Tuesday, May 25, 2010


While in Delhi for more than forty years of my married life, I always enjoyed the winter months - though we did not then have most of the modern gadgets like washing machine and grinders, or running hot water. The reason being one never felt tired however much housework one did. And sitting in the sun, knitting or reading was the ultimate luxury for me.

Come November, it would be time to take out the woollens and inspect them, whether the children’s school sweaters and coats could be managed for one more winter or new ones had to be ordered or knitted, and sending my husband’s suits to be dry-cleaned. Then all our cottons had to be aired and packed up till the next summer. That was the time for all our cotton\summer clothes also to have their annual rest.

Come the month of March, it was time to pack up all the winter clothes and get ready for the summer. This time a lot of physical work was to be put in. All the sweaters had to be hand-washed (all pure-wool knitted—as acrylic was not on the scene yet) one by one for fear of running colours that might spoil the knitteds, and then dried flat on a Turkish towel in the shade. It used to at least take two days for the sweaters to dry - so just imagine how many days it would take for the sweaters of two or three adults and three or four children’s to be washed, dried and have them packed in boxes till the next winter. It was the same routine for all housewives.

There was a break in this routine one March in 1974. My husband’s and my children’s sweaters were washed and ready to be boxed. That day it was my sweaters turn. There were about five or six new cardigans, all acrylic and gifts from my daughter on her return from Manchester after a two year stay there. They were drying in the back yard and as usual I was babysitting them . I was alone in the house, so when the phone rang I went inside to answer. It was a wrong number. It took about five minutes for me to return to the backyard. What I saw there I could not believe; the old couple of sweaters were there alright – the new ones had disappeared. I was lost for a few minutes. I did not know what to do. Then I rallied myself and got in touch with my husband and told him what had happened with tears running down my cheeks.
Can you imagine what he told me? “Forget the whole thing”. I got so wild that I asked him to use his position and report to the police about the theft .He flatly refused. I knew he was right in a way so I did not force him also. When our children back from school, I told them about the incident, and they were annoyed about the whole thing. Our second daughter was the one who was most affected —I still remember how she ran all over the lanes and by lanes in our colony to find out if some body was hiding somewhere with the loot, but it was of no use. For a week she was always on the lookout for any suspicious characters wandering about inside our colony.

Well, as days passed, I gradually learnt to accept the fact that I had lost my new sweaters for ever.

One evening in late May there was somebody at the door wanting to see the man of the house. My husband was not at home so I went to the veranda to greet him and to find out the reason for his wanting to meet my husband. He introduced himself as police Inspector X and wanted to know whether any theft had taken place at our place a few months back. Honestly, I had forgotten the loss of my sweaters, and having answered him in the negative wanted to know the reason for his asking that question, and why he was interested.

“This boy here tells me that he had stolen a few sweaters from this house two months back,” and pointed to a teenager, poor, and dressed in shabby clothes standing by his side, carrying a small tattered suitcase in his hand. I remembered like a flash how my sweaters suddenly disappeared from the backyard. I told the policeman that in fact we lost a few sweaters round about that time and we had no hope of ever getting them back. Mr. X ordered the boy to open the suitcase .Inside were a few sweaters - some of them my given-up-for-lost ones. There were about eight or nine sweaters. Having looked through them I pointed out which were mine and told him that two of mine were not there. I was told that the boy had sold one of them for a mere Rs 2 to buy a cinema ticket and another for a meal. After confirming the theft the police Inspector asked me whether we had reported the theft to the police. “ No, my husband did not want to do that”

“Why?” was his next question and he wanted to know where my husband was working.

When told he was a government servant he started saying how the people working in the ministries have a very poor impression and opinion of the police, whereas they think too much of themselves and so on. He went on in this strain for a few minutes which really raised my hackles. I stopped him in mid-sentence and said, “Please get out of my house if this is the way you talk about my husband and you take those sweaters also with you. I don’t want them back”

That shut him up .He was at a loss and did not know what to say. He never expected that from me. After a few seconds he asked me in a timid voice, “In which ministry is sahib working?” Home ministry was my answer in a clipped tone.

“What is his designation?”

“Director, Police”

How I wished I had a camera in my hand to capture all the expressions and emotions that passed through his face on hearing my answer. Gulping and stammering he said, “Sorry Sir, I mean, Madam, please never tell sahib what I said. I am sorry I said that, Sir, I mean Madam, please. Madam, you may come to the S.N Police Station tomorrow, put your signature on the identification paper (or some such paper—I don’t remember now) and collect your sweaters, Madam.” I simply waved him off from my home after a very curt thank you. Also I told him there was no question of my going to any police station or anywhere to get back those sweaters

Every single word was repeated to my husband later that night after dinner. He was equally shocked to hear that I had asked the policeman to get out of my house.

I did not know what happened the next day in his office - like who met him or talked to him about the policeman’s visit to our house. All I was told by my husband was there was a note of apology from the police Inspector. The sweaters were sent home later the same evening. I was reluctant to touch them at first. Any way we had them dry cleaned and those sweaters served me well for a long time.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010


Glaucoma is one word I had not heard of till I fell prey to it some twenty years back. I was in Singapore in 1991—staying with my son –a sport journalist.
I had lost my husband four years earlier and was a total wreck. Raja – my son –was the one who helped me regain my sanity – infusing so much confidence in myself, helping me back to have a busy life in this new country. He encouraged me to do things on my own—like going to the British Council library to get books to read, going to the shops on my own to buy whatever I needed for myself or for the house, and most important- to go for walks.

It was during one of these walks I felt something was wrong with my vision. While waiting for the traffic signals to change to cross the road, I was not able to see the cars coming from my left side till they were right in front of me. I thought I was getting cataract as I was above 60 at that time. So I decided to go to Bombay to stay with my daughter Viji who at that time was working with an NGO helping cancer patients. She had contact with many doctors. With her help I saw an optician who, after listening to my problem suggested that I consult a glaucoma expert and sent me to one.

This specialist, checked my eyes and did a field test, and advised me that it was a seriously advanced case of glaucoma. He said I should have surgery as soon as possible, within two days if possible to save the vision – whatever that was left of it -- in my left eye. He advised me to go to Sankara Netralaya in Chennai where I could get the best treatment. So off I flew to Chennai to my eldest daughter Raji who, in the meantime, managed to get an appointment with the chief of that institution for the next day itself.

Thus my treatment started. I was put in the care of Dr L Vijaya who appeared to be very efficient at the same time kind and considerate. I was under her care for the next eight-nine years. During this period I underwent three surgeries, in both my eyes, for glaucoma as well as for cataract which, by this time, had set in and was ripe for surgery, done by Dr Vijaya herself.

Glaucoma is caused when pressure is built up in the eyes. This pressure then starts crushing the optical nerves, which get damaged and start affecting ones vision. And that is when one becomes aware of it, only after this damage is done. That is why glaucoma is referred as a thief disease.

I was told I had lost 85% of my vision in my left eye. The first stage of treatment was laser surgery, done to relieve the pressure on the optical nerves by drilling minute holes in my eyeball. After this I was asked to apply eyedrops – Pilocar, four times a day, and Timolol, three times a day -- till two further surgeries were performed.

After a year or two of stumbling steps, I learnt to take this drawback in my stride and have continued with my life without much problem for the last so many years. I am doing everything I was doing before I was affected by this: knitting, reading, cooking whenever I feel like it, and am now typing this blog on my netbook, too. (as in the picture)But I have stopped going for walks on my own --- I am not allowed to do that by my children wherever I am, so I have to do with walking inside the compound or on the terrace.

Another disadvantage, with practically no vision in one eye, is I am not able to gauge the depth of things. This has led to minor inconveniences. Going down the stairs is a problem. I need the help of another person or I have to cling on to the banisters. Also, when I want to put a glass on a table, I find it difficult to gauge the distance between them. In unfamiliar situations, I let go of the glass an inch above the table as a result of which I spill things, or worse, break glasses. Then when hanging out clothes to dry, it is very difficult for me to locate the clothesline; it is always a few inches this way or that way from where I see them.

The main reason why I am writing all this is that at the very beginning itself Dr Vijaya alerted me that this glaucoma is hereditary and so my children should have periodical eye checkups. I remember my mother telling us that her grandmother lost her vision in her old age. Could she have had glaucoma? Who knows?

Anyway, it is proved now that glaucoma IS hereditary because my daughter Viji has been affected by it. She discovered she had it only four months ago but Dr Vijaya, whom also she consulted, is of the opinion it must have started at least a year back because my daughter’s right eye is badly affected.

I request all my family members and all who read this not to ignore any discomfort you feel in your eyes. Please have an eye checkup at the earliest and save your sight. Some symptoms are a dull but heavy feeling ache in your eyeballs which I used to feel in the early days. Also powerful lights trouble the eyes, giving a lot of glare. Light beams reaching one’s eyes are broken: the stars one sees seem like a comet. Actually I have not seen a single star without a tail for the last so many years, not that I am able to spot any.

Please don’t think glaucoma affects only grownups. It could attack anyone at any age Even babies are affected by this. NO, I am not alarming anybody, just trying my best to make one aware of this. All I want to say is be on your alert and don’t ignore your eyes.

A slightly different version of this was published in the May issue of a Chennai publication, 'Eve's Touch'.