Sharmistha looked across the room at the old man on the bed. Both of his sons, Ajay and Vijay, were seated on the sofa beside his cot. ‘As if they cared,’ she thought to herself.
She went into the room with the measuring mug ignoring their presence. She could feel them staring at her. She picked up the urinary drainage bag, removed the catheter attached to it and poured the stored urine into the mug. She picked up the mug to her eyelevel and her lips mouthed the quantity that she read. She placed the mug down and walked towards the side table. She picked up the notepad placed there and wrote down the quantity in it.
“Can’t you at least wash your hands before touching stuff?” Vijay asked.
“What if I forget? The doctor asks for the exact quantity,” she said.
“He is sick and you don’t even keep his surroundings clean. After all that he did for you, you don’t even care,” he continued.
“YOU… You don’t speak that,” she said.
“Why not?” Ajay asked. “If it was your own father, would you behave like this?”
“After two years, you both waltz in here today and order me around. I did everything for him while you both ran to different cities with your wives and kids. I gave up my whole life for him.”
“You were only four when your parents died. Who took you inside his house? Who brought you up like his own daughter?” Ajay said.
“… and see, she is counting the days for his death,” Vijay piped in.
“She just wants to get rid of him.”
Sharmistha burst into tears and looked at the frail man, lying on the bed, with his eyes fixed on the ceiling. He was completely paralysed for the last two years and she had cared for him day and night. Before the paralytic attack, he had Alzheimer’s and did not even remember his own name. The sons had fled at the first sign of trouble. Thankfully, the man had enough pension money to pay for his daily and medical expenses. Sharmistha managed it all. For her,it had never been out of a sense of duty. She did it for love because he, her uncle, was the only parent she had known and loved.
That day, after Ajay and Vijay left the house, Sharmistha went to check on her uncle before retiring for the night. She got the shock of her life. He was awake and looking towards the door, waiting for someone to come into the room. With a small cry, she ran towards him. He stretched out his hand and caressed her cheek gently. She bent down and kissed his forehead.
Despite it all, he remembered her.