Do you remember us?
Updated: Aug 22, 2020
“Who are you?” demanded Neeraj as he woke up from his sleep as he saw Nalini walk in the bedroom.
Nalini took a deep breath and composed herself as she walked to the foot of the bed and said, “I’m your wife, Nalini.”
“WIFE?” he shouted and as his eyes widened.
Nalini sat by his bedside and folded his wrinkled hands in hers as she lovingly patted them. She looked at him in the eyes as her mind started to wander around and recalled their 56 years of marriage.
Neeraj rubbed his eyes and took a deep sigh and looked at her. She looked beautiful. She had aged like fine wine. Her white kurta made her face glow. He sat up feeling numb.
He looked around the room as he fidgeted in his bed. On his side table, there is a photo of him and Nalini. He saw a box of medicines, an empty glass, and a jug of water. And a bouquet of fresh orchids. The bouquet itself brought so much liveliness to the room.
Neeraj looked at Nalini with confusion and despair.
“No! I don’t remember you,” said Neeraj as he vigorously shook his head.
Nalini closed her eyes and took a deep breath. It had been almost six long months like this. The same thing day in and day out. The same conversation. The same questions. The same answers.
The illness had not weakened his body but his memory slowly faded away like a wet in wet watercolor painting.
“It’s ok, I’m here by your side. You don’t have a thing to worry about. I love you even if you don’t love me back,” said Nalini smiling sweetly and handed him a glass of water. Neeraj slowly sipped it as he tried to put the pieces together.
“Why am I still in bed?” he questioned again as he looked out of the window from his bed. “It seems like afternoon, the sun is shining bright.”
“It’s almost noon, you’re not feeling too well dear,” she explained.
There was a knock on the door, Raju walked in with a tray of food. Nalini thanked Raju as he placed the tray on a small table placed by the bedside. Nalini was helpless without Raju. She treated him like a member of the family. He had worked for them for over 20 years and had stood by her through their thick and thin.
“Why don’t we eat lunch together and talk about all the wonderful years that we have spent together.”
Nalini fluffed the pillow behind him and adjusted the blanket around his waist. She helped him get comfy.
“Well, I am hungry,” Neeraj chuckled and said.
“I’m famished too,” she said giggling. “We always eat lunch together around this time every day.”
As they both ate lunch Neeraj asked, “Do we have any children?”
“No dear, we don’t have any children. Although we tried. Many times! But it turned out that I have a very unfriendly womb,” she said.
They both kept eating slowly as Neeraj broke the silence.
After a long pause, Neeraj looked Nalini straight in the eye. “Am I a good husband?” he asked with a glimpse of hope in his eyes.
Nalini chuckled. “You little brat!” she said as she pinched his cheeks. “You’re the best! You always looked after me. You always supported me and loved me. I love your wicked sense of humor. You always made me laugh. And you still try, don’t you?”
Neeraj nodded. Her words seem to reassure him.
“So what did we do?” questioned Neeraj as he was still trying to figure things out.
“Well, we both ran our own printing firm. It took us several years to have our business up and running. And we spent a lot of our time traveling together.
“Oh! We traveled?” he said as he took the next bite of food. “Where?”
“Everywhere!” We have traveled to many countries.” said Nalini happily.
“Do you remember our trekking hike to Mt.Kota Kinabalu in Malaysia? It all seemed impossible during the heavy rains. But slowly and steadily we made it to the top,” said Nalini.
“No, I don’t remember,” said Neeraj as he nodded his head feeling lost and confused.
“Do we have family or relatives staying with us,” he asked.
“No dear, it’s just the both of us. It’s always been just the two of us. Our relatives are scattered all over the world. But we have a lot of close friends that live nearby. They come and visit you every evening. You all sit together and play cards or watch the game on television,” she said.
“We have friends who come and visit me every evening?” said Neeraj as he laid back with his head resting on the wooden headboard looking bewildered. He stared at the fan rotate, lost in his little world.
“Yes! They are your college friends. Still a bunch of hooligans I must say,” she added.
Nalini opened the cupboard and took out a photo album of all the trips they had taken so far. They had clicked pictures from so many different places they had visited. Nalini had always been fond of making memories. Ever since they got married she started collecting their pictures of all their holidays and putting it together in an album. She never knew this album would be so handy.
The album had a thick black cover and a golden border. It had a thin off-white faded sheet in between each page that kept the photo intact.
Some of the pages had changed color from white or off-white. Some even had yellow stain marks. But it was precious. Full of memories of all the time they both spent together.
Nalini lovingly sat down next to Neeraj as she placed the album on her lap. She put her hand on his cheek and caressed it, “I’ll help you remember,” she said softly and smiled.
There appeared the black album that Neeraj stared at as she placed it on his lap. He looked at Nalini as he felt a needle in his throat.
“Open it, it’s going to be ok,” she said hopefully.
Neeraj gathered his courage and opened the album. He started to flip through the pages and glanced at each photo trying to find the missing pieces of the jigsaw puzzle. The jigsaw puzzle was his life. Putting the pieces together was very frustrating at times.
Each photo was lovingly narrated by Nalini. She told him every gory detail of the picture as Neeraj listened attentively.
“Where was our last holiday?” he interrupted.
“Ummm, our last holiday was to Goa, we celebrated our 50th anniversary there, it was a short trip but we made it worthwhile. We danced a lot! Binged on the delicacies of Goan food. Oh and yes we even went fishing. And you caught..”
“Oh yes! And we caught over 20 different types of fish, I remember,” said Neeraj joyfully. “Oh and I think we stayed at a fancy hotel?”
“Yes, dear! You made all the arrangements prior and gave me a huge surprise. It was such a remarkable experience. You always took care of every minute detail with utmost love,” she said as she kissed him on the cheek.
Nalini’s face lit as her eyes beamed with joy. She did it! She helped her loving husband, her best friend, her partner in crime remember. Again. And she would tomorrow, day after, and the days to come until he doesn’t recover from dissociative amnesia.
Nalini got into bed with him. She cuddled him as she rested her head on his shoulder. She put her hand on his chest and buried her nose in his neck. She loved his smell. She sighed. He kissed her on the forehead and said, “I love you Nalini!”
“I love you more, I think you should get some rest. We are going to have your hooligan friends come by later today,” she said as she closed her eyes and started to dream about the 56 long-cherished years, all filled with fun-loving times they both spent together.