A strange illness is creeping down the generations of my paternal family. Starting with forgetfulness, forgetting names, faces, things or events, it snowballs suddenly and in extreme cases results in a total loss of memory…. or a major part of it! You can call it Dementia, a combination of a streak of Alzheimer’s and a series of micro brain strokes.
Although the victims of this condition are hardly aware of their condition and thankfully not tormented by it, the family members definitely are! Toiling hard to make a parent or sibling remember who you are, can be agonizing and as the condition is often irreversible, one has to learn to live with this heartbreak!
My grandfather forgot nearly everything about his recent past. The only glimpses he had of his past life were of far off events, the days he had spent in Aonla (a small village near Bareilly, India) and Calcutta, where he usually lived a major part of the year for the sake of his business and the schooling of his children. He had been blessed with a big family, sons, daughters, grandchildren and great grandchildren and we all lovingly called him Abbaji. He was equally popular in all the generations because of his soft nature and caring ways.
When his memory started to fail, our family took it for a part of ageing, and also a result of the ups and downs he had experienced in life. At age above ninety, it was not surprising if he could not remember the names of his grandchildren (we were more than fifty Masha Allah!), the painful fact was that he forgot the names of his children. But in spite of this, the flicker of recognition in his eyes when they came to meet him and the happy smile which lit up his face were really heart warming.
My eldest uncle whom we called Taya Abba was a man of great intelligence. Being the eldest among five brothers, he had a special place in his siblings, his word often almost taken to be the final and we all respected him very much. In the early years of East Pakistan and after migrating from India, he was one of the founder members of Sikander Industries in Dhaka and was held in great awe by the staff members and all and sundry called him “Bara Sahab”. But this Bara Sahab was reduced to a mere shadow of the great man he was, as slowly his memory started to failed him and for decades he remained in a state of oblivion before death finally freed him from this painful state.
My father’s eldest sister was beauty, grace and dignity personalized! She was cherished and respected by all the people close to her and her siblings hardly took any decision without her advice. In our childhood, I and my cousins were always awe struck by her and every statement she made was like an order for us. But this fear changed into deep fondness as we grew older and came to understand her better. Though years have passed since her death but I still feel sad for her as my sweet and wise Phuphi Ammi met the same tragic end!
My father was often called “The mastermind of the Elahi family”, (my paternal family name) and a very successful businessman, a workaholic who always came up with innovative and brilliant ideas to take Sikander Industries to new heights. He worked day and night to pull Commander Soap Co (a branch industry of S.I.) out of deep crisis and Alhumdulillah pulled it out loss to give it a new dimension. By nature a very jolly and loving person, he divided his time between work and family, taking great interest in the studies of his children. And he always urged, coaxed and sometimes bullied us to perform our best!
But when tragedy struck (at age 70 plus), we were pained to see him disoriented and confused. He was like a lost child fumbling in the darkness to find his way back home. Luckily, his IQ was too high to be wiped out totally. He improved gradually after the initial symptoms. Though he seemed like a shadow of the great person he was, had lost his booming voice and brisk gait, his memory revived considerably during his last days.
Who will be the next victim of this painful disease? I and my siblings often ask each other! Getting forgetful by the day, I spend a considerable part of my day hunting for my keys, specs, cell phone etc, sometimes forget the names of people very close to me and the most troubling thing is that often while offering Namaaz, I forget the number of Raka’at I am into! Sometimes a strange fear grips my heart and I wonder what future has in store for me.
Often in our lives, we keep on putting away expressing our feelings to the people who hold a special place in our hearts. And with the passage of years, we find that it is too late in life to express our sentiments. After mustering a lot of courage, I have finally decided that if (God forbid), I am destined to be the next in line who has forgotten all about the past, I would like to tell a lot of people a lot of things!
Before addressing family and friends, I would like to relate with the Almighty. Lest I forget, I would like to thank You, my Creator, for all the blessings you have been showering on me. Until the recent fear gripped my heart, I had been taking all these blessings for granted! Alhumdulillah, all my life I have lived in a decent home, never worn hand-me-down clothes and have had three square meals daily. I have seen and enjoyed the beauty created by You, heard the chirping of the morning bird and felt the gentle breeze which, in difficult times has the power to soothe my frayed nerves. And foremost of all, You have blessed me with a compassionate heart, a loving family and caring friends.
Lest I forget, there is a lot I would have liked to tell my parents, but unfortunately for me, both of them have departed to their heavenly abodes. If I can reach out to you, my loving Ammi and Daddy, I want to tell you how much you meant to me. Thanks for all the values you instilled in me. You taught me to believe in myself, to face life’s difficulties with a head held high, to be kind and compassionate, to forgive and also were my role models on ways to keep the people around me happy and content.
Lest I forget, I would like to thank my children for their infinite love and care and unfaltering faith in me. I would like to tell you the umpteenth time how much I adore you and what beauty and purpose you have brought to my life. Without you, my loving children life has no meaning for me. Everything I plan and do, I think about you first and I firmly believe that you also do the same. And in the twilight of my life, I can not thank you enough for being mine!
Lest I forget, I would like to thank my adorable grandchildren for the sheer ecstasy and color they have added to my life. You overlook all my shortcomings and your blind support is like a positive drive for me and my heart swells with pride for having such wonderful grandchildren. Your unconditional love and caring gestures give me a sense of serenity and add a new warmth to my life!
Lest I forget, I would like to express my gratitude to my siblings for sticking by me in good times and bad. We should be thankful to our caring parents for instilling the deep love and bond we share even when we have grown old. I appreciate the way you all always put up with my bad temper and pamper me when I feel blue. You are one of my earliest childhood memories and the laughter and tears we shared is a precious part of my life.
Lest I forget, I would like to thank my friends for always being there for me. Sharing my pleasures and sorrows with you has worked like a catalyst to keep me moving ahead. Your encouragement has been a boost for my spirits. Quick to lend a helping hand, pulling me back to my feet whenever I faltered in the walk of life, you have made life’s adversities bearable for me. Without your emotional support and understanding ways, I have no idea how I would have carried on in life!
Though it pains me to even think that there may be a time when I will forget all the people mentioned above who hold such an important place in my heart, I would like to tell all of you something. If (again I repeat, God forbid!), the day comes when you feel I don’t recognize you any more, look out carefully for the glimmer of recognition in my eyes. I am sure you will find it, a feeble flame left from the fire of the long love and association I have shared with you throughout my tumultuous life!