The dinner was over early today as Mangala’s husband was away on tour and expected only the next day.She was watching the TV with her children.The next day was Sunday and there was no school for Akash and Amrutha.It was nearing nine PM when she heard someone knock the door loudly though a bell was there.She peeped through the hole to find an elderly lady standing.She looked decent possibly from a middle class family.Mangala opened the door.The lady was past 75 in a clean sari with gold jewels on her hands, neck and ears.
When she did not say anything Mangala asked her “Patti (grandma), what do you want?”When she did not answer Mangala asked her again a little louder”Why are you silent? Whom do you want to see? What do you want?”
When she did not reply, she prompted her to talk by holding her hands.
The old woman said “I don’t know”
“Where are you living? What is your name? Whom do you want to meet? Please answer so I can help you” Mangala said.
“I don’t remember anything.I am hungry and very tired” she replied in feeble tone.
To Mangala she reminded her of her late mother and she felt some pity.She said “Please come. In.You can eat after washing your hands”She led her in and made her eat well.Meanwhile she rang up her husband and explained about this lady and her doubts that she must be stricken with Alzheimiers.When he suggested that she ring up the police,Mangala firmly rejected the idea telling that she would not like the old woman at the police station in the night.As he was returning next day, Mangala suggested she can spend the night in their house and they can together find a solution.He readily agreed to it.
Mangala’s attempts to find details failed as the old woman had lost her memory completely.She made her comfortable in a bed and left her to sleep.Mangala could not sleep for a long time .She was happy the old woman had come to her instead of falling into the hands of wicked men who would have readily slit her throat for the jewels she wore.
The next morning her son Akash was to leave around 8am for a cricket match he was playing.She hurried to make the breakfast.Akash’s friends who were also playing had come to accompany him.The boy was narrating to his buddies about the strange woman who could not remember her own name or where she lived.The boys out of curiosity peeped into the living room to see the old woman.One of the boys shouted “I know this patti.She lives close to my house.I see her almost daily there though I do not know her”
Mangala jumped in joy at the god sent opportunity to take her back to her place She requested the boy to accompany her along with old woman.Her house was in the adjacent street.As soon as the boy ran in to announce the arrival of the patti,the old lady asked Mangala why she brought her here.Meanwhile her son and daughter-in-law came rushing out and on seeing his mother he hugged her asking her”Why mom, why did you go away like this.We have been searching for you since last evening “. The lady continued to blink and asked Mangala “Who are these?Take me back with you? I don’t know them”
The son cried inconsolably.His wife ran into the house to fetch a picture of the old lady with her son and his family.It appeared that she was suffering from this Alzheimer since three years deteriorating progressively and this was the first time she went out on her own.
He thanked Mangala profusely and said”I am indebted to you for keeping her safely and bringing her back to us.I thank this little boy for showing my house.” As he led the lady into his house, the old woman clasped Mangala’s hands and cried”Do not leave me here.I don’t know them.Please take me with you.”
Mangala gently wrenched herself away and walked out with tears flowing from her eyes.