“Three, two, one, lift,” Mr. Nair instructed. Our hands wrapped around Dad’s hips, his hand across each of our shoulders, we hoisted him up to a standing position, before carefully helping him into the bed. I watched Mr. Nair carefully adjust a pillow for Dad and check if he was all right. I turned to get the medicines.
“Sauravji, maybe uncle would like something to eat something, first?” Mr. Nair’s gently voice reminded me that Dad needed to eat before medicines .
For a moment I looked around lost, before nodding my head at him. “I will check in the kitchen,” I replied walking towards the kitchen.
“No, wait,” he said, fully aware there was nothing at home to eat. “Mala has made some poha for all of us. I will go get it. You go wash up. Uncle looks ok.” He patted my shoulder as he left. Dad smiled at me and closed his eyes to rest.
Walking to the bathroom, I splashed some water on my face. It was a crazy day. I was getting ready to go to work, when I heard the crash in Dad’s room. I had rushed there to find him lying still on the floor. That instant my mind had threatened me with the worst. My trembling hands could not find the pulse and I didn’t know what to do. Nandita had gone to her parent’s home in Pune for the weekend, and I was all alone. Fear had taken over and I had run to Mr. Nair’s home and banged on it crying for help. All I could think of that moment was that Mrs. Nair was a nurse. She would know what to do. I didn’t remember that I had always treated them with more than a little arrogance. I didn’t remember that I had looked down on this south Indian couple and their ways and habits and food. I didn’t remember that I never shared sweets with them during Diwali.
I had once taunted Mr. Nair for letting his wife work. As Mrs. Mala had rushed into my home, I felt relieved she was home and not at work. She had rushed to Dad, checked for pulse and declared he was just unconscious. A little water and he was revived. She checked his vitals and found them strong. It turned out that he had forgotten to take his medication in the night. Actually, I had forgotten to give it to him.
Mr and Mrs. Nair took over the situation. They helped me take him downstairs and to their car. They had driven us to the hospital, stayed during the tests. I did not understand anything that happened. What happened to Dad in the morning, what happened at the hospital, what was happening now, why I had treated them so badly, why they were helping me. I was the mute spectator watching it all, lost in my thoughts, looking at my judgments and left alone with my guilt. Now, gratitude filled my heart. I splashed my face with some more water and stepped out.
Mr. Nair already feeding Dad. “This is very tasty. Like how Nandita makes,” mumbled Dad feebly, his mouth full. Mr. Nair smiled. And just then, I realized that I didn’t even know his first name! I turned to look in the cupboard for a towel, my cheeks red with shame. I rubbed my face hard. I did not understand how he could help me like this after I had been such a poor neighbor. Maybe Mr. Nair did not hold on to the past. Maybe that was why he was always smiling at me and greeting me whenever we passed each other.
As the wave of emotion settled down, I accepted I had been about him. How many other things was I wrong about? I did not understand why Mrs. Mala worked. I did not understand anything that happened to Dad. I did not understand the man who was helping me. I did not understand the medicines I was handing out to Dad. I do not understand anything that I see.
“Thank you, Mr. Nair, for everything,” I found myself saying as I took the plate of poha that was waiting for me. Mr. Nair looked at me. He just nodded in my direction with a huge smile, and turned his attention back to Dad again.