I started a new relationship with Acchan the day I got engaged.
Till then, he regarded me as a kid, ridiculed my inadequacies often in front of others, much to my embarrassment. We had few things in common. He was a disciplinarian, while I was a Bohemian. Despite being so full of himself, he was well-aware of his surroundings, and connected with everyone around, all the time. I am a day-dreamer, almost always totally disconnected with the world. He was an extrovert, and I was an introvert wearing the mask of an extrovert. He was a go-getter and a public figure at least in Kochi’s society, and I was the sort who would rather retire into the company of a few select friends. Hence it’s all but natural, that we never connected really well.
Though I knew that he wanted me to marry someone the family chose, he never said a word against the marriage, neither did he offer any word of advice. He simply performed the duties expected of him like any other dad would have. He simply delivered!
To my pleasant surprise, his attitude towards me changed since 2002, the year I got married. He started treating me as an equal, and was rarely in a patronising mood. He stopped making fun of me. Communication though still limited, revolved on more serious matters such as health and relationships.
Acchan was a health and fitness fanatic, and despite practising Allopathy, he indulged in naturopathy for his own well-being.
He exercised practically every day. He jogged every morning and some evenings too. On Sundays, he used to run or walk fairly long distances. Even when he was in his late forties, his Sunday walk used to be from our home in Chittore Road to Alwaye, some 23 odd kilometers. An injury to his leg in his early fifties did limit him, but did not cripple his enthusiasm for all forms of exercises. Unfortunately, my own lackadaisical attitude, never allowed me to emulate his passion for physical drills, despite multiple bouts of fitness fevers.
Even after retirement from the Government service, he led a very active life, and practised medicine till about three weeks prior to his death.
Even in his sixties, he used to wake up around 5 AM, and then go for a morning walk which used to be about eight to ten kilometers, and used to leave for hospital often opting to take a bus, a habit his peers disapproved of, or even a boat since Mattancherry was well-connected by the ferry. Some times he commuted back from hospital by foot.
He used to meet around 40 patients a day, and still had the energy to go out and meet his peers and friends for a drink or two in the evening. He loved to party, and was a party animal.
I always used to take pride in the fact my parents were healthier, happier, and more content than I was. While there was little peace in my own little family by 2008, it was very comforting for me that my parents and sister were doing absolutely fine. However, everything changed all of a sudden.
It was in July 2008. During one of my regular telephone calls with Amma, she mentioned that she was worried about Acchan’s health. I brushed it way, discounting it as one of my mother’s fresh attempts to find a new cause to worry about.
I knew that Acchan lived life to the fullest. He never had any worries. His family never troubled him. He preferred to live a life according to his wishes, and found genuine happiness in doing so. His profession kept him busy, and he had a large set of friends mostly from the medical profession who kept him in good humour. His self-deprecating sense of humour meant there was always fun and joy around him. His only worry, perhaps, was that his mother who was still around was suffering from dementia and other old-age related illnesses.
A man of no worries, who lived life to the fullest, would almost always dread the thought of death and illnesses. In Acchan’s case it wasn’t different. This had prompted him to be extremely careful about his health, and he used to take every precautionary measure. He regularly monitored his vital parameters, and almost every other month do an ultra-sound scan of his body. Above all, we had the best doctors in the country in Kochi, who were his friends. Best advice would always be there.
I had utmost confidence, hence, that there would be nothing healthwise that he could not handle by himself.
August 2008 was a miserable month in every sense for me.
Gargantuan fissures had started appearing in my family life. There was huge work pressure. Despite all these I used to speak with Amma, who kept updating me. The initial reports indicated serious, but manageable issues with his liver. Doctors suspected Cirrhosis, which we felt must be the case, because he was fond of his drink. He drank on all occasions on days when it rained in Kerala and on days it did not.
Around August 16th, Amma called up. He had jaundice, and he was tired and sick. I told her not to be alarmed. Jaundice can be handled with naturopathy treatment, a strict diet, and a lot of rest. I have had two jaundice attacks, and Acchan had too. We had seen this before and handled it very well. I spoke to him that night, and he sounded jovial.
I told Amma that I would be booking a ticket next week after closing some important assignments. I assumed that he might require a short stay in hospital, an operation, and that my presence there would be required for a week.
On August 21st, I boarded a train to Kochi about 5.30 PM. I received a call from Amma around 8 PM, and my world came tumbling down . She said that my brother-in-law was summoned that afternoon by the doctor in Westside Hospital, where Acchan practised. My brother-in-law was told that Acchan had cancer, and chances were very grim.
I was numb listening to her words, and must have mumbled a few words of consolation. It took me nearly 20 minutes to come out of the shock, and I started weeping silently in the darkness of the 2nd Class AC compartment.