Author’s Note: Catch the first part of The Ambulance here

1999

A decade had gone by since Bhanu’s mother had passed away. It also meant a decade more added to Bhanu and Mani’s lives. Age had begun to catch up with them, and it manifested in the slowing down of their movements, and the discovery of new aches and pains. But their indomitable spirit and love for each other did not diminish. Nor did the military efficiency with which they ran their household.

Just the year before, Mani and Bhanu had found and moved to a home closer to his office. The three floors they climbed to get to their apartment with ease during their youth had slowly turned into a painful affair and eventually an insurmountable barrier. While Mani had developed a heart condition along with high blood pressure, Bhanu’s arthritis was getting worse, making the routine act of climbing stairs on a daily basis a challenge for both of them. Besides, they also had Mani’s mother to think about who was by now in her late 80s.

The new apartment complex was a more modern construction, and it boasted of amenities like water supply round the clock and an elevator, ensuring the staircase was only an emergency backup.

Mani and Bhanu settled in with their youngest daughter and Mani’s mother in the new home. By now their other daughters were married and only the youngest daughter continued to stay with them. The others visited regularly, though, husband and children in tow, brightening Mani and Bhanu’s new home every time the grandchildren visited. The house was always filled with activity, energy and the patter of little feet.

Mani continued to support Bhanu with chores around the house, as well as picking up fresh produce on the way home everyday. Mani was a cook in his own right, and actually enjoyed the task of selecting and buying fresh produce daily. Bargaining with the vendors while picking out the freshest vegetables and fruits was one of the highlights of his day.

It had started out like any other day in Mani’s life.

There was a chill in the evening air as Mani entered his apartment complex and spotted the ambulance standing just below their building. Although this was not an unusual site in a building complex with so many residents, this time it felt different. His gut told him there was trouble at home. His instinct to protect and care for his family was so strong that he was rarely wrong about these things. This is one of the rare moment’s in a person’s life when they hope they are proved wrong, and there is no sense of triumph when they are proven right.

Hoping to be proven wrong, Mani stepped out of the lift to find his beloved Bhanu standing by the door, older now and a lot of grey streaking her thick hair. She was still as calm and stoic as ever. As he kept the shopping bags aside, she held his hand strongly and informed him that his mother had suffered a heart attack and the orderlies were just preparing to rush her to the hospital. Mani gripped her hand tight, fighting for composure. His mother was a great source of strength, wisdom and guidance to him, and even at this age, he often deferred to her for advice and had immense respect for her views on decisions that affected the family.

Mani shook himself mentally, reminding himself to focus on the need of the hour. Taking a deep breath, he went to check on his mother and ensure that she was made comfortable. He then accompanied the ambulance to the hospital and sat by his mother’s side, willing her to get better soon and be by his side again.

Mani’s mother stayed true to her strong nature, and fought valiantly for a few days in the hospital. While she recovered from the heart attack, her other organs began to slowly shut down. She began to forget people, things, days, time and by the end, even herself. Her loss was a big blow to Mani and Bhanu. She was, after all, the last of her generation to grace them with her presence. She lived a full life, her only regret being she couldn’t attend her youngest and most favourite granddaughter’s wedding.

Life slowly limped back to normal for Mani and Bhanu. Until…


Illustrated By: Indira Anand