Essays

Drowning in Melancholy

Strength, a formless existent entity, the shape of it unknown, the size of it undefined and the physical capabilities of it, relative. It is something that exists in invisibility, but when it chooses to expose itself, the veracity of it, undeniable. Our capability for displaying strength under adverse situations continues to astound me perpetually. But sometimes events and situations that we are involved in get so aggravated that our capacity for sustaining them shatters. We barricade ourselves continuously but after a point, this guard shatters and we drown in the impending storm. Consumed by the waves that bind us, our existence becomes a meek version of its past.
I visited my Grandmother yesterday night, the sixteenth day of an ordeal that does not seem to end. I entered the hospital, now a familiar terrain in its polished and brightly lit hallways. I walked lethargically and without haste, listening to the sound of my own footsteps. The footsteps seem almost symphonic, like musical beats, played by a maestro who has not his gift of melody but has lost his desire to play. The footsteps feel devoid of a desire to exist in the habitat that they were being created in. I may not have spent much time here, may not have done my duty in imparting comfort to the troubled in my family but I have still tired myself of this place. The chemical scent that consumes everyone, the yellowish light, the pictures of smiling patients all seem to rile me. And so I walked up to the elevators, called on the wood-paneled enclosure, entered it smelling the familiar scent of decrepit and artificial wood. I wordlessly instructed the wood-paneled elevator to take me to the required floor.
The familiar chime of the arrived floor woke me up from a momentary daydream and I departed the elevator hesitantly. I walked past the cubical waiting area, now reduced to a cluttered and symbiotic room crowded with other visitors, each one there for a relative or friend. I walked down a narrow corridor, under the shadow of the outstretched wooden bust of the nameless saint, a bust whose significance if any lost on my unsettled serenity. I entered the Intensive Care unit, a bustling industry adept in its fight against the grim reaper. I shredded the floral printed curtains and entered the chambers that housed her, yanking them with a nervous urgency.
I was greeted my members of my extended family crowded into a tiny room. Grandma herself was seated in a chair in the corner of the room, past her bed and adjacent to the medical gadgetry designed to save her. I awkwardly waved at her, mustering a pathetic smile which probably looked more sinister than comforting. There were conversations galore across the room, the train of which I was desperately trying to latch on. There was some talk about a medical procedure that was evidently suggested by unnamed medical experts. There was an air of effervescence around, like a cauldron threatening to boil over. There were words exchanged, some flagrant and some in a casual surrender. This ordeal has been extremely taxing for all of us who are involved and our temper and patience has been on the edge of precipitous infinity.
I look at my grandmother who has metamorphosized into a frail almost inhuman version of herself. She appears exhausted, drained out of the resources that give us the strength to put forth our defense against the harsh terrain of reality. A couple of orderlies arrive and prepare to put her back into her bed. They help her in her attempt to stand up. She struggles, lumbers heavily and is unable to support her featherlike structure on her timid feet. She collapses into the trained arms of the nurse who then proceeds to pick grandma up in her arms. She lifts her up almost like a baby and deftly carries her to her nightly resting area, solitary and a bundle of corpulent wires. The orderlies then looked at my grandmother with satisfaction, like the monotonous satisfaction of a teller after the completion of a transaction and departed with the same haste as their arrival. We were relieved, caught up in our own two dimensional existence, happy at being spared the undesired task of spending another night in nervous apprehension. I smiled at my grandmother hoping to impart a sense of comfort to her, but was greeted by the shattering image of seeing her sob inconsolably like a child.
Tears trickled down her gaunt cheeks. These were not tears of weakness; there were tears of surrender. Tears, tiny droplets of saline fluid, created instantly by us as a visceral reaction to emotions. They formed Pinstripe Rivers running down her face, creating a map of almost a desert like aridness. People rushed over to console her, but I stood my ground in a corner watching her in almost a captivated arrest. Here is a woman who has been on life support twice, has not eaten in 5 days, can barely talk, has not had a drop of water to drink in two weeks and now she cries because she cannot walk on her own. I suddenly realized my selfish reaction earlier. I talk of strength like it was a virtue that I possessed, but in reality I was weak, a timid weakling, a battered car heading towards a stone wall. Strength was in the fight that my grandmother is fighting, wanting to be independent even when stripped of all life and physical capabilities. She doesn’t cry because she is weak, but she cries because she is close to giving up that fight, she is tired. The relentless battle that her body and age has inflicted upon her is winning and she finally realizes that. Her defenses crumble and we all struggle to try to pick up the pieces. We muster works of encouragement, words that sound hollow in our disbelief. My grandmother, the mother of my mother, the unifier of disparity and the upholder of togetherness drowns in melancholy and all that we can do, is watch her crumble.

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