Story By Vikram Karve
Pune — circa 2010
Part 1 : THE ULTIMATUM
“I don’t know how I am going to solve this problem…” Anil said.
Yes — Anil indeed had a big problem on his hands.
The problem was his old father.
Anil’s father had dementia — and it was getting worse day by day.
Anil said to me:
“At first it was okay.
We could manage somehow.
He used to forget — or talk incoherently — or have mood swings — or he would get disoriented a bit and need help doing things.
We all tried our best to look after him — my wife — my two kids — all of us did the best we could.
But now — he is becoming impossible to handle…”
I empathised with Anil.
“I know — it must be very difficult for all of you — especially your wife…” I said to Anil.
Anil looked at me.
Then — Anil said to me:
“All these years — my wife really cared for my father with love and devotion — as if he was her own father.
She tolerates all his idiosyncrasies and she looks after his every need — she has to bathe him, dress him, feed him — even take him to the toilet.
Even when he got aggressive with her — she managed to calm him down.
But after this morning’s incident — my wife has given me an ultimatum.”
“Ultimatum…?” I asked him.
“Yes. My wife has given me an ultimatum. And — she seems to be very serious…” Anil said to me.
Part 2 : THE PROBLEM
Dear Reader — before I continue the story — let me tell you what had happened that morning — and how this conversation with Anil began.
I had gone to Pune Railway Station in the morning to receive my daughter who was arriving from New Delhi by the Duronto Express.
I was walking towards the over-bridge — when I spotted Anil’s father wandering aimlessly on Platform №1 — from where the Deccan Queen to Mumbai was about to leave.
Suddenly — Anil’s father started walking towards the AC Coach — and he was about to board the Deccan Queen — when I stopped him.
I caught hold of his hand — and I pulled him aside — just in time — before the train began to move.
Anil’s father did not recognize me.
He tried to pull his hand free — and when I tightened my grip — he gestured towards the moving train — and he started incoherently muttering at me:
“Mumbai — Duty — Mumbai — Duty…”
Then — suddenly — Anil’s father got aggressive and he tried to violently break free.
So — I raised an alarm — and with the help of some people — we overpowered him.
Once he was overpowered — Anil’s father collapsed and he started weeping like a child.
I called up Anil — who rushed to the railway station — and we had to literally carry Anil’s father to the car.
Suddenly the old man’s condition worsened — and it looked like he was having a seizure — so we rushed him to hospital — where they admitted Anil’s father into the ICU to keep him under observation.
We sat outside the ICU.
I felt sad for Anil and his father.
Anil and I were “Railway Children” — who had grown up together in those typical Railway Townships which adorn big railway junctions all over India.
Our fathers — both were Special Class Railway Apprentices from the same batch of SCRA — they were close friends — and — we luckily had many postings in the same places — so Anil and I became close friends too.
After school — we — Anil and I — we both went to IIT — and now — both of us lived and worked in Pune.
I felt sad for Anil’s father.
In the prime of his life — as a distinguished Railway Officer — he had such a regal persona and a commanding personality — and now — dementia had reduced him to this misery in his old age.
Part 3 : THE SOLUTION
Anil’s father lies sedated in the ICU.
Soon our wives — a few colleagues — and a few friends arrive.
We all stand in balcony outside the ICU of the hospital — brainstorming to find a solution to the problem.
Suddenly — Anil’s wife says:
“I cannot handle him anymore.
Ever since Anil’s father got this dementia — the last few years have been hell for me.
Anil goes out to work — the children go to school — but I have to live with Anil’s father all the time.
I have to do everything — I have to suffer his tantrums — I have to even clean his shit — and now he does this — he just runs away from home and he gets lost.
I can’t take it anymore — I will go crazy…”
With these words — Anil’s wife breaks down into tears.
On seeing her condition — I look at Anil and speak to him.
“Your wife needs a break. Why don’t you send your father to your sister’s place for a few days…?” my wife says to Anil.
On hearing this — Anil’s wife says mockingly:
As long as her father was fine she was the “doting daughter.
Anil’s sister ensured that she got her share in her father’s property.
Now that her father is sick — Anil’s sister is shirking her responsibility — and she has washed her hands off him.
The last time she visited us I asked her to take her father to her house in Mumbai for a few days — so that we could get some respite.
And — do you know what Anil’s sister’s husband said to us…?”
“What did he say…?” my wife asks.
Anil’s wife says angrily:
“Do you know what Anil’s sister’s husband said…?
That selfish brother-in-law of mine — he said that — “he did not want an insane man in his house” — as it would affect his children and their studies…”
“Really…?” my wife asks Anil’s wife.
Anil’s wife says:
“Yes — my brother-in-law — Anil’s sister’s husband — he said those very words that — “he did not want an insane man in his house” — as it would affect his children and their studies.
On hearing this — I look at Anil’s wife with surprise.
Then — Anil’s wife says to me:
On hearing this — I asked my brother-in-law:
“What about our children…?
Tell me — if it is not okay for you to have an “insane” man in your house — how is okay for us to have the same “insane” man in our house…?”
After hearing this — he and Anil’s sister just kept quiet.
And since that day — they haven’t shown up. I hate Anil’s sister. She just pays “lip service”. All she does is call up once in a while — and then she tells the whole world how concerned she is about her father…”
“That’s really very sad — but even today — it is the sons who are expected to look after their parents — especially the eldest son…” says a colleague of Anil — who has come to the hospital.
For a few moments — there is silence.
And then — the colleague speaks to Anil.
“You also have a brother — don’t you…?” the colleague asks Anil.
“He is abroad — in America…” Anil says.
“That’s the best thing to do — escape abroad to a good life in America — and forget about your parents suffering back home in India…” the colleague says.
“Longevity is increasing — and these old people are becoming a big problem. In our colony almost everyone’s kids are in America — and their hapless parents spend a lonely existence with all sorts of health problems…” the colleague’s wife says.
“Don’t worry, Sir. At least your father is not as bad as my neighbour. The poor man’s brain cells are dying — and he is lying like a vegetable for the last 6 months with tubes inserted to feed him and take his stuff out…” a young girl says — she is a recently joined software engineer — and she tries to console Anil.
The girl thinks that if she tells Anil of someone with a greater misfortune — maybe he will feel some consolation.
But unfortunately — it has the opposite effect — and full of anxiety — Anil asks her:
“Did he have dementia…?
Will my father also become a vegetable…?”
I put my hand on Anil’s shoulder to calm him down.
“No — you don’t worry — nothing of that sort will happen. Your Dad will be okay…” I say — putting my hand on Anil’s shoulder.
“But we can’t keep your father at home in this condition. I cannot bear it any longer. I will just collapse one day. And now he has started getting aggressive. I am afraid of him — I will feel scared if he is at home…” Anil’s wife says.
“Why can’t we keep Anil’s father in hospital?” my wife asks.
“We can’t keep him in this hospital forever…” Anil says.
“Not this hospital…”
“Then which hospital…?”
“An institution. Where they can treat his mental problems…” my wife suggests to Anil.
“A mental hospital…? You want me to put my father into a lunatic asylum…? My father is not a lunatic — he has not gone mad. Poor fellow has just got dementia — for which there is no cure…” Anil says angrily to my wife.
“Cool down, Anil…” I say to Anil, “my wife did not mean to hurt you.”
My wife apologizes to Anil.
We sit quietly till the Intensivist calls us — and the Doctor says:
“He has stabilized now. All parameters are okay. We will move him to a special room later at night and keep him under observation. You can go home and relax now. We will look after him. You can take him home tomorrow morning.”
“You all go home…” Anil says, “I will stay with him in hospital and bring him home in the morning.”
“No…” Anil’s wife says, “I don’t want your father to come home in this condition. I am frightened of him. Suppose he gets violent or something…? Or he disappears again and he gets lost…? You will blame me. I cannot look after your father anymore. No. Please don’t bring him home. You arrange something…”
On hearing the comments of Anil’s wife — the Intensivist looks at her in a perplexed manner — so I gesture to him that “all is well”.
Then — I say to Anil:
“Okay Anil — you stay here in hospital — and we will all go home and think of some solution.”
On our way home — we pick up Anil’s kids — and take all of them to our place.
Anil’s wife sleeps in our bedroom with my wife.
All the kids sleep in their children’s bedroom.
I lie down on the sofa in the living room.
I try to think of a solution to Anil’s problem.
The ring of my mobile phone jolts me out my sleep.
It is Anil.
Anil’s voice sounds strange, shaky, as he cries incoherently:
“The problem has been solved — the problem has been solved — My Father is Dead…”
“What…?” I say, stunned.
“Yes — my father is dead — while they were shifting him from the ICU to the ward on a stretcher — he got violent — he got very violent — so violent — that the stretcher tumbled — he fell on his head — he broke his neck — and he died on the spot…” Anil says, sobbing.
“Oh My God…” I say.
I can still hear Anil sobbing as he says to me:
He must have heard us.
So — he solved the problem.
Yes — he solved his own problem — he solved our problem — he solved everyone’s problem…”
Anil stops speaking — and there is silence.
I keep the mobile phone pressed to my ears.
Then — all of a sudden — I can hear Anil break down into tears.
Copyright © Vikram Karve
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© vikram karve., all rights reserved.
- This story is a fictional spoof, satire, pure fiction, just for fun and humor, no offence is meant to anyone, so take it with a pinch of salt and have a laugh.
- All Stories in this Blog are a work of fiction. Events, Places, Settings and Incidents narrated in the stories are a figment of my imagination. The characters do not exist and are purely imaginary. Any resemblance to persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental.
No part of this Blog may be reproduced or utilized in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical including photocopying or by any information storage and retrieval system, without permission in writing from the Blog Author Vikram Karve who holds the copyright.
Copyright © Vikram Karve (all rights reserved)
Link to my source blog post in my Blog Academic and Creative Writing Journal Vikram Karve: http://karvediat.blogspot.com/2020/07/the-solution.html
This Story THE SOLUTION was written by me 11 years ago in the year June 2011 and Earlier Posted Online by me Vikram Karve in my Academic and Creative Writing Journal Blog at urls: http://karvediat.blogspot.in/2011/07/solution.html and http://karvediat.blogspot.in/2011/09/complicated-problem-simple-solution.html and http://karvediat.blogspot.in/2012/01/solution-how-problem-solved-itself.html and http://karvediat.blogspot.in/2012/10/father-and-son.html and http://karvediat.blogspot.in/2013/04/blog-fiction-story-no-31-simple.htmland http://karvediat.blogspot.com/2017/07/simple-solution-to-difficult-problem.html and http://karvediat.blogspot.in/2015/10/difficult-problem-simple-solution-short.html and https://karve.wordpress.com/2020/11/10/the-solution-2/ and https://karve.wordpress.com/2021/06/28/the-solution-3/ and https://karve.wordpress.com/2021/11/09/the-ultimatum/ and https://karve.wordpress.com/2022/08/09/the-ultimatum-2/ etc
© vikram karve., all rights reserved.