Store Full of Stories: Failing Memories, Well Kept Promises has been edited by Abha Mehra.
“You cooked rice again, we just had it for lunch and you do know I don’t prefer it for dinner”, Nitesh annoyingly pushed the plate and turned on the sports channel. A few minutes later he came back and asked for dinner. His wife, Shital served him the same plate that he shoved away in rage but this time he devoured it. “Why is the TV on if everyone is here at dining table?”, he asked. Shital gestured Kria, their daughter to turn it off. Anyone would have found this incident abnormal at first glance. This was not the first time they had handled something so bad. They did not complain or rant. But how can one handle such madness, you may wonder?
It was about a few months ago. Nitesh was running late for the meeting. Working as a production manager in a fashion magazine for about 10 years he was proficient in his vocation. This time, however, due to his indistinct instructions to the staff, a lot of confusion ensued and halted the production of the magazine. Nitesh parked his car and sprinted to the office. Thankfully, the meeting went smooth and the issues were almost solved.
After the meeting, Rima, the Editor-in-Chief and his friend, approached him, “Nitesh, in these past few years you have created some silly blunders which you obviously handled well along, but this time it was not a menial one. You have to be cautious ahead, this could have cost us a lot”.
“I am sorry, you may find this as a lame excuse but I have been forgetting things lately”, he said bleakly.
Maybe the old age is hitting you early”, Rima laughed to ease the tension. The rest of the day at work remained hectic.
Exhausted, he returned home. “Did you bring ice-cream I asked you to?”, asked Shital as he rested on the sofa after freshening up. “What ice-cream and when did you tell me?”, asked he, a little irritated.
“I had called half an hour before while you were on your way back home”. He gave her a puzzled look. “It may have slipped out of mind with all the chaos today. Can you send Kria to buy it?”. Saying this he turned on the television but his thoughts were engaged, worrying about his increasing forgetfulness and his strangely late replies even when engaged in conversation. It was eating him up inside but he shook off the thought concluding that the weariness and mental stress were the reasons.
Months passed but it was becoming worse for Nitesh. There were days when he forgot his mobile password, he would sometimes wear bathroom slippers and go out, at times he forgot the path towards home or office for a moment. There were also instances where he skipped lunch thinking he had eaten and had erratic mood swings. However, he tried not to let this affect his work. Despite keeping meticulous notes of his daily happenings in his mobile, his efficiency had decreased.
This dilemma not only caused issues at work and home but it affected him personally. Frustrated he finally decided to approach the family doctor. The doctor prescribed him light medications for stress reduction, but it failed to improve the condition. Seeing this the family doctor recommended him a well-known physician.
In the first consultancy, the physician was indistinct in providing the reason behind his condition of forgetfulness. After a number of tests and appointments, the physician confirmed what Nitesh had considered as the last option. “Alzheimer’s”, said Dr Ketan.
He and Shital were devastated. Scared and unable to digest the news he asked in that instance, “but it only occurs in old age, I am still 47 years old.” Dr Ketan explained him, “yes, while most get it only post 65-70 years of age, there are 5% of people who experience an early onset of the condition, that is while they are still in their 40’s or 50’s. It will worsen with the years progressing. Since a solid cause for the condition was yet to be found, it could not be cured. With hardly any similar cases in India, even I had my doubts about this. To confirm the suspicion, I discussed with neurologists and physicians I knew in the US. We went through all the symptoms and tests and it is no longer a doubt, I am sorry.”
Shital continued questioning while Nitesh sat there and just kept listening. A lot of things were running through his mind at that moment. He was now worried about his family. Shital would now have to handle her job as well as take care of him. “I will now be just a burden”, he thought feeling guilty and miserable.
Reaching home, he just laid on his bed staring at the ceiling cursing himself and his fate. Shital knew a humongous challenge stood for her. She laid down beside him holding his hand and comforted him, “I will always be there with you, even if it means I have to keep reminding you every little bit of day and looking out for your health.”
Nitesh looked at her with utmost love knowing she would stand by him till the last day. But he was also terrified of the fact that the canvas they had painted with the beautiful memories may soon become blank. It was worse than death.
Shital gulped back her tears said “I have and will stick to my vows”, as she noticed the fear in his eyes knowing falling weak was not an option now.
“I am sorry. I will love you. Always”, he said. Shital clutched his hand firmly her eyes on Nitesh as he laid there staring into an abyss.
And she kept her promise.
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