The frantic activity of the night before our departure from Brahmanpalli meant we would be finished with our work and awake by four in the morning. We wanted to be on the road by 5:30.
How heart breaking it was to leave this place and to be taking Mummy away from this wonderful home. Never again would this car of ours stand next to Denis’ car in the porch.
One of the Sisters came to take possession of the keys to the house and quietly wandered about but not disturbing us. We had left the computer, the cooking range which Denis had bought barely a month ago, the fridge, steel cupboards and lots more. The things we brought here were some that we had always seen in our childhood homes. Some random items were Mummy’s old cake mixing bowl, a sauceboat, a wine decanter, an old biscuit jar, very precious things. And we had tried to leave the house as clean as we could.
Then it was no looking back. We now had to concentrate on making the long road journey with my mother safely seat belted in the front with Vani and me at the back. Debbie and her husband were following in another car. We had barely gone five kilometres when Mummy started asking to be put back in her bed. It is the place she feels the safest. The last few times she had sat in a car was always on the way to the hospital with my father driving, but this was going to be a long drawn out affair.
Vani had agreed to come with us to Pune to be a familiar carer while we looked at the other things that needed doing. After a few weeks she would leave for her village or maybe go live with her brother who was an autorickshaw driver in Hyderabad city. She and I sitting in the back seat kept fiddling about and getting confused about what to do with what of the needed equipment at hand.
Mummy started to get very agitated. Both Uday and I were thoroughly nervous throughout the drive. The sun began to climb up in the sky. The heat would have made the drive terrible but our loved Honda car did not let us down.
It was very stressful for us too, of course maybe not as bad as what she was feeling, to hear Mummy begging and pleading to be taken out of the car. We tried to distract her with sips of cool water and something to eat but she never let up. Vani kept massaging her shoulders and soothing her forehead which, when she is disturbed bobs up and down continuously. She would put out a hand and take Uday’s arm, which was resting on the steering wheel – making us frightened that she would summon some strength from somewhere and wrench his hands off it.
It was a dreadfully long trip with two railway gates closed and one wicked traffic jam because of a mishap on the highway that brought us to a standstill for nearly an hour. By the eleventh hour of this seemingly interminable drive she could only whimper, please, please. This was the journey we had been dreading and now it was getting over. We had gone up and down this route for years, making our ‘pit stops’ and eating stops and photo stops but not this time. I think we voluntarily stopped only once for Uday to stretch his legs.
We knew every town, major and not so major, the trees, the landmark buildings and some sweet rural town names. Suddenly a temple would come in sight, brightly painted, or an old abandoned fort, or a truck ahead carrying an enormous blade for a windmill. A lot of the area was drought prone and unwelcoming to look at in the summer haze.
But finally Pune was in sight. Debbie’s house had been prepared well for Mummy. Her house, being a bungalow with a compound, had enough space for Vani and for Venkat, G Swami’s son, who had come along too. When we arrived at Deborah’s place there was no walker to help lift Mummy out. It was in the other car and they were nowhere in sight! But her kind neighbour and the gardener and all of us somehow lifted her up (she was quite heavy in those days) and managed to seat her in her wheelchair. She was taken up the ramp specially built for this and then at last she was helped into her bed. A carpenter had made a sturdy teak bed with neat side railings that bolted shut for safety and easily opened. The bed was freshly made and ready but even while lying down Mummy couldn’t get over her stressed state and kept calling out to us to be with her. It was awful to see her so distraught and panicked to be in this unfamiliar place. She had last travelled anywhere out of their place in 2006 and must have forgotten our homes. By slow degrees and some soothing stroking and calming words she did settle her down.
As night came on she seemed to relax. After her dinner it wasn’t long before she fell into a deep and exhausted sleep. That was the beginning of my mother’s life in Pune.