The Twilight Years

“My grandmother started walking five miles a day when she was sixty. She’s ninety-seven now, and we don’t know where the heck she is.”
Ellen DeGeneres

 

The first time I read this quote I couldn’t stop laughing thinking what a wit Ellen was and cursing myself for never coming up with anything wittier than ‘mud in your eye’ or a tongue sticking out.

More than a fortnight back this same quote was no longer as funny but just a trigger to get me crying buckets.

You see my 95-year old grandfather, my Nanu, had gone for a walk and we really didn’t know where the heck he was.

What followed was a week of pure torture, much worse than anything the Chinese or Torquemador could have conceived (and from here say they seem to have conjured everything (in)humanly possible).

THE WAIT

Well I bet they never imagined what a fevered mind could conjure up.

Those seven days were agonizingly slow in passing. Every passing second seemed to stretch into eternity, every ring on the phone brought us new hope only to be dashed and every passing old man seemed to have more than a smidgen of resemblance to my missing grandpa.

We cursed ourselves for not being mindful enough (when in fact stopping short of strapping him to the bed we kept an eye out for his every movement from the time he woke up to giving him his meals like clockwork to not letting him step out of the house to not letting him have his bath by himself – my mother was the primary and only care giver – to bundling him up like he was headed for the North Pole to regimenting his lifestyle so he hit the sack by 10 every night) , for not getting a leash, for not getting a GPS tracker, for not installing a CCTV camera, for not telling the neighbours about the slow onset of dementia, for not putting him in an assisted care facility that would have had care takers 24/7 and so on and so forth.

THE SEARCH

And while the self guilt and mental blame game went unhindered we also filed a police complaint.

Surprisingly, the police were very co-operative. They filed a complaint after the stipulated 24 hour waiting period. They issued an all city alert.

We called everyone in our contacts across the country to help us search or aid in the search.

We went on Social media to launch a campaign called Find Nanu on Facebook.

We tweeted.

We instagramed.

We Whatsapped.

We scoured hospitals and police stations.

We went to NGOs (Nightingale Dignity Foundation comes to mind, they are doing a phenomenal job of taking care of people with dementia and alzheimers as also Auto Raja Foundation).

We discovered that there is an elderly helpline  1090 / 22943226.

We discovered that there is RVM Foundation which picks up destitutes on the streets and houses them till they find their real homes or takes care of them until alternate arrangements are made.

We made posters and plastered it all over the city, wherever we thought in our fevered imagination Nanu might have walked. You see we truly didn’t know where the heck Nanu walked to.

We hounded ex-journalist friends to write stories.

We contemplated issuing a missing persons alert on the telly and in the papers.

We planned on inserting flyers and have it distributed through local paper vendors.

 

THE LEADS (false but keeping hopes up)

And we waited.

That first call came from a girl who called at 1 am to inform us she saw someone looking like Nanu at a spot 8 kms away from our residence. SO rush, rush. Only to find it was a drunk who looked a lot like him.

Next came a call from the railway station and the hunt was on. Not him.

Then was the call we dreaded (or thought we did) from the morgue to identify an unidentified corpse. The good samaritan cop volunteered to check the body and thank God, it wasn’t Nanu.

We realised what was worse was the Not Knowing, the tormented imagination of a overtly stressed mind and emotional heart, the fact that we were snug in our beds while some one we loved and cherised was all alone battling a strange world, loneliness, hunger and thirst.

 

FINALLY

We got a message on Facebook from a stranger who urged us to go to a spot 22 kms away from our residence along with the stranger’s number and contact details.

A call ensued.

Hope had slowly receded but not quite.

We put out a message asking for volunteers so we could have more legs to cover a vast area that was park land, wooded and dark. Friends came, family rushed, acquaintances called, good samaritans volunteered.

And…

seven days after he had disappeared, my 95-year old Nanu was finally found.

Here is how….

Bangalore Mirror covered the story, the before and the after.

LESSONS LEARNT

Always treat the Elderly like you would a teenager: Tell them the Do’s and Don’ts but equip them to cope (in our case we mollycoddled Nanu so much that we never bothered telling him the location of where we stayed or the address in the belief we would always be there to take care).

Quit with martyrdom and guilt, if assisted care or old age homes will keep your elders in safe environs, so be it.

Invest a little time and effort in making sure they always have an ID card on them (a friend told me how her mother had stitched an ID tag on all the clothes that mentioned the name of her dad, who had dementia, with address and emergency contact numbers).

Invest some time in getting to know your neighbours, the local cops and the hospital. Had we told our neighbours about my Nanu’s condition of partial memory loss perhaps some one would have brought him home the minute they saw him sauntering out alone on a walk.

Invest some money in getting a GPS tracker or a CCTV camera.

And yes, social media is great to get the message viral but what clicks is Good old Print……

And the most important lesson, BELIEVE IN THE GOODNESS OF PEOPLE.

What we received throughout this terrible ordeal has been overwhelming support from friends, acquaintances and strangers. People who called and messaged each day to enquire about the progress of the HUNT, about help they could provide, who gave us tips and leads and always, always kept out hopes alive.

THIS IS MY THANK YOU to all those out there who prayed, supported us and helped us sail the tide of bad karma.

THANK YOU

 

 

Getting More

I’m the one you find having long, intimate chats at parties instead of being the life of the party. You will find me snuggled on the couch with a book or two, music playing in the background and a puppy/Bambhubhai for lively company. You will find me experimenting around the house or in the kitchen before dashing off to finish that long-taken on project. You will probably find me in the same coffee shop, sipping the same coffee if you caught me there two times or more in a row. I have my favourite haunts that I haunt till they won’t let me haunt no more; my bookshops where I can get lost infinitely in its musty, dank corners or strolling through old parts of my city where I can still breathe air and not smoke.

In short, what you will realise is I easily get into my comfort zone and barely slip out of it just as I hold on to that tattered, moth-holed Tee. I’m comfortable in my skin, happily piling on and losing the pounds, laughing my way to the last paise in my account and holding random conversations with whoever is willing.

So does it make me get the most out of life or more even?

Hell, yea living in my comfort zone has kept me happy and insulated from a tumultous world that has changed from breezy, easy to a stress-ridden rollercoaster.

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This weekend I decided to expand my comfort zone a lil, well just a wee bit to try and find out how the super active hyper others live. Well, guess what they do book readings and theatre shows and meet up with friends and have long-winded dinners without breaking into a sweat. I was feeling burnt out by the time I was done with two of the above.

Well, one step at a time I say. In the meanwhile, here is what my comfort zone looks like at present 🙂

Of Donne Biriyani and becoming a life long foodie…..

After being banned from the kitchen it was a lark being able to step in with strict instructions from the dear old ‘mater’ not to exceed 30 minutes. So feeling like Jamie Oliver in his 15-minute meals I was trying to figure out what to whip up for a quick but good Sunday meal. With a kilo of fresh chicken sitting atop the kitchen counter along with mint leaves and lemon, donne biriyani seemed the obvious choice. Deciding to chance it further I opted to prepare Nagarjuna style Chilli Chicken. Well suffice to say both the dishes turned out so good that the family requested an encore and that’s what we had a few days later, but this time it was Mutton Donne Biriyani. I seem to have got the technique right as they requested an encore again.

Having had enough of biriyanis and Indian food I have been egging dear family to eat out a bit, and here is what it resulted in.

Food Reviews 😀

Meanwhile for those curious about the Donne Biriyani. Here you go. Most readers may be familiar with Andhra style Hyderabadi Biriyani and the Mughlai Dum Biriyani. In fact most of the takeaway joints specialise in one or both of these styles. Both these Biriyanis are made using Basamati Rice or long grained, fragrant rice. Donne Biriyani, however, is a Maratha style Biriyani made with jeera sambha rice and there in lies one of its secret and extremely popular in Bangalore.

I discovered Donne Biriyani when my brother trotted home one fine Sunday morning with a stack of white boxes and delicious mouth watering fragrance in his trail. The boxes contained Chickpet Donne Biriyani. Spicy, hot and flavorsome we became addictive to the Donne Biriyani. There are quite a few popular eateries such as Naidu’s Donne Biriyani, Huliappa’s Donne Biriyani and of course what I prepare at home now 😛

Donne means a leaf bowl made from the Arecanut Palm Leaf. The Biriyani is usually served in these bowls giving it that special aroma. The biriyani is spicier than the Hyderabadi Biriyani and not as rich. I checked the net not too hopeful of finding the recipe coz my brother assured me the Donne Biriyani was a closely guarded secret but luckily the Internet is the guardian of secrets so I came upon Vidya’s  and Muktha‘s blogs which gave an elaborate recipe for the Donne Biriyani. After lots of trials and experiments here’s my version. Quick and easy this will take less than 30 minutes and enough for a family of four. Bon Appetit!

DONNE BIRIYANI

Ingredients:

Chicken: 1/2 kilo

Jeera Rice: 2 cups

Steamed Rice (Sona Masoori): 1 cup

Bay leaves: a few

For the green paste:

Onions: 1 big or 3 small cut into chunks

Garlic: 10 pods

Green Chillis – 8

Cloves, Cinnamon, Cardamom: 5/1 stick/4

Javitri (Mace)- 1 flower

Mint leaves-  from 4 sprigs

Coriander leaves – from 3 sprigs

In a pan, heat a tablespoon of oil and roast ingredients above. Grind to fine paste.

Additional Ingredients: Juice from half a lime, spoon of Kasuri Methi (dry methi leaves)

Method: In cooker, heat 2 tablespoons of oil. Add bay leaves and roast for 30 sec.  Pour ground paste and roast till you get the fragrance of spices. Add chicken pieces and marinate over low flame. Add 1/4 tsp garam masala, 2 pinch of turmeric, 1/4 tsp of Dhaniya powder. Add rice. Pour water till the rice and chicken are covered. (Rice to water proportion: 3 tall glasses of water to 3 cups of rice. Remember jeera rice doesn’t require too much of water else it will take lumpy). Add juice from half a lime and a spoonful of kasuri methi leaves. Add salt to taste. Stir once. Close cooker and cook for 5-6 whistles.

Serve hot with boiled eggs, sliced onions and lemon wedges.

P.S: The above was the easy version. For those with time and patience, the mutton biriyani follows the same recipe. Only difference: half cook mutton before hand and use the mutton broth instead of plain water while cooking the biriyani. The half-cooked mutton is added in the same stage as the biriyani and instead of using plain water the mutton broth can be used which adds more flavour and richness to the biriyani.