Sudha was struggling to get back to sleep. She glanced at Dr. Lal, he was asleep. There was a kind of nervousness which she had never experienced before. The memories of her kids are coming back again and again. She always wondered if she would ever see them again before leaving this world, at the same time if something happens to her, what about Dr. Lal, who would take care of him?

Two blocks down the lane, Raman was also lost in similar thoughts. Would his parents ever accept him back? He is their only son, there is no one else who could take care of his parents. All his attempts to get back in touch with them have failed. “What if they never allow me to express what I feel? This guilt isn’t letting me live peacefully. What did I do with my life?“, he slowly walked into the garden. It was almost 4’O clock in the morning. 

Suddenly Sudha felt too sick, her body was completely sweating. She shook Dr.Lal to wake him up as she pointed at the water jug on the table. Dr. Lal served her water. Sudha was breathing heavily unable to keep her eyes open. “Sudha, Sudha, please look at me. What happened? Should I call for an ambulance? Please talk to me, please“, Dr.Lal was scared as hell. He grabbed his phone to call Raman. Raman’s phone was ringing but he isn’t answering the calls. After two vain attempts, Dr.Lal gave-up on him and called for an ambulance. 

Raman was shaken out of his thoughts when he heard the siren of the ambulance. The ambulance entered Dr. Lal’s house. Involuntarily Raman ran towards their house. The paramedics have checked Sudha and recommended to shift her to the hospital as her heartbeats were abnormal. Dr.Lal accompanied Sudha in the ambulance holding her hand tight. “Raman, please bring Sudha’s medicines which are kept on the bedside table, also the bag kept in the cupboard to hospital. Please come as fast as you can“.

Raman went inside the house, collected the bag and her medicines, locked their house. He went to his house and started searching for the car keys. He took some money, water, glucose and his wallet. He opened the bag he brought from Dr.Lal’s house to keep the items he thought would be useful. Opening the bag gave him a shocker. The bag contained Sudha’s clothes, money, some papers and glucose too. Dr.Lal was very much prepared for the emergency situation, a doctor he is by profession, no wonder thought Raman. 

He grabbed his phone, rushed out of the door towards his car. He started driving and wanted to make a phone call. That is when he noticed missed calls from Dr.Lal. He cursed himself to have been negligent and not keeping his phone along with him. “God, please forgive me for making another mistake. I could not have been available to Dr. Lal in time of need. Please save Sudha mam.” 

Sudha is admitted to the emergency ward, nurses were running around her arranging the oxygen mask and preparing for IV fluids. The duty doctor came in, checked the vitals and injected a couple of medicines into the saline water. Dr. Lal felt helpless standing outside the emergency ward.

Dr.Lal, is this the first time or has she ever had similar problems ?” asked the doctor.

“No Doctor, this is the first time. She has arthritis and is also suffering from depression. I gave her a double dose of anxiety reliever today. Raman must be coming any time, he has the list of medicines Sudha takes” Dr.Lal responded.

OK. Please don’t worry, she would be fine. I suspect it could be a mild attack or just stress. I would get the tests done so that we know what caused it. Be strong Sir” said the doctor. 

A couple of hours later, the doctor returned to Dr.Lal, “Sir, she is very weak. It was a very mild attack. I will give some medicines for a few days which would help her. Keep her happy and away from stress. You could take her home…”

Raman and Dr.Lal looked at each other feeling relieved. All three of them reached home. Dr. Lal helped Sudha lay comfortably on the bed. He sat beside her caressing her hair till she fell asleep. Once she was asleep, Dr. Lal joined Raman who was waiting in the living room. “Ah, you made tea. Thanks a lot, Raman, you have been a lot of help today. Otherwise, how much can this old man do? I thought I am going to lose her. I know such thoughts are stupid, but I couldn’t help” said Dr. Lal.

Raman could sense the pain in his words, “I am extremely sorry Sir. I could not attend your call when I should have. I would have unknowingly done the same mistake I did with my granny. As they say, life repeats itself until we learn the lesson”, he broke into tears, uncontrollably sobering.

Raman, you should not be guilty about your granny. Even today, it wasn’t your mistake. Things just happen. We should take them as they come. See us, have we ever thought our kids would leave us? Today, they don’t have time for us. When Sudha was in an emergency also, I have not thought about them. I don’t know if they would come if I call them, but I am not too sure if I would reach out to them for help. I have got an insurance done for me and Sudha, that should suffice if need be. The documents are in the bag you brought to the hospital today. Are you wondering why am I telling you that? If I forget some other time, please remember to use them in time of need“, Dr.Lal gave a faint smile. 

Raman came back home, he felt too tired. Was it lack of sleep or the burden of missing Dr. Lal’s calls, he wasn’t really sure. On one side are his parents who refuse to forgive him for the mistake he made as a teenager, on the other side, there are Mr. and Mrs. Lal who love their kids so much. Maybe if their kids take a step forward, that family can reunite together to be a happy family, just like the pictures on the walls. He picked up his phone to make an important call he has been waiting to make. 


Raman kept tossing and turning in his bed. He had had a wonderful evening with the Lal couple but there was something that disturbed him. A lot of voices were making the loudest sound in his mind.


This thought never left Raman’s mind ever since his grandmother passed away untimely. While nobody else blamed him for being irresponsible understanding the fact that he was merely a teenager and granny had not shown any signs of uneasiness when he left, Raman could never forgive himself for being a reason to his granny’s death. Ever since then he had decided that he will do his best to save an elderly person in need. There was no better way than specializing in Geriatric Care and Management. Raman had progressed to be the best Geriatric Care Manager in the country. His job involved planning and coordinating care of the elderly and others with physical and/or mental impairments to meet their long-term care needs, improve their quality of life, and maintain their independence for as long as possible. It entails working with persons of old age and their families in managing, rendering and referring various types of health and social care services.  He had drowned himself in his studies and work so much that he didn’t realise when did he drift apart from his parents.

The last time he spoke with his parents was 5 years ago when his dad had called him home to inform that he is disowning Raman. Raman couldn’t believe what he was told and no amount of apologies and pleading changed his dad’s decision. He knew he couldn’t expect any help from his mother because she was a mere puppet of his dad’s hands.

Raman was alone ever since then. There was no one that he could call a family of his own. He had a big professional circle but he always returned to an empty home, same as he did today. He was amazed at how life takes one for a ride. Here he was missing his family, his parents and two blocks down the lane there was Lal family who was missing their children. Such a cute and happy go, lucky family! Or that is what one may opine by just looking at them. But the dinner tonight had exhibited an array of sorrows this elderly couple was fighting – Four estranged children and old man’s Alzheimer! How could life be so cruel?

The shrill ringtone of his mobile phone zapped him out of his thoughts. Raman rubbed his face with his palms and wondered who could be calling at 3 am!

Hello? Oh, sir you! At this hour? I hope everything is all right at your end. Yes, I met them today. They are safe and doing ok, don’t you worry. They just need a little care, a little love and all four children…” He couldn’t hold himself back but just uttered those words… And continued to respond before hanging up the phone… “Fine sir… I will connect with you next week… Thank you sir!


Mom, mom – Saaransh got hurt. Please rush. Mom come quickly” Palak was screaming, she was out of breath. Her clothes had spots of blood and so did her hands.

Oh my goodness, what happened?” asked Sudha

Mom, just don’t ask anything. Come.” As soon as Palak saw her mother she burst into tears.

Sudha ran into the backyard as fast as her legs could carry her. A million different thoughts coming into her mind in those 3 mins she took to reach the backyard. Each thought making her heart race all the more and her anxiety was touching the ceiling now.

She saw Saaransh sitting down and covering his eyes; his face was covered in blood. Sudha couldn’t make out where he had hurt himself. “Oh my goodness, eyes! Has he lost his eyes?” She quickly kneeled down in front of him and tried to take off his hands so that she could see what really happened.

Saaransh was screaming and crying in pain. Tears, blood and mud all mixed up. Sudha’s heart was racing like anything. “Oh gosh, let this be a small injury!” She kept praying in her heart through her brain told her that it wasn’t.

Dr. Lal came rushing to the spot in no time. Saaransh had got a deep cut just above his right eyebrow. He was taken to the hospital where Dr. Lal worked. In no time the ambulance was arranged and little Saaransh was rushed on a stretcher.

After an hour or so, it was declared that there was no harm to his eyes. But the cut was deep and it would need stitches which would leave a scar for a long time. Sudha sighed in relief. There was no permanent damage. Last 2 hours have been excruciatingly painful for Saaransh and for Sudha as well. How can a mother breath comfortably when she knows that her child is in deep pain?

But what really happened? How did he get so hurt?” She had to go back home and talk to Palak to find out. “I hope it was not Prateek.” And she skipped a beat at that thought. Lately, Prateek and Saaransh were getting too violent towards each other. Every time she brought up this concern with her husband, he dismissed her saying that boys are rough and they will be fine, he always said. But it still worried Sudha. Why can’t these two boys get along with each other?

Saaransh got better the next day. His right eye was patched up and his pain was much lesser. He had to stay in the hospital for a day more because he had lost a lot of blood for a 10-year child that he was then.

What happened, Saaransh? Who did this to you?” It was almost 20th time that Sudha was asking him, but she always got the same reply from him that she wasn’t convinced with.

Mom, I told you naa. We were just playing and the ball hit on the head. That’s all. It happens, mom. Take a chill pill.” He said with the same smile.

Sudha had to find out more. She went home while Saaransh was sleeping. Only Palak would tell her, Prateek and Dhara would repeat the same story as Saaransh or some other silly story to hide their mischiefs.

Palak, tell me clearly all that you know about this accident”. Palak was the wisest of all, she was mature than her age of 14 years. She had always been a peacemaker between her brothers.

When confronted with this question, Palak started looking the other way. “Nothing mom, they were just playing. You know these boys played really hard naa.”

“Tell me the truth, Palak!” said Sudha with an assertiveness that shook Palak.

Mom, please promise me that you will not say anything to Prateek. He is already dying of guilt.” Said Palak

So, it was Prateek!” sighed Sudha with a helpless look on her face.

But it wasn’t his fault alone, mom!” shouted Palak as she saw Sudha’s face red in fury. “Mom, Saaransh provoked him!”

Stop it, Palak! Nothing can justify hitting his own brother so badly. What does this idiot think of himself? He is going to have a good one from me now.” Sudha felt her rage in her eyes. She felt like she just had to take out all of it on Prateek.

Stop mom. You always do this. You always favour Saaransh. I know he is better than all of us in studies, sports and everything. But does that mean that rest of us are not good enough to be your children? You never listen to our side of the story. You have to believe that Saaransh is the naïve one. What the hell, mom? You don’t want to know the truth about Saaransh. He is always doing things to make us look bad in front of you.” Palak was crying miserably now. It was the first time she pours her heart out regarding Saaransh.

No Palak, no. What are you saying?” Sudha was totally taken aback by what she heard.

Sudha, Sudha, Sudha… Wake up.. Sudha, Sudha” and Sudha opened her eyes in her bedroom looking at her husband’s face that really looked worried. She realized that she was covered in sweat and probably was muttering something in her sleep.

Was it the same dream again?” asked Dr. Lal handing her a glass of water.

She sipped water that made her heartbeat slow down a bit. “Yes, again the same old dream. A complete recollection of that day when …”  Sudha’s voice faded off.

Relax and try to sleep. You need to take an extra dose of anti-anxiety now. This is not helping.” Said Dr. Lal getting back in bed again after giving a small yellow coloured pill that was supposed to make her less anxious.

But sleep was far away from Sudha. She kept staring at the ceiling whole night wondering why she didn’t realize that there was a growing conflict between her kids. Had she realized it earlier, her family still might have been a family.

Guilt never left her and she closed her eyes thinking about Raman and his guilt about not being there with his Grand-mom. “How does he cope with it?


Beautiful family pictures Sir” Raman complimented in an attempt to come back to present from his past which never ceases to instil guilt in him.

Pictures indeed, not sure of family though” sighed softly Dr.Lal looking at the walls. And an immediate gaze at his wife’s face interrupted him from ripping his heart and showing his agony. “Well young man something else is waiting for your compliments, let’s go and have dinner,” said Dr.Lal in a humorous tone drawing a beautiful curve on the faces of the hostess and the guest.

At the dinner table, during the dinner amidst rounds of admiration of sumptuous dinner, Raman asked Mrs.Lal about the beautiful family that adorned the walls.  Unlike Mr.Lal, Mrs.Lal showed enthusiasm in divulging the details, for mother she is always happy to talk about her children.  Pointing at one of the photographs she said: “this is Palak, eldest among all; Saransh, my eldest son; Prateek – youngest son and Dhara, youngest of all“.  One could easily see the twinkle in her eye as she was talking about them “all settled in different cities, doing really well in their careers.  You know Saransh used to work with a prestigious company in the U.S, now it’s been 10 years that he left us.  I must tell you that he was the most mischievous one among all and Palak the peacemaker, Prateek and Dhara always had a hand in glove in every mischief and trouble.  You won’t believe Raman that this house never experienced silence when they were here” and out of nowhere, a gloom hovered over her face.

At this point, Raman wanted to know what does she meant by ‘left us’ but at the very moment Mr.Lal chipped in “Sudha! When you start talking you give a tough competition to even an express train. Come on now finish your dinner, its time for your medicines“.  They all got busy with their dinner and then Mr.Lal took Sudha to her room.  As she was leaving she exchanged pleasantries with Raman and expressed her pleasure to have him at their place and also insisted that he should visit this old couple often to which Raman nodded affirmatively with a bright smile.

As Mr.Lal came back from Sudha’s room he asked Raman to wait for a minute and he went to the kitchen and brought with him two bowls of ice-cream, “hope you enjoyed the dinner and no dinner is complete without a dessert, hope you like this flavour too” and he handed over the bowl to Raman.

As they were scooping out bit by bit, Mr.Lal spoke “I tried to explain her innumerable times the Attachment and Detachment concept but she failed to understand that equal number of times.  We cannot keep the wings of birds clipped to the nest when they want to spread their wings and search new abode. But even birds get back to their homes at the end of their migration periods. But……” he suddenly realised that he is letting his emotions flow in front of just an acquaintance.

I am sorry young man, I told you no one stops by this old couple and when someone does they have to bear the torture of listening to our woes” and he burst into an artificial laughter.

Throughout his conversation with this elderly couple, Raman sensed an array of emotions in their words – pain, comfort, grief, pride, hopelessness, in short, he felt their hearts.  For him, it was a reflection of what his grandmother felt years ago.  He was speechless except for answering too obvious and straightforward questions in Yes or No.

It was 10:30PM, Raman took their leave “It was a pleasure meeting you, knowing you and I must say I never had such a delicious fish curry in about ages”  He stretched his hand and touched Mr.Lal’s feet as a token of respect. “Can I  take the liberty of asking you if we can meet this Sunday and treat would be mine Sir” he was more cheerful in his tone this time.

Yes, of course, Raman, we will be looking forward,” said Mr.Lal in an equally excited tone and patted on his shoulder.

Raman left with his head and heart full of his new neighbours…


A shadow crossed Raman’s face. Even now remembering the past brought back the now familiar guilt and pain. He looked at the expectant face of Mrs Lal. She was looking forward to a nice chit-chat. This kind of tete-a-tete had become very uncommon in their life as they didn’t have many visitors these days.

Let’s just say “I was not there for my granny when. She needed me the most.” “What happened Raman?” Mrs Lal asked in a concerned voice. Raman went back into his past. “My parents were both successful lawyers. They were a part of a very big law firm. As they were usually busy with their careers. My childhood was spent mostly with my grandma. She was always there with me when I came back from school, when I won my first athletics trophy, when I was studying hard for my exams. I could share almost everything with her. I told her about my first crush in school. She would listen to all my stories and then gently tease me later on. We were actually friends.” Raman kept on talking oblivious to the look of sadness and understanding on the old couple’s face. It was almost as though he was talking to himself. “She was an excellent baker. Whenever I was feeling low she would make my favourite Chocolate Chip Cookies. That was my favourite smell.

Grandma was not feeling too good that day. Ma and Pa had to go out for an urgent meeting. They had specially told me to stay with Grandma as she was not feeling well.  Just as they left, my best friend called me they were giving a send-off party to one of our group mates. He was leaving for the US in a couple of days. They had planned an impromptu party for him. My teenage mind could not resist the temptation. I told granny I would be back in sometime. She too didn’t stop me. How I regret leaving her alone that day.

My parents and I got back at almost the same time. When we opened the door with my mom’s keys. Granny was lying on the floor. The phone just a few steps away from her. She had a massive fatal heart attack. She must have tried to reach the phone to call me. But I was not there with her. I was out there enjoying myself, while she must have suffered alone.” He could not continue. He looked away and wiped a tear.

Raman felt a little self-conscious. He was never comfortable talking about himself. He never spoke so much about himself. There was something very warm about this old couple and their house which made him open up.

Raman looked around, one of the walls in the living room caught his attention. The wall was covered with smiling family photos. He could recognize the younger versions of Dr. Lal and his wife. They made a very handsome couple. There were a lot of pictures of kids in their different stages of growth. He could count four different kids. One look at the wall. And you got an impression of a loving family with lots of fun, laughter and camaraderie around here. But the rest of the room had a different story to tell.

Dr Lal and Sudha Lal followed his gaze and exchanged a glance.


“I must say, you haven’t forgotten the recipe for the best tea!” Sudha said.

“And I hope I never forget that!” Dr. Lal said with a laugh as he stood up, clearing the dishes.

They both laughed out loud together. The couple has been doing these laughter sessions quite often. Dr. Lal wanted to make sure that Sudha doesn’t get into depression due to her ill-health and thinking about their children. Sudha also wanted to keep her husband happy because he had lost his life savings- their children.

“Don’t stretch yourself to make a scrumptious dinner. Just make curry-rice.” Sudha said.

“I know you are jealous of my culinary skills.” Dr. Lal winked at her and said,” I know dear, just don’t worry.”

He switched on the TV for her favourite show “Taarak Mehta Ka Oolta Chashmah” and went to the kitchen. Sudha loved watching the serial, even the repeat telecast of the old episodes.

Dr. Lal turned on his favourite songs on Carvaan and sang along. He started preparing for the dinner- Fish Curry and Dum Biryani. The smell of pungent spices filled in the house. He glanced at the wall clock. It was about time for Sudha’s medicines. So, he quickly prepared khichdi for lunch and went inside the room.

“And I thought that you forgot about the lunch because of a feisty supper!” Sudha said.

“Here, have this”, Dr. Lal said, handing over the lunch. “I am almost done with the not so feisty supper. Will just have some rest after this.” He joined Sudha in watching the comedy serial.

“What’s the name of the new neighbour?” Sudha asked.

“Raman. Nice young man.” Dr. Lal replied.

“Is he alone here? Is he married?” Sudha was inquisitive.

“No idea. You ask yourself when you meet him in the evening. Now, have these medicines and rest. I will just tidy up the kitchen and come.” Dr. Lal said and went away.

Sudha had dozed off by the time he came back. He went to draw the curtains together and started locating the remote control to switch off the TV. It was on the dressing table, in front of their family picture. Sudha had displayed all the photos of their children across the house. Every now and then, one could have a glimpse of the family, their children.

“It’s all in the photos only.” He said to himself. He didn’t like the idea of exhibiting the pictures of their children, but due to Sudha’s emotional blackmailing, he had to give in.

Later in the evening, Raman arrived with some packets of flowers and vegetable seeds, wrapped beautifully in a golden tissue fabric with a red satin bow.

“I thought it’s better to gift you this, rather than flowers. I am sure your garden will love them.” Raman greeted Dr. Lal.

“That’s a wonderful thought Raman, I am touched. Thanks! Come in.” Dr. Lal went inside to get Sudha on the wheelchair.

“Dr. Saab told me about you and your Geriatric Care research. I am amazed. In the world full of engineers and scientists, where technology is turned and twisted every now and then, you chose Geriatric Care Study. Why?” Sudha asked surprisingly.

Dr. Lal brought a glass of water for Raman. He took a long sip and replied, “Aunty, I chose this because of my grandma. It’s a long story.” Raman hesitated.

“We are in no hurry. Dr. Saab and I will love to hear.” Sudha said.


Dr Mohan Lal gave Mr Raman Murthy an invitation to come over at 7 in the evening, as they ate early, and saw the visitor to the door after which he swiftly went in to see to his wife.

Were you talking to someone?“, asked Mrs Sudha Lal who sat propped up against her queen-sized bed’s backrest. She had salt and pepper hair that were tied in a bun at the nape of her neck and bright brown eyes. One look at her told she must have been a vista in her youth. She welcomed her husband with a warm smile, and her whole face lit up, the years sat lightly on her, making her look younger than her 70 yrs.

Dr Lal beamed at her and wished her ‘Good Morning‘ as he sat on his side of the bed.

Yes, we had a visitor. A neighbour. I have invited him over for dinner.” He filled her in knowing full well he was in for a scolding.

She grimaced at him and reasoned, “Why do you pile up more work for yourself when you know I can’t help you?” She sighed and went on, “and that too on a day when both Shambhu and Asha won’t come?“, she questioned bit indignantly.

Dr Lal knew she felt guilty for being almost invalid for the last couple of years owing to her Arthritis that had rendered her bed-ridden. She hated to be confined to her chair while he took care of her.

Oh! Please don’t start na Sudha. Besides, you know Shambhu is a lousy cook and Asha can’t beat my Fish Curry.” He told with a twinkle in his eye.

They are the only ones who keep our things in perfect order. One day a week the couple takes leave, and that very same day you get experimental.” She pressed her point.

He knew she wouldn’t give up easily, being cooped up inside had made her restive and short on patience. “Oh come on now Sudha. You very well know both of them are imbeciles who live in their own nincompoops’ corner. Just this Sunday Shambhu broke your glasses and yesterday Asha burned the rice. Even black rice would have looked fairer.” He quipped in to lighten her mood, and sure enough, she chuckled.

She shook her head giving up and extended her hand towards him. He got up and held it in tacit understanding. He helped her stand up by supporting her at the waist and shoulder and walked her to the washroom.

Leaving her to her business, Mohan Lal made his way to the kitchen. Since the domestic help was not available that day, he decided he will make a simple breakfast of toast, easy eggs and tea for his wife.

He whistled an old tune as he nibbled on a biscuit and the sound carried all the way to the bedroom. Sudha called him and just like that he helped her in her power wheelchair and went back to the kitchen. She was combing her hair while looking in the mirror when she stopped and looked at her reflection closely. It was like gazing back in the eyes of a stranger in the mirror. She picked up the family picture from her dressing table and ran a hand over it. There she was, standing by the waterfall with her family as the gem blue water rolled down in cascades behind them, water spraying them all as the air made a rainbow behind them. She remembered the day so well, just like yesterday. It was after the final exams and before the results that the kids insisted on going for a picnic and Mohan had taken them for a three-day weekend trip to Mahabaleshwar.

There to her left, looking straight at the camera and holding a beach ball was her eldest daughter Palak and pulling on her ponytail was her younger son Prateek who wanted to climb up the waterfall. On her right, holding her hand was Saransh sipping on a coke and behind him, making Devil’s Horns with her hands was Dhara, her youngest one. At her back stood Mohan with his arms spread across all his children as he wore a beach hat and dark glasses.

She ran her thumb over Saransh a bit longer as a tear rolled down her cheek and fell on the picture. Her children, her treasure, each one lost to the sands of time. Weren’t they all supposed to be her retirement plan? Where did they go wrong she wondered. She heard her husband’s approaching footsteps and at once wiped her eyes and placed the picture back, combing her hair once again.

He wheeled her out on the porch where Dr Lal had perfectly laid out her breakfast along with another set of the same laid out for him. She smiled to see the plates and gave an appreciative nod. They both ate in companionable silence, taking their own sweet time.

Dr Lal burped loudly and guffawed at himself. “I feel so full.” He announced as he started clearing away the dishes.

Your appetite has gone down considerably“, she said absentmindedly.

He came back from the kitchen and sat down next to her looking bit worried. “Sudha….you know something. I already had breakfast in the morning and forgot about it“, he told her with a bothered tone.

How do you know that?“, she asked.

I saw the dirty dishes from the morning in the kitchen sink“, he replied making her heart sink.

She looked at him anxiously. She knew what this meant. He was showing early signs of Alzheimer’s. She had seen him forgetting things more and more these past few days, and he was failing to solve his daily crossword and sudoku quiz in the newspaper. She swallowed, he might be the doctor, but she had lived with him long enough to study every nuance of his.

It was her turn to sound chirpy, “Nice excuse to give me company while eating; you shrewd old man“, she piped in looking breezy.

He sighed in relief to read the unperturbed look on her face and laughed once again, “No, actually it was an excuse to have a second breakfast.” He retorted, and she joined him in laughter knowing full well that he read his life in her eyes. She must not let worry show in her eyes.