Friday, July 7, 2017

Simple Solution to a Difficult Problem

SHORT FICTION STORY

Dear Reader: 

Let me delve into my Creative Writing Archives  and pull out a story called “The Solution” I had written 6 years ago – in July 2011 

Here is the story – duly abridged and revised – for you to read



DIFFICULT PROBLEM – SIMPLE SOLUTION
Fiction Short Story
By
VIKRAM KARVE


Part 1 : THE ULTIMATUM

“I don’t know how I am going to solve this problem...” Anil said.

Yes  Anil indeed had a big problem on his hands. 

The problem was his old father. 

Anil’s father had dementia  and it was getting worse day by day.

“At first it was okay. We could manage somehow. He used to forget  or talk incoherently – or have mood swings – or he would get disoriented a bit and need help doing things – we all tried our best to look after him  my wife  my two kids  all of us did the best we could. But now  he is becoming impossible to handle...” Anil said.

“I know...” I said, “it must be very difficult for all of you – especially your wife.”

“All these years – my wife really cared for my father with love and devotion – as if he was her own father. She tolerates all his idiosyncrasies and she looks after his every need  she has to bathe him, dress him, feed him  even take him to the toilet. Even when he got aggressive with her  she managed to calm him down. But after this morning’s incident  my wife has given me an ultimatum.”

“Ultimatum...?” I asked.


Part 2 : THE PROBLEM

Dear Reader – before I continue the story – let me tell you what had happened that morning  and how this conversation with Anil began. 

I had gone to Pune Railway Station in the morning to receive my daughter who was arriving from New Delhi by the Duronto Express.

I was walking towards the over-bridge – when I spotted Anil’s father wandering aimlessly on Platform No. 1 – from where the Deccan Queen to Mumbai was about to leave. 

Suddenly  Anil’s father started walking towards the AC Coach – and he was about to board the Deccan Queen  when I stopped him. 

I caught hold of his hand  and I pulled him aside – just in time  before the train began to move

Anil’s father did not recognize me. 

He tried to pull his hand free – and when I tightened my grip  he gestured towards the moving train  and he started incoherently muttering at me: 

“Mumbai  Duty  Mumbai – Duty…”

Then – suddenly  Anil’s father got aggressive and he tried to violently break free. 

So  I raised an alarm  and with the help of some people  we overpowered him. 

Once he was overpowered  Anil’s father collapsed and he started weeping like a child.

I called up Anil  who rushed to the railway station  and we had to literally carry Anil’s father to the car. 

Suddenly the old man’s condition worsened  and it looked like he was having a seizure  so we rushed him to hospital  where they admitted Anil’s father into the ICU to keep him under observation.  

We sat outside the ICU. 

I felt sad for Anil and his father. 

Anil and I were “Railway Children” – who had grown up together in those typical Railway Townships which adorn big railway junctions all over India

Our fathers  both were Special Class Railway Apprentices from the same batch of SCRA  they were close friends – and – we luckily had many postings in the same places – so Anil and I became close friends too. 

After school – we – Anil and I – we both went to IIT – and now – both of us lived and worked in Pune. 

I felt sad for Anil’s father. 

In the prime of his life – as a distinguished Railway Officer – he had such a regal persona and a commanding personality – and now  dementia had reduced him to this misery in his old age.


Part 3 : THE SOLUTION 

Anil’s father lies sedated in the ICU.

Soon our wives – a few colleagues  and a few friends arrive.

We all stand in balcony outside the ICU of the hospital  brainstorming to find a solution to the problem.

“I cannot handle him anymore,” Anil’s wife says, “ever since Anil’s father got this dementia  the last few years have been hell for me. Anil goes out to work  the children go to school  but I have to live with Anil’s father all the time. I have to do everything – I have to suffer his tantrums – I have to even clean his shit  and now he does this – he just runs away from home and he gets lost. I can’t take it anymore – I will go crazy.”

“She needs a break,” my wife says to Anil, “why don’t you send your father to your sister’s place for a few days?”

“His sister?” Anil’s wife says mockingly, “as long as her father was fine she was the “doting daughter. Anil’s sister ensured that she got her share in her father’s property. Now that her father is sick  Anil’s sister is shirking her responsibility  and she has washed her hands off him. The last time she visited us I asked her to take her father to her house in Mumbai for a few days  so that we could get some respite  and do you know what Anil’s sister’s husband said?

“What?” my wife asks.
 
Anil’s wife says angrily: 

“Do you know what Anil’s sister’s husband said...? That selfish brother-in-law of mine said that he did not want an insane man in his house as it would affect his children and their studies.

“Really...?”
 
“Yes – he said that. So – I asked my brother-in-law

What about our children...? Tell me  if it is not okay for you to have an insane man in your house – how is okay for us to have the same insane man in our house...? 

After hearing this – he and Anil’s sister just kept quiet. And since that day – they haven’t shown up. I hate Anil’s sister. She just pays lip serviceAll she does is call up once in a while  and then she tells the whole world how concerned she is about her father...” 

“That’s really very sad – but even today  it is the sons who are expected to look after their parents  especially the eldest son...” says a colleague of Anil  who has come to the hospital. 

And then – the colleague asks Anil: 

“You also have a brother  dont you...?”

“He is abroad – in America...” Anil says.

“That’s the best thing to do – escape abroad to a good life in America  and forget about your parents suffering back home in India.”

“Longevity is increasing – and these old people are becoming a big problem. In our colony almost everyone’s kids are in America  and their hapless parents spend a lonely existence with all sorts of health problems.”

“Don’t worry, Sir. At least your father is not as bad as my neighbour. The poor man’s brain cells are dying – and he is lying like a vegetable for the last 6 months with tubes inserted to feed him and take his stuff out...” a young girl says – she is a recently joined software engineer  and she tries to console Anil. 

The girl thinks that if she tells Anil of someone with a greater misfortune – maybe he will feel some consolation.

But unfortunately  it has the opposite effect – and Anil asks her: 

“Did he have dementia...? Will my father also become a vegetable...?”

“No – you don’t worry  nothing of that sort will happen. Your Dad will be okay...” I say – putting my hand on Anil’s shoulder.

“But we can’t keep your father at home in this condition. I cannot bear it any longer. I will just collapse one day. And now he has started getting aggressive. I am afraid of him – I will feel scared if he is at home...” Anil’s wife says.

“Why can’t we keep Anil’s father in hospital?” my wife asks.

“We can’t keep him in this hospital forever,” I say.

“Not this hospital.”

“Then which hospital...?”

“An institution. Where they can treat his mental problems.”

“A mental hospital...? You want me to put my father into a lunatic asylum...? My father is not a lunatic – he has not gone mad. Poor fellow has just got dementia  for which there is no cure...” Anil says angrily to my wife.

“Cool down Anil...” I say, “my wife did not mean to hurt you.”

My wife apologizes to Anil. 

We sit quietly till the Intensivist calls us – and the Doctor says: 

“He has stabilized now. All parameters are okay. We will move him to a special room later at night and keep him under observation. You can go home and relax now. We will look after him. You can take him home tomorrow morning.”

“You all go home...” Anil says, “I will stay with him in hospital and bring him home in the morning.”

“No...” Anil’s wife says, “I don’t want your father to come home in this condition. I am frightened of him. Suppose he gets violent or something...? Or he disappears again and he gets lost...? You will blame me. I cannot look after your father anymore. No. Please dont bring him home. You arrange something…”

On hearing the comments of Anil’s wife – the Intensivist looks at her in a perplexed manner  so I gesture to him that all is well  and  I say to Anil: 

“Okay Anil  you stay here in hospital  and we will all go home and think of some solution.”

On our way home – we pick up Anil’s kids  and take all of them to our place. 

Anil’s wife sleeps in our bedroom with my wife.

All the kids sleep in their children’s bedroom.

I lie down on the sofa in the living room.

I try to think of a solution to Anil’s problem.

The ring of my mobile phone jolts me out my sleep. 

It is Anil. 

Anil’s voice sounds strange, shaky, as he cries incoherently: 

“The problem has been solved – the problem has been solved – My Father is Dead…

“What...?” I say, stunned.

“Yes – my father is dead – while they were shifting him from the ICU to the ward on a stretcher  he got violent  so violent – that the stretcher tumbled  he fell on head  he broke his neck  and he died on the spot...” Anil says, sobbing.

“Oh My God...” I say.

I can still hear Anil sobbing: 

“Poor man. He must have heard us. So – he solved the problem – he solved his own problem  he solved our problem  he solved everyone’s problem…” 

Anil stops speaking – and there is silence. 

I keep the mobile phone pressed to my ears. 

Then – all of a sudden  I can hear Anil break down into tears.

VIKRAM KARVE
Copyright © Vikram Karve 
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Disclaimer:
This story is a work of fiction. Events, Places, Settings and Incidents narrated in the story are a figment of my imagination. The characters do not exist and are purely imaginary. Any resemblance to persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental.

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