Dorabjee- a response
Thank all of you.
I am overwhelmed by the response to Dorabjee. After I finished writing the story, I thought it made a rather sad reading. I had no heart to inflict it on the Sulekha readers. I sought advice from a friend, who read it ; and, asked me to post it, after taking care of spelling errors. I was assured that readers on Sulekha have a sturdy heart; and, surely would survive this teary onslaught.
Dorabjee relates to late 70s and early 80s, when, as I said earlier too, there was a village at the heart of Bombay; and, that village had a heart. The relations at work were generally cordial. Your mates greeted and wished you well;, not as a mere idiom of courtesy; they meant what they said.
I have never witnessed such spontaneous collective goodwill elsewhere as among the lower income immigrant groups of Bombay. Most were fleeing from the unbearable sizzling cauldron of poverty and humiliation tormenting them in their small towns and villages; and were thrown into the squalor, dirt and wretchedness of the big city, the like of which they had never seen .
They were ordinary people who lived dreary lives huddled in nondescript hellholes called Chawls and eked out living doing low paying odd jobs; yet shined as angles when neighbors were in trouble. They realized the needed of each other if they had to survive the encircling wretchedness that was climbing on them. They clung to each other for fear of loneliness, for help and comfort and for fear of big bad wolf. Whenever tragedy struck by way of accident, debilitating sickness or death; or at times of dire need during pregnancy or childbirth; like little ants, together they carried burdens much heavier than themselves.
They survived not by standing valiantly against the Goliath; but, by bending low like grass in a storm. Yet, even if they could not erase the scourge of poverty, they carried it about them with dignity, which was neither less nor different from the dignity of any other human being.
The greatest difficulty they faced was isolation; turning their homes into ghettos. Poverty, they realized, wasn’t only a lack of financial resources; it was isolation from the kind of people that could help them.
Dorabjee is based on the life and tragedy of a person I knew. I have written that into a story in my words. Nadira’s condition and Dorabjee’s care during the first year of her illness are based on what I learnt from the family. I lost contact with the family after the first year until about the end of the third year. I had half a mind to fill in the clinical details of disease condition in its later stages by consulting a doctor or by checking on the net. I did not pursue that idea since I thought it would mar the flow of the narration; and, it would not also add a value.
Some one questioned why Nadira had to be shifted to a Home since Alzheimer’s was not contagious.
No, it was not because of that. The reason was that Dorabjee’s health was failing. Yasmin was unable to take care of her parents, unresponsive and unmanageable. She was on the wrong side of thirty and her personal life was in tatters, as I mentioned. The Parsi Colony was itself slipping into a virtual old age home. Not many young persons were left in the colony.
[Those few young persons were not getting married. This is a serious problem in Parsi community, even today.]
Dorabjee would not let go Nadira and he was not in great shape, either. There was no other way to take care of both. They had to be shifted to a Home.
Some one remarked that Nadira benefited greatly by Doarabjee by her side. I am not sure of that. Nadira resided in a little bubble world of her own, (perhaps) watched life pass by, disinterestedly. She was beyond pain or pleasure. What Dorabjee did was out of love for his companion, without knowing why and without complexities of pride of giving. He did not know any other way.
Nadira held on to Dorabjee when it was easier to let go. She held on even when she had gone far away.
There were a few comments confusing suffering with love.
I think it is mainly because we have run into situations confusing symbols with reality; confusing money with wealth; menu with enjoyable dinner; and, greed with need.
It is not the whistle that runs the train ; but , it is the steam.
In my What Love is.. I wrote, “Love, happiness and well-being are spoken in one breath as if they are inseparable. Many times, I think, they are not even related. A lot of that does not necessarily feel good. Had I thought that love was about only feeling good, I would have missed many things in life.”
I was not suggesting that love always brings with it pain and suffering. No, pain is something that happens; suffering is what you bring on yourself. Love is something that can’t be destroyed by suffering, the only thing that rescues you from this cauldron of pain and insanity is love; hold on to that love defying the horrors of life. Love is an attitude. It is about life. It is about living. None of the things you do makes sense if love, actual care for persons, is not present.