the most, as his memories of his parents' home was of blossoming flowers, in colours of the rainbow, butterflies flitting through the garden, including the vivid orange and black ones, the two mango trees that his father had planted and those at the back had sadly been uprooted, to make way for the expansion of their home- to house the four siblings in the future. Every home leave was spent in part tending to the precious garden and working to get his portion of the extended house completed. A back-breaking task, standing shoulder to shoulder with the workers as they scraped, peeled and laid bricks and tiles in some areas, the red floor not up to his memory of older ones seen. I can still see him smiling as he took a fleeting pause to watch the birds that pecked away at the papayas in front of our side of the Plot 4K, as it was called.

He refused to go for a check-up. "Let's get our home ready first" was a common refrain. Till that day in August last year. The clock began ticking. It was too late.

Up before dawn every single day and in the garden at work, digging and planting with or without the mali. Constantly moving, emptying cartons and settling wooden furniture. Then a cup of his favourite chai, as people came for a chat—the kabadiwala, the postman, the electricity meter-reader, so more rounds of chai and biscuits! Giving away so many "treasures" as we had no place for them (what we termed treasures—meaningful to us but not defined by their cost). Books everywhere. He was a voracious reader. "How much will I keep learning?" We have over two thousand books and no, I have not had the time to place them in categories. Our son chided us for even thinking of giving away the Encyclopaedia Britannica set. Some memories are set in stone, irrespective of the digital era we now breathe.

Tired and aging rapidly. We both were. That's what we attributed our aches and pains to. Till he complained of severe backache and the aching pain below his stomach—which, yet again, he said was due to his being so overweight. He cut down his calories by eating less of the food he relished. His weight loss was put down to that. His face, in the sunlight and at dusk, was creased with worry lines.

As unbidden tears swell in my eyes, I can still picture the sense of sadness in his eyes. Of resignation.

As unbidden tears swell in my eyes, I can still picture the sense of sadness in his eyes. Of resignation.

He refused to go for a check-up. "Let's get our home ready first" was a common refrain. Till that day in August last year. The clock began ticking. It was too late. The crab steals upon you stealthily and spreads tenaciously. The pain is unbearable, even in recollection today. The end is sudden.

Life is worth fighting for—there is just this one life, and we must make healthy lifestyle choices. He had. Stopped smoking 17 years ago and stopped drinking 25 years ago. Stress remained constant. Work-related and family-related, including his extended family. Positive thoughts have far-reaching beneficial effects. No, not always easy to focus on, but one needs to try.

More On This Topic