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Archana Jahagirdar
Monday , November 01, 2010

Love, Actually. And what lies in between...

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Were my parents completely in love with each other? I have thought about their relationship and whether it was based on love or duty and responsibility. My parents met when they were very young - still teenagers - and whenever we prodded our parents to tell us their story of how they met, the answer was that they had an arranged-cum-love marriage. My sisters and I were of a generation that had begun to believe completely in fairytale romance and happily-ever-after that books, movies and songs extolled. I have thought even more about my parents' relationship as I saw Daddy dealing with the passing away of his partner of almost 55 years. On the third day after Mummy passed away, Daddy wrote a poem about her. He then showed it to the three of us. He had written it in Hindi, using Mummy's birth as the starting point of....

Monday , September 27, 2010

All About My Mother

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It was a Monday and I was just finishing my work day. My phone rang and it was Didi. I ignored her call thinking I would call back as I was in a meeting. She called again five minutes later. This time I took her call even though I was still in the meeting. "Didi let me call you back in five minutes", I told her. When we finally spoke she said, "Mummy hasn't been able to speak all day. She keeps trying to say something but she isn't able to." I didn't know what this meant medically. After I reached home that evening I spoke to Didi again. She had nothing new to add but there was fear and deep concern in her voice. But there wasn't much I could say to comfort either her or myself. We hung up both wondering about what new suffering lay in....

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Medicine can't guarantee my mom a quality life

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The drive from the Hyderabad airport to Gulburga was covered in almost silence. My middle sister who had flown in from Dubai and I had co-ordinated our arrival such that we could travel together. When you are faced with a parent's mortality there isn't much to say even between siblings. Both of us instead focussed on the task of reaching Gulburga as soon as possible. Seeing my mother in hospital soon after arriving in Gulburga was disturbing. The last time I had met my mother was in October 2009 when she was in Dubai. She still looked lovely. My mother mysteriously had managed to keep age at bay when it came to her looks. She had suffered chronic illnesses most of her adult life and didn't have much of a beauty regimen. Last year when I had taken her to a gynaecologist for a check-up, she had been showered....

Saturday , July 31, 2010

'My mum's 72, young still. And I want her back fine'

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This is probably the hardest thing I have ever written. Didi, my eldest sister with whom my parents have been for the last six months in Gulburga, Karnataka, called this morning. Softly she said on the phone, "Mummy isn't doing too well. She has been throwing up and today threw up blood. Come and see her." Mummy has been bedridden for almost six months with no doctor quite being able to diagnose what exactly ails her and keeps her immobile. Didi was speaking softly not only because the situation is grim but so that my father isn't able to hear her. On Thursday as my mother's condition had worsened and Daddy himself, not the healthiest of people, had spent the entire day sitting near her, keeping his own personal vigil trying his best to keep illness at bay. If only humans had these powers to keep illness and suffering....

Saturday , July 24, 2010

A depressed dad, being single & life in between

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My friend Rrishi who isn't known to show much emotion, asked me after reading my last post, "What has been the impact on your life? Did you manage to have fun, lead your life even though you had to take care of two ailing, ageing parents?" The answers to these questions are complex. It hasn't been easy, no matter in which way you look at it. That hospitalisation of my father at Ashlok meant that I had to take long leave just as I was trying to find my foothold in my new job at The Times of India. Suddenly my departmental colleagues started seeing me as an object of sympathy not as a competent professional. That itself was difficult to swallow. But there have been many more aspects of life that you see when you are in the situation that I found myself in. But I am getting ahead....

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Why middle-class India can't afford to fall sick

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Hello darkness, my old friend... We suffer in silence. Or rather we suffer because of silence. The human experience is singular in its suffering. There hasn't been a human who has walked on this planet, not even one who has escaped great pain and deep sorrow. Yet we don't want to admit it to each other. Our suffering, we assume is a shameful secret to be locked away, never even to be whispered to each other, lest it diminishes us. We Indians are specially good at this kind of insularity. Keeping our personal pain hidden away is worn as some badge of honour. We die saddled with our grief, lonely and tormented by what we suffer. But my story is a story that is being played out in many homes in India. And that's why I am sharing this with all of you in such great detail....

Thursday , July 01, 2010

Role reversal: Looking after ailing parents

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I have just finished dinner of cold aloo paranthas and dahi when the phone rings. It's my eldest sister who lives in Gulbarga, Karnataka. My old, ailing parents now live with her making her life very difficult and that is what the call is about. "Mummy is behaving like she used to," says Didi. "Like she used to", refers to mummy at her worst, in the throes of her psychosis. As I listen to my eldest sister, her voice cracking and unclear due to poor mobile connectivity, I can feel a sinking feeling, a small knot of tension forming in my stomach. Mummy's psychosis resurfacing is never good news and now with her in a small town, it's only likely to add to Didi's problems. Like it did to mine when daddy woke up doing those repeated, inexplicable actions that fateful morning almost eight years ago. Trying to....

Friday , June 25, 2010

When the child becomes a crisis manager

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A Masters degree from Delhi University, big city upbringing, robust career as a journalist in the nation's capital: these are multiple roles that I have played in my life with some degree of success. And yet nothing, absolutely nothing prepared me for the role of my parents' sole care-giver when life thrust it on me almost eight years ago. In those long, lonely years, the meaning of life changed in a way that I could almost not recognise what it meant to live a normal, everyday existence. Every day, sometimes every hour, there was a crisis to handle, an out-of-control event that needed everything from ingenuity to false bravado to fatalism to help resolve. There are no books, no manuals, no coaches for what is my generation's biggest challenge: coping with old and often ailing parents without any support structure in place. The old safety net of a....


More about Archana Jahagirdar

Archana Jahagirdar has been a journalist for almost 20 years having worked for some of the most prestigious names in the media business like The Times of India, Outlook and India Today. Her last full-time assignment was with the Business Standard where she also wrote a column on luxury and fashion. She has done her Masters and Bachelors in English Literature from St. Stephen’s College, Delhi University.

‘My Parents’ Daughter’ will be a weekly update, narrating Jahagirdar’s experience in taking care of her chronically-ill parents over the last eight years. From dealing with doctors and hospitals to taking decisions regarding medical treatment to changing dynamics in other family relationships – this blog notes the journey of a caregiver.



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