Share Your Thoughts

(Editor’s note: this is the third chapter of a serialized short story. Read Chapter 1 and Chapter 2.)

They reached Ashiana Home for the Elderly late morning. In her mother’s new room stood a dresser, a desk with a stiff wooden chair, and a single bed with a cheery orange bedspread covered in leafy designs. The small window faced east to let in the morning sun.

Malini, the nurse on shift, was small and her light pink uniform hung around her like a balloon. Malini spoke quickly, as if each sentence had a deadline.

The nurse pointed to a red button near the bed. “Red is emergency only. Non-emergency, use the white bell on the table.” She opened a small door. “Here is the bathroom.”

Amma sat on her bed, her hands pressed on her knees.

Malini unlocked the closet with a flourish. “See, Aunty, so much space. Just for you.” She began to chuckle.

(Image by Kavi Yaga)

Devaki nodded. “Thanks. We will manage now.”

“OK. OK.” She waved as she closed the door. “Call for anything!”

Slowly, Devaki put everything away in the closet. She placed two framed photographs on the desk and sat beside her mother on the bed. They both looked out the window. In the garden, people ambled on the path and shuffled in walkers. Ladies wearing blue saris and big name tags pushed people in wheelchairs.

Devaki picked up one of the photos. In it, Amma sat beaming on a garden bench cradling baby Shriya. Next to them, Sid sat perched on his grandfather’s lap.

“This seems like only yesterday, Amma. The children loved the old garden.”

“You loved it too. I remember your face the first time you plucked a mango. That seems like yesterday, too.”

“We had the sweetest juice mangoes.”

“There were so many! I had to pulp and freeze them. They’d last till the end of winter, you know.”

“I can still taste them.”

(Photo by Fabrizio Frigeni)

“And the temple flowers. I’d pluck two. I’d put them in a bowl at the entrance.”

“Every day, new flowers.”

“Our guavas weren’t the best, I’ll admit,” Amma said, “but a dab of salt and chili powder and, well, you loved to eat that when you got back from school.”

Devaki placed the photograph back on the desk.

“Amma. I think you’ll be happy here. It seems nice. Lovely, in fact.”

Her mother gave a quick smile and looked down at her hands.

“I know we’ve talked and talked about it. It’s not so unusual, Amma. Lots of people are going to nursing homes these days. In places like America, people do it all the time.”

Devaki waited for her to say they were not in America, but her mother remained silent.

(Photo by Jez Timms on Unsplash)

Devaki picked up the other photo. She couldn’t have been more than two years old at the time it was taken. Her father was smiling directly at the camera as he carried her, and her mother was holding a Diwali sparkler. Devaki tilted the photo to the light. The moment a camera snaps a picture, it forces the hand of memory. Though she had no recollection of that night, Devaki would forever think of Diwali in this way: a sparkler in her mother’s hand, her father radiating a confident smile, his glasses slightly askew, his arm tilted at a jaunty angle as he held an open-mouthed baby. Devaki imagined reaching back in time to the moments before the photograph was snapped and telling her father about a day in the future when his wife would be looking out a window of a nursing home.

Devaki placed the photograph back on the desk.

Amma turned to her. “Did we pack my thin towels? The shawl? Devaki! Who will give me my medicines?”

“Everything’s packed, everything’s arranged. It’s going to be fine, Amma. The nurse will give you the medicines. I’ll call every day. I’ll visit every week.”

“Okay.”

After two small knocks, the door opened and Malini stood at the doorway. “Aunty! Time for the meet up in the common room.”

Devaki pressed her lips together. “She will come soon, Malini.”

“It starts in ten minutes.”

“Okay. I’ll bring her.”

When the door closed, Devaki turned to her mother. “It will be good here, you’ll be with people your own age. This is the right thing to do, Amma.”

“You know what’s best.”

Devaki didn’t know what was best. She wished somebody would tell her.

Amma said, “You’ll come next week?”

“All of us. For sure.”

“Okay, okay. Let’s go now. And you should leave, the kids will be waiting.”

“In just a few minutes,” Devaki said. She held her mother’s hand.

A warbler landed on the windowsill, cocked its head, and flew away.

Kavi Yaga

Kavi Yaga is a writer in Hyderabad, India. Her travel memoir, Walking in Clouds: A Journey to Mount Kailash and Lake Manasarovar was published by HarperCollins India in 2019. Her collection of short...