Healing touchMay 31, 2013
Everything had gone just perfectly, Shantamma thought to herself as she wiped the sweat from her brow. The wedding festivities were over and her son and his new bride would depart the coming morning for their honeymoon. Some country abroad, they had mentioned but for the life of her she could not remember which one. She smiled wistfully at that. Age was catching up with her, she knew. She no longer was the young woman who had entered this very house with a spring in her step three decades ago. The tips of her fingers were still tingling from all the handshakes she had received in the last 24 hours. The joints of her knees creaked in annoyance as she moved slowly up the stairs. To top it all off, she had a splitting headache from all the noise and gaiety of the function and travel throughout the entire day.
She stopped midway up the flight of stairs as the effort of the entire day started to finally weigh down upon her. Her eyes turned towards the cuckoo clock that hung on the wall across the living room. She found she couldn't see it's little arms clearly anymore. Well, of course, old age does that to you. She knew her cataracts were getting worse. Now that this was over, she would get it removed in peace.
Like any doting mother, her prime concern had been to make sure the marriage of her only son went well. And while the Colonel may have taken care of the cars and invitations, she knew her responsibilities extended far beyond wearing designer saris and shaking hands. She had been running all day from the crack of dawn, waking up the servants and making sure breakfast was ready by the time the guests staying at their house were woken up.
Breakfast. The very word seemed to make her feel giddy. The stress of not eating anything all day in between these festivities had taken it's toll on her and she felt famished. She had taken a vow of a 24 hour fast to the local deity to ensure that nothing untoward took place during the event and the marriage and future life of her child would be a grand success. The Lord had obviously answered her prayers and everything had gone well. It was almost midnight and the guests had finally left, leaving her to go upstairs and thank the Lord before breaking her fast. Just a few minutes more to midnight.
An hour later, the Colonel came out of his room annoyed. 'After such a tiring day, where had she gone off to? How long am I supposed to wait for her to come to bed?' he grumbled to himself.
"Shanta! Shanta! It's late." In response, the crickets chirped louder, daring him to raise his voice. He didn't accept though as his senses grew more alert. Why had she not responded? Shaking his head angrily, he turned the corner and climbed the stairs slowly to the upper floor where she had gone to pray an hour ago. "This silly woman. Probably fell asleep in the prayer room itself. What a lady! She has gained a lot of weight also worrying about the wedding. After Vikram and his wife goes, I will force her to come with me for jogging early in..."
His inner monologue ceased abruptly as he reached midway up the stairs and saw the scene at the entrance to the prayer room. "SHANTA! " He screamed as he climbed up hastily towards her prone figure.
A few moments later, Vikram and his bride came rushing up the stairs as well to see a horrific sight. His father was on the floor cradling his mother who appeared to be sleeping. The Colonel kept calling her name but there was no response from his mother. She was deathly pale and her sari was soaked in sweat.
"Dad. What happened?"
"I don't know. She had come upstairs to pray. She didn't return and I came up finally to bring her down. That is when I found her like this on the floor. She's not responding, Vikram. Call the driver. We need to get her to the hospital."
As Vikram ran down, the doe eyed bride kneeled down beside her new father and mother. She placed her index and middle finger across the old woman's wrist and her eyes stayed fixed upon the slowly heaving chest. Half a minute later, she looked up at the Colonel. "Papa. What did she last eat? I don't remember seeing Mama eat with us at the buffet."
The Colonel nodded. "She was fasting for the sake of your marriage, beti. She hasn't had anything to eat at all. I literally had to force-feed her evening medications to her with just a few sips of water telling her that God wouldn't be angry with her for that."
Even before he had finished, the young woman had gotten up and without a word raced downstairs leaving the old man bewildered as he turned back to his unconscious wife.
When Vikram and the driver came up the stairs a few minutes later, to his shock, his parents were sitting in the adjoining dining room, laughing. His mother was still tired and rested her head clumsily across her husband's broad shoulders but she turned to her son with a sheepish grin.
"I... I don't understand. What happened?" he asked.
The Colonel looked at him, smiled and gestured with his eyes towards his new bride. Vikram looked at her quizzically. She looked back at him and smiled. "Don't worry. Mama will be fine. No, Mama?"
"But what happened?" Vikram persisted.
Lakshmi came up to him slowly. "What happened is you, being a doctor, forgot the very basics of medicine because you were getting married. If you had thought about it, you would have seen the warning signs all along. Remember we had noted how tired and fatigued Mama looked all day? How she kept going and standing under the air conditioner vents and still came back sweating? And couldn't remember the names of half of your relatives. We thought it was the tension. But what if it wasn't? Papa tells me you knew that she was fasting..."
"Yes, she had a vow to the Lord..."
She looked him steadily in the eye and carried on. "Doctor Vikram. What happens to a diabetic patient when they go on a fast... and still take their medication?"
Realization finally dawned on him. "Oh God. I forgot about the medication. Dad must have given her the usual pills. She..."
"...was hypoglycemic." Lakshmi finished her husband's sentence for the first time in what was to be a pleasurable routine over the years. "Just because you are getting married, does not mean you forget your basics, Mr Doctor Sir." she said in a teasing voice. "It is a good thing I have a mother who's a diabetic too. Her values are pretty unstable too like your mother's. I just got some sugar from the kitchen downstairs and placed it inside her mouth and abracadabra... doctor's wife becomes the miracle healer!" she said, gesturing theatrically with her arms towards the smiling couple sitting on the sofa.
"It is God's way of making me break my fast by having sweets from my new daughter's hand." Shantamma said weakly, trying to cover her embarrassment. The Colonel shook his head and turned his gaze away from the woman he loved to his new daughter and she noticed his eyes shone as tears struggled to stay concealed.
"I thought I lost her. I don't know what I would have done if she had gone. Thank God."
A mischievous grin began to appear over her face as Lakshmi rested her head upon Vikram's shoulder. "Is it enough to just say 'Thank God?' Shouldn't you be showing God how grateful you are. You know... maybe by fasting for 24 hours?"
And for the first time that morning, the two couples - one strengthened by the promise of a bright future, the other by the fear of a narrow escape - burst out laughing.
Author's note: According to the International Diabetes Federation (2012 statistics), there are nearly 50 million diabetics in India. No matter how you spin it, that's a pretty significant number. It also means that someone you know and love may have it. So don't be ignorant of it just because you aren't a health care professional or don't have it yourself. Read up on it so that you can know what to do in case you start to notice warning signs and symptoms in someone around you.
You never know. You could be the next miracle healer.
This story is part of the ongoing contest for Indiblogger and Colgate Total regarding ignoring warning signs.