Over the years, I have realised one is unable to pen down thoughts about an incident, a person, an art form or any another thing which one is passionate about. I guess the thought behind it is that as a writer I would not do justice in capturing the depth of the experience, the emotions associated with it and thus, everytime I put away writing about it for ‘some other time…’
In the recent past, I was faced with a similar situation. My nani (grandmother), who is 88 years, fell down. She was in excruciating pain and I happened to visit her. It was here that I had this profound experience which I intend to share with you. It’s been almost a month and I have been deliberating about the idea…but so far, I have failed to put down my thoughts. Sometimes I can’t find a befitting beginning and the other times, when my brain begins to weave the sentences for a perfect start, the words fail me. Lemme try once again.
My nani, is one person closest to my heart. She is truly an inspiration and I look up to her whenever I am feeling low. She has kept the family of more than 80 individuals intact. We are so many in number. When people see the photograph of our family, they proclaim it to be a ‘district’. It takes grit, determination and effort to keep eveyone together inspite of the physical and sometimes emotional distances.
Not only this, she is a lady of immense physical and mental strength. She has been sick in the past but due to her determination, she was always back on her feet very soon. She even underwent hip-joint replacement surgery after a bad fall and had a speedy recovery due to her positive attitude.
This time when she fell, she hurt her tail bone. Even for a young person, an injury of the tailbone is extremely painful. And at this age, the pain was unbearable for days together. Due to this injury, she involuntarily passed urine and stool. Needless to say, she felt humiliated and devastated. To save herself from all the humiliation and suffering, the only thing she asked God was to take away her life and give respite from the agonising times.
Even though it had been about 20 days since the injury the pain had not abated. As I entered her room, I was heart-broken to see nani lying on the side turn, on her bed. Her face was swollen and she could barely talk due to the pain. What hurt me even more was that she was lying there defeated. My nani, who has always stood against the odds was lying there in submission.
I wanted to do something to help her. The only thing that came to my mind was ‘Chant’! I could try healing her with my prayers. I sat next to her and began chanting the verses. Naniji involuntarily kept her hand on my lap or did she put her hand there because I was sitting close to her…I wonder! But the point is that she kept her hand on my lap. You might wonder, why this fuss about nani’s hand on my lap? Well, that’s what I sat down to write about.
My nani curled up next to me like a baby and it became apparent that she needed that ‘t-o-u-c-h!!’ And it is here…that the words start to fail me… It is extremely difficult to describe the feeling but I promise to go on.
I felt naniji had been tired of being ‘head of the family’. She wanted to be a small girl once again, who could be caressed and cajoled. Or maybe a toddler who can seek refuge in her mother’s lap when hurt. Or a teenager, who could hold her best friend’s hand and find solace in the times of adversity. If not that, probably she wanted to be a young/mature woman who could curl up next to her spouse.
As we grow older, we grow apart physically. Think about it…how often do we hug our grown up kids? Do we ever hold the hands of our parents? 15 years or more into our marriage, do we even bother to stroke the hand of our spouse?
The simple touch says, “I am there for you!” The caress or a gentle stroke says, “I care for you!” The big bear hug says, “I love you!”
The vicious or nasty touch also reveals what’s on the mind of the person offering it but for now I would leave this aspect and focus on the beautiful touch we all desire. Neither would I venture into the territory of sensuous touch. So, this simple touch, caress, or the bear hug I mentioned above is reserved for babies, pets, friends, buddies, brothers and sisters, cousins, relatives, spouses and all the people close to our hearts.
Naniji had been yearning for this ‘simple touch’. The simple-yet-reassuring-touch which we tend to overlook. As soon as I realised this, I even stroked her head and she offered no resistance at all. She found it soothing and went into a deep slumber. The touch was so very important for her. Maybe it works as a magic potion and is far more effective than the medicines given to any patient.
Everyone in the family, had been working round the clock to take care of her and provide her the best medical treatment in the times of the ‘lockdown’. They had been constantly massaging her legs to comfort her. And I am sure they must have stroked her head too, lovingly. But she wanted more of it. Probably as the saying goes ‘actions speak louder than words’; the touch was rendering far more comfort than any other medication. In the comfort of that touch naniji did not have to stand tall, she had the option to ‘fall apart’ because she knew would be taken care of.
Like her, we too yearn for the loving touch. Let’s accept it, we, the normal human beings are constantly in need of the humane touch. We might not express this desire or may even feel ashamed talking about it but the fact is that the simple touch can do wonders. It can boost our morale and fill our hearts with pride for being loved. It can act as a balm to soothe the nervous wrecks amongst us.
I hope I have been able to share the intensity of my experience and put across the message I set out for. I am no literary person, I just write dil se!
Next time, when you sit with the elders, hold their hand, stroke it a little while and offer a bear hug for no reason at all. Have I started doing all this? To be very honest, the idea still seems all skewed up. Since childhood we are taught to maintain a distance and avoid PDA – public display of affection. And I do not have role models to ape. So, I am taking a while to make a start. If not me, you can be the one to start with. Yes, you the reader of this article!
Touch the lives of the special people in your lives with the ‘reassuring touch’! Engulf your kids and parents into a ‘bear-hug’…everyday!!